Wednesday, November 30, 2011

in which becomes a home renovation blog


At some point I had envisioned a formal portrait of us in front of our house. You know...real stoic and shit. We might get around to it one day. That fantasy was followed by pictures of me in a fields of flowers I had grown myself, snip-snipping, but pictures like that require too much effort to stage. It seems life blows by while you're desperately trying to set shit like that up. Maybe one thing I've started to understand about farming - in the microsecond we've been at it - is that time is of the essence.


But more on the gardening part another time. Tonight, we talk plaster. But Wait! Safety first! Cue the plaster-removal-hazmat-suit-striptease please!!!



So in a time before sheet rock, or even the time when a contractor was a person you could call for such matters; people used to mix gypsum dust with water and horse hair and then slather it over thin parallel strips of wood called lath to make walls. Bear with me, I'm learning.



Through a quick series of events it became clear to us that if we wanted to really "fix up" our little money pit (and this is where we shrink down to micro type - and if you're already bored with the direction of this post, as someone like myself may have been in the not too distant past, than please skip ahead. Lets play choose you're own adventure! ready?

You fall into a property with a 200 year old greek revival that has never been renovated. To be clear; Ever. A reputable contractor advises you to tear it down and put up a module. A second opinion lands you with a builder named Ivan who strikes you as so trustworthy, so right as rain, it's rather off-putting. (Read: NYC Contractors) Anyway Ivan... he throws around practically pornographic series of words like "wood cooking stove" and "staircase to the sleeping loft" like there's no tomorrow. One thing Ivan makes perfectly clear is that the house will continue to fall apart unless you get all the moisture out of it - you have to put in a new dry foundation. Ivan is smart, and he talks about the house in terms of it being a "museum piece" which sure is neat. He suggests you pull out all the plaster walls and lath to relive downward pressure on the foundation for when his crew jacks up the central beams...

Do you follow his advise and run to Ace Hardware for respirators and a crow bar...?


Do you.. --- actually there is no other path in this story, so shall we just quietly exit this little game? Those books were always mildly disappointing in the end, were they not?


So for the past few weeks I've been orbiting between plaster removal, plantings and making weddings. On plaster days we make a little coffee, fry some eggs on the grill and then suit up hazmat style. We work all day ripping off layers of wallpaper (7 layers deep in some rooms), chipping away at plaster, horse hair and lath and hauling the debris out in (what use to be flower) buckets. We spread it through the forest in a thin line, the first layer of what will become a path through the woods to the beaver pond and eventually my walled-in secret garden.


It sounds all very charming doesn't it - and there are a few small moments that it feels charmed. Not the moment when a iota of plaster lodged in my left eye for an afternoon, or when we found a rapture of century old fly carcasses between walls, each of us silently whispering to ourselves "museum piece, museum piece" as we vacuumed them up with the antique hoover left in the house from another era.

We'll see.

Monday, November 28, 2011

night at the museum


Oh ART! You're so quirky and full of contradictions!



Go figure. I used to be a part of this world in a different way - now I just make flowers for it. Which suits me better I suppose.
My father, who recently learned how to look at my blog on the internet will look at this exhibition - a retrospective of works by Maurizio Cattelan at the Guggenheim - and laugh. Without going down the rabbit hole of art critique - I will say that a kneeling statue of Hitler hung 30 feet in the air as part of a massive mobile makes for a rather challenging backdrop to shoot photos of flowers.


Anyway, we were honored to supply some greenery for the occasion of the museum's annual gala, and honored even more when Brian Eno, milling about prior to the event commented that the flowers were rather "tasteful." Deanna melted, I furiously twittered it, and we got back to work.


We even had time for a little stroll by central park; the girls appropriately suited in their upper east side attire, sipping $5 ginger sodas from Dean & Deluca. Thanks to the museum staff for being so easy to work with, accomodating and for letting us in to the after party. It was a fun day.


Saturday, November 26, 2011



Currently I am sitting in the McDonalds of Cobbleskill, NY. Looking perhaps a little bit like a deer in headlights as I survey the room trying frantically to hammer out a few emails. Turns out deer are the thing that most of the people sitting here with me are after this weekend.
Said my new friend Bob; "My son got a three pointer yesterday!"

I had to look 3 pointer up on the internet. From what I can tell, it has to do with antlers.

Anyway this particular wifi hotspot is the center of the universe for me right now, broadcasting to you loud and clear this anthurium arrangement from last weekend, clicking the McDonalds Terms of Access checkbox hastily signing over my life, my liver, my ability to remember decent coffee.

Actually the coffee isn't that bad. Nor are the people in here that unsightly. There are those McDonalds you visit where everyone is sick-looking and wearing the classic sweatpant/ haltertop combo (difficult to pull off correctly). Here it looks like a bunch of fit farmers and hunters in buffalo plaid with interesting knife holsters hanging off their belts. Which makes me feel that perhaps I'm in some sort of fast food time machine, but - check again and my coffee cup is made of state of the art 2012 styrofoam.

Almost December and it's 65 degrees here today. Among other things I'm concerned about regarding the farm, dying trees is at the top of my to-research-list. Need to start putting in Palms next spring.

Been working on pulling out the plaster walls at the house. Been trying to fix my bulb beds - so many lessons I've already learned and mistakes made. It's humbling but exciting. Good for me struggle a bit and learn new things. Collecting fallen timber from the forest for a teepee for Nicolette to stay in. Nea's been doing a whole lot of nothing, and I may be starting to resent her for it.


She knows it.

{Anthurium, one of my new favorite flowers, grace this wedding arrangement of forsythia foliage, astrantia, tulips, roses, ranunculus and fushia.}

Thursday, November 24, 2011



Well, goodevening.
Happy Thanksgiving. Since that's where this rabbit hole has spit me out; we could start with that.

3:35 pm. My mother is making the necessary holiday preparations; there's a pancetta squash situation, a lot of sage being chopped. She makes it look effortless. I'm chained to my lap top; practically starving to death. Can't I have morsel to eat please? NEIN! She's german.
No she's not.

My father is in at the computer - last I checked - watching youtube videos of people crashing in planes. It's a festive day.

We break from our various projects to sample a pumpkin pie that came out of the oven first.

Now we've settled back in to work. Dad is out cutting wood stumps; props we'll use at next weekend's wedding. Eric is downstairs in the soap kitchen squirreling away bars for our Brooklyn shop. My mother; likely composing thoughtful yet firm emails to demanding wholesale clients. I bring her a cup of coffee after I finish peeling the potatoes.

Life just goes forward doesn't it? The mundane, everyday and the extraordinary - all lumped together in passing time.

Cocktail hour is not until 6:30, but here's toasting to you and yours this peace where it may exist in patches on this earth, to my friend Josh from NASA who says he can reverse climate change, to coffee klatches, to roaming packs of dogs, to family businesses, to farming, to plaster dust and to flowers.

I've got some freaking neat shit to tell you about. In time.
Till then, you know what? You can bake the stuffing in the turkey.