Wednesday, November 29, 2017

on science, love and not knowing.




I waited on an older couple last night in the restaurant. Early birds, they ordered tea. Used their phones to light up the menu navigating choices together: grilled cheese, a shaved brussels sprout salad with pecorino and walnuts. I polished glasses at the bar, studying their intimacy as they rattled on about where the bathroom might be and if it was occupied or vacant. The likelihood of us accepting credit cards. They ordered dessert, of course. Later he helped her on with her coat. As she buttoned it up he gently pulled her very long brown and grey ponytail carefully out from under her collar and smoothed it down her back. I fell in love again with the world yet again.

Your heart is a muscle as big as your fist. My heart, in my chest skips a beat every day or so. I had this diagnosed years ago as some sort of murmur after too many tests in dark rooms with electrodes and green lines on screens. They may as well have told me I’d always suffer from longing. I go to acupuncture now. My first session he asked me 100 questions. What is my favorite flavor. Bitter. Ah! That is the flavor of the heart, he tells me. Later that evening I rendezvous with Nicolette, who, after months of traveling has landed miraculously in Hudson to see me. We can do our own acupuncture I tell her. Lets start. What is your favorite color? What is your favorite flower? She has some boutonniere pins lying on the floor of her car somewhere and I dig in my pocket for a lighter to sterilize them. Stay still!


Upstairs from the restaurant is a beautiful apartment where I stay. I sit in the windowsill, it is a good place to watch birds fly south and the sunset. One afternoon I find a displaced ladybug and we spend some time with each other. She opened me right up and I cried because there were no other lady bugs or aphids for her to eat in this apartment, she might as well have been crawling around on mars. I coax her onto a bit of dried leaf with some effort and walk her outside. Displaced bugs always tap a wellspring of emotion in me. When I used to drive from the farm to the city - the prius packed with buckets of flowers from the field - the car would become increasingly alive with bugs as they worked up the courage to emerge. By the time I hit Manhattan the car was a cyclone, a wild party confetti-ed with a host of pollinators, a handful of anthropods…the occasional arachnid sidestepping nervously across the steering wheel. The party ends when I pull up outside the castle. I would apologize, and try to offer something amidst the dusty street - a section of sidewalk with a tree and some weeds. Go there. 


How do we put it all together? Two weeks ago I toss out my jungian-heavy reading list and go back to science. I am now reading about systems theory; which aims to describe matter and reality by observing patterns and relationships instead of particles. A systems view is qualitative as opposed to quantitative. It is nonlinear. Systems theory (and the complex math that accompanies it - think the butterfly effect or chaos theory) can be applied to water molecules brought to boil in the lab (thermodynamics) or the ways in which differing socioeconomic groups cohabitate in a section of Brooklyn. A systems view can unite science and social welfare. This reading has my heart beating faster.

When we talk about classical science - the physics say of Newtown or Descarte or Galileo - we are talking about a rigid, reductionist approach. A description of the world as a sum of it’s parts. An approach that assumes a universal truth and absolute knowledge. But quantum discoveries in the early part of the 20th century baffled us with the realization that at the subatomic level nature gets spooky. Light is both a particle and a wave, particles can be in seemingly multiple places at the same time, and - my favorite physics bit - they know when they are being observed and then behave differently. This strange science - which baffled even Einstein - is what gives you the Apple product that you are likely reading this on. But we don’t understand fully the ‘nature’ of this science despite our rush to invest billions of dollars in cracking the code. The Hadron Collider - with its 17 miles of subterranean tunnel - is the largest single machine ever constructed. After years of false starts and troublesome superconductor magnets; it finally succeeded in colliding two beams of particles at close to the speed of light. And we collected more spooky data. More strange sub-atomic particles showed up with names like ‘muons’ and ‘charm quarks.’  

We sort of already know that we won’t ever know. 
And this is impossibly complicated for us humans who seem to always need to know. 

