Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Bryony and a little about how we're trying to revolutionize the event industry

Bryony likes a coffee almost as much as I do, and when we started talking about creating a new version of saipua that worked better for both of us you can imagine coffee was a high priority. Also on the list was no more wedding planners (I can, and will write a post on this - it's important to me and I want to be really honest about why we're striking out in this new way and refusing to work with planners), no more large scale floral installations or anything requiring foam or rigging, and no more standard rental furniture or dinnerware.

That basically excludes all of the events that have been our bread and butter for the last few years. Which financially is terrifying, but the only way forward if we want to revolutionize the event industry; a world that profits off of gratuitous waste, the exploitation of labor, and mediocre food and flowers.

I'm thinking about Bryony a lot this week because she's getting married Friday. I just adore her, and I feel really lucky that I get to work with her. I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who can maintain poise, strength and emotional intelligence like Bryony. Her bravery is contagious and her attention to detail and pursuit of excellence unmatched. I look for three things in collaborators: the ability to be serious about outlandish dreams, endless energy and enthusiasm and never an ounce of self pity or complaining. Bryony defines this ideal. As do the other women I've recently partnered with...

Enter Genevieve. No stranger to the event industry and the unique alchemy of Saipua, Genevieve now runs an alternative production company called ET VERNAL where she uses her loving prowess to connect people with good visions in order to make good work. This includes everything from overhauling the cafe at the Brooklyn Children's Museum to allow for healthier snack options for kids (why should there be soda on offer at a museum for children?) to helping a couple plan their nuptials. Which is to say wedding planning. But Genevieve - after working in weddings for years with us at Saipua - is no stranger to the downsides of the industry and was shy to think about her new company working in the wedding planning realm. We decided if we were going to stay in events we only wanted to work with each other so that we could trust in the integrity of the process as well as the result.

Enter Nahvae. She owns and cooks daily in her commissary kitchen and cafe called Eleven36 in Brooklyn. Genevieve introduced us a few years ago. Nahvae makes the food I want to eat everyday of my life. She has been working for the last 5 years in her neighborhood (Crown Heights) to teach people of all different socioeconomic groups how to taste new things and think differently (or just to think more) about vegetables and grain. Nahvae has been catering small and large events for years but often is uncomfortable with various parts of the industry - and like me with flowers - she want's clients to trust her implicitly with sourcing and cooking the best seasonal ingredients. Because it is always better that way. If you have to explain exactly what something is going to be in food (as with flowers) then you have to source your ingredients from large corporate entities like Cisco, which sources asparagus 365 days a year. Many caterers add foam to this vegetable travesty and bill it as luxury. That is the luxury we aim to debunk in our new combination of forces.

Because I think real luxury would be to come visit our new space (next door at 1134 President St. Brooklyn) and have a coffee with us and talk about how to plan a great party with the best food and flowers that are all grown at Worlds End. Construction has started and we're looking for an espresso machine. See you there in the new year.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Eggplant, Act I

A few years ago I started growing 'fairytale' eggplants at Worlds End to use in flower arrangements; I'd cut the stems with the little danglers attached and then slip them into arrangements to make jazz. The leaves would wilt epically and almost immediately -- using them in flowers proved to be a novelty without staying power.

So this year we ate all the eggplants - nightly for weeks on end - and I became indignant at the dinner table. Even when paraded with the finest of homemade condiments - chimichurri! aioli! chili oil! --  any and all combinations eventually became routine feeling. Arguably a disproportionate amount of energy at Saipua has always gone into staff meals which leads to a certain amount of dissatisfaction in the face of anything routine or ordinary.

That said, my affinity for the finer things in life is accompanied by utter disdain and intolerance for waste, and so the eggplants - the buckets of them brought in from the field daily - stood as my new great challenge. Planning my socialist revolution could wait! Put the new website on hold! The script (a made for TV rock-opera) for the Saipua floral empire exposé is on hiatus!

