Sunday, December 9, 2018

I think we're always looking for some ceremony. Markers to indicate and honor our labors around love, work, our achievements. I love a ceremony because I'm so serious and like drama. I also think I like (as do most humans) to have time segmented and marked off in ways that help us make sense of the stories of our lives. But in truth rarely do we get neat and clean delineations between eras or relationships. Rarely a hot knife through butter.

This morning I'm thinking about some of my friends and co-workers and the entity of Saipua itself; a big organic entity that is difficult to define, beyond my control in many respects and always shapeshifting right in front of me. Many important relationships and eras slide quietly into the night without fireworks or ceremony.

All is to say I found myself plucked out of farm planning and dropped into the flower district this week, slipping into an older version of myself and buying out of season peonies from Australia and - fuck it - a handful of spray-painted foliage. We had it all boxed up, incorrectly labeled with our business name (thank god somethings never change) and sent it to various city locations in order to engage in what I call the 'Saipua machine' which is Bryony, myself and the best freelancers New York City has; many of whom I'm lucky to count as close friends.

Deanna is one of my oldest friends; we met the first week of college at Virginia Tech when I though I might be a scientist, and she though she might be a journalist. Her and I worked on a wedding at the Green Building in Brooklyn yesterday - a local venue that made me nostalgic for an older version of Saipua and myself. I made 44 ball jar arrangements, 11 bouquets Deanna did her thing on the ladder that she's always done so well - which is to say find a way to hang some jazz from the ceiling over the ceremony.

At lunchtime Nahvae sent over lunch for the two of us from the kitchen at Eleven36 and we put our feet up and dined on tuscan bean stew with focaccia croutons, roasted broccolini and some sort of chocolate bread pudding that should be illegal. We gossiped of course, as I think most people do inside their various communities. Gossip is the glue that binds us together - at it's best it keeps us all on the same page; at it's worst it stirs nefarious motivations. I've always carefully cataloged how and why people gossip. If you want to stay on the high side of this inevitable hustle my advice to you is play it straight - never ever lie; to yourself or others.

The two ladies getting married yesterday were special to me. One was my neighbor in Brooklyn for years, Allison. I have very fond memories of living above her on Coffey Street in Red Hook, in a different era. Witnessing someones love evolution from a neighborly distance is always uncanny. I met her bride for the first time yesterday amidst the hustle of making 125 place-setting twiddly bits and felt warm on the inside. People finding the right people feels good, it radiates somehow.

During the ceremony rehearsal the officiant spoke of love as the one thing in our world that we know is right and good.

Always grappling with how to steer the ship of Saipua and the work at Worlds End, I am reminded of what an oracle friend once told me about what to do in the face of a our burning world -- focus on human connection. Try to make it as good as you can for just the people you have access to. The fabric of this world can only transform from inside, thread by thread.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

We've been thick in planning the future, so much tedious mental math around using our existing resources. We may not be money rich but we are extremely wealthy. We have a spectacular community that supports us and 107 acres of nature that teaches us a lesson everyday if we just show up for it.

Thank you for your emails which always seem to arrive in my inbox at a low moment when I need them the most.

What we've been working on is essentially plans for a Worlds End hospitality group. It will aim to serve each and everyone of you in 2019 and will consist of a conglomerate of homespun businesses here at the farm including the Coyote Cafe, the Heartbreak HotelA New Ewe day spa and some sort of cocktail bar (yet to be branded) that centers on my mother Susan's ability to mix a killer martini and draws on a 1971 version of herself in which she had a successful matchmaking business. (She found a husband)(Not my father).
Did I mention the Heartbreak Hotel?*

At some point in the last year or so we started to receive more inquires about visiting the farm than wedding inquiries. Even though we started the farm in order to grow flowers for our wedding work it has unfolded into much more than that. It is home to multiple questionable fermentation projects, a summer camp for lackadaisical dog training, a sanatorium for washed up florists, Zoe's experimental shed of sourdough and sewing, my personal color theory lab, and an ongoing inquiry into alternative plumbing and composting toilets. It has essentially become our test kitchen for living ... a place of such strange beauty and joy that extends far beyond our floristry work.

