Monday, November 28, 2016

I want to be a chicken at Worlds End. Here's some reasons why: 

1) Structure. You get let out in the morning and you go in at night, all at the same time everyday. So already there's a lot of decisions made for you.
2) No Boys. There are no boy chickens or roosters at Worlds End and I think the girls are maybe better off for it. They go about their business without obligations to male-ness or female-ness. They've never encountered a male chicken in their entire little bird-brained lifetimes. A half mile down the road, our closest neighbor has a gaggle of rough-rider roosters that go about raising hell around 3am. If our girls hear this, swaddled in their lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous white clapboard coup that Eric lovingly handcrafted them, they are likely to interpret the racket as a distant dream; a mythos of chicken creationism, not to be taken too seriously. 

They just can't think about it too much. 
Like the riddle of the chicken and the egg. 

I was off the farm mostly for the last 6 months, working in the city to get our new store and studio up and running and my life has been different. I don't want to talk about a lot of it because it's too personal or tender in a lot of ways. We could frame it broadly in a conversation about change

The one thing in this life we know with certainty. You either watch change happen or you make it happen - but regardless of your involvement it occurs. I pause here, imagining what it would take to stop the tides. I distract myself from painful moments by reading physics or trips to the Met or Barneys. I am reading about symmetry in the universe; change without change. A circle, rotated on it's axis continually changes but also doesn't. 
I drink tea now. 
I am looking for the perfect black cashmere turtleneck.

I am particularly interested in the intersection of science and the spiritual realm. 

Lets start with love. Somehow the feeling of love is equal to certain arrangements of sub atomic particles in the brain firing off at certain times. There is science behind feelings, it is all arguably nature and nature is ruled by physics and chemistry. Then I think, lets sort it out; lets find the love particle (except their won't be just one, there will be many -- plutonic love, romantic love, maternal love, etc. -- infinite types of love particles!) And then lets study and sequence the shit out of it -- figure out how the various bits skip through electron orbits in the carbon atoms of our brains when the feeling of love is present. Then we'll synthesize it! Mix it up in a petri dish and distribute it to people who need it. I'd diagnose myself, as head of this study and swallow a pill stamped: SELF LOVE. 

Then I'd make a pill stamped EMPATHETIC LOVE and I'd slip it in the drinks of Rudy Guliani, Steve Bannon, Chris Christie, Donald Trump and the other members of the newly forming axis of evil. Then we could get on with the real work of this world...

But there is of course the other side to this. The real reason we'll never mix love up in the lab-- the spiritual realm. That which happens in between the air...where no particles or measurable physical forces are. A sentient force field. I can't always figure out how to touch it, but occasionally I do. For seconds at a time with flowers, with strangers at the grocery, with coffee alone staring out the window, with animals a lot -- and then I snap back into being a robot. The most efficient version of myself; a picture of pseudo feminist success - running my company, raising sheep, growing food and flowers but never touching laundry or children.

Lets add some philosophy to this meandering.

The Allegory of the Cave is a well known though experiment devised by Plato in which one imagines a world in which people have been trapped underground in a cave since birth. They know nothing of the world except the shadows they see on the cave wall. When they are dragged out into the 'real world' they resist and run screaming back to the cave. Maybe I'm trying to talk about freedom...

You might pass a truck of chickens stacked hundreds deep in cages on the highway. Trucked from birth, to life to death. Ultimate confinement. You might let yourself go down that road for a minute thinking about all those little chickens... it might conjure a wellspring of emotion. Imagine operating with that sort of tenderness more often. This isn't a conversation about meat birds and how they are produced. It's a conversation about compassion and how far we can get from it living our everyday lives. The sadness of our birthright; it is a gift to warm up to it. That sentient ocean that is between all the air. The symmetrical other - the spiritual half of the reality we are trained to see and know…

You know those chickens know nothing else - the ones in cages on the truck. They were born in the cave. I try to tell my chickens how lucky they are but they still just glare at me with angry, impatient chicken eyes. These girls have it so tight - they won't even touch compost scraps unless I lace it with sunflower seeds or berries. They're on a 1 month plus laying hiatus and when I bought $40 worth of layer mash the other day I considered that it's likely time for a new batch of layer hens. Over dinner Eric and I dance around the conversation of retiring the chickens. For Christ sake, we are buying eggs at the grocery. 
But we keep kicking the task down the road. 

