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.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Our Ceramics Program: Part I

I've been whining about the vase selection in NYC for nearly a decade. Not that I don't cherish my relationships with Cecelia, Pasam and Maria at Jamail Garden Vase Supply on 28th Street - but not enough to keep me from cursing the shelves in that place every time I have an event. We've dabbled with having things custom made but it's never caught on….until I met Julianne from Object & Totem at a holiday sale this past christmas. A glass of wine in hand, I found myself entranced by her work, and while fondling a female-form-inspired vase, began chatting Julianne up. She was looking for a new studio. And I had just rented the new saipua cave -- a giant space that quadruples our working space…

That was the moment I began to dream about a ceramic studio inside SAIPUA... where there could be an ongoing conversation between seasonal flowers and the sort of vessels best suited to arrange them in…I couldn't get Julianne's work off my mind and wrote to her a few days later…

The relationship between the vase and the flowers is paramount to designing a composition -- I can't stress this enough. The way flowers fall and intermingle has everything to do with the depth of the vessel the size of its opening. When we teach floral design we always remind students that the flowers need to mimic the shape of the vase -- a low wide compote receives flowers that move low; sprawling horizontally across the top of the vessel. A tall thin cylinder is suitable for a pair of anthurium or a single branch of flowering quince…

A vase for winter anemones should be quite different from one intended for an armload of our farm's dahlias and apple branches this September. The idea of this cross pollination of mediums is the core of what SAIPUA aims to be in the future…an epicenter for artists and craftspeople to make work inspired by nature and each other. I get chills thinking about this vision … and the more time I spend with Julianne or with her work, the more excited I am to have this opportunity to collaborate. 

Julianne is the first of what is intended to be a rotating ceramic artist residency program. A new ceramists every year, making four seasons of custom vases. The idea is to catch a young ceramic artist right at the moment when they are not quite able to afford their own studio space…offering them a residency at Saipua for one year ... free use of the studio in exchange for creating our new Floral Delivery Program vases. Vases which could also be collectors items; encouraging our clients to order seasonally.

So pending any other major structural building issues ... (I won't bore you here///but I will write a chapter in my book about building owners and the NYC contractor racket) … Object and Totem will be completely moved in by May… she's already started -- pictured here is the first batch of spring vases.

That I met Julianne - a seasoned ceramicist with the experience to help us build out the best possible working ceramic studio - when I did is serendipitous timing. We are very lucky. We will aim to keep her inspired and happy here.  And further,  I am open to the idea that we may not want her to leave when her year is up. In which case, similar to so many other aspects of our business, we will rewrite the rules.


UP NEXT in Part II: I will tell you all about our new delivery program; how it aims to solve all the problems with seasonal floral deliveries, fund some major SAIPUA educational projects and bring more of the best local flowers and ceramics to people who are needing a little beauty in their lives.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wedding Thoughts Part 2

This is the post where I tell you everything we dislike about the wedding industry. I've thought a lot about how to make it not feel too negative, and how to not piss anyone off. My intention is to take an honest stab at pulling apart some of the trends, traditions and wedding industry standards that make us here at Saipua uncomfortable - and then to use those points to attempt to reinvent our part in that industry and make it so much more enjoyable for our clients. (That's going to be detailed in Wedding Thoughts Part 3)

When I started Saipua in 2006 I was not thinking about weddings at all. I hated weddings. I've never wanted to get married. I railed against the 'institution' of marriage, and all the deeply rooted associations of men owning women etc. Of course it was foolish and immature to be so polarizing. Because when I accidently started making flowers for weddings in 2007 I met some really inspired couples whose love was big and grand enough to publish to the world in this very public, very emotional way. I started witnessing really good weddings and watched my attitude toward it all slide...

I like public displays of affection and I like emotion. I like drama and I like declarations. It was not long before I was the florist crying behind the curtain or sneaking into the back row during the ceremony. Weddings are romantic and I was converted…

But you know what is not very romantic? The wedding industry. It's basically the opposite of romantic, it's full of sanitized pastel colors and perfectly plastic images of women and cake and puffy twee things that are so sterile and unreal. Ask yourself would you go to bed with that sort of imagery? It's the opposite of romantic.