Slutty-ness is a word I adore for describing all sorts of delicious monsters that emerge from our test kitchens here, in truth behind the drama its merely an indicator of fat content. Around here, we never separate the fat from the stock. In practice and also I'm afraid, metaphorically.

The first of Saipua's Slutty Eggplant Delights

{adapted with permissions to perform in kitchens nationwide.}

-Act I -

A dark stormy night in mid October. Enter stage left; a gang of hoodlum eggplants; about 2 pounds, washed and halved with their green hoods chopped off.

The eggplants get tossed in bowl with giant glugg of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and chiliflakes and then spread on a baking sheet and roasted at 400 degrees F for 30 mins. Toss them or move them around 15 minuets in.

Meanwhile put on a giant pot of water to boil.

Once it's rolling, add salt to make it taste like sea water (a good tip from my friend Samin) this will be more salt than you think -- probably around 1/8 C.

One bag or box of dried pasta. Calamarata (shaped like cut squid) is my new favorite for this, but you can also use any big boisterous thick shape. You want a big shape because the eggplants are clunky.

Cook the pasta - careful not to overcook it - and when you drain it, leave a bit of water in the pot with the pasta and immediately add half a stick of butter. Kerrygold would be best, and you want about a quarter of that gold brick. Mix that into your hot, slightly watery pasta and then toss in your eggplants and, any or most of the following promiscuous ingredients:

- so much goat cheese
- so much feta
- grated romano or other hard cheese
- giant handfuls of arugula
- two lemons squeezed over it all
- lamb sausage, cooked and crumbled
- mint and oregano chiffonade

Never met a bowl of buttered noodles that didn't charm the pants of people here at Worlds End.
And... SCENE!

Friday, October 26, 2018

dream flowers

[Chocolate cosmos, phlox, ninebark, tomato, celosia, hydrangea foliage.]

economic planning

Meg, Zoe and I sat down for lunch last week - another slutty pasta dish* involving those little 'fairytale' eggplants which were prolific in our field this year. I was, admittedly, coming close to nightshade exhaustion and angrily googled 'Are eggplants even good for you??'

Which started a deep dive into the worlds of flavonoids (there are loads in the skins of eggplant). Flavonoids are responsible for the creation of the colors in flowers which attract pollinators and also act as chemical messengers in soil, aiding in the symbiotic relations with nitrogen fixing bacteria and legumes. Why would anyone choose a career outside of the magnificent world of plants??

Satisfied, I serve lunch.

After we eat, we crunch numbers. The 2019 experiment requires us to generate $4000 a week in sales at Worlds End in order to support three full time people, two apprentices and a $500/week food budget.

The number is daunting. We split it up a few different ways. We could try to sell 2 small at $2000 a week. We could sell 1 wedding at $3K and 10 arrangements at $100 each to people willing to buy them in the city. We could offer a flower subscription? A CSA based sort of model...None of these feel quite right.

This is very different economy than what I am used to running Saipua in the city - where the numbers for weddings are inflated to accommodate full service floristry and usually begin around 15K and cap off around 100K. That sort of profit is larger and spilled out to allow us to do things like build a castle in Brooklyn. Which was nice for a while, there was a fireplace. Now those big events are fewer, we're more selective about them, and the profit pays my salary, Bryony (who works on commission) and slowly chips off at the debt we've incurred over the years - I cringe to tell you this number, but I feel the transparency is useful especially to those (most) of you reading who are florists or business owners - $160K.

It has often felt daunting to pivot the giant Saipua cruise ship to sell small weddings with our farm grown product. People are confused about what's happening to the brand**. Friends pull me aside and express their concern that I am 'burning it all down' (dropping an instagram account with 120K followers is arguably a nonsensical move). But I'm following my instincts here into new territory. I can't do the old game anymore, Saipua can't go back to that which it once was. Fortunately trudging into new territory is something I'm good at.

We've gotten exactly one (!) inquiry for a tiny wedding in August! I felt like celebrating. It's like we're back at the beginning and I'm in love with it all over again!

