Friday, March 6, 2020



There is a type of man who was once worth throwing a coy glance at until he opens the door in front of you with his elbow or worse uses the napkin from his coffee on the doorhandle or worse shirks his hand up into his sleeve creating an instant prophylactic with his jacket.  In an instant, that potential Interstate 87 rest area romance is dead in the water.

Granted I'm no longer looking for love on the NY State Thruway (or in the parking lot of Stewarts) but I notice how completely unsexy fear around germs is and I've been trying to work out why. I remember years ago excitedly meeting for the first time a well known media blogger type and sitting down to lunch in Brooklyn at the start of flu season... after we greeted one another she pulled out a tube of hand sanitizer and I was like oh no girl, we done here.

There's something specific about germaphobia that says stay back! we will share nothing. Something that indicates an unwillingness to surrender to being in a moment, or in community together. If you've had a romantic partner who doesn't want to come close when you're sick, you feel this - it's utterly disappointing and hurtful.

I'm not advocating for cavalier behavior in this moment. I wash my hands more now too. (Did you know it's the friction of rubbing your hands together that helps to eliminate germs more than the type of soap you use?) But more importantly I'm ingesting raw garlic and apple cider vinegar and trying to get enough sleep. I like to imagine looking out for each other in these ways of preventative care instead of fearing each other and this sense of alienation I'm sensing around me in the city.

Try this and be well!

1 whole bulb of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar

Buzz that up in a blender, vitamix, or food processor
Or if you have none of those tools, you can crush the cloves under a heavy knife and let them macerate in the vinegar.

Take two spoons of that tonic 2 times a day with some water and honey if you like.
Caution: if you don't have something in your stomach and take it straight it will make you double over in sudden sick full body pain, which I'm sort of into, but that dissipates after a few minutes or so.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Shampoo song of myself.

This is going to read like sponsored content because I'm about to tell you a story about my bathing routine and truth be told my paycheck (let alone this farm) is supported by the sale of bar soaps and recently, a little body oil. Relinquishing wedding work and floristry made for some big economic shifts in the business of Saipua and my life - I had to cease most of my frivolous city type spending and adopt austerity measures.  I'm shy to get into this topic too deep as it's one I know we love to judge one another about. That aside, my relationship to money and luxury is so complex I could write multiple memoirs on the topic (lace it with flower arranging how-to pages in order to attract a publisher?) Suffice it to say I like extremes and my practice here knits together a deep sense of frugality with exemplary acts of hedonism. We do, after all, have a 4-foot disco ball in the big barn which we fire up not only for large dance events (save the date; SUPERNATURE is July 25th!) but also for the occasional mid week 'microdisco.'
Mediocrity is the enemy!
And so follows, my story. My song of shampoo.

All fall I used the scrap ends of shampoo bottles lying about my farm house; a place which housed on and off many women in the last few years and so there were a plethora of random travel sized bottles to use up, and then some quite luxurious bottles, half full and stuck deep in the closet. I went through them all, a desire to not waste anything, all the while in the back of my mind devising a plan to - only when this cleaning out of old shampoos was complete - I would go online and treat myself (dear god I'm getting sparkly telling this part) to giant brown bottles of AESOP shampoo and conditioner with the pump handles and then! I would be a complete woman.

I do all this and get to the checkout phase on the website of AESOP and stop. Days go by. 
I use a bottle of Dr. Bronners once and say never again. Every time I'm in the grocery store or food coop I peruse the haircare section but nothing seems right or good enough -which is also to say that nothing compares to the status-signaling brown bottles (the largest size!) that I have deeply sewn into a future version of my best self. 

More time passes, now I'm using a bottle of Johnson&Johnson no-more-tears shampoo reserved for my nephew. Jessa Blades, natural beauty extraordinaire visits us and I casually mention that I'm looking for a shampoo. She rattles off some small brands - all of which I immediately fail to register. 'And AESOP?' I ask. Full of synthetic ingredients. Which truth be told, never bothered me much - I don't need organic skin care I want packaging! I want gold!