In the 1960’s the Gaia Theory was born out of  the study of self-organizing systems and the concept that life occurs not as a collection of matter but rather as pattern. When something dies, it’s matter doesn’t become ‘dead’ but rather it’s pattern of organization evaporates. Death is an arrangement that dissolves. It’s poetic and applicable to so many cycles and changes we experience. Gaia theory considers the earth as a macro-organism which regulates itself - it’s temperature, it’s homeostasis, etc - similar to the way our own cells and bodies do. This idea was the brain child of James Lovelock, an atmospheric chemist who was invited to NASA’s jet propulsion lab in Pasadena California to help NASA - riding high from the moon landing - look for life on Mars. After studying the chemical composition of the martian atmosphere using relatively simple telescopic techniques here on earth, Lovelock advised NASA to call off the mission. His analysis showed that the chemical interactions in the Martian atmosphere had all been exhausted sometime in the planet’s distant past - the Martian air was in a state of complete equilibrium and therefor could bear no life. NASA proceeded anyway, loaded viking with various life detection instruments, only to find Lovelock was of course right. 

Men are from Mars…? It’s easy to see the masculine and feminine at work here, easy to see the space race and our attempt to know (and dominate) the natural world as infinitely masculine. Which is not to say it’s gender specific; it is not men who do this but our culture which is oriented to favor limitless expansion, domination, competition and linear problem solving.  

I like to imagine a world, perhaps not in my lifetime, in which we have softened those impulses with our more feminine desires for beauty and intuition; one in which we can trust more in the interrelatedness of nature and our place in it. So I find myself asking how can my work aim to reduce our alienation in this world and provide more opportunity for connection.

Two months off has felt like two epochs. Wildly uncomfortable at times, exhilarating at others. It is a good place for observation. Everyone should take a drift through the cosmos now and again. 
What is to say of smoothing ponytails and experiences with bugs. Of subatomic particles and being open to seeing patterns. 

I don’t know
And I'm laughing with myself at this.

Thanks for always reading. Excited to make more beautiful pictures of flowers to share with you here next month. 






Monday, November 13, 2017

notes from sabbatical




September was red in the garden with dahlias and 'empress of india' nasturtium. Overripe tomatoes hanging on the vine stabbed at by chickens. Elsewhere in my life a latent red simmering. The color of tongues and the backs of throats, making words. Courage, perhaps. 

I watch red now, months later. It is softer and faded, my favorite abandoned train car. Bittersweet vine cracks its shell on cue...November...gaggles of tangled red beaded necklaces of it, cheap and plenty, strewn up in trees up and down the Taconic State parkway. Our own mardi gras in the Berkshires. I suddenly remember to breathe at a red light coming home from picking up laundry. 

I am living in Hudson. I wake up here at 5 or so. When it starts to get light out, I go walking. I’m writing a lot,  collecting information and resting. I practice my cello and watch myself struggle with the frustration of fretwork but also how achingly beautiful the sound is and how it coaxes me away from my thinking brain. The best gift for myself right now. Stripped of most of my identity, gone here are many of my familiar tricks. A lot can happen in this space. I wait tables on weekends downstairs at my friends Monica and Leisah’s new restaurant



My first introduction to melancholy occurred in autumn as a little girl, hustling (always?) to collect maple seed pods, fine twigs and clumps of moss around the yard. The last bits separated into disposable tin pie pans stashed in my hideout under the rhododendron. I built myself an easy bake oven with discarded patio bricks and made pies with mud and acorns. Always building, making, always with a sense of urgency. Someone had to prepare for a hard winter in the suburbs.

Red is the opposite color of loons. A family of four paddling silently in mid July in Acadia; another time altogether. Tourists traipsing by on a raised waterside wood walkway, too fast to notice. The birds opened their throats and sang to those in earshot of their own loon-ness. This color is cloudy blue. It is taught between a great weight and the air. I wanted to watch them forever, follow them out of the frame that was fixing itself in my permanent memory. I wanted to be a loon. How can a moment be so sad and happy? The ineffable tension that natures asks us to notice. 