On the farm there are lessons encrypted everywhere for me. Most of them come painfully slowly. In hindsight its obvious that I needed to break myself down in order to move forward. There are some pieces of myself I don't need anymore. I've been reorienting myself, getting ready for the next phase of work at Saipua which has to do more with education and offering people an opportunity to connect to nature. If you've been to Worlds End you may have seen and felt a certain sort of strange power that lies quietly in the air, on the surfaces. We have one large piece of infrastructure left to build here at the farm so that we can get more people here working and learning and experiencing. 

Has every generation felt their time was critical? 

I feel there is so much work to do…
I'll be over here hustling; that won't change. 
And perhaps trying desperately to adjust to life outside the cave.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016




This person will work intimately with the Creative Director (Sarah Ryhanen) helping to build the next 10 years of Saipua including expanded leadership in the floral industry, further growth at the Saipua farm at Worlds End, a textile program which aims to teach people about sheep/wool production and develop naturally dyed Icelandic yarn and rugs, completion of a book project and more.

This person will handle communications for the director, help implement marketing strategy and oversee the busy Saipua calendar. They will be expected to digest a myriad of ideas and information and then organize and implement those ideas.

The assistant will also be responsible for some light bookkeeping (knowledge of quickbooks preferred but not necessary) and will be asked to perform a smattering of personal assistant type tasks such as booking travel, running errands, managing personal appointments, etc. This person can manage a smattering of varied tasks, can remain organized in the most chaotic of environments, and is able to prioritize better than most.

Interest in flowers, beautiful objects, farming, hard work, coffee, cooking, and peanut butter toast are musts.


Impeccably organized 
- Able to maintain an organized diary of details on a varying list of projects and clients.
- Excellent note taking skills
- The mind of an elephant; does not forget anything.
- Impeccable attention to detail. Does not misspell; excellent with numbers.

Superior communication skills 
- Concise, clear, concientious communication. Must operate with candor and directness. 
- High level of editorial abilities for drafting correspondence and communicating directly with clients.

This person is enthusiastic, shows initiative, is more responsible than most and able to admit their mistakes and own their position within a high functioning team. 

Proficient in: 
Adobe Creative Suite
Google docs and Google calendar
General computer troubleshooting skills

40K, full health benefits.
Room for growth within the company.
One year commitment required.
Excellent driving record.

Interested applicants will send their CV and a brief letter of intent to with the subject line PERSONAL ASSISTANT

Friday, June 10, 2016

summer starts early

Besides the 88 degree days we had in NY last week (it occurs to me I often start by talking about the weather) there have been a few indicators that summer is starting. Just now, making coffee in the studio I put the half and half right back in the refrigerator instead of leaving it out for my second coffee. This happened instinctually; an animal in my natural studio habitat responding to increases in light and temperature. The kiln was also on this morning and this could have thrown my sensitivity askew. (I re-read that sentence and think we have a kiln!)

At the farm I ask Eric if he wants to spend some time in the city, or leave for a while. He is tan and handsome. Having spent a lot of time apart I notice this in new, different ways. He eats more at dinner, sleeps sooner, is up earlier. He responds as if I've asked him an inconsiderate question. This is my season he says, already walking away. He still lets me borrow his clothes, and does my laundry when I come back which I take as a good sign. Eric is very good at laundry.

Indeed, the farm had switched from being a cold, wet, lamb-birthing blood bath to a place where interns and friends are eager to visit. In the two weeks I was away it exploded with green. I arrive back after two weeks in the city and traveling for work and get upset. So much has happened here without me. Lambs are practically weened, in full fleece, asking for iPhones. 