What transpired from there was a dark cycle of weeks in which I would repeatedly tell myself that I would buy the shampoo if I accomplished certain goals around the farm. Then inevitably I would wisk away the reward away right at the end leaving myself feeling pitiful. This is a pattern I'm an expert in, and rather than try to unpack its origins (rooted surely in my suburban childhood shopping mall traumas) or analyze my sense of self worth I now try to reroute and reprogram when possible. Or as my therapist suggests; kindly acknowledge it with an "oh, there THAT is again" and move on.

It was haircare recently. This past summer it was linen sheets. Soon it will be something else that I begin to associate with my sense of 'deserving' and my ability to give myself permission to spend money. The work of capitalism is so deeply engrained in us, and our sense of pleasure, care-taking and well being. I think it's wildly fascinating and I enjoy pulling it apart at the edges of myself, for better or worse. 

I don't think about shampoo anymore because I sorted myself out this way -- I use my own saipua bar soap (clary sage recently) to wash my hair...I get a really thick lather going in my hands and wash the hair closest to my scalp. Then after the bath, I rub our new snake oil into my hair, just at the ends. This makes me very pleased, to have rerouted this obsession with products I make myself. I also really like the way my bathroom looks without branded products lying about.

You can make it too if you want:

SAIPUA 'SNAKE OIL' for Face and Body (and now also for hair conditioning) 

4.5 oz. grade A olive oil
3.5 oz. virgin organic deodorized argan oil
2.5 oz. virgin rosehip oil
a few drops of the essential oil of your choice -- (NOTE: don't overdo it with essential oils. When Jessa was here we had a conversation about how powerful and potent essential are, and how people tend to go a little gung-ho when using them. They can in fact be tough on sensitive skin and as with any potent plant preparation, require some respect or shall I say - the benefits are felt more deeply when one practices a bit of restraint with them. Easy for me to say, in truth I'm the one standing over Susan in the soap kitchen yelling MORE! MORE! as she works on scents with essentials. We contain multitudes.)



Wednesday, February 12, 2020



There has always been a blue heron here. There could be many, but I can't tell one from another.
I only ever see one at a time.

The heron seems to spend most of his time tucked into the depths of swampy areas around the farm. The way to see him is to walk along the edge of murk -- alone because he only flies in the presence of a single witness -- do this early in the morning or at dusk because he rarely flies mid day. You hear him before you see him, the sound of air displaced by his six foot wingspan as he scripts a path through the drowned out poplar trees in the beaver swamp. When you catch sight, it will confuse you; startle you as if you are seeing something you should not. A bird entirely too big. Impossibly elegant.

The way to see the heron, of course, is to never be looking for him.

In my early twenties I picked up a book of essays called How To Be Alone by one of my favorite writers (and birdwatcher) Jonathan Franzen. He takes a lot of heat for - being an asshole? - but I still like the way he writes - especially about the suburbs, modernity and our relationship to nature. At the time I bought this book because I thought it would give me insight as to why I always want to be alone.

A few years ago I dug this book out and brought it camping on an island off the coast of Maine in order to start breaking up with a boyfriend. The conversation was impossible, I did not know how to enter it. I thought I left this book intentionally in the cabin - imagining another poorly matched couple trying to sort themselves under the romantic guise of a rocky coast September getaway. And yet - when I swivel on my stool here in my office on the farm, a tiny room at the top of my house with a view of the farmyard and the place where I keep my personal books - there it is. Lurking on the shelf, an irritating creep of a book that never seems to go away.

Isolation is a leitmotif in these essays. I recall being enlightened by an excerpt about couples who fail to socialize together (a death knell for relationships). There are some correspondences with Don Delillo in which they bemoan the fact that no one reads anymore. The essays are full of delicious Franzen-ish whining about our wasted, watered down culture. I used to relish this sort of thinking but now I see it as a thin guise for the authors self imposed alienation.

It's easier to isolate than it is to connect. It's safer.

My personal struggle this winter has been how to keep my relationship from being consumed by my relationship to the farm; a dark sabotage pattern which I have watched repeat. I have to continually remind myself that I love James more than that pattern, I love who I get to be with him separately from my work here. It's confusing and I still feel like I lead a double life...

