Thursday, January 30, 2014

cigars on ice

I'm starved for flowers up here at the farm where it's a frozen wasteland. I'm not good at waiting, and I don't like planning, so I'm not romantically poised over seed catalogs by a woodstove. I am, however, getting busy getting in touch with my true authentic self. Which, yes, I just had to google to be sure thats the right thing to call it. Also, I drink tea now. 

Eric made me watch some of the Grammys. It's an awards show for music. Everyone was there! Carol King! Willie Nelson! Beyonce and Jay were there too and they performed together. Here is a video. I think Beyonce is her true authentic self. And I want my authentic self to look like her authentic self which is to say more feminine and dressed in less carhartt. I ask Eric, "Can we be a power couple like Bey and Jay?"

I've been very social at the farm this week talking to lots of friends and farmers. These conversations are enlightening and make me motivated. One of my friends - a new friend - is very grounded and seems very spiritually connected to nature. She is a healer. She gave me some roots to steep in milk and drink. I read somewhere that often your authentic self becomes repressed. I figured I repressed the shit out of my authentic self by always trying to be successful more than anything else. And I figure this could be the root of my anxiety and unease. We discussed this briefly, and I realized some of what I need to do to practice loosening up and being more playful. Which sounds so dreadful to me because I've always like very adult things, and being an adult. When I was a kid I remember feeling offended or embarrassed when someone would say that I was 'playing' because in my mind these activities were 'fixing' or 'organizing' or 'preparing for the apocalypse.' 

What started out as a post about dutch masters and our teaching pursuits at Little Flower School became another self indulge. Whoops! I seem to be good at that lately. Now that I've told you about how fun I am, perhaps you'd like to take some classes with me (!)

We're teaching again, Nicolette and I - theres still some spots in our Dutch Masters Class February 23rd. All these photos are from last years session. We hold this special workshop at the Metropolitan Building which is brimming with beautiful old antiques and divine light. I think this will be the last Dutch Masters class we teach. Which I feel good about since I'm excited about some new things and changes we're making to school. We can't do the same thing forever. (Also a few spots left in the workshop at Schreiners Iris Farm south of Portland, Oregon May 21st.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

and the beat goes flowers and environmental ramblings.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of jobs in the city at Saipua. These pictures are all from a wedding last Saturday. We had what we call 'carte blanche' on this wedding; which is to say we could choose any color palette, any flowers....

The beauty of this way of working is that we can select exactly the best looking things at the market, without having to adhere to a color story. This January has been dismal at the NYC wholesale market. Maybe this happens every year and I just forget but this January seems especially brutal with half empty shelves and ho hum imports. The terrible draught in California also lessens some of the weedy/wild material we can get. 

But citrus abounds miraculously and made a nice base to work up from. Those $8.50 a stem ranunculus also help, although I'm afraid to use them. When I see one of the girls reaching for one my chest tightens and my neck shrinks into my shoulders. Perspiration forms on my forehead and I start to shake and turn purple. They quickly learn to avoid all ranunculus. Good girls, they are.

I feel lucky to be so busy this month, but our work strangely dries up next month and we don't have any work till May. Which might be a good thing as we can focus on the farm and figure out what the hell and how the hell to grow it this season. Eric keeps reminding me we have our tractor payments starting in April. With bravado I say "I'm going to sell so many flowers we'll pay off the tractor in half the time!" 

I'm back at the farm now for a few weeks. I'm sitting at my desk, looking out at the homestead yard, this frozen tundra. Instead of doing my chores this morning I came up to the computer with coffee to write this, and I think Eric took the hint and is doing all the chores without me. Bless him!! The weather is brutal here, nights at -10 below 0 F and days only around 10 degrees F. Chickens have a bit of frostbite on their combs. I look at my iris and peony beds and wonder how they are fairing. 

I don't talk about this much, but I worry a lot for our changing climate, and think a lot about what I can do about it. How can I use Saipua and the farm to influence how people think about seasons or the natural have more respect for it and change something about their lives to help it. I really don't know the answer to this yet...

Personal responsibility is an interesting conundrum. Want to hear a weird secret? It's hard for me to tell you this story, but I think it makes an interesting point about how we sometimes rationalize our personal responsibility to the planet...

