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


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.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Things I love: wondering about human nature, watching economy in the natural world, romance, sheep, working dogs, making something out of nothing.

Food, wine - really good wine. Pasta, bread, tahini, vegetables, spigarello, herbs, lemon verbena, steak, rare-medium rare. Martinis. Cigarettes alone after dinner. Beauty. Vintage Claude Montana. Stone fruit. 

Making big dinners. Drama. Candlelight, storytelling. Oracles. Science. Quality eye contact. Compost. An unexpected clarinet.

Two opposites being true at the same time. Melancholy. Water. Staying home. Rhythm.

Winter? fine, a little. Getting used to things, contemplating progress. Throwing things out with abandon. Eating baked goods. Coffee three times a day. Staring out the window. Walking to get the mail. Anticipating packages.

Lilacs I love. Blooming late at the end of May. Never for sale, who would know what they're worth?
I have a photo of Eric somewhere locked in a hardrive or an old iphone standing in front of one of the 100 year old lilac bushes here, fists raised like a boxing champion. 
I wouldn't change a thing about any of it, I suppose. 

Oh, and autumn. more than anything.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

tomato soup

We are tomato rich here. Even in winter the basement is guilded with jars of sungolds, mixes of green zebras and cherry tomatoes, a few jars of strictly paste tomatoes (although lately I feel why bother with Romas?).

At the beginning of tomato season in August we start canning scientifically, keeping same fruit with same fruit, skinning, measuring the citric acid with a measuring spoon, wiping the jars carefully before setting them into their hot water bath. By October we're inundated and preservation takes on a more freeform approach. Roasted, jammed in freezer bags, cooked slightly with salt and frozen. Fermented in the refrigerator. 

Cold like we've been having changes my appetite. I suddenly want absolutely everything fried. I fantasize about frying ground meat (is this even a thing?), breading and frying giant slabs of eggplant and topping them with labneh and chili oil. I make scones with butter and buttermilk and then eat them topped with 1/4 inch of kerrygold. My body hums and I suit up for another outdoor excursion. 

The other day, coming inside from chores I wanted a grilled cheese. Dense, whole wheat bread stuffed with all the cheese remnants of the fridge and deep fried in butter. The key to this sort of fat consumption is balancing it with something acidic (thus the pickled radishes that I wrote about last week.) On this afternoon tomato soup was in order and I found a rogue bag of frozen mixed cherries in the deep freeze labeled 2015. A terrific tomato year!

Even with a can of store bought tomatoes you will be surprised at how good this soup is next to a grilled cheese or christened with labneh and some herbs. This one is flaming hot with a habanero pepper which makes you feel warm from the inside out.
I can't wait to cook for you this summer! 


2 small onions chopped roughly
5 cloves of garlic chopped
olive oil
1 habanero pepper chopped (this makes HOT soup, use half if you prefer it more mild)

1 quart jar of canned tomatoes (or one large can of chopped tomatoes)

1/4 cup of heavy cream or half and half
1/4 cup of yogurt

Put soup pot on medium heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onions, garlic and habanero pepper with a few pinches of salt till the onions are turning translucent and the whole pot is fragrant and that caspian power of the pepper is making your the breath in your chest feel - purposeful. Now add the tomatoes and cook for a while, maybe 1/2 hour or so. Test for salt and add more if needed.

Turn off the heat and cool slightly, then pour into a food processor and blend till smooth. Now add in the dairy (you can do a combination of different dairy things here, but I like a creamy soup so I put a lot of whatever I have on hand) and pulse in food processor some more.

Top with yogurt and dill or sour cream or drizzle with herby oil or however you like to make it nice for yourself.

Friday, February 1, 2019

winter Coyote Cafe planning.

Maremmas are like giant polar bears. This extreme cold spell, with temperatures falling to -10F at night, seems to suit these two dogs who stay outside with the sheep 365 days a year to guard them from predators - mostly coyotes. Pucci is the male, Blondie the female. Pucci is the friendlier one that everyone falls in love with, he likes to cuddle and he doesn't mind the camera.

If I take my phone out; dig it out from under 4 layers of carhartt that I wear to chores these days, Blondie runs the other way. There is something about the phone she is suspicious of and I find that interesting. As an experiment I take a deck of playing cards to the field one evening and pull it out like a phone. This does not bother her. I hold up the deck to 'take her picture.' She doesn't flinch. 

This is the important science I'm up to here in the frozen tundra of Worlds End.

After everyone is fed, Nea and I walk to the pond and recut the hole in the ice to dip out water for the sheep. I look down into the black water and sometimes see water boatmen (corixidae) gliding slowly through the freezing water and wonder what life is like for an aquatic insect under a foot of ice. Best not to think about it too much I say to myself and trudge back over through the snow with my buckets filled.  

Come spring, I'm going to stock the pond with brown trout; adding a new protein source to our diet here and expanding our menu offerings at the Coyote Cafe (opening June 1st!). The Coyote Cafe has been a dream of mine for years. It started as an idea for a coffee kiosk deep in the woods that would be an oasis for me, or anyone wandering around in the back 60 acres. 