Despite my chaotic schedule I've made rhubarb compote what feels like a hundred times already. I'm not sure if it qualifies as something to write down, but I will. In the spirit of sharing what we eat  what's worth mentioning is the seasonal fruit cycle that starts with rhubarb and ends with apples in October. It's a wild ride folks! One love affair smashes into the next, juice running down your chin, leaning suddenly over the kitchen sink. Cooked rhubarb bubbling over on the grill outside, turns to the small local strawberries pressed together in their green cardboard quart containers complete with the steamy hint of mold that blooms in between them at the bottom almost immediately. (Consider then, the box of driscolls.)

I could sit here and write to you about how I am learning constantly about the shortness of life. How the farm teaches that in every chore, every evening walk, every humming bird you try and save. A farmer, maybe 45 years old, once told me that she only had 15-20 more tries to get her potato crop right. You only get one try a year.

My mother, says she's always thought of herself as 27. 
My favorite rose bush blooms in the city, I bring everyone to it. 

Rhubarb Compote

This is a loose recipe of how we make it at Saipua, which is really without any measurement. Weird, that surprises you? Suffice it to say, rhubarb is sour and usually recipes call for a lot of sugar. Personally I have a rather complex relationship with sugar, having been denied it as a child (major themes: deprivation, froot loop envy) I now am very weary of it as an adult. Also, I prefer to consolidate my sugar consumption to afternoon coffee/cookie breaks and wine. I walk this tense line of indulgence and restraint like nobody's business. If you want, replace the honey with a scant cup of sugar, you nut.

1 pound of rhubarb, chopped up in 1 inch pieces, rinsed, water still clinging to it
dash of salt
dash of cinnamon
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of honey


It will bubble up and cook down fast. Turning into an unattractive brown slop. Cool it.
Put it on yogurt. Excellent source of vitamin K and C.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

spring stuff and entering the spiritual realm?

A few weeks ago I was walking a lot in the evenings between 6pm when Saipua closes up and 8pm when the sun sets. The gloaming and I; down the block, out of Red Hook across the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. To the corner of Clinton and Carroll Street.

This particular week was damp and heavy, shrouded with clouds and cold. New Yorkers were cursing spring, can you believe this weather? and yet the lilac, dogwood, and last apple blossoms continued their parties with their own inside jokes and amusement at our limited understanding of larger weather patterns. As if everything was either/or. Sun or Rain.

On one of these nights, finishing work a bit late, I looked out and saw a diminishing opportunity to visit a particular tree which I had recently claimed to be 'my tree' although it is not mine. My tree is an old magnificent pink dogwood in the small yard of a handsome funeral home in Carroll Gardens. The surrounding yard is unfortunately landscaped with garish orange begonias in the window boxes and several pepto bismal-colored azaelea dotted about. On one walk there later that week I developed a plan to offer our new Saipua landscaping services to this funeral home in order to better suit my tree. (This plan has since been abandoned.)

I ended up claiming 'a tree' after a friend of mine told me about 'his tree' - an old apple arguably too large for its city block, practically foaming at the mouth with flowers. After visiting this friends tree a couple of times I realized that I really should have my own -- considering the nature of my work -- it was practically embarrassing that I didn't have 'a tree' already.

Shortly thereafter I encountered a tree which qualified. I was driving through Carroll Gardens, a neighborhood which, due to specific economic conditions over the course of the last century, is replete with handsome older decorative trees of a certain caliber. It was a pink dogwood in full bloom - its flowers already drawn out and flabby. Alone in the car, I sucked a breath in sharply, tipping my sunglasses down my nose and craning my neck to watch it as I drove by. Regaining focus on the road and I claimed it silently, vowing to visit it regularly.

On one of these visits to my tree on this particular cold week, I encountered a lilac heavy with blue flowers volunteering itself over a wrought iron fence. It was practically throwing itself at me as I walked by. Stepping into it, I thought briefly of the number of noses likely pressed into these flowers, in the specific vicinity of four to five feet off the ground, and the likelihood of sharing a strangers breath, even traces of their saliva inadvertently on the surface of these seemingly innocent florets.