I was at a conference last week with 30 flower farmers from the North East. Everyone expressed their difficulty with 'work life balance' which made me think -- maybe the trouble is believing in balance.
Farming can be isolating; it is easy to fall into the trappings of 'no one understands what it's like' sort of thinking. But we urgently need more small scale farms and land-based businesses. And more importantly we need to connect those businesses together and also connect them to urban centers. Farming doesn't need to look the same way that it has for the last few generations. It can drop the leitmotifs of hardship and isolation, it can reorient creatively around different family structures and different economic models.

Farming is not everything! Relationships are; our connections to people, animals and place (land). All of the 'successful' farms that inspire me hold their power and wealth though relationships. Their brilliance emanates through community and communication. Growing the best flowers or tomatoes seems secondary.

I am gearing up for our 9th season here at the farm at Worlds End. A lot has changed and continues to change...Eric (though here right now helping prepare us for lambing) is farming in North Carolina at Bluebird Meadows and creating a life for himself more permanently in Durham. Zoe is off now in the world on an extended sabbatical and we don't know if or when she'll be back. It's impossible to express how deeply she has imprinted the character of this place and I just miss her terribly. Catherine, who has spent the last 5 months finishing her book here is helping us articulate the future of Worlds End and  brewing a new format her for her pedagogy work. James, my favorite bee-keeping DJ is planning the second annual SUPERNATURE disco (July 25, 2020) and helping to set up a more extensive pollinator program here with additional hives and a wildflower field remediation plan. Our farmer Meg is having a baby! and turning her focus more towards developing her farm down the road. My parents - so integral to Saipua and this farm - have just sold their house (after living there for 48 years!) and are moving upstate. We're building a soap factory here on the farm... I'm working on a cafe project in Brooklyn that will help integrate our work here with so many of our followers from the city...I'm working again with Deborah Needleman to develop her craft school programming this year with a Broom-making class May 18-22, a second coming of Basketmaker AnneMarie O'Sullivan in June and October and a natural dye collaboration and workshop with Sasha Duerr.

And of course flowers, still, and likely always. The floral residency program kicks off its second year in June -- thanks to those of you who've signed up.

Writing that all down makes me feel full, inspired and grateful. I've been silent lately. I tend to enjoy isolation, especially in winter. I like to be dramatic and moody by myself but it's not conducive to the work I want to do here, and to the other half of myself that regenerates and energizes through connection and sharing this place. So onward. The trope of the lonely heron aside. She likely has a siege of herons deep in that murk that I'm simply choosing not to see.

*Note; if you'd like to join us at the farm in 2020 there are lots of ways;

- There are 5 spots left in the floral residency program here.
- We're hiring! Check out the job listings here.
- We'll be having a work week in May that you'll be able to sign up for soon...
- We're shifting the Coyote Cafe lunch program to be a dinner series with four dates across the season.
- This season we'll be having 'open hours' for visitors to come see the farm, grab a map in the big barn and take a self-guided tour. Visitors can hang out in our pond side reading room and peruse a selection rotating thematic reading material and help themselves to the 'coyote cafe' snack bar. 
- We're (most likely) going to have a LAMB CAM up and running for the month of April where you can log in to watch the lambing barn 24 hours a day

Lastly, group of herons is called a siege, and a group of finches is a charm. A group of hawks is called a cast, a group of pheasants is called a Nye, and a grouping of snipe is called a wisp. A group of swallows is called a flight.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

fall updates


The frost came about a week ago and with it, a new breeding ram.

The ram arrived with a pair of big bearded men inside a trailer full of travelers. It was after midnight and the evening was excruciatingly drawn out. I tried and was annoyed by Rilke, let the dogs up on the couch with me in a moment of weakness and then passed the last hour engaged in an unsettling epic scroll, at the end of which I was seriously contemplating downloading Anna Wintour's Master Class (!)

Shortly after 1am the lights of the animal transport big rig flashed around my living room and I pulled on my gear and hiked up to the sheep. The frost had already fallen, the field frozen and crunching underfoot. Earlier, around dusk I had poked around the flower field, cutting some things to save for good measure. Frost is a strange moment, and stranger still for me this year when flowers seem to be failing me. Or I'm failing them. I try not to overthink it. 