As we began feeding more and more workers and visitors here at Worlds End, the Coyote Cafe transformed into an idea for a full restaurant that would serve to feed those of us working here and also feed visitors.

Feeding people is an easy way for them to get to know us and what we do here.

My days here this winter are bookended by these chores in the sheep field and chicken coop. In between I work on plans for the Coyote Cafe. I design the kitchen and the tables, I think about the linens and the dishes. I write menu ideas. I'm so excited it makes me smile to type this to you.

In a few weeks I'm launching a new website that will let people to sign up for tours of Worlds End. The tour includes lunch at the Coyote Cafe with our staff. Probably lots of days no one will show up and it will just be us, our apprentices and occasionally, artists in residence. But somedays I like to think one or two families will show up, or a group of 6 friends on their way through the Mohawk Valley enjoying a weekend away from the city. Maybe people like you who want to walk through the flower fields, pet dogs and see this place in person.

Coyotes eat everything, did you know that? Small rodents and rabbits mostly, snakes, frogs, fish. Occasionally a large animal if they're hunting in a pack. They also eat fruit, and grass in summer and fall. They are highly adaptable opportunists. They mate for life - isn't it funny that we love to know when animals do that - and the males raise litters of pups together with the females; they co-parent.
They live here with us, roaming around the woods at night; our shadows on the periphery.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

trend report from your wedding florist

Yellow. Sometimes

Bits of yellow and gold

Light yellow.

Mixes of different yellows, together.  

Yellow mostly, with some other colors to support the yellow.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

thoughts on new ways of working and new ways of seeing leadership

Everyone works differently. I've seen this in my company over the years; some can work autonomously, some flourish in collaboration with others. Some crave constant feedback, others bristle at it. Some need structure while others rebel against it. I'd say having employees is the hardest but most rewarding part of being a business owner, and if you have employees you likely know what I mean.

I like it because I like dynamics and I'm interested in relationships, emotional intelligence and in group dynamics. And power -- not necessarily having power - or wielding power, but in watching the way that power flows through people, turns on or turns off as they go about negotiating their work alongside others.

We see this in groups all the time; I see it in my sheep. Thirty female sheep, rife with hormones getting fat on second cut hay and gazing longingly out from their permanent winter pen for a ram who won't be coming. (We're taking a year off breeding.) These lonely girls stand around in the early afternoon either touching lightly, standing neck to neck or butting heads violently as rams do - occasionally knocking horns to the point of bloodiness so that even I, a seasoned sheep watcher, pause for concern. They are of course, establishing an order amongst themselves. Sorting it out.

Dogs do it the same sort of thing. Deference is a word I learned as a child watching dogs. Even though Giorgio is larger and stronger than Nea now, he still defers to her when I put a cast iron skillet of lamb grease on the floor. Dogs and sheep both need to be in groups to survive. If you isolate a sheep it will get sick and die from stress. Dogs are similar, wolves, coyotes.

Lions are the only cats that live in groups; a pride of female lionesses. (Males leave upon maturity.)

I like to work with people, it unlocks parts of my creativity I otherwise can't access. I can make flowers alone or write alone, but all that comes from shared experiences gathered earlier in the day, earlier in the week or month. The artist toiling alone is a trope I'm not sure I believe in.

I sat down to write about work and specifically this article that is running around in my circles about the entrepreneurial hustle and WeWork.

It frightens me this WeWork thing because it smells like Amazon and Facebook; organizations that are supposed to make us feel connected but instead isolate us. Inside a weWork, everyone is working on different things, thousands of entrepreneurs entrepreneur-ing alone together.

I think we need to focus on what it means to work together on things; in workshops, in small businesses, on farms, and on revolutionary change. Which is to say stop championing leadership. Our culture right now seems obsessed with influencers, 'being your own boss,' and turning creative passions into a business. But I fear that leaves us in a community of lonely islands each complete with their own squarespace website.

Here at Worlds End we talk a lot about work. About the work of chores and farming, and also how to use that work to make space for each individual to pursue their own creative endeavors. Creativity is absolutely essential for every person in the world, but business is not. Why must our creative passions evolve into businesses in order to be seen and shared with the world?

We can't all be florists. We can't all be leader sheep, and we can't all be top dogs - nature shows us this. This is not an argument for authoritarianism - its an argument for restructuring the value systems that support the hierarchies that most business, workplaces, kitchens and workshops have. All of my cook friends talk about how valuable the dishwasher is; and yet restaurant kitchens repeat the same structure over and over that essentially perpetuates the same message; the chef is more valuable than the line cook, than the dishwasher, etc.

In our flock of sheep the leader changes. It's always one of the bigger girls, for sure - sheep are simple like this. People meet me and often remark they expected I would be bigger...

An email chain bounced around a few weeks ago among the Worlds End exec's; most of whom are in warmer, far flung places gathering information and fuel for the future. The message proposed a new idea around structure here; what if we took turns passing leadership around amongst ourselves. For example what does it look like for me to step back a bit and let Zoe to steer the ship for a few months, for a year? She is, in fact bigger than me.

I think we're also talking about freedom again.