A wedding photographer friend of mine told me about the frequent requests she gets to airbrush images to make arms appear thiner or cheeks smoother. I nearly fell off my chair. This is the world we operate in. And if you know me at all, you can see this sort of thing is the opposite of Saipua culture. (More on this in Part 3.)

The pressure to have a highly customized, unique wedding is really weird. My mother, having grown up in a very rural area outside Rochester, NY always wants to know what happened to the days when you just had punch and cookies in the church hall afterwards? (My parents got married at Peekskill City Hall, April Fools Day 1980. If there are any photos, I've never seen them. I love the simplicity of their wedding, the lack of collateral even.)

In the last 10 years I've seen a lot of stressed out brides feeling a lot of pressure to plan the perfect, most 'authentic' wedding. My concern with this pressure is that it takes the emphasis off the celebration of two people declaring their commitment and puts it on creating a memorable party for their guests, and one-upping all that has come before. [The shareholders of SAIPUA are getting nervous, shifting in their seats, texting their brokers from under the table…SELL YOUR SAIPUA SHARES! but lets hedge our bets here for a minute…and continue to talk about this honestly…]

There is a larger picture to consider. Before we go condemning big expensive celebrations, I'd like to remind everyone that over the course of human history those with means have fueled a lot of really incredible art and celebrations, and I believe firmly that these expressions of grandeur and celebration are worthy of the money that is invested in them. Aspiration is real and effects positive things across the socioeconomic spectrum. We all want to see images of beautiful expensive art and flowers even if we can't afford them. They inspire, and inspiration is free. I like free things.

But what I dislike is the feeling that some brides feel pressure to keep up with the jones in this respect,  going to incredible lengths to have the "perfect" wedding only to find themselves later disappointed that they weren't more present in the moment. Our greatest fear is when brides and grooms are so confused by all of the "shoulds" from magazines, mothers-in-law to be's, friends, etc that they end up at a celebration that doesn't reflect them.

Thanks to instagram and pinterest - rabbit holes of regurgitated wedding inspiration - brides get so wrapped up in a fantasy which reality can never come close to. Even worse: I've heard of brides making plans to ensure their wedding is placed in an editorial feature before it's even happened. What the hell!?

Luckily we've noticed lately that many of our clients seem more assured about what they want. Many of them want to give their friends and family a night of revelry - as a sort of thank you for supporting their relationship all the way to the alter - its been so refreshing to see people be able to let unnecessary "shoulds" fall by the wayside and just plan a truly unique celebration for themselves; be it simple OR extravagant.

A lot of the success or duress of this could be attributed to wedding and event planners and the editorial staff at large wedding magazines and websites…these are the gatekeepers of the information on 'how to get married.' Because the truth is that there is a lot of confusion about how to go about it -- most people have never done it before.

The guidelines and suggestions printed in magazines about how to go about planning your wedding are so bonkers. 10% of your budget to flowers? Maybe if you don't care so much about flowers, but what if flowers are the most important part for you? I have clients regularly spending 25% on flowers because the flowers are so important to them (SAIPUA stocks holding steady…)

I think a better approach is to start with a budget and then break it up according to what is really important to you. Maybe that's not flowers! It is totally legit to forgo flowers if it's not your thing (SAIPUA shares dropping…)
If the dancing is really important to you - start there. What does the best dj cost? Book him and then plan the rest from there. Who says you can't have a DJ before a venue?

If it were my party I'd put all emphasis on oysters, a flame eater, a giant rotating disco ball and wine. 

I think the key part here is really considering what's important to YOU specifically and not necessarily being so tied to all the aspects of the day being perfect. Perfection is boring.

In the last installment of this wedding series, part 3, we will reveal how we've been changing the structure of SAIPUA to attempt to make better, more honest experiences for our clients...

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


Saturday & Sunday; March 5-6

At our new studio: 177 Dwight St. Brooklyn, NY 11231


You can preview and reserve all the best specimens, hear SOUNDSDISASTROUS spin records and drink beer from from our new friends at Sixpoint Brewery across the street

Friday, March 4, 2016
6pm - 9pm

(*and a great dinner)((SIGNUP HERE)


Plant Care 101

Join Sarah Ryhanen, founder of Saipua and Taylor Johnson of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as they cover the basics of plant care for all your indoor plants! Learn about different light and water requirements, how to manage common pests, and how to propagate certain plants from cuttings. If you know little about the plant world but have an inkling to start keeping house plants - this is the perfect opportunity to gain a bit of confidence and knowledge.