The men take the ram off the truck and I wish I had the gumption or nerve to photograph this uncanny process because this small pretty ram lamb looks like he's being handled by big beefy body guards, one on either side of him as they escort him to the barn while 20 female ewes stand watch at the fence 50 yards away.

Caption would read: 1:25 am, enter the club.


Iterations. In farming, they fall in neat blocks; summed up in seasons and years. Farmers talk a lot about their work in these blocks like; 'year one' (a sandstorm of a time) or 'year five' (when most people find a stride). This was 'year eight' for us; we grew a lot more food with the help of Meg Paska and ran the farm with just women - Eric is living in North Carolina and farming at Bluebird Meadows in Durham. People ask me why I wanted to run the farm with women only and I pause; do I need to explain? The pervasive imperative for women to explain themselves is a poisonous pattern.
We were curious.
We wanted to.

That said, not describing some of the joys of it would be a disservice to the project, and in time I will reflect and share. Meanwhile there are some other housekeeping bits I want to bring forth here.

One is our Saipua wedding work is moments away from being closed officially. We stopped taking new inquiries about 8 months ago, and are now finishing out the last 3 (!) remaining contracts of our tenure. All the flowers we grow at the farm now will support the floral residency program and our own personal endeavors here; be it dying material for the wool program or floral based herbal tea blends we're developing with gardener Deborah Needleman.

In the spring we're moving the soap business to Worlds End where it will continue to provide the economic engine for the slippery experiment that Saipua has become.

This past weekend I worked on two weddings in the city, one at the castle, now run by the Marlow Group as an event space. I think its the best place to throw a party in NYC. My bias aside, the food (actually locally sourced meat and produce) is the most beautiful catering around. For a moment there in that beautiful sun lit space, surrounded by our farms flowers I thought - was I foolish to give this work up?


But for something new to emerge, I had to let this part of Saipua go. I think it became painstakingly hard to maintain emotional enthusiasm for strangers weddings. I ran out of steam, ran out of the energy to be present for clients in the way they deserved -- and my company, full of the most sensitive and sharp people in the floral world felt it too. It began to feel too much like a business, cold like so many of the wedding venues (wedding factories we call them) we were working at.

Some florist companies operate like a well oiled machine in the wedding industry. I look around and see them and applaud them. They act professionally and have clearly delineated boundaries intact for their staff and client relationships.

That was just never, ever going to be the case at Saipua.

We live in this culture that spreads a complicated message; 'do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.' Buried in the underbelly of that sentiment is a sacrifice of one's personal pleasures and art for capitalism. Never have I felt so validated as when people started to want to pay me a lot of money to make flowers for them. In the decade that followed I was pulled into a complex monied world that was full of false notions around value and beauty. Let there be no confusion - the flower industry (not unlike the fashion industry) is absolutely exploitative and toxic. Efforts to combat that; composting, trying to pay people fairly, growing our own flowers were expensive and the majority of clients were not willing to pay for those improvements which were not visibly part of the beautiful product on the day of their event.

Our last wedding is December 7th. These last three are all very special and we will give everything we have got to making them the best. Then I'll be retired from the industry for good. I'm going to nurse my carpal tunnel wrist and focus on my floral residency program at Worlds End.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

september work.


What is the work?
Is it to learn the piano? To get it tuned first, to find the man, to call the man, to leave the message.

My aunts both had pianos no one played. I studied their houses; both had velvet sofas, they always had drinks. I always either tended bar, learning to light matches or, I played the piano to the extent permissible. I liked to make moody music, depress the petal and pound the lowest keys. Perhaps I was learning abstraction then. There was a very dark and thick oil painting of a swampy woods in one aunt's piano room and I thought; Yes, this is right.


I find a piano teacher but she's not the right one. I tell her I play by ear and she says I need to learn the math of counting time. She attempts to decode 4-4 time for me then 3-4 time and I look around her living room at all the framed photos; an array of nephews in suits. Her piano is upright; shiny black and I can tell it is well oiled, easy-playing like a new casio. She invites me to her church via text message some days later. I imagine myself going, which is to say I wonder about what a woman like me wears to a church in the leatherstocking region of NY State on any given Sunday.