You mix red and blue and you get purple like pokeweed stains on my cheeks for a long battle of beauty and various betrayals, my bed sheets at the castle where I camped out for a year and half. Everything is different now. It is the season, mine - autumn, always - for consideration and finally I took the time. A two month sabbatical. October was a whirlwind, half spent in England. Fifteen hundred miles in a ridiculous black jaguar loaned to me on a whim late one night in a email to their corporate headquarters. Typed out weeks before when I might have already known that things would unravel and the woman-child in me would need to speed across the moors and immerse myself in dying gardens, gothic myth and endless tea and cigarettes. 

On the second day standing at the edge of the moat at Bodiam Castle, dark eyed and cloaked, alone and again avoiding tourists, I thought that perhaps I would become a witch. I encountered a white horse days later, on the top of Dorset’s highest moor, I talked to him to get answers. He whinnied. All year I’ve waited for some sort of  radical shift - I half expected it to drop out of the sky at dawn or in the gloaming. I wanted to crack the code on art and commerce - it always seemed just around the corner. I was frantic, dancing like in the myth of the red shoes, depleting myself. I started fantasizing about being tied by the ankles and dragged behind a pickup truck along a dirt road. Bruised, plummeted. When you are black and blue you really are purple. I know this color well. 



I meet a wise woman one morning at the brunch counter, we sit down a few days later and I tell her my story. She observes that Saipua is intended to nourish people with beauty and yet all it does is deplete those at its core. She also mentioned that I don’t breathe. How can you tell? I asked her. 
She replied; ‘Because I’m having a hard time breathing sitting here with you.’

I look back on this last phase of my work at Saipua and see a large hole. A big sadness. I built it too big without thinking about what I wanted from it or what made me happiest in it. All of my desires for building community or my love for all my employees --instead of nurturing these things, I strained them. They became frantic with me, working 70 hour weeks, their lives also bruised and battered in the process. I was miserable and I just kept working harder, building more programs -frantically to avoid my own dissatisfaction. I don't have any regrets; I learned so much. Invaluable information collected, noted and stored up in tin pie pans. Here on sabbatical, with so much free time, I wander back through all of it. And see that it's all ok. 

In September a giant snake appeared one day in the pond at Worlds End. Five feet long. Two inches at her thickest. It ended everyone swimming for a while. I was so sad because I loved swimming there. One night I had a dream that I was in the water and the snake came up and gently coiled herself around me and took me down to the mud at the bottom. In the dream this occurred in a soft way -quiet, like a nice journey. After this dream,  I swam again.  The last week of September in the freezing mornings through the mist on the surface, the water still warm from summer. And in the evenings. I was by myself on the farm, and I wanted the snake now. But of course you can't rush these things. Everything with it's own timing. 
It was the edge before the beginning.




This morning I woke up and realized I don’t want to be a business woman. That is the purple, the radical. Instead, I really only want to make the most beautiful flowers in the world and share them. I want to let myself go back to the place where ecstasy and aching are knit together - a creative place that fills me up so much that it overflows - then only can I really begin.

I think as success oriented women, we so easily slide away from knowing or listening to what is really calling us, what we really want. We turn our creativity into commodity - make an armor of personal dogma and sell the shit out of it. Sacrifice our essence for the sterile image of perfection as so easily witnessed on social media these days.  I’m thinking so much lately about how to earn a living doing what I love and staying close to what I really want. Excuses about money or fear of failure sort of fade when you are living at the bottom of a pond. I remind myself to stay present with what matters most. I can, after all, always wait tables. 

There is a certain relief that comes in realizing I had a lot of it all wrong. I don’t have to fight for it anymore. Perhaps, I can just be it. Me and my pickup truck again? What I’ve secretly wanted for a long time. I’m smiling as I write this. How uncanny to stand here and look back and laugh gently with myself. The frantic tap dancing Sarah. I say with full conviction: I love her so dearly. 

In a few weeks I go back the castle, and trust I will know how to begin. 







Monday, August 14, 2017

HIRING: CREATIVE ASSISTANT






Worlds End flowers photographed at the end of July. 


CREATIVE ASSISTANT

Reports to: Founding Director (Sarah Ryhanen), Deputy Director (Gina Pham), Events Director (Bryony Mattes-Harris)

The Creative Assistant is a new position aimed to provide full time support for our central office in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This person will assist the Founding Director, Deputy Director and Events Director with a variety of tasks including administrative support, marketing and outreach, floral design and photography.