Saturday, March 5, 2016
11am to 12pm
Cost: Free
Capacity: 20

Cactus Dry Garden

Learn basic care and propagation techniques for several specimens of indoor cacti from horticulturalist Taylor Johnson of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Participants will choose from a large array of arid garden specimens and design a large terra cotta bowl dry garden to take home.

Saturday, March 5, 2016
2pm to 4pm
Cost: $95
Capacity: 10

Winter Feast & Silent Auction
We are thrilled to announce the first of our new dinner series (more on this in the previous journal post!)

For Saturdays dinner we’ve asked our good friend, Nahvae Frost of L’Atelier Verte to share her seasonal wisdom of roots, fermentation and mushrooms (not magic). After a cocktail reception, we’ll sit down for a four-course vegetarian meal.

Throughout the night we will also unveil rare specimens from our secret plant vault. All proceeds from the silent auction will go to support our educational programming both in the city and at our farm, World’s End.

Cocktail reception begins at 7p with dinner to follow.
To reserve your seat email:

Saturday, March 5, 2016
7pm to 10pm
Cost: $150
Capacity: 20


The Mounted Epiphyte Garden

Join horticulturist, Taylor Johnston of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as she demonstrates how to mount orchids and ferns.  Using wood and wire, Taylor will walk participants through a few simple techniques that transform ferns and orchids into breathtaking mounted garden.  Each participant will select desired materials and mount a fern or orchid. Topics covered include plant specifics, specialty plant food, design techniques, and caring for your mounted garden - plenty of tips and inspiration as you plant your own. The workshop fee includes: wood, one fern or orchid and a care sheet.

Sunday, March 6, 2016
11am to 1pm
Cost: $95
Capacity: 10

Aloe Soap Workshop

Join SAIPUA soap-maker Susan Ryhanen in this intensive, hands-on workshop to discover the powerful agents of aloe within their own batch of olive oil soap while learning the basic tenants of the cold-processed method. 

Each student will be given the following tools to use in class AND to take home: One of Saipua's handmade 3 lb. wooden soap molds, a mixing bucket, a ‘stick blender’ (so critical for making soap without hand stirring for hours), a complete list of suppliers where you can mail order supplies like essential oils and various butters and natural additives.

Students will also receive recipes for making additional soaps at home.

Sunday, March 6, 2016
1pm to 5pm
Cost: $350
Capacity: 10

Screening of The Secret Life of Plants (1979)

“The Secret Life of Plants” is a documentary based on the 1972 cult classic book of the same name. It explores mysteries of the plant kingdom and touches on the potential consciousness of plants and their ability to experience something akin to human emotion. Join us for a discussion about plant intelligence led by Sarah Ryhanen and Taylor Johnston after the screening.

Sunday, March 6, 2016
7pm to 9pm
Cost: Free
Capacity: 30 

Monday, February 29, 2016

sitting down with us to support our educational initiative...

As we head into our tenth year -- the biggest piece of SAIPUA news is the construction of our new giant floriculture studio and the launch next week of our educational initiative...

Workshops, programs, lectures and events will be held at the farm and in the city. Next Wednesday morning a new section of our website will launch introducing the first round of these programs (some of which are free!) Weekend classes at the farm on nettle foraging and tincture making, tomato canning, wild elderberries...and evening classes in the city starting with a host of plant activities in conjunction with the upcoming PLANTLAB! weekend ...

In conjunction with each class, we will be producing an audio segment that will be available to listen to afterwards. So if you live in Ohio or Norway you can still participate by listening to a podcast on the same topic. There are a lot of people out there without access to SAIPUA by virtue of location or money and I want to change that.

Our mission at Saipua has two parts; to effect positive environmental change through our work with flowers and to build community while doing that work...

To raise funds for producing this programming (we need audio equipment, web development, a new teepee for people to stay in on the farm, staffing, lecture fees - etc.) we're designing a series of dinners that will take place at our new warehouse. The first dinner happens this Saturday night amidst PLANTLAB!