At the farm, all we do is compost and reuse, reduce etc. I feel like I live in a compost bucket sometimes. When I go to the city I bring a bucket with me for my vegetable scraps. Then I haul it back up the farm, along with all our cardboard (used for sheet mulching) and flower waste from Saipua. After a week of hustling for a job, sometimes the last thing I want to do is be the garbage truck, but it seems silly to take an empty truck back when I can stuff branches and flower waste in the back for composting. At some point I let myself off the hook for my city kitchen scraps. And I started putting vegetable scraps RIGHT IN THE GARBAGE. And it felt so fucking liberating.

Subconciously I thought "am I not doing enough already? give me a break on the fly infested compost in my apartment!" But this is a laziness and unwillingness to do the right thing because it's hard. Or because I think my other actions are offsetting my grapefruit peels that are rotting in a landfill right now creating methane gas instead of garden compost. I have sinned.

I think we have to do more because there are those of us who can. I am one of those people who can do a lot more and so it is my responsibility to do so. And I want to inspire other people to do more in whatever way they can. So I promise you I will collect my food scraps again when I'm in the city. 

But my mission at Saipua has always been to make the most beautiful things we possibly can. And if that means using an exquisite flower imported from half way around the globe, so be it. We're in the business of beauty, we're selling our flowers based on our artistry, not on our commitment to local product (though of course we are hugely invested in local flowers). I will buy imported flowers as long as they are the best of what's available in January. And in spring summer and fall I'll buy almost exclusively local. It's not a dogma, it's just that they are the best, and buying them gives me the most pleasure -- through the relationships I have with farmers.

I'm rambling a bit, as I tend to. But writing these things out (and hearing your reactions) helps me sort through my feelings and thoughts. I am still figuring this stuff out. How to be better, how to make a better business, and how to make a difference in the face of this huge problem that is bearing down on all of us. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Long, drawn out, better late than never Year In Review.

Well, I didn't figure out the meaning of life this year.

I did, however, spend a lot of time looking for things I thought were true. But the more I try to sort things into good and bad, beautiful and ugly, the more I miss the point. Like Nea here. Simultaneously good and bad. The great Snarfer! That's been her name this year. Snarfy, Snarf Face Killer - the renditions are infinite. Sometimes I sing her the song Little Surfer Girl, by the Beach Boys but instead - you guessed it! - Little SNARFER Girl!!!

This year Eric and I built up a lot more of our lives, the stuff of life at least. The home building, the animal husbandry, growing food and flowers. The business of trying to sell some of that stuff so we can build more. Here's a picture of the main room in our house back in April when we had young chickens inside, and trays of soil blocks on every surface. Eric says "farm house?" that means you farm in the house, right?

Of course the chaos of it all is appealing to me. I love a beautiful mess, more than anything. When I die, hopefully here at Worlds End decades from now I want it to be ten times the mess. And I hope that when that time comes, I will have learned better how to be around people and connect to them. This year I have been working on my intimacy issues; trying to figure out why I want to be alone all the time or why I favor brief encounters with strangers. 

That sounds funny, like I've become a hooker, which did not happen this year, trust me.

I did fall in love with chickens though. They are incredible weird little things - so social, so bossy. Everyday they follow complex agendas I can only wish to understand; fanning out across the homestead in patterns coinciding with times of day. There's the mid morning rest followed by lunch at the coop (usually), then foraging west out towards the drive. Noon? Siesta. Two o'clock you can find them under the lilac dust bathing if the weather allows, and by 3 they are on the move south towards the kitchen garden. 

Our girls have shown (limited) moments of uncanny intelligence. I hug them and make up stories for them. I call them the beep-beeps. In the morning when I open the doors of the coop they pour out in a gaggle of clucks and tweets and suddenly it's time  (cue music!)  for the BEEP-BEEP show!!! ... Featuring the BEEP-BEEPS!!! With special appearances by (you guessed it!) the BEEP-BEEPS!!! God I love that show.

This time last year Nicolette and I went teaching in Australia...subsequently I've been connected to a lot of Australians. Working with flowers makes the world shrink. Infinitely small, this flower world of ours... [insert winking heart blowing emoji]

This year I thought a lot about doing a book, publishing a book of my own or working on a bigger book project. I talked to lots of people about it - agents and publishers but in the end I scrapped it all, it never felt right, too forced, or I'm just not ready. Why rush? People say it's the cornerstone of your brand. Wait what brand? We don't even have business cards.