When I inhaled into this lilac I knew I would not ever be able to get enough. I suddenly wanted privacy on the street; no dog walkers... no children on scooters, their mothers with phones pressed between their shoulders and their ears, bullishly hurtling down the sidewalk sideways glancing at me standing there in the bushes.

I pushed onward past the ombre arc of a waining dicentra, past lines of tulips standing at attention. I got to my tree and wondered if maybe I didn't jump the gun in choosing it; might there be a better tree for me?

There's another plant I visit, a wisteria. It canopies over the sidewalk, on a street connecting our studio to the rest of Red Hook. I learn about it from Genevieve shortly before her last day at Saipua. In Genevieve's world many things are magical; though our standards for this word are calculated with different sets of weights and measures. Recalling the wisteria now, since reduced to its plain clothes of average green foliage, I find myself stumbling for words. It was a mysterious moment; one which created some sort of supernatural pull; altering my flight patterns, my daily routines and thoughts. Practically the definition of magic. And I realize I should give Genevieve's magic more credit.

You can eat the petals of wisteria, they taste like peas. I take some to eat one afternoon and it feels like some sort of florist communion. We all want that secretly, don't we? Entrance to the spiritual realm.

We dance around it, intellectually pull it apart in conversations about the nature of organized religion or meditation or hallucinogenics. We gently prod at it, handling the slippery thing carefully. Not knowing how to proceed.

Friday, April 29, 2016

WEDDINGS PART III: the evolution of the saipua wedding

The best thing we do at Saipua is make gorgeous flowers. We do other things -- my mom makes really good soap and we are pretty good at designing events. Some of our team is great at building large installations; hanging heavy things from the ceiling of large spaces with airplane cables, and sometimes setting those things on fire. Strategically. On purpose. We are slowly getting better at farming. And for the record we are decent cooks, all of us. 

But at the core of all of our efforts seems to be the ability to put together beautiful things; and to share those things. We do this with flowers, obviously most of all. And specifically in the last 10 years, have built quite a business by doing this for weddings.

The first wedding we ever did was at Ici restaurant in Brooklyn. It was maybe 80 people. The couple came to us through Renato who owns Baked a coffee/bake shop across the street from our first little studio. He was making their cake and they needed a florist. She wanted purple flowers.

The total budget was $700. I probably spent $800 on the flowers; so it goes in the beginning. You just want it to be SO GOOD. And you do whatever it takes. For us (and for most starting florists) I think that means subsidizing a lot of weddings as you get your bearings. 

From there it was a lot more small weddings in Brooklyn. It was a lot of antique ball jars. I found a 'supplier' of old mason jars and bought hundreds every season. I was learning constantly how to get better flowers, make better flowers. 10 years later we had scaled up to working with budgets of $25,000 to $150,000. My parents still get a kick out of the fact that people spend that kind of money on weddings. But I love it because it makes beautiful things happen. Great art happens this way, and a lot of people are supported in that process -- from our growers, our farm, our employees, our freelancers, etc. 

But I miss the ball jars in the back of my pickup truck days...

When you expand a business it can feel like a supernova sometimes. Layers rapidly expanding out around you at the speed of light; ephemerally linked to what was once a neatly organized core which went about it's business converting hydrogen into helium at easily measurable rates with predictable outcomes. There are a lot of stars out there, doing this. As I write this -- a post that is supposed to be about weddings -- the core of our business -- I realize that drawing a metaphor between Saipua and a dying star is not a brilliant sales tactic but fuck if we've ever been slick with marketing.
(And if you like outer space metaphors, I have an arsenal of them...)

All is to say that I've been reeling a little this year as Saipua grows up and also as I reach my limit as to how much wedding industry stuff I can/want to handle. You got a taste of that in my last post about weddings. I just want to make flowers. A lot of them. And make people happy with those flowers. And connect with people who have the same sort of values that we have here. 

So we're changing our rules about what we can offer brides and grooms...