This is primarily an office job. Organizational skills, ability to prioritize efficiently, sharp wits, high level of computer literacy, ability to work autonomously, direct and transparent communication style and an eye for color and design are necessary attributes. Some floral work will be required. No prior floral experience is necessary. 

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS:

Sort and respond to all SAIPUA inquires 
Provide the Directors with correspondence support; communicating with clients, press, vendors, etc
Assist with floral design for events and photoshoots
Manage all rental orders for events 
Organize travel plans for staff
Act as stenographer at weekly staff meetings
Research various flowers, plants, gardens, design as needed
Help to create design decks for clients using Adobe Illustrator
Provide general office support
Create and maintain the SAIPUA image archive
Create content and manage a monthly SAIPUA newsletter


Required skills: Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop and Illustrator), Drivers license


Salary commensurate with experience
Full Health Benefits
4 weeks paid vacation

TO APPLY: Send letter of interest and CV to jobs@saipua.com with the subject line CREATIVE ASSISTANT

Wednesday, May 3, 2017



When I start to write this it is a little past 4:30 in the morning and I've just come in from the dark field to see about sheep births. I don't like birth, by the way.


The two dogs go with me, a long walk for such a dark hour. Ziggy, the herding dog goes all the way up to the sheep and starts to run her circles around the fence. Nea gets distracted or lazy halfway up -- disappearing into the peepers and the mist around the stream. 


This morning there are no lambs, no laboring ewes. I trudge back to the house through the field with my flashlight and a particularly buoyant Ziggy. My boots sink 2 inches into the mud with each step. Inside the dark house I peel off various layers of sweaters and rain gear..  should I start the coffee or go back to sleep for a few hours? This debate is the same every morning and is loaded with my own distorted sense of achievement. A toxic, irrational link between hardship and integrity. Bullshit really. 

I start the coffee on this particular morning, flip the switch and then things are off running in a specific direction. A janus point, after which two realities exist: the Sarah making coffee, the Sarah that goes back to sleep. Nea is still out on the farm somewhere, enlivened to the dark by now, investigating a field mouse nest or rolling in something dead. Likely she's gone up past the towering compost piles to where there is half a deer carcass; only bones remaining. This deer has been Nea's spring project, and most afternoons she can be found diligently working on the bones or rolling around on her back in them. I consider for a minute the particles, the atoms of a dead stinking thing now on the thick fur of Nea's broad back. Moving on to their next adventure through the cosmos. 


I take my coffee up to my office and read about extinctions. I'm reading about the Ordovician extinction; it marked the end of the Trilobites and about 85% of marine life. The earth was mostly water. There were no polar ice caps. All land was south of the equator in a continent called Gondwana.  In some research I've been doing it seems that climate change deniers use the Ordovician extinction event as evidence of natural climate change. I spend more time that I'd like to admit reading these climate change deniers blogs and comments on the internet. I need to stop.


Things moving around, things changing. We can all agree on that. The world is changing no matter how we try to understand it. A lot of physicists now think that time is merely a human perception. It's how we experience change in the world, it's the projection of change in our reality. The mathematics of  Quantum theory and the General Theory of Relativity do not require time. When I think about the larger outer areas of the cosmos, and then the inner smallest working of the atom it makes me feel stuck in the middle and confused. But that feels better than trying to figure out how to feel about a coal-burning, national-park-destroying, human-rights denying Trump world. 


There are around 50 Quintillion atoms in a grain of sand. Thats more than there are grains of sand on the whole earth.

On my second cup of coffee I go outside and call the dog again. She trots casually in from the darkness. Smelling fine.

The birdsong has started now, and the world seems safer. The sky lightens.

In the city my bedroom view is of nondescript concrete buildings, asphalt and a pair of big dick dildos someone strung up on a wire. I miss nature when I am there but like the restaurants.