* I will absolutely share my eggplant game here soon including 'saipua's slutty eggplant disaster pasta'

** I started a brand rant yesterday that is equally delicious but needs a little cleaning up//will share soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Happy Birthday Susan!!

Yesterday my mother turned 70! We're in Siena celebrating all week with some of her friends. Nahvae and Nicolette are here as well cooking and arranging flowers.

Susan is the reason for any season! A lot of mothers tell their daughters they can be and do anything they want, but it's rare to have a mother actually demonstrate it. Susan has taught me about fearlessness, how to be positive and go with the flow, and how to work hard. She also knows deeply about leisure, how to relax and how to make a party (demonstrated in her martini bar prowess recently at Worlds End.)

A home economics teacher and then school librarian for 30 years, she started making soap as a hobby after retiring from the school system.  She was selling it at the Peekskill farmers market when Eric and I offered to help her with packaging -- that's how Saipua was born, almost 15 years ago. In the time since, Susan and my father Pentti have made over 1 million bars of soap!

I just can't imagine a more resourceful, loving, clever woman. Or a better collaborator. Or a better travel partner. Happy birthday Mom! 

Flowers and luxury

The language used to talk about locally grown flowers is problematic in that it infers (often in the mind of the masses) a ball jar of zinnias or sunflowers - which is to say 'farm flowers' feel pedestrian or worse, point to a country kitchen lined with sponge painted blue ducks. Not that theres anything wrong with that.

Cutting my teeth in the NYC marketplace, I've always favored locally grown product because I could find interesting nuances between stems that affected the overall feel of arrangements I was making. Having a conversation with a grower was the ultimate luxury because we could talk about what I liked and I could get more specific product -- I could say 'I want the brown flowers' or 'I want the diseased looking poppy pods that are crooked.' This was getting closer to what I started referring to as my 'dream flowers' which is to say stems that were otherworldly, strange and beautiful in their divergence from the norm. Perfection for me was imperfection, I always railed against (or at least was bored by) the idea of a giant vase of peonies. Not that theres anything wrong with that.

What I think is interesting is that we tend to equate luxury with flower product shipped in from halfway around the world. Peonies in December from Australia for example (it's usually spring somewhere in the world) or incredibly carefully flat packed budding peach branches from Japan. These stems cost $7 - $15 wholesale, I appreciate the incredulous nature of this and the luxury implied in it. I want to be clear that I don't reject luxury! Among other desires I am currently lusting after a private driver (a la Batman's Alfred), a castle in Umbria, and a $350 vintage floral hermes scarf. Aspiration keeps us engaged to some extent, keeps us dreaming.

However. Wouldn't it be incredible if we came to appreciate the luxury associated with locally grown product in the sense that it's rare, indicates the potential for a real human relationship (rare) and might lead to a genuine experience with nature (even more rare). The Japanese who are some of the best factory flower growers in the world, are obsessed with perfection in a way that's difficult to comprehend. The culture that gave us wabi-sabi also gives us medically inspired flat packed boxes of gigantic ranunculus. (Which I have enthusiastically thrown money at.)

Just like the wellness industry, the nature industry depends on people being deprived of nature. The fact that nature and luxury are twisted together is a result of our separation from nature itself. This reality has haunted me in the journey of Saipua which has inadvertently become known as a luxury brand. As complicated as it is, I feel my work now is to rework our notions of value and luxury while somehow making a living and creating my community paradise at Worlds End.

Monday, October 22, 2018


In my office at the farm I throw everything out with abandon. Why are there so many bad books that get published? I make crate after crate of books to donate. Why are there so many cookbooks in the world?

I go through envelopes full of receipts for groceries when Saipua lived at The Castle; endless receipts from Fairway for lemons and Ezekiel bread. Never did get that sponsorship from Ezekiel bread which is why I probably couldn't sustain such a large company.