We'll continue to design and realize the grand weddings and events that allows us to really flex all the muscles we've refined in this industry for the last 10 years. The soup to nuts of weddings; offering clients access to our vault of wisdom on everything needed to throw the most memorable feast for the senses. These events are our crown jewels; and for these we can provide everything from paper suites to furniture rentals and customized animal masks. And for these we plan and create insane flowers and invite our clients deep into the saipua world. 

And then we're going back to the other side of the coin -- our beloved Frankies backyard mason jar weddings. (Do they even host weddings anymore, I hope so.)

Making flowers you need for a simple brooklyn backyard wedding or a quick trip to city hall. One where a couple might only need the bouquet, a boutonniere and perhaps a dozen small arrangements. The sort of flowers that my parents would have had at their wedding. Which I'd never see anyway, because there are no photos. 

These weddings are really a treat for me as they are flowers that I can do by myself. Alone in the studio really early in the morning or really late. Listening to Kate Bush on the loudest setting. Knitting myself back into the core of our business. The most thoughtfully sourced and arranged seasonally oriented flowers. On a small scale.

Our hydrogen to helium. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

perpetual winter

It's been unseasonably cold. We're in the middle of lambing at Worlds End. Coming up to my office to write this, I check the calendar because I have no idea what day it is. April 10.
The stream is frozen slightly, a crust breaks on the stones when I cross it to check lambs at 3:30 and 6:30am. The dogs don't come with me because they are lazy; one eye on me as I prep in the dark; a memo received: not in my job description.

At dinner last night we all discussed naming genres for this year's lambs; suggestions welcome. One of my sheep mentors named all of her lambs after Russian authors one season which I thought was so smart. I like the idea of Russian literature because it seems so serious, laced with pain and vodka.

I'm reading about the big bang again. And the idea of the Ekpyrotic Universe.
Which I like because it rhymes with 'erotic.'  Minus a syllable.
In the Ekpyrotic model you might imagine the universe as a rubber mat with lots of people sitting on it, stretching out infinitely - everyone becomes the center of their own universe on this rubber matt; there is no middle. When you reverse it, you are traveling in time back to the singularity, everyone gets closer together. It gets hotter. Then everyone is right up against each other. Then everyone's atoms are inside everyone else's atoms. At that moment the universe has nearly infinite density and temperature. I read this line and it makes me feel a rush; my chest feels physically full for a minute. I realize I am very exhausted and feeling all the things more than usual.

Next day.

3:30 I find a baby white ram lamb standing next to Dotty in the light of my headlamp. After a lot of commotion I've got them inside the barn in a lambing jug, Eric is on the way up and a second lamb is presenting really perfectly thank god; last year Dotty had a lamb stuck in her and both of us were elbow deep inside this ewe before we could get it out.

The second is born, black with white spots.
Dotty cleans her second baby off and then oddly rejects it - headbutting it around the stall like a football. Watching this is horrific. All this cold, confused newborn lamb wants is to be next to its mother. In her inexplicable hormonally charged rage against her second lamb, Dotty pinns my wrist at one point between her horns and the sidewall. Eric asks me if it's broken because I'm crying and being dramatic. Part of why I'm crying is because I'm tired and feeling sorry for myself and wanting to be tougher but just not being very tough right now.

When you are in the middle of learning a lesson, you don't realize it until after it's over...

During the daytime, I take walks in the woods in between lamb pen checks.
I'm reading about the ancient greeks and stoicism.

Stoicism: nature as divine consciousness. The order (and 'disorder') of the universe is behind the mystery of fate. Stoics taught that people could be free of suffering and achieve peace of mind through true objectivism. By bearing witness to nature we can see the equanimity in it's highs and lows.
That in passion lies the root of suffering.

I am reading this stuff and I'm not sure I like it.

Spring will be here soon enough. All lambs will be born and either live or die, everywhere. Mud and snow will dissipate; perennial weeds appearing first, almost impossibly through water logged beds where nothing should be able to grow. City girls will toss their tights and start ordering rose wine in restaurants with greater frequency. Ramps and rhubarb clouding every epicures brain. People will think to start biking again. Dopamine and melatonin levels rise and statistically more people will be falling in love.