The keys on this mahogany grand piano are ivory and sour sounding. I inherited it some years ago. It has served as an oversized plant stand. The tuner, when he comes, says it is likely impossible to tune. Many of the wires are rusted and could break when winched. We negotiate slowly over the potential broken strings. Each string will cost $40 to replace. I see this is gambling. I say, lets plan to stop after 4 strings break and we'll reassess. (I would have gone higher.) I think, well he's no fun in bed.



Listening to a piano being tuned is a tedious tour through the swamp of ones unconscious. Which is to say, unpleasant. I continually winced. The tuner comes twice.

Some of the work now is now to find the right teacher. I think, she must be old and wear a lot of heavy silver and she must fall in love with me.

Other work is housekeeping, sure. I do this a handful because it's nice to give ourselves some easy work. Everyone I love is always trying to get me to make lists.

But then more work is to accept it, the golden rod, breaking in bright waves, insisting on September.
What happens on the outside, also on the inside.
Each time we get to choose; we can look around and say what will I save and bring forward and what will I let be finished?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

on symmetry





I became obsessed with symmetry some months ago. I would feel it more than see it, in an erotic sense or an emotional sense - everything in equal halves; I wanted to draw the straightest line down the middle of my body. I wanted to live on the center line of the Rorschach.

Nature throws a lot of symmetry. Teeth and toes as are horns and hooves. The liver really throws you off though as do the intestines and a spleen. I skirt these physical outliers and narrow my preoccupation to the metaphorical sense. Actions and reactions. Essentially Newtons third law. Maybe I'll teach a physics class at my new school.

Lusty for this new descriptive tactic, I began to silently categorize all of my experiences as functions of a sine wave. The amplitude of the crests corresponding to the troughs. A drought/a deluge. Ecstasy/Misery. Sometimes I save the water I wash salad greens in, the next week I take a bath. The pendulum swings.

It's what we didn't get as children, or in past consciousness that we so desperately crave now.

If I'm talking about symmetry, I may also be talking about karma. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I have a second cousin named Karma... as a child her name registered as notable. Even before I knew what the word meant (although can anyone know?) I knew it was very different than my name, and that she was different from me - her family different from mine. Its a reminder to me how powerful language - the act of naming, describing and labeling is. I like to pretend I could merge myself into the world of the animals around me who have no language. No math. For them relational hierarchy seems much simpler. The mystery of love reduced to nature's laws of gene distribution.

A mysterious anger visits me often. It is so strong I want to break dishes, slam things. I fantasize about being tied up and beat up in bed and then being cared for; my body oiled and wrapped in warm towels. If I allow it to fully boil then the heat dissipates and is followed by an overwhelming sadness. Does it matter where this comes from? I'm tired of intellectualizing it and trying to assign it's origin.

Symmetry or any other creative metaphor I dispatch hovers above the one terrifying thing I know to be true: in the end, I am always left alone with myself.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

musings on the shifting landscape of FLORISTRY



There is so much I have to tell you. But before I do, I have to say something about a comment I wrote on Instagram that seemed to hit a lot of nerves with people; you want to know more about what I think about the 'end of floristry.'  

A year and a half ago I was at breakfast in NYC with a mentor of mine bemoaning a talk I had to give on floristry and flower farming. This friend - a veteran of flower and gardening publishing - joked that I should just declare the END OF FLORISTRY; which gave us a good laugh. Perhaps we both were feeling exhausted by the tremendous arc of trends ranging from 'back to nature' florals, floral workshops, farmer/florists, dutch masters inspired decadence with peeled back tulips and roses, the celebration of weeds, anthuriums, spray-painted tropicals, dyed flowers, etc.

Where could the trends possibly take us from here except back to flowers in a vase...in water?

Dill, hollyhocks, phlox, crespedia, wild clematis, astilbe, yarrow and scabiosa
Over the years many students of mine have been desperate to find their own 'unique style' as they prepare to make a business for themselves and enter the enormous global arena of the internet. It's a lot of pressure to put on one's relationship to art and nature. I think about this way of artistry as being very much associated with an old view of art - the artist as singular. The artist toiling alone to channel the evocative for sale to the public. I think it's no wonder that 87% of artists in permanent collections are men - art and our formations around much of it's practice are riddled with patriarchy. 

