Monday, June 3, 2019

soap notes


It's a story I've told many times but I'm going to tell it again, differently tonight.

As a money making hobby, my mother, sister and I used to design and make garden ornaments and other various painted crafts in the mid 90's. We'd sign up for craft fairs and hawk our wares -- garden ornaments cut out on a jig saw in the basement and painted to be scarecrows, garden angels, and the like. Whether this stint was intended to be a lesson in entrepreneurial skills or an attempt to get the family doing things together to earn some mad money is besides the point - one fateful weekend, deep inside a mediocre craft fair at a stripmall in Tarrytown we found ourselves next to a soapmaker and my mother was captivated by the strange chemistry of cold-process olive oil soap. 

By this time, I was checked out - more concerned with sneaking off to TJ Max to buy age-inappropriate undergarments. A year or two later, our jig saw lay abandoned and my mother, newly retired from teaching, was laying the groundwork for a small soap empire. In 1999 she started a business called Creekside Soaps and took her soap on the road to fairs and eventually to the Peekskill farmers market. 

Away at college I would receive boxes of soap ends and VHS tapes with episodes of Felicity. 

20 years later Susan is still making soap, and it has been and remains the steady backbone of a business that has allowed me, and many others to follow our creative passions and build a rich community of friends and supporters -- and this weird wonderful farm. 

Lately, as I work with my mother and Bryony and Zoe to pivot Saipua away from weddings and events I think a lot about soap and how we can use it as a tool to fuel the work we're passionate about -- education, feeding people, and making beauty available to people across socioeconomic boundaries. 

I don't know anything about beauty products, I don't actually use any besides my mom's soap. I guess I sometimes use shampoo, whatever other people have in the shower at the farm, but I also just use her bar soap on my hair. I like that dry Nars lip pencil in 'Dragon Girl.' And I buy the mascara that comes in a pink and green tube -- maybe it's Mayballine?

I'm not here to tell you that I'm passionate about skin care or olive oil soap or essential oils. The soap is good, it's fantastic actually - but that's not what motivates me to sell it. What I am passionate about is family business and carving out new channels for 'business' that feel more holistic in the sense that they focus first on the health and well being of the people who work inside them. Including myself. And I'm also passionate about the lessons we can learn inside small thoughtful businesses -- ones having to do with economy, scale, limited resources and quality of life.

The soap is good, you should buy it -- but Susan is the real gem in all of this -- and I am really excited to continue to shape our business to allow for her to have more free time to get out of the soap kitchen and into the teaching arena again. On our agenda of Summer classes here at the farm -- not only is she going to lead some soap-making classes, but hopefully also a Business 101 class that aims to demystify the process and help more of you feel armed and equipped to take your own ideas and passions out into the world. 


Sunday, May 26, 2019

cooking a pot of beans with dragons at the SAIPUA SCHOOL

Beans we grew and dried last fall. Scarlet Runner, Navy, and Purple Cow Peas. 
You wouldn't know this, but I'm excellent at impersonating Komodo Dragons, the largest lizards in the world. I started doing this to show my feelings to people I loved. Because feelings can be confusing. And dangerous. Reptilian.

Komodo's move sluggishly collapsing into each step. Fervently and silently they sample the air with their split lizard tongues, tracking prey by scent. Deaf and blind for all intents and purposes. 

Attacks are like lightning. If you were in the presence of a Komodo Dragon, you wouldn't know it until it was too late. 


I set off a series of things in motion about 18 months ago that I could not have fully understood at the time. Relationships changed in my personal life, and in my public life of Saipua I started toying with the idea of abandoning my identity as a florist. But more than that, I was in a longer process of altering deep patterns I had formed around work and success and I was making space to revaluate the value of beauty in our world and the ways in which we seek out, create and obtain meaning in our lives. 

As a florist, I'm like hired gun for conjuring beauty. Years ago teaching flower classes I would occasionally have a student mid-way through an arrangement give up and ask me to 'just make it for them.' Which I was happy to do, I was essentially being paid to perform as florist-teacher. And lots of people enjoyed that performance, learned something, had a nice afternoon. As did I.

Now I want to teach something different.


At the farm I have the opportunity to not only show people about how to make flowers but how to do all sorts of things. Grow flowers, grow beans. Use beans in flower arrangements, dry beans, soak beans (2 days before you plan to eat them), cook beans. A lot of people don't think about cooking with dried beans, but they should! They are the key to the future, along with more cereal (wheat and grain) crops. Sometimes I want roasted lamb with beans. So we raise some of our sheep for meat. If our sheep rotationally graze in the same field as the beans grow, then they spread their manure around, and we get better beans. And better flowers to set on the table when we make a special lamb dinner. And softer wool for the blankets we make.

I want to show people how to set the table. I want to show people about real economy.

For a long time I was confused about how to define this next chapter for saipua. How to talk about what I wanted here with flowers and farming, what our mission was going to be, how to make a living around agriculture.