I find some semblance of rest in the cycle of it all. Or in my ability to calm down, watch this baby lamb, help it the best I can and then walk away without the emotional anthropomorphized baggage of the story of what's happening to it.

Zooming out slightly, to see the whole scene. Springtime. All the millions of times it's happened here.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ceramics Part II; launching the new SAIPUA DELIVERY PROGRAM

People call our studio all the time to have flowers delivered. As if we were a normal flower shop with normal people, normal hours and predictable rhythms. On some days we may look like a flower palace; other days it feels like a scene from Little Shop of Horrors. The last few weeks have looked like a dust covered bombed-out set from an episode of Homeland, as we prepare to open our ceramics studio  and storefront officially May 7th (hail mary, full of grace).

So when people call we send them elsewhere... To Emily Thompson, to Brrch, Fox Fodder Farm, or Putnam & Putnam. But suddenly with more space, more staff, more ceramics and more farm flowers we saw an opportunity to reinvent the delivery program … and fund the new educational initiative which aims to bring people to the farm to learn about nature and work creatively in it. A big piece of this is another giant barn renovation to create places for people to stay and make art and make sheep's milk cheese... 

I feel the most important thing we can do at Saipua is to inspire and promote a creative relationship to nature through really beautiful things.  I like that someone can have a beautiful piece of what we do even if they are not planning a wedding or throwing a big party. I like that we can share our flowers from the farm with people all over New York City - and I like that we might, for the first time, be able to figure out how to run a delivery program efficiently and profitably…

The first challenge to deliveries is finding an inspiring and suitable vase. For us it was so important to avoid another throw-away import. We wanted a beautiful object that could become just as important as the flowers. The ceramic studio and partnership with Object and Totem solves this challenge; and opens up a new world of potential collaborations with ceramic artists. The vases will change seasonally with the flowers; encouraging a collect-all-four mindset. I love collections.

The second challenge was to design and actualize packaging that serves to both protect the vessel and flowers in transit and also be exquisitely beautiful (and reusable!). For months we've been designing and figuring out the fabrication of a perfect box. I love it and I love that it's beautiful enough to use on your desk or in your closet after you take the flowers out of it.

I also wanted a card that felt and acted like a small piece of art; something you may want to keep on your bulletin board above your desk for a while. Something with a SNAKE ON IT.

The third, arguably most important challenge was to restrict ourselves to flowers durable enough to withstand the conditions of delivery -- imagine the jostling on the delivery truck, the doormen with little regard for your fragile masterpiece, the hot air blown directly onto a precious sweet pea-laden masterpiece while it sits in a large apartment building vestibule waiting for someone to come home in the evening to receive it. Avoiding certain flowers, knowing the behavior of others -- our 10 years of experience gives us thorough knowledge of this. We know not to use hellebores (unless I cut them myself from the farm in late April once they've hardened off) we know not to use sweet peas - just too sensitive to heat in clients homesunless we invest in the Japanese grown ones, which are bred to have a 14 day vase life. But without the sweet fragrance of the locally grown varieties or the Italian ones. There's a whole other post in that sentence right there...

I know better to use flowers that show themselves off over time and continue change and delight people in the vase over the course of a week -- tulips for example. But regular tulips don't provide much thrill which is why we've got 1500 La Belle Epochs just poking up in the field here at the farm

All the work and effort that goes into launching something like this is extraordinary. Jennell, Eric and I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon covering up all our bulb crops here at the farm in preparation for some highly unusual low temperatures predicted for the next few nights. The synergy of what is happening between the farm and the city can be evidenced in all these new programs we're starting -- deliveries, ceramics, educational programs…I'm laughing as I write this because I try to make everything look easy (Leo) but it has been SO MUCH WORK. But it's also so incredibly rewarding. And I'm taking my first few buckets of daffodils down to the city today, which will tuck into our new beautiful vases tomorrow morning along with a smattering of other spring blooms and could find their way to you Tuesday morning.