I woke up one morning to a loud sound in the city and I was for sure it was a nuclear warhead sent by North Korea descending through the atmosphere. When I was safe to know it wasn't, I let myself think of Kim Jong Il. Maybe lying in his bed to go to sleep on the other side of the world. So evil and also so undeniably human. Also made of atoms. Around 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them.

Atoms are rather indifferent to politics, which I find comforting.


I was, for a few weeks, reading Breitbart every morning, just to make sure my blood pressure was up before I started the day.

I would click the most ridiculous article on the main page, scan it, and then go straight for the comments section. I learned a lot about the other side this way. I found a comment on a coal/EPA story that says 'we should burn Mexicans for electricity.' I close the window on the screen so suddenly, so as to minimize the amount of (perceived) time that idea is exposed to the air in my room. 

I think about all the hate in the world and the people who are so full of rage. I am full of rage sometimes (often even?) and I see my own anger more clearly now than I have in the past. It's uncomfortable but arguably empowering. I stalk my own anger,  like a spy in the bushes I watch it. Right under the surface of my skin like a hot liquid about to boil.


I go downstairs for my third cup of coffee and it's fully light out now. I look in the front yard, a true country ramshackle of broken chairs, piles of wood, plastic 5 gallon buckets. I love it this way. A work in progress. I silently swear to never polish it, never finish it.

I look out the back of the house and can see beyond the stream up to the field, small specs of grey and black starting to mull about inside the sheep pens. The stream is running high, from recent rain and the last of spring's snowmelt. It flows so surely, so exuberantly - the water if full of exclamation points!! Just another small tributary dubbed Fly Creek in this wild and weird ever changing country of ours.


It's hard wired in us, to see beauty in nature. Me and the commenters on Brietbart - each with our own unique set of man made angers and hatreds would see a teeming springtime stream and be momentarily calmed by it. Nature is full of things that we can all agree on and I trust the power of that more than anything these days. 



NOW HIRING: RETAIL ASSOCIATE



I'm very excited to announce that we're expanding our team again: we're looking for a full time RETAIL ASSOCIATE to run our flower/soap/ceramic store in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The store is intended to distill all the beauty of the farm and the flower studio and make it accessible to the general public. This means engaging with the public to show them flowers, talk to them about soap making, explain the farm and compost program, tell them about our Icelandic sheep and talk them through how we use our sheep's wool to make various items in the shop.

It is a sales position, for sure -- we sell things -- but it's also the position that acts as a docent to all the beautiful things that happen behind the scenes at Saipua.

I want everyone to have a transportive, educational experience when they come visit our store - whether or not they purchase something.

Details follow! The sooner this person is available to start training, the better!
_________________________________

Retail Associate – FULL TIME

We are seeking an experienced full time Retail Associate. Responsibilities include overseeing the Saipua retail space, receiving and processing merchandise, engaging with client walk-ins, and ensuring all visitors feel welcome in our store. This person is sharp, responsible, organized, detail-oriented, creative and shows initiative. Most important is a solid work ethic and ability to work well both independently and within a small team environment where concise clear communication is essential.

Qualifications: 
- Minimum 3 years retail sales experience (luxury or floral design experience a plus)
- Strong interpersonal skills, has enthusiasm and self-motivation
- Able to maintain the highest degree of customer service
- Able to prioritize and manage time effectively, and adapt well to immediate or unforeseen challenges
- Impeccable attention to detail. Assures visual merchandising and store is up to standards
- Strong knowledge of a POS system and related inventory management functions
- Knowledge of the Saipua brand, products and aesthetic
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills

This is a full time position including weekends. 

Compensation commensurate with experience, full health benefits.

Interested applicants will send their CV and a brief letter of intent to jobs@saipua.com with the subject line RETAIL ASSOCIATE

Friday, January 20, 2017





















35mm film of Sam and Rosie and our kimono's this week. Still many good ones on the rack with some new additions. Now through Valentines day in the store Wednesday - Sunday: Noon-7pm.