We started our flock of Icelandic Sheep here at the farm. A bit earlier than we had planned, but fools rush in. There are 9 ewes ranging in age; two older stragglers we adopted from friends and 7 strapping young girls with good milking lines. Next year we'll get a ram, breed all the girls and in spring 2014 we'll have lambs - hopefully 15 or so. When you have lambs, you have milk...this all took a while to comprehend, for me at least. Here's a picture of the day we drove to Vermont to pick up our sheep guarding dog, Puccini otherwise known as Poochi.

Poochi is a Maremma, a dog bred in Italy since ancient Roman times (salve canis! I took latin in school) to protect flocks from wolves (lupus - not to be confused with lupus the disease which I also thought I might have this year). Around here he wards off coyotes and the occasional cougar. 

There is no training with this type of guardian dog; as long as he bonds with the sheep (ovis). He has to think the sheep are his family. This means we're not allowed to take him out for walks or love him too much. This has been really hard.

Tu non potest diligere canis qui habitat cum ovibus. (You must not love the dog who sleeps with sheep.)

Last spring we threw a big plant sale in the city to raise money for a tractor at the farm. It was one of the best days in our Saipua history, and the following week we put a down payment on a John Deere. (Which ironically, is called 'going green' around here because of the paint color on the tractor, not for the gallons of diesel fuel it consumes)
Plants for plants! I love this idea so much; this year we'll do it again on March 8th.

The tractor let us really get into growing this year -- we planted all sort of things. 
All these ^ flowers? We grew them ourselves! In hindsight feels like a big deal. I learned a lot about timing. I learned a lot about the fragility of some plants and the resilience of others.

In 2013 I did not have to buy one can of tomatoes. When I get frustrated with what feels like slow progress it's small facts like this that keep me motivated.

We installed solar panels at the farm this year. My dad has always been a geek about alternative energy, and lately -- parasites -- but that's another post. In the eighties we had giant 1 foot thick solar panels on the side of our house. He helped us finance the project, and we are now gratefully receiving approximately 95% of our yearly energy from the sun. Still putting diesel fuel in the "green" tractor, but hopefully that will change this new year if we can hook up the deep fryer. That's all you need for bio fuel right?  

I can't write a post about 2013 without mentioning all the amazing help - interns and apprentices and volunteers we had work with us.

Bianca, the sensitive lover of beauty. I've loved watching her bravely change careers and seeing her excitement as she discovers flowers for herself...

Nicole, the type of woman you look at and then you have to look at again. She is mysterious and witty. A dancer, and (she's gonna hate me for writing this) a real deal intellectual! God, I want to keep all the interns forever!

Evelyn, our most committed apprentice. She came from SanFransisco for three months for an immersion experience. I miss her can-do attitude at every event since she left. And her indispensible graphic skills (without which we would never have finished our 2013 soap sampler box.

Reuben! He wrote me a letter from the perspective of a feral cat last year..wanted to come on as an apprentice for a few weeks. I like to work but there's nothing like an enthusiastic 21 year old in the field, let me tell you.

Mikee; graceful, stylish and inquisitive. I miss his help getting dinner ready talking and sipping wine together. I feel his flower talent is about to rise so out!

Natalie - I met her at a class we taught last January in LA. She loves animals and it must be said that she was the first intern to really bond with Goldie (the prettiest chicken). She's thinking about flowers and how they are going to fit into her life, I'm waiting to see.

What a strange year of figuring things out, an unsettling year of unknowns. Back in the summer, at the end of the day I would walk the rows of flowers and cut things, making bunches in my hand till I couldn't hold anymore. I'd walk these fistfulls back to the work table - a makeshift studio in front of our house. Usually I would just toss them into a bucket and forget about them. This is a florists ultimate luxury I would tell myself. To pick all the most beautiful flowers for yourself and then never arrange them...

Maybe this year was a year of resting a little more. Leaving the flowers be while I worked on the farm or...didn't work at all. There in lies the root of my moody troubles this year. 
My one new years resolution?