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.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

futures, acquisitions, mergers

Apple cider vinegar. It's where I'm going to invest all my futures. Acquistions; get cider press. Mergers; press the hell out of all the weird wild apples that grow around Worlds End. Press the bugs and worms right along in there, all the residual dust and microorganisms that cling to ripening apples on the branch all summer and all the bacteria and fungus that take up residence on the skins once the apples drop in the fall. I go around picking up apples in October, small - the size of golf balls, biting into some (bleh!) or tossing some to the dogs for fetching. Almost lost a finger once to an enthusiastic sheep as I fed her an apple, it was an affectionate interspecies moment gone wrong. People don't think of sheep as having sharp teeth - but most lambs are born with a set of tiny razor chompers, which sometimes need filing down so that new mother ewe's don't get their teats in a bloody way. They leave all that out in the bible. The mentions of shepherds and sheep generally focuses on the power dynamic between leading and following blindly. Incidentally, goats are often associated with the devil because they have minds of their own and don't flock. Eric always wanted goats (friends to be mischeivious with?) and I always wanted sheep (subjects that follow and don't talk back). 
Smiling at this.

Apple cider vinegar is good for sheep, as it is for humans. Shepherds use it to fight parasites and also to combat white muscle disease and improve general vigor and fleece quality. Zoe washes her hair with it. I drink it constantly diluted in quart jars of water that get left all over the farmyard and house. In the economy of Worlds End, ACV (for short) is one of the most precious commodities, which is why we need to make our own in 2019 - a year fortuitously predicted to be a boon apple year here in the Mohawk Valley where many wild trees exhibit a pattern of biennial bearing.
But I'm here today to talk about pickling vegetables. Specifically watermelon radishes.
And perhaps also, my penchant for trashy snack foods.

Recently on a road trip I bought a bag of combos - delicious! I thought about what is required to make a Combo - the pretzel tube, the pepperoni pizza cheese filling (my personal preference), the factories, the combo workers, the conveyor belts....the raw commodities of wheat, corn, monosodium glutinate. The shipping departments and the distribution centers. The Pizza flavoring which implies a flavor lab...a white room somewhere in the outer orbits of the packaged snack foods solar system. Inside the Combos headquarters, a flavor meeting adjourns and someone casts out the new flavor signal. It travels in binary code through the putty-colored, polyester padded partitions and lonely interstitial spaces of snackfood informational architecture. Pausing finally at the precipice of the flavor lab's email inbox, its message instantaneously reconfigured and now pulsating the pertinent news from the flavor future:  Honey Sriracha.

Of course the most robust flavors can often be made with the simplest ingredients brought to us straight from the garden or woods; the original flavor labs.

In reality the difference between natural and artificial flavorings is determined by the FDA and the lobbyists of major food corporations who spend the most money. The 'natural flavors' that make your LaCroix taste like grapefruit are in fact widely found in nature and also in popular cockroach insecticides. I've come to feel the use of the word 'natural' in the world of products is empty of any real meaning and insults our innate intelligence around feeding ourselves in order to feel good. But if everyone did that - just ate as they felt - whole sectors of the wellness and diet industry would collapse and the profits that result from people looking to professionals for guidance would dry up. The infrastructure that manufactures garbage food closely resembles the health industry that supposedly recovers us from it. That's capitalism's effect on our bodies.

I'm not interested in snackshaming here. I like eating junk food. I also like feeling my own body and noticing what it's craving. Knowing ourselves and feeding ourselves is so deeply intimate.

Lately, what makes me feel good is pickling every vegetable I can get my hands on in a salty apple cider vinegar brine.

I eat these radishes on my evening cheese plate, on faro with fried eggs and harissa, with lamb liver toasts, by themselves while I'm cooking dinner. I also use this brine for carrots, sliced on the diagonal. You can chop a habanero pepper in the brine to heat it up.

For about 5 lacrosse ball-sized watermelon radishes sliced thin or about 6 carrots sliced or julienned or about 1 head of cauliflower cut into kale, turnips, etc.

1 cup water
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of pepper rough grind in a morter pestle or chopped with a knife
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
5 cloves of smashed garlic

Mix these ingredients, boil them and toss your vegetables in and remove from heat. A very thinly sliced radish needs less time in hot brine than say a piece of cauliflower (you don't want to actually cook your vegetables, just log them with that salt and acid) so sometimes I toss in the brine, then take out and cool separately, adding some of the liquid brine back in before storing.
Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, take out and serve with everything as you would your favorite condiment.