In many ways I have kept the farm to myself and to those close to me. I think this was important through what has been a big transition in me, for Saipua, and in my attitude towards business - a word that I loathe but have come to realize is the only way to keep doing the work that can make for positive change. In order to keep striving for new creative ways of seeing value and economics we have to work inside the current economic system. Or else I'll have to sell the farm and end up freelancing for another florist. I'm a terrible freelancer, arrange flowers at a snails pace (always have - ask Nicolette) and require too many snack breaks.

Last week I traveled to the city and sat with a friend to explain all of our schemes for 2019. Behind the hospitality group is a serious grid of interlocking micro-plans; crop plans, living plans, new staffing plans, new city cafe plans, etc. In some ways all these plans are quite complicated, and in others way quite simple. But recently I realized that they mimic the economics of nature which are evident everywhere here: Take note of what you have a lot of, use that to the net benefit of everything around you, and don't exploit it.

We're very excited to have you here in 2019.

*Who wants to get married at the Heartbreak Hotel at Worlds End? 

Monday, November 26, 2018

cyber monday

Happy thanksgiving from the front lines of the frozen tundra here at Worlds End. When I'm not thinking about the transportation of drinking water to sheep I'm thinking about about marketing and business. When I was little and trying to understand advertising my father explained it to me in cookies; "If you have the best cookies in the neighborhood but no one knows about them, no one is going to buy them..." It was smart of him to talk to me about cookies - little Sarah, always a bit pudgy, paid attention to cookies -- how to get them more than how to sell them. Alas this still may be my problem.

I don't know why we receive LL Bean catalogs here at the farm but we do. Two or three a week. I keep meaning to use my precious internet satellite bytes to look up how to be removed from catalog mailing lists. The waste of paper is infuriating to me let alone the reminder of our consumer culture that requires so many new mediocre poly cotton blended flannels every year. Nothing sells LLBean like winter.

Filson is another catalog that mysteriously appears in my mailbox, their pages now full of 'workwear' campaigns featuring real looking workmen and workwomen which is to say professional models but a bit older and more rugged looking. All these catalogs end up in my recycling bin (which likely ends up in a landfill) and all of that apparel gets gifted at the holidays as part of an antiquated cycle of consuming that is so clearly in need of immediate changing if we want our children to have any experience of the semblance of nature that we have.

And yet nature is constantly conjured to sell these things. I was recently made aware of the term 'athleisure' - which, mom if your'e reading this - is essentially yoga pants and other accouterments for an active lifestyle. In 2015 this sector of fashion was estimated at 83 Billion dollars. A popular company in this vein is called Outdoor Voices whose yoga pants I'm told are all the rage. This company's slogan is #doingthings which I find incredibly problematic in that it assumes that you need to buy something in order to do something. According to the Outdoor Voices website #doingthings is 'about being active on a daily basis and having fun with friends without the pressure of being the first or the best.' Instead of buying outdoor voices athletic wear, maybe people should all just come work at Worlds End. Between Zoe and I there are lots of clothes you can borrow.

Look, I'm a child of the 80's -- I grew up in a shopping mall -- the Jefferson Valley Mall in Yorktown Heights, NY.  I love to shop. Like really love it. I love clothes. I love jewelry, perfume, dishes, groceries, etc. And I've devised clever ways to rationalize my own consumption over the years -- only buying handmade things or things that are natural fibers or things that are consumable, etc, etc.

But with all the damning news about climate change I really feel that all of us with means (which is to say people with enough privilege to consider their consumption and influence others through our businesses) must to make an effort to consider the ways which we consume and encourage and support each other in consuming less. A simple practice; one that I've adopted recently is to only buy used clothing and housewares and the occasional aspirational the spirit of the honesty that you have come to expect here, I'll tell you that I spent my last dollars two weeks ago on a pair of manolos for Bryony's wedding. Wearing these pumps at Thanksgiving gave me a lot of pleasure. Granted I had to switch out of them periodically into snow boots throughout the evening  in order to prepare our meal on the fire outside. Part of my ethos around farming is this; the hardest tasks are simple when you allow for some bit of ridiculous pleasure. Arguably, I could afford to renovate the farmhouse and put in a proper kitchen with an inside stove if I didn't buy fancy pumps, but what fun would that be?