More images from the shoot here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016




I had at one time a very particular image in my mind of how my life would look; and it recently returned to me - sitting around the lunch table today talking about wealthy New Yorkers, their history, their extravagant homes, their gardening hobbies with their orchid rooms and glass greenhouses. I definitely wanted to be rich. In this fantasy I have a home with a grand spiral staircase. And I nonchalantly descend it, in some robe-like gown as if being called for dinner. Perhaps I am holding a martini. This image, burned in my brain and cataloged in the files which contains specific images related to 'making it.'



Other images found in these files;

1. the Saipua corporate jet and this image needs to be somewhere sort of remote - like Ibiza or Capri or fine maybe Martha's Vineyard and it's suddenly hailing on the tarmac and there are lights flashing and the SAIPUA logo emblazoned on the side of the jet sort of flashes in these runway lights between sheets of rain as my crew and I run to board to our next florists saves the day episode.

2. having a milking cow with fresh cream in my coffee every morning

3. having full time farm apprentices who milk that cow


How do I start to sum up a year that has had so much in it?






We moved to a new studio in 2016. The walk-in cooler/storage room is about the same size as our former place. It's so big I started calling it the saipua castle. It has a kitchen. In the kitchen is a giant wooden bowl that we make staff lunch in everyday. I joke that before I ever finish the SAIPUA coffee table-fold-out-oragami-how-to-flower-world-expose-personal-memoirs book I will write a simple cookbook about our vegetarian lunches at Saipua. There will inevitably be a lot of kale, goat butter and ezekiel bread in this book.





Our studio also has a giant fireplace. And a welding area where Dan makes things like firewood racks an planter boxes for rooftop garden projects which we started taking on this year. I often think thank god Dan is still here ... and Taryne is back full time assisting me with big creative vision stuff and all of our garden projects.



2016 saw a lot of staff changes. We gained what the flower market guys refer to as the 'international contingent.' Bryony is from Australia; and she is head of sales here. Most of what she works on is our large weddings. She loves love and isn't shy about telling clients that. It's incredible that someone so soft and loving can also be so acutely organized and able to stand up to pushy clients or clients that are inappropriately bargaining. Even after ten years, we're still always changing our rules, trying to make the planning and administrative part of flowers easier and smoother and less confusing for clients. Bryony has this sort of uncanny ability to perfectly balance business and emotion. She has become invaluable here and it should be said she has an excellent sense of color with flowers.



The other half of the tea-drinking (I've had some major adjustments this year) international contingent is Jessie who came on board right at the end of 2015 but who really flourished this year; handling all of our weekly flower orders, deliveries and small events. Jessie is completely 100% no nonsense but also incredibly sensitive. She watches everyone closely and responds with a rare ego-less kindness. I look around and think how did I get all these well adjusted kids??? Jessie also has a weird, fresh-to-death style that I envy. Only she can pair gold chains, calvin klein sports bras and fishermans overalls.



And then of course we hired Jennell this year to be our full time flower farmer at Worlds End. She came to live with us for the growing season (March-October). Gone finally are the frantic days where I ran back and forth and do both jobs... Jennell, with her patience and perseverance is better suited to run the field along side Eric. They make a good team and it's hard to imagine who else could fold right into our home for seven months of the year better than Jennell. Jennell loves natural dying...she's currently planning our dye garden for 2017 along with a lot of brown lisianthus and foxgloves.



Deanna and Genevieve both took flight this year; moved on out of the nest. Deanna to pursue her life dream of working in film (and arguably being NYC's best floral freelancer?) and Genevieve to spend a large part of the year traveling and  her own creative projects.  I feel lucky and honored to consider them a part of our saipua community and life long friends. But I sure miss seeing these faces everyday...



This year we built a ceramic studio in the new castle and set up Julie from Object and Totem as our resident ceramicist. She makes all of our dream vases back there behind a set of floating shelves built by Jacob Perkins.  Pictured here is Michael who we were lucky enough to have on staff this year. At the moment of this photo he was speaking Cantonese to some contractors who installed a more than complicated heating/cooling system in our new space. Michael taught me a lot about planning and empathy and how to listen better.



I learned a lot about ceramics, kilns, and economy of shelf space from Julie this year. After about 7 months I feel we're finally hitting our stride as collaborators and it's so exciting. The new work coming out of the studio for us is so unusual and good and I can't wait to offer to you in 2017...