Part of my austerity measures includes Zoe making bread, thus saving our farm budget dollars for kerrygold butter and coffee. Rachel brought us a sourdough starter in April and it's proven to be the most fruitful gift. God bless women who eat white flour with abandon. The world will only survive if we in the west adopt a diet with more carbs! We dream about endless bean and cereal crops here at Worlds End. Talk about threshing machines vs. human labor. A few days ago Zoe pulled our cow pea crop - a fruitful gift from Meg Paska last spring - she gave us a pint jar of peas which resulted in about 75 bed feet of pea plants in the field. Zoe and Bryony begin to shell the small peas over martinis one night while I fix dinner. An hour later and they've only shelled around 1 cup of peas. So I'm thinking about the economy of time.

The experiment of Worlds End is an ongoing and a multifaceted creative conundrum.  How do we feed ourselves, teach ourselves, nurture ourselves with beauty and share the excess with strangers?
I clean my office out because in this experiment I can't afford the distraction of clutter, watered down books, instagram, or people who drag me into that sort of place where comparison and trendiness rule the roost.

I want to grow even better flowers and food in 2019 and make it so incredibly great for the few of us who live and work here. More discos in the barn and swims in the pond dodging the big snake.

(White martagon lilies and goat's beard from July)

Friday, October 19, 2018

a new way of having Saipua wedding flowers

Starting now, you can order my dream flowers directly from Worlds End Farm delivered to NYC for your wedding or party in 2019. The arrangements are made in three sizes; small $25 medium $125 and large $250. Bouquets (not pictured) range from $150-$250 and boutonnieres are $25. Our team will deliver your flowers directly from the farm to any venue in Manhattan or Brooklyn Friday-Sunday starting May 18th, 2019 and finishing October 12th, 2019.

This is perfect for couples who have a floral budget of $1,500-$5,000 and trust us to use the best of what the farm is growing to create a unique palette of flowers for their wedding.

Bryony and I continue to book larger customized Saipua events - but this new a-la-cart option allows us to make exceptional flowers for clients with modest flower budgets during our growing season at Worlds End. It also puts me back in touch with a section of the wedding industry that I fell in love with -- small weddings at places like Frankies 457 or Maison May.

SO! help us spread the word: the most beautiful, chemical free Worlds End grown flowers are available and affordable for weddings and parties May 18th - October 12, 2019.
Email to ask questions and to place orders.

(From left; small bud vase size, large centerpiece size, medium centerpiece size. Sizes can be mixed and matched on various table layouts, we can help you decide what's best for your floorplan.)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Zoe and Meg yesterday bringing in the last flower harvest. We had our first frost last night, right on time. October 17th.

There is a lot that happens emotionally at first frost - a desperation in the end or a surrendering. There is a lot of negotiating; with half brained schemes to cover my favorite rows of flowers or the late planted arugula that we barely got to enjoy. Ultimately it is an exercise in letting go.

In the perpetual rom-com that is Worlds End I played boysIImen 'So hard to say goodbye' in the field as they cut the last chocolate cosmos (our best crop yet).

There's so much I have to tell you about changes here and the plans we have for 2019 at Saipua and Worlds End and I don't want to wait I want to tell you right now, all 75 of you who have found me here since quitting instagram... (smiling, because there is a funny story there I'll tell you soon.)

I'm so excited.

First, those of you who know me know I have a very hard time selling things, especially 'experiences' or nature. Over the last few years there have been a hundred ways for me to sell more flowers, soap, dinners, and classes. As a business woman I should have considered and opted for these marketing schemes in order to make a profit and fuel the engine of what we're building at Worlds End. In the end I have often opted not too because it feels slimy to market our lifestyle - which is arguably what makes our products unique, and it takes away from the value of the experience of those of us working inside this experiment. If we sit down to dinner together and then I snap photos and tell everyone about it on instagram or the internet then it cheapens that experience for those who are present. It turns them into a product that essentially, I am selling. I don't want to sell the people I love.

Last week I summoned some of our community to dinner at the farm. We slaughtered lambs, cut 50 feet of turnip greens from our daikon cover crop, exhausted our tomato stash and ate like royalty. I said to them - this is what I want, all the time, with you and others. I don't want that to ever be about a money exchange.