There have been a lot of long months of relative stillness, my tongue flicking and tasting the air. Endless circular and sluggish conversations around business, capitalism, the selling of experiences, etc. Maybe you knew it all along, or saw it coming and maybe I did too, but was too deeply entrenched in the details of it to see what was emerging, what was coming into focus.

Worlds End, Saipua, The Coyote Cafeterias, all these things are all part of a SCHOOL with the simplest curriculum: HOW TO LIVE

___


NOTES:

HOW TO LIVE: is a phrase Andrea Zittel uses powerfully in her work and it's stuck with me since I first heard it. Zoe has spent time at AZ West and brought back many ideas from Andrea's projects there that have influenced our thinking to some degree here. Borrowing this phrase, which I can't seem to alter in any way to better explain what our mission is here, is a nod to a spirit of collectivism I hope to continue to weave across all sorts of groups, collective endeavors, businesses and schools which are 'up to stuff' in a similar spirit. The Cabbage SchoolSuccurroThe Root Community are a few that come to mind immediately in our circle...

CHILDREN: If you watch our instagram stories, you may be wondering where all the children have been coming from. In an unexpected turn of events, my nephew Finn, 5 years old has come to live at Worlds End for a while. This has been a stressful and enlightening experience for me. Some of the contractors who have been working to finish our visitor center have been bringing their children to work and so Zoe and I find ourselves in the middle of what is essentially a day care center in the middle of a construction zone in the middle of a working farm. It's exhilarating, emotional and absolutely dangerous and full of new modes of creativity for us that were previously locked. The last few weeks have confirmed for me two things; we absolutely need to have a program here for children, and I don't want my own. 


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

notes from here/building an Advisory Board




My winter of solitude is over, Zoe is back from her adventures and time at AZ West. 
The snowball gains momentum.

Thank you to all of you who signed up for our Residency Program. Many of you who didn't resister before it sold out have written to ask about additional weeks - we're considering adding a June week and a September week and should finalize that in the next few days. As always, signing up for the newsletter is the best way to be alerted to programs, etc. 

Finally, I'm working on forming a WORLDS END Advisory Board. A group of about 12 people from different backgrounds who care deeply about this place and what we're trying to build here. I'd like to find a lawyer (practicing in NY State) and a Licensed Architect. 

If you or someone you know might be interested in lending their knowledge to quarterly phone meetings and an annual in-personal meeting here at the farm, please have them reach out to me (sarah@saipua.com). 

Friday, March 1, 2019

yours truly, the troll.


I've been trolling around on instagram for the last two weeks. Like any diligent scientist, I'm studying it to see what my reemergence might entail. Because I gotta go back. Because I'm about to unveil saipua2.0 -- an elegant revamp of an old classic. Complete with a franchised natural wine bar, a genetic testing laboratory, and a television channel.

In my graphing of the positive and negatives aspects of engaging in social media...

POSITIVES
-I am missing a lot of information on births and deaths; specifically puppies. At the vet the other day, the receptionist was asking about Georgio (did I mention here that he was diagnosed with epilepsy?) and then casually slid into a gush session on my sheepdog trainers new litter of border collies...excuse me, come again?

-an account called 'tweedgoth'

-an account called 'omgthemet'

-entire batches of my mother's black currant jam being produced, documented and gifted to other people 

-Making people laugh with quality content vids like 'Homesteading Today'



NEGATIVES
-Feeling pressure to document every beautiful thing in my life
-Being acutely aware of the 'value' of social capital. i.e. who your friends are and how influential they are.
-Having exes and exes exes up in my feed
-Sameness...which is related to whiteness and safeness which makes me very angry and which I want to expound upon here.

It starts with a carefully color-coded selection of the 9 photos that occupy the instagram feed on your page. Beige? Likely. Maybe the colors gently slide into an ombre as you scroll. That's an advanced technique I appreciate as a colorist myself.

But in this color-coding lies a very dangerous analogy to the way that social media allows us to sort ourselves into carefully curated groups that all think exactly alike. We find ourselves safely in tribes that consume alike and think alike. We wear the same brands, eat the same food. Think about politics in the same way. This is comfortable, but it is stagnating and dangerous because outside ideas from people we disagree with are what stimulate real conversations and provide catalysts for change.

We all want to talk about inclusivity lately but how does promoting safe, highly curated imagery really allow for that?

How do we make more influencers that encourage exploration and real creativity instead of mind-numbing consumption and thoughtless following? When we express ourselves from a place of real creative integrity it seldom matches the last thing we did or the thing our neighbor just did.

It's weird and wonderful and dangerous feeling. Thats what I want, all the time.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

further thoughts on women's work



Someone was angry about my last post and mis-interpreted my thoughts and I want to explain myself a little more.

My mention of my 'big dick energy' refers to how I deal with problem solving, leadership, doing business. For years I've worked on developing the more feminine side of my persona which makes me feel better about myself and in relationships with others.

It's no mystery that my excess of masculine energy (courage, sense of authority, etc) resulted in a lot of success for me and those of us that benefitted from Saipua 1.0 as we might call it.