In 2016 we made leaps and bounds in shepherding our Icelandic Sheep. We began to sort out the fiber program. My mother and I learned to spin yarn and got pretty good at it...albeit slightly competitive.






I milked a sheep for the first time, and although I don't particularly like sheep's milk in my coffee - I will say that it makes a fine ricotta. We fed this ricotta one summer night at the farm to a group of employees and friends and it felt quietly momentous to me.

The ewe was desperately in need of emptying (having lost a twin) and to relieve her and avoid mastitis, three of us held her tight as I milked her out after watching several youTube videos on my phone and a lot of cursing. About then I realized just how much effort is involved in setting up a milking/cheesemaking operation.

The art of cheesemaking can occupy my 50's...





I met and became friends with Owyn Ruck (founder of the Textile Art Center) and together we talked a lot about the intersection of craft and art.

She helped put together a fiber class at Worlds End; a weekend aimed at giving people a place to be creative with texture and color. Students learned to spin wool with Heather Love. They ate well and swam in the pond.

We cut flowers and foraged wild plants to bundle dye silk with Cara Marie Piazza..



And we started selling skeins of our sheep's wool....you can now knit with Worlds End Icelandic wool! That just feels like such a crazy accomplishment to me; when I remember all the wild sheep chases or tough nights in the lambing barn. We managed to turn all that into a real product...





We had amazing apprentices in 2016 -- it has continually been apprentices who feed the saipua fires with their new ideas, fresh spirits and willingness to work on lots of rather menial tasks such as modeling wedding dresses at a class Nicolette and I taught to professional florists in May...




After almost 7 years of teaching with Nicolette I suddenly felt the need to take a rest from classes in 2016. And allow for some time to restore my own creative practice and focus on saipua which was in need of so much attention as we transversed this year of growing pains.

Nicolette has continued to teach without me at Little Flower School (keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming Dutch Masters Class - not to be missed..)

At our new studio, small classes are on offer as part of our new educational initiative -- Deanna has been teaching them. These classes encourage therapeutic play with flowers. And hopefully demystify flower arranging in the process...



We also started holding soap-making workshops with my mom Susan who continues to make all of the soap at Saipua. A teacher for 30 years, Susan has a great way of explaining, and it's been a real joy to watch her teach her passion for cold process soap here.


On the farm, we taught the dogs how to fetch cucumbers...


And we grew a lot of food; mostly tomatoes, eggplants, swiss chard, kale, a smattering of cruciferous vegetables, too many hot peppers. . .


Vogue magazine came to shoot a big fashion story over two days. I got to drive a famous vogue editor around in the back of my pickup truck. I have never met a woman so elegant or with such great jewelry. She had multiple assistants who carried cigarettes around for her which is now a life goal of mine. In the photo below they mixed models with our own staff for authenticity. What you can't see is how authentically I am corralling the chickens with strawberry ends just off the right of the frame. When the piece came out in October, it included a story about our farm and what we're trying to build there.


It was one of my proudest moments this year... I think I get deeply buried into trying to make the farm work, frustrated when I can only sell 2 spots in a wild nettle harvesting workshop. Or when I have difficulty explaining the value of our farm flowers to a client. Then you leave Vogue flipped open to the pictures of the farm and it ... helps.  The apprentices prepared the lunch for the models and crew everyday, drawing heavily from our garden. We had to harvest lettuce three times; they kept asking for more and more salad ... they said they had never had salad right from the garden before. To be able to give them that simple experience? That's what we're aiming for at the farm...


We grew a lot of flowers. Lots of flowers for our weddings. Some for other florists weddings. Some for the wholesale market.


Having our own flowers from the farm in the studio every week this summer was an overwhelming experience; and it's hard for me to find words to describe it. It is as if I could eat the flowers, like I wanted to be alone and ceremoniously stuff them in my mouth or spread them all out on the floor, arrange them all there and then lay down in them. Working with the farm flowers is a strange sensual and heightened experience; they are plugged in. They turn me into a sensitive mess! The girls in the studio got spoiled this summer and I loved watching them - their eyes grow when the van was unloaded.