But each of those 40 or so people left the next day and went back into the world where money makes their lives possible. I realize that if I want this great experiment to continue, if I want the resources and energy to really explore alternative economies and new ways of working, then I have to get out of my own way. I have to wake up to the fact that in my lifetime at least, selling a product is going to be an essential tool in changing the current mechanisms. I keep coming back to Audre Lorde's essay 'The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle the Masters House' -- a line that is so valuable in thinking about revolutionizing the way we approach race, the patriarchy, capitalism and all the of the antiquated systems that bind us in this current world.

So I've been thinking about the business recently in terms of simple products. Things, objects that are tangible and simple. One day I want those things we need - food, clothing, beauty -- to be free and shared like the gifts that they are. But in order to do that work, that thinking, I have to make space for those conversations and that space is created still in a money based economy.

So, here's my plan in a nutshell. We're moving the soap operation here from my mothers house and expanding it to include other crafts that we create here from resources at the farm - textiles from our sheep, wooden bowls and objects turned from our wood lot, seed collections from our flower field. And we're going to sell lunch; our everyday homemade meals using our meat and vegetables Monday-Friday days starting in June.

And of course, we're going to sell flowers - but in a new simpler way. No more flower walls, no more installations and no more wedding planners. We're going to do what I've always wanted to do -- sell just flowers, gorgeous centerpieces and bouquets made with the dream flowers we grow here ourselves - and for all budgets. Because I reject the notion that beautiful flowers are exclusively for the wealthy.

For this I need another designer along side me, a person who knows about flowers, especially farm flowers who can help oversee what will be the new Saipua studio here at Worlds End.

This person needs to have 2 years of floral experience, with a portfolio to show me. He/she needs to live on the farm full time with us from May-October 2019. He/she needs to be willing to oversee and teach (alongside me) two apprentices and manage weekly small (!) wedding orders. This person is compassionate and extremely hard working. The stipend is $650 a week/meals and housing provided. Email me with your interest.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

the many layers of selling wellness

Here at the farm in my newly dusted off fortress-of-solitude office I holler up to the roof where we keep a menagerie of chipmunks enslaved, running on hamster wheels next to the satellite dish that communicates with the world wide web. (Who said I was against the exploitation of free labor?) FASTER CHIPMUNKS! I shout out the window so as to get the webpage of GOOP to load, with its confetti of landing page videos and oscillating tight-faced garden vegetable eating white women.

I have journeyed to the mecca of web wellness this morning because I've just gotten off the phone with Susan, my mother, the soapmaker. News from wholesale soap headquarters: Goop is driving her crazy. Like any large corporate entity with a complex shipping warehouse, Goop is extremely particular about how our soap is labeled and shipped to their warehouse. They require that we print a specific label - in yellow ink only - on each box of soap that we ship them. One thing about my mother - she does not like waste - and she's throwing out perfectly good inkjet cartridges left and right.

A larger company might buy a printer that has individual colored ink cartridges. And a larger company might accept Goop's new terms - they notified Susan this week that they would only be paying 45% of our suggested retail price instead of the standard 50%. This is the real reason Susan called this morning - would we concede to this demand? Goop has major market influence and right now I'm working to expand the soapmaking operation to help fund our work here at Worlds End. If there's one entity I won't compromise with it's a corporate bully. I call Susan back and tell her to pull the account.

To be frank, I enjoyed my deep dive into Goop. I discover a lot of interesting content about exercises to tighten my pelvic floor for stronger orgasms and drinking collagen for nicer skin. Which means I'm looking for better orgasms or nicer skin? Am I? Here in lies the trouble with goop and the wellness industry as a whole -- it thrives on people feeling un-well in order to profit. It needs people to feel lousy and it thrives on a sense of not good enough. 

But theres a deeper problem that underpins all of that, and it has to do with the way women are with each other.