Zoe Wonfor's sourdough cracker art.
I like to imagine a world where there is more blending of art into everyday work and practice. A friend came to visit this summer - I met him over a decade ago when he was a young performance artist and I was a curator in NYC. Now he's a teacher and I'm a farmer. We went for a walk in the woods.

As someone newly interested in teaching children, I was thirsty to hear about his classroom. He described in detail one of his lessons which led students through a reading of a classic Buddhist text to a sing-along of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain. It was a lesson about relationships. I realized his teaching practice is his art practice now. That's what I want in my life everywhere here. 


My trouble with floristry is this; as a profession, it perpetuates the idea that there is a correct way, a specific process for adoration and decoration with nature. I can show someone how to make an arrangement, I can show someone how to make a casket spray, but it's all mechanics and practice. You could just the same learn how to work an excel sheet or fill a cavity. 

I've watched countless students be afraid to handle flowers - hesitant to explore their own intuitions around color, form and texture because they believe there is a 'correct' way of doing it. What I want to teach, and make room to teach here at our new school at Worlds End is not how to arrange flowers or how to cook or how to make a garden. I want to give people an immersive experience of this place and the opportunity to connect with their own sense intuition.

Instead of asking is this good? I want them to ask do I like this?


Creating and making something from your own sense of knowing is to step inside the stream of mystery. It is a leap. It is to begin something without a plan, to feel through a process of making without expecting an outcome. Knowing and simultaneously not knowing. Thats when all the molecules line up, the waves multiply, a harmony emerges. 

We all need to have the courage to make new for ourselves. Continually and collectively. 

I'm not making an argument for florists to close up shop. In fact the opposite - I think more people should set up shop with flowers and food and nature based businesses. I think we need more people to do business differently and more importantly do business together. Networks of businesses in communities have compounded power and are better poised to tease apart the fabric of our systems in order for something new to emerge. Small businesses can share resources like freelancers, graphic designers, supply chains, bookkeepers, etc. They can form their own health insurance collectives, their own food coops. They can take care of each other better. This is a feminine economy.

Centauria Imperialis.

It's already happening in facets of the flower world. I see and talk to so many growers who are connecting with each other, helping one another and doing business together.

I see businesses like Fox Fodder Farm for example setting out to shift more resources to local small farms by reshaping the NYC flower market and attempting to blur the lines between retail and wholesale. And I'm in the process of helping some of my favorite Saipua veterans launch a new business called Et Vernal which will deliver more of our work here at Worlds End to city events. 

I've considered that perhaps my irritability with the floral world is simply a reaction to me not knowing or wanting to be a part of it anymore. I still introduce myself to strangers occasionally as a 'Florist.' But less and less.

I'm sort of making a new world for us over here now. 

Pickled celery from our garden.
__

FINE PRINT! I need to write more about all this, and I will. My astrologer, in my yearly leo checkup said I need to communicate more, and I will really try to do that. I want to do that. I have not found a rhythm of working on the farm and writing amidst our high season here which is so full of visitors who I want to spend time with. 

Thank you to those of you who are buying our monthly soap subscription online. A lot of effort has gone into trying to figure out how to make our farm and business more sustainable financially as we give up city event work (only 5 more, crazy)...and selling more soap is key to us being able to experiment here. So thank you. 

Thank you also to those of you who came to SUPERNATURE, the lamb meatball dinner disco. It was the best party we've ever thrown by far - all of you were so fun, such good dancers, jesus - and also so respectful of our farm and land here. The campground the next day was spotless. Save the date for SUPERNATURE 2020 -- July 25th.

And lastly; those of you who are considering our year long Gardening Course: this is going to be a real life changing commitment, and I encourage you to make the leap. You will emerge from the year confident in your own ability to grow your own food (and flowers) and have a new way of looking at your creative practice in nature. This is everything to us right now -- getting you here to show you how we're gardening and living, and then taking parts of that home to make good living and eating for your own families and communities.