Meet Nahvae; one of the best people on the planet, and an incredible chef...

Nahvae has a little coffee window in Crown Heights called Eleventhirtysix. If you ever want to eat the best buckwheat blackberry scone with a strong pour over, stop there. I really can't recommend it enough. Nahvae's approach to food mirrors our work with flowers -- and this Saturday our arts combine to make a plant-astic four course vegetarian sensory experience ... the menu is laced with winter root vegetables, fermented foods, a myriad of mushrooms and micro greens...

I begged Nahvae for a giant dirt cake with gummy worms as the final course, and she was like how about a gastrique braised dehydrated beet with dark chocolate ganache and edible flowers?

I really hope you'll consider eating with us and supporting our vision in this way.

Tickets are $150 and you can reserve your seat at the table by emailing

(Added allure to entice you to come: a silent auction with some incredible stock plants from Peace Tree Farm...)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

on biorhythms, black mountain college and climate change

I looked at a biorhythm calculator online. I did this because I notice some days I just cannot write or function well and I want an answer as to why this might be. Why I can't be perfectly focused every day. Which is stupid, now that I'm writing it.

Biorhythms supposedly track your intellectual, physical and emotional energies from the moment of your birth.

And lo and behold, ye olde biorhythms are dipping low, all from -50 to -99. Relieved but still restless and unable to focus - and having already been on too many walks outside in the sleet I decide to check the biorhythms of everyone I know.

Eric is in the basement building a new seed-starting shelf. He's expressed that nothing is going right in this project.
So yeah,  I check his rhythms.

I yell down through the laundry shoot: Yep, you're fucked today!

February. The latent period where everything is standing too still before the landslide of spring. Before lambing, before seedlings and the frenetic energy I want always.

Also, I don't understand GoogleDocs.

I've been reading about Black Mountain College, the alternative art project/school that rose out of the ashes of the Bauhaus and the Great Depression and attracted some of the great modernist artists in their youth; DeKooning, Albers, Twombly, John Cage, Merce Cunningham. It's intoxicating to read about the interdisciplinary, holistic, open way that the college approached the creative learning process. 

Anni Albers said the following which resonates with me:

"Wholeness is not a Utopian dream. It is something that we once possessed and now seem largely to have lost, or to say it less pessimistically, seem to have lost were it not for our inner sense of direction which still reminds us that something is wrong here because we know of something that is right.”

Anni and Joseph Albers fled nazi Germany to come teach art at Black Mountain; and this quote is colored with that haunting fact…

But the sentiment of rebelling against institutionalized learning and reinventing how the creative process is drawn out and shared  could not be more relevant today.

I see a lot of people flailing for authentic connection and looking for an opportunity to revisit the uncensored, runaway creativity that we knew as children but are often taught to put away in order to chase successful adult lives. 

I had a visit with Stacy and John from Broadturn Farm last week. They are some of the smartest people I know, and what they do at the farm with education, mentorship and community is really inspiring to me.

(Other business people I look up to are Alice Waters and Andrew Tarlow & Kate Huling -- all businesses grounded in community with THE MOST thoughtful attention to process and quality…  ) 

Anyway, after dinner talking with John about how people can make real environmental impact, things got a bit dark; in a way someone clever might zoom out to look realistically at the history of the planet, and consider it's future. John talked about connectivity. That the way to make a difference now is to really strive for  person to person connection. I'm not sure I understood fully what he meant by this - like when you go see an oracle in a cave you may walk out bewildered and feeling sort of dumb - but with some sentiment that resonates over you. The path you take out of the forest is just slightly different than the path you took in.

Simply put; I wake up every morning and I'm like what can I do different, how can I do more? A few weeks ago I got to my desk and saw the news; it was all about the hottest year on record and donald trump. And I thought what the hell am I going to do today??

I was supposed to be writing my second post on the wedding industry, and I will. And these things are, can be related. There's more here to write, but I have to run out the door to the city today to teach our Hellebore Class on Sunday and work on some Saipua stuff in the flesh…I am very excited for PLANTLAB! next weekend and if you get our newsletter you've started to see some of that programming leak out…Will share full details soon, mark your calendar - it opens in our new space on Friday night March 4th and continues through Sunday the 6th.