I started writing this post this morning and then had a grim financial phone call from my mother who does the books. Our business has been perpetually tight and sometimes it feels that no matter how much I consolidate and pivot towards what I know is right we might not get through. How the hell can I post about the evils of consumption when I really need to get people to buy my soap and flowers in order to pay my bills this week? Then my friend Taylor calls. She wants to talk about hypocrisy and how we're all afraid of it in business. I realize after I hang up the phone that we're all afraid of being called out on something -- as if any of us were clean and getting away with capitalism scott free. The best thing I can do is be as honest as I possibly can, lay myself open to criticism and not be afraid of the difficult conversations -- to push the dialog at my dinner table and with you all here. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

making flowers again, teaching again

This is work from my studio here at the farm around the beginning of August.
Morning glory, service berry, borage, hydrangea, daucus, black lace elderberry foliage. 

I was very happy to make it. It was a good day on the road to recovery with me and my relationship to flowers. 

I've enjoyed many conversations with other florists this fall - both in person and via email. Many of you that I talk to describe feelings of burn out and emptiness around the flower industry and events and I've been thinking about this a lot. 

I think it's tricky to take something that starts as an intimate personal joy and turn it into a business. That there is even a flower 'industry' stands in contrast to the intimate power that flowers have to express joy, highlight celebration, or aid in the process of grief. 

I felt disconnected to flowers for most of the last two years - indifferent and empty around them. I did not care to think about what to grow on the farm. It was like being out of love. 

When I gave up teaching it was because it felt disingenuous to preach the floral arts to excited women at the start of their careers in flowers, or even worse - women who were coming to me for inspiration and rejuvenation. The last class I taught here, two Septembers ago, I fell apart in tears when a student innocently asked me what I did to 'refill my cup.' That was the beginning of the end of a certain era of Saipua.

Time passing is the only way to sort things out. This last year has been a different kind of hustle for me; tying off all the loose ends of what was once a large complicated company. Trying to learn how to take time and find new pathways to patience and rest. Times of transition are incredibly painful. But we don't get new things, new births without them. 

This summer and fall I started to feel my way around flowers again. There were no epiphanies and there were not many euphoric highs - at least not the way I used to have. Which is ok. 

I made work in my barn studio. Sometimes I photographed it, sometimes not. Sometimes I would collect a bucket of stems from the field and then let it sit for days without ever making an arrangement. I realized that just the act of collecting - walking the field at dusk and selecting certain stems was the work.

As I've gotten new bearings in just the last few months I've thought a lot about teaching again. I want to do it in a different way; a way that is longer, more thoughtful and more holistically oriented around all sorts of things that we do here at Worlds End. I can show anyone how to make a flower arrangement. But really what I want to do is show people how we live. 

I'm working on a series of Worlds End Floral Classes to launch in 2019. Providing time, space, and solitude first with some floral tutelage sprinkled in for good measure. 

It's what I could have really used; what I have had to figure out for myself, and what I can now offer to you. It's going to be so, so good. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

It's been snowing everyday and there is about 8 inches give or take on the ground with a thick enthusiastic substratum of autumn mud underneath. Temperatures have been oscillating on both sides of the freezing mark all week and so what manifests with each daily dusting is an true artform; a heaving layer cake of powder, slushy ice, hard ice, liquid mud, and semi frozen dirt.

A nice break to my solitude came last week when Tmagazine came to do a fashion shoot. They were excellent sports; navigating our snowy mud (shall I repeat the layers for you?) in their petite fashion sneakers with never a complaint but some odd requests: I found myself in the yard digging up fall foliage from under the snow so they could create a more autumnal looking shot setting. I love this uncanny aspect of the fashion world, I really do. They cleared out and I was alone again sitting in the gloaming left to ponder their remnants: a half eaten foiled packet of poptarts and a lone glove warmer - of the gel pack variety. I consider stashing these items in the WORLDS END celebrity fashion archive which is also home to a half pack of Camilla Nickersons Marlboro lights.

This morning, chores as usual with three new inches of powder and my canine sidekicks. They both have their own agendas up in the field. Nea is on vole/mole patrol and occasionally will catch one under the snow or behind a stack of wood. She barely chews them - I watched her a few days ago and wondered about what it's like to be swallowed alive. Best not to dwell on such things.