In the last year and half I've given myself a lot of room and time to grieve the passing of the old ways and allowing for new patterns to emerge in my approach to working and living. This is exactly the importance of the feminine -- the waiting, the allowing, the acceptance of unknowing. In some ways I'm still tough, still bold and brash at times.

My comments about children and care-taking were never intended to demean or discourage women who make the choice to stay at home. I think the fact the women do choose is the most important aspect in all of this. All of feminism is about having access to choice and not having to explain our choices, ever.

I bear a lot of my personal feelings and thoughts here with the hope of having these conversations. You might imagine I live for your comments, and I also welcome criticism. As women we need to be able to talk about these things without getting nasty. I absolutely refuse to participate in conversations that include passive aggressiveness or snide comments about how I choose to live.

Ask me questions about why I say certain things or why I choose to live a certain way - but do not make assumptions or mock my sheep. And if you want to be critical, please show me respect by telling me who you are. Hiding anonymously behind your anger is a disservice to the power of your own voice.

__
Here are some links to reading we can talk about next:

These thoughts on the work of feminist Andrea Dworkin.
Here's one and here's another look at the senator Amy Klocuchar's methods of leadership.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

women's work


I've been reading and thinking a lot about 'women's work.'

Care-taking is rooted genetically and historically in women because of our wombs. I have a lot of complicated feelings around this because I for one, have a very large (albeit, metaphorical) dick - and two because I've never really wanted children.

Women adopted work like cooking, clothes-making and cleaning because those tasks allowed them to be relatively stationary. Nursing a baby becomes tricky while tracking a gazelle for miles with a spear in your hand and it's hard to imagine running a sawmill with a toddler strapped to ones back. And yet something about imagining those ridiculous scenarios smells of the Sharon Sandberg approach to feminism or the working woman of the 80's running herself ragged in order to have it all. I know these women, we probably all do. And I want to help create a different scenario for them.

I caught up with a friend recently and explained that Eric was living in the city and that I was running Worlds End with only women in 2019. He paused trying of course to see how someone like himself might fit into that equation; I back-petaled in order to smooth it over a little (!) lest I sound like an angry (!!) man-hating second wave feminist.

He told me that sounded empowering. He was missing the point, and I was having a hard time explaining myself -- it's not at all about feeling empowered - I have a lot of power. This is about wanting to work with women to make something different for ourselves because it doesn't exist yet. What is it like to work on an experiment that values health and happiness over money and power?

Masculine energy deploys an army to build a wall. It problem solves swiftly with force, it assesses and decides and it aims for completion. Feminine energy considers the whole, listens, sees interconnections and complexity as wealth. The feminine sees that things never really finish. Of course, we need both. And we all have some equation of each.

Patriarchy has always depended on an imbalance of the masculine/feminine energies. It exploits people and resources - and through wealth and power accumulation, it has accomplished some very impressive feats. Modern medicine and men on the moon. But it also gave us the great pyramids (built by slaves) in a region often ruled by a woman! Which is to say that the patriarchy is our fathers house - but it's also our mothers house. Unpacking the complexity around it could require a lifetime. I'm not interested in that, just the same as I'm not interested in being angry at an entire gender. I just want to get to work making something different. I want to experiment with different expressions of power and leadership.

My father was just here. I love him like crazy he is a stubborn Finn, bound to fits of manly declarations and broad statements. Grunting about, he helped me lift things around here which I can't lift alone. We cleaned out the garage, made piles of tools. I brought the big tractor right up the house (what if I didn't stop and just plowed right through it?) and loaded the bucket up with things to burn; old wood, broken furniture and files from the old Saipua castle. Doused it in the rain with motor oil and threw a match.

A while later from the sheep barn up on the hill I could see the burn pile, now completely lit. An alarmingly bright spot in the gloom of late February.


Monday, February 18, 2019

tricks


In my head I often categorize certain flower moves as 'tricks' -- for example one of my favorite tricks is shown here, the white currant 'dangle' which is simply taking a strand of fresh currants and ever so gently entangling it with a longer stem so as to use it inside an arrangement.

As florists we have various tricks that work for us. We borrow them from each other, employ them in different ways.

The trend of spray painting flowers is an interesting one to me. It allows us to create magic 'dream flowers' things that do not exist in nature - this is a trick that I'm ready to see retire.

The coyotes were screaming here last night, the original tricksters. They yip and howl at each other from across the woods and the surrounding hills to gather, call youngsters to a big kill. The dogs in the sheep field go berserk and when everyone finally quiets down the farm remains shrouded in a spook for the evening.

What a long winter it's already been for me here, I'm desperate for my old tricks. And new ones I suppose. I wanna impress you, dazzle you with flowers like you've never seen before. That's a big part of what makes me feel good.

In lieu of flowers I'm working on plans for a tiny performance theater here at Worlds End. In one fantasy I'm dressed as a coyote in a striped suit with a cane, singing and dancing for you on stage, shaking it and telling jokes.