We cooked a lot of dinners in 2016.

In August we made a big 10 year anniversary dinner; steaks and vegetables and ate it right off the table in the back of the castle. My mother made her famous coconut cake, a cake that makes people crazy. It's my favorite.


Samin came and cooked with us a lot on the farm in 2016. She says it is her favorite place to cook. She built a big outdoor fire pit kitchen. One day, when we have a real kitchen inside it probably won't be as much fun. Our annual lamb roast was Mexican themed. We cooked a lot of lamb in 2016. And we dug a 1 acre irrigation pond.


There were dark spots this year. Amidst the intensity of it all, I intermittently thought about burning it all down. I fantasized about fires, and walking away from Saipua completely. What is that feeling where you don't know what you want but it's not what you have? That discomfort has had a life inside my body for years. In the past year I've started stalking it instead of ignoring it or covering it with distractions. As a child I thought the cure for this uncanny discomfort was orange juice. A big plastic pitcher of frozen concentrate was permanently parked in our refrigerator, and I self administered it often...



My adult remedy is to stay busy all the time. Ironically that has served me and Saipua pretty well. This year I watched that remedy start to fail. Suffice it to say - it was a very hard year for me personally. Saturn squaring natal Saturn, coming to grips with decisions of the past, struggling with obligation. In August I decided to take a trip. Captain Karl. He ferry's a boat from Deer Island Maine to a small private island in Penobscot Bay.


There, I camped out with Nea in a shack on the beach for two weeks. There is no electricity on the island, only propane tanks for cooking. I did a lot of scattered reading. I spent of lot of time being bored and watched my own anxiety in my boredom. I made and shared with Nea a lot of bacon and beans and cheese. I had a little cooler with an ice block and kept my cream for my coffee in it. I collected a lot of sea glass.


I was looking for something that I knew I would not find there. I wanted an epiphany.  But I came home without one. I laughed at my expectation, I came to see the boredom and emptiness as experiences I might need. 
In 2016 I rested more, and I practiced not feeling guilty about it.


That moment last spring when I wanted to blow it all to smithereens... it was a healthy thing. If I want Saipua to continue to evolve then I've got to roll the whole thing around, turn it upside down and inside out. Hang it from it's heels and shake the shit out of it. 

And get all the rest I need to push it forward in a new and different way. . .



2017 started out differently than a lot of us imagined. I keep thinking about scale, big and small. What can we do with our little business and our little farm? In the past I maybe was thinking too big without focus. In the new year I want to hone it in. Cut off all the fat, focus so hard; so much that the paper catches on fire under the magnifying glass in front of me. Then we'll decide what are we going to do with that fire...


MAJESTIC COCONUT CAKE
Makes one nine-inch, three-layer cake.

Make the filling:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups whipping cream
½ cup sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter
2¼ cups sweetened flaked coconut
¼ cup sour cream

Stir the cornstarch, water, and vanilla in a small bowl to dissolve the cornstarch. In a heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the cream, sugar, and butter to a boil. Add the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in coconut.

Cool the mixture completely. Mix in sour cream, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Make the cake:
3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ tsp salt
2¼ cups sugar
12 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
5 large eggs
11⁄3 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup coconut milk


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt until blended. In a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until blended. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the cream and vanilla, then the coconut milk. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Divide the batter equally among the 3 pans. Bake until a tester (such as a knife or skewer) inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool.

Make the frosting:
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter to blend. Beat in the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract. Fold in the toasted coconut.

Assemble the cake:
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
½ 13½-ounce can coconut milk mixed with 2 cups simple syrup
Place 1 cake round on a plate. Brush with the coconut-milk mixture, then top with half of the filling. Place a second cake layer atop the filling, brush with the coconut milk/syrup, and top with the remaining filling. Place the third cake layer atop the filling and spread frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Pat the toasted coconut on the top and sides of the cake, pressing gently so it sticks. Cover and refrigerate.
Let the cake stand 3 hours at room temperature before serving.
Garnish the plate with toasted coconut and, if desired, crème anglaise.