Over the summer Taffy Brodessor Anker wrote a profile about Goop and it's founder Gwenyth Paltrow. In it she spends considerable time comparing herself (they're the same age, they both have two children, etc) to Paltrow. Anker is a great writer but I was so disappointed by the level of self deprecation she employes to be funny and make her point. We read about her giant feet compared to Gwenyth's Barbie-like toes, and we read a painful comparison of her children to Apple and Moses. At the end of the piece she devolves into a excruciating account of hustling through LAX to get home to her own life.

I'm tired of this brand of insidious female comparison masked as self deprecating humor. It makes me feel sad. It perpetuates the deep seeded mythology that constantly calls for women to be small, humble, non-threatening and well liked. There is too much comparison and judgement that occurs between women. It wastes time and keeps us from our real feminine prowess.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Work table in the studio this afternoon. More words and pictures tomorrow. Realizing tonight that maybe my personal work as a florist is not yet finished. What is it to be a woman in 2018 if not simply to own the ability to change one's mind?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

training Georgio

Georgio, our border collie. Have begun to train him on sheep with Barb Armata who also helped me train Ziggy, may she rest in peace - or better yet, in never ending circles around sheep.
God, I loved that little nut.

Georgio is also called 'Gigi' or sometimes 'Gerome' when Zoe speaks to him in French like she's Celine Dion. He's definitely a male dog, a bit more clumsy than our girls, and rather obvious in his desire for affection. He chases cars, a real problem. When UPS rolls up, this dog jumps into the truck while it's still moving, stands up at the dashboard and looks out the windshield with the driver while Zoe and I run from different sides of the farm screaming NO GEORGI, NO!
The driver (also male) gives him a cookie (!?) and so the cycle continues.

If you want to know what training a border collie is like, imagine a lot of yelling. When I went to my first sheep-working dog trial years ago (as a spectator) I remember laughing with Eric at the intensity of the dog owners. It's a visual manifestation of classic control issues. At my last lesson up on the practice field, after a particularly messy whirlwind of Georgio and two Scottish Blackface sheep, Barb said to me 'Maybe you could try sounding a little less desperate.'

Saturday, October 13, 2018

wedding in Ghent last weekend.

We assembled the dream team last weekend to make a wedding in Ghent for a bride who was lucky enough to pick a weekend when our farm dahlias were peaking and when FedEx didn't fuck up shipments of garden roses from California. It's nice when things go according to plan although I like to think I'm excellent (Bryony arguably better) at troubleshooting when things don't. In another life I'd be an air traffic controller or, the president. War rooms appeal to me for some reason. 

Used mostly all Worlds End flowers, bought in roses (Rose Story farm in CA this time) and imported Japanese delphinium because we needed that specific blue and were hard pressed to have anything blue here this time of year. That Japanese delphinium is incredibly delicate looking but hardy as all get out - lasts 2 weeks in a vase. You pay the price; $7.50 a stem. 

Hydrangea are still going gang busters here; we had to buy some new shrubs to use in an installation to spruce up a portable bathroom trailer (rest assured theres a whole post coming next week on bathroom trailer decor - also is that my book deal angle?) this is exciting because they'll get planted now here at Worlds End and make us even richer in the hydrangea department. Too much is not enough. I avoid 'pinky winky' - that pointy hussy of a popularity contest now in garden centers and prefer for a good old 'quickfire' (shown above) or 'tardiva' or even better 'invincible spirit.'

'Love in a puff' vine (cardiosperum), nicotiana (can't tell you the variety, they're all Worlds End hybrids at this point in our field, showing up as volunteers season to season) chocolate cosmos - our best crop yet, celosia, porcelain berry, oakleaf hydrangea leaves which look like leather. 

God bless Danica Designs in Maine for keeping us in all the colors of taper candles we could ever need -- this color is called 'honey.'

They look nice, and they are. Lucky to work with such talent, always.