Georgio stalks sheep from outside the pen, desperate to be put in to work. Occasionally one or both of them will tire of their usual tasks and wander up to area X where dead sheep are brought to compost or where we lock up the skulls of culls to be picked clean by bugs over the course of a year. If you've never been to area X its because its not on the general farm tour. We lost a tiny sickly lamb in October -- her mother died of mastitis in June. It was her second time with mastitis; three years ago she had it and survived. When you save a sick sheep it feels like such a victory that culling them later seems odd. But a mentor of mine told me straight - if she has mastitis once, she's prone to get it again, and she was right. Patty died early in the summer, and as a result her twins were slow to grow on just grass. The tiny female got sick and succumbed as soon as the weather got cold. We buried her as deep as we could in area X but the dogs love a long game and a few weeks later when they would not come after 20 minutes of calling for them I hiked up to area X to find both wide eyed and covered in mud and putrefying flesh.

No matter how much I try to cover this spot with soil, wood, sticks etc the dogs sneak up there and get into it. I now keep a small blue pail and a bar of our coffee mint soap near the sink to wash dog heads with. Sitting on the couch last night, a dog on both each side of me I caught the faintest whiff of rot from both directions, and shrugged. I've been alone here for a week and with a limited economy of energy, one has to choose ones battles wisely. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018


'cherry carmel' phlox from my garden this september

My friend Greta told me she thinks whats wrong with American politics is the fear of hypocrisy...wouldn't we want our politicians to be able to thoughtfully change their minds and political stance -- doesn't that mean that they are living, listening creatures who are working to represent the people they are intended to care about?

As an evolving species we have to relinquish greed and fear and learn to listen.

Throughout history all patriarchies have equated power with authoritarian aspects of relating. We need new ideas around power and leadership and I feel that related to this is a new understanding of feminism. I don't think women need to rule the world (fine if that happens) but instead all genders must embrace a more receptive, feminine energy which values listening as opposed to dictating. 

Imagine if politicians were thoughtfully able to pivot, were allowed and praised for mutability. As my friend Holly says -- imagine if Kavanaugh had been able to look Dr. Ford in the eyes when she talked, listen to her, and then apologize for himself, for other men and publicly acknowledge remorse for the fact that she had to experience what she did. Don't we want our judges to listen? The denial and anger and rigid authoritarianism of so many of our politicians can't last. If it does we won't make it past this century because nothing real will be done about climate change and nothing will be done about poverty and the greed of major corporations (which gives us the opiod crisis) nothing will be done about racism (which is leading to more and more gun violence).

Listening is hard. It's slow and unproductive feeling when you're not used to it. I struggle with it. But I think it is the only way forward -- the personal is political. Listening and practicing empathy in our immediate communities is the best way to begin to change the fabric of an outdated patriarchal system which serves no one except those who are desperately trying to hold on to the last vestiges of an antiquated power. One predicated on masculinity, whiteness and wealth. Absolutely void of compassion, absolutely void of nuance and beauty. 

I think of Kavanaugh and his abhorrent outrage during the hearings and I think; that's the look of dying power. Thats what a death rattle looks like. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Last grass

The sheep are on the last bit of pasture for the season. Or they were when I started writing this; before the farm became a winter wasteland covered in 3 inches of slush followed by 3 inches of snow a few days later. Entirely too early for early November - and - I cringe to write this, but giving a few too many folks up here a good old laugh over the zany science of climate change. God help us all. Last week on the first day it snowed Zoe and Jennell were singing along to Bing Crosby-type christmas carols, conjured from our last bytes of internet for the month. They sat crafting at the table drinking tea as I moved grinch-like on the periphery, cursing our poor country satellite internet connection while trying to watch videos on socialism upstairs in my princess tower, an area in the house which remains largely off limits - private - except for the calling of someone 'to my office upstairs' which I'll deploy intermittently as a power move (it doesn't work) or the occasional laundry delivery. When neat packages of my socks and underwear appear on my bed the immediate feeling of violation (who's been up here!) quickly fades to appreciation (I've always bemoaned laundry duty) and in light of all these nuanced complications of living with adults, I think well shit maybe after all we are starting a cult.