Friday, October 12, 2018

another woods walk

Beware: if I ask you to take a walk with me in the woods it means we're either having a heavy conversation about life patterns and the state of the world or I’m trying to make out with you. Admittedly, it's usually the former. Jennell and I went yesterday, the day was long and drawn out -- the very end of a fabled 2018 autumn weekend for us; full of Saipua weddings and our own annual family lamb dinner. We made our feast small this year, keeping with the spirit of the times around here. Most everyone had left and the remaining handful of us were cleaning the last of the dishes with the garden hose in a make shift dish pit, hanging bedsheets from the tipis on the line.

Jennell was our first hired farmer and she has been back at Worlds End visiting. When I started recently to create an DC Comics-like map of all the women in my life who I want to build the future with, Jennell’s superpower is listed as: SENSITIVITY.

We go to the woods and talk about how to take care of ourselves and the pursuit of freedom. We wonder at and bemoan this long labor, littered with incremental successes and failures. We need each other perpetually to remind us that this work is never done, and that there is no arrival to freedom.
Ok, I say, now you tell it to me again.
(Here in lies the importance of sisterhood.)
Can I hold my own pain and struggle at the same time with someone else's?
Let that be a new type of power we summon for the new world order.

The freedom I’m after has no form, no prescriptive path. I can't get it if I'm smart with my money (I'm not) or if I quit my job (tried that). One might think of freedom as liberation or lightness, but I actually think of it as having a lot of weight. The heft of absolute personal responsibility. At some point last year in my contemplation of freedom I read Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling which describes anxiety as the realization of one’s own real freedom.
Turns out knowing what one wants and choosing for oneself is quite hard.

Many important life choices are simulated for us. Encoded in the shimmering illusion of choice lie the infinitely complex bastions of culture; religion, fashion, the wellness industry, etc — these forms tell us what we should look like, who to connect with, what to think, what to eat, who to vote for. It is an easier way to be in the world, it's lighter. And it feels safe.  Real freedom is terrifying and dangerous because it opens the chasm of unknown potential.

See you in the woods then.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Jennell and Zoe in the field.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

rethinking luxury and the nyc flower market

This is the best time of year for flowers and recently at the farm I fantasized a world for myself where I never stepped foot on 28th street again. For a long time I loved shopping in the wholesale flower district, I felt my community there and loved the hunt. But the parking has become atrocious; as big hotels buy up the block squeezing vendors out and as the big NYC florists buy more and more product directly from South America and Holland there is less commerce for the middle men wholesalers of the industry like Dutch Flower Line and GPage. 

The reality of this is sad - a lot of those vendors have been good friends to me over the years and made Saipua what it is today through their help in sourcing us good product. But the world shifts and some sadness becomes other happiness. The quality and variety of the product in the market has continually declined to a point where the strife of parking and being harassed by construction workers is not worth it.

I like to tell new florists that when I first started shopping the market in 2006 there were garden roses that smelled like perfumed melon shipped in from Garden Valley in Petaluma, CA (now practically defunct) wrapped in small brown paper bunches for sale at Fisher and Page. There were giant stalks of black Angelica for $27.50 a stem. It was a truly luxurious flower world. Now the prices are high but the variety has dried up. It's pedestrian and predictable and no fun anymore.

I like growing my own flowers and I know it makes me and my team better designers.

Lately that's led me to think that maybe we don't need to shop for flowers in the flower wholesale district anymore. It would mean that Saipua would just make flowers between the months of May and October -- the parameters of our growing season here in zone 5 without plastic high tunnels (which I hate.)

But there is something to be said for the importance of marketplace in our lives. It is where ideas and information are exchanged and the community that emerges in them is invaluable. I would miss seeing many of the vendors/workers in the market many of whom have felt like mentors to me. (I won't miss the sexism and racism - both of which are unfortunately still rampant in certain corners of the district.)

We need new paradigms around our notions of work, value and luxury. Luxury has always been linked to those things we do not have; to scarcity. It has been often identified with 'the foreign.' Think about the silk road, the scarcity of red dye, televisions, cellular phones and other it's trips to outerspace. 

In certain European cities like Paris and Amsterdam, flowers are brought home with milk and bread daily. In India, flowers are prolific. Here we have not caught on in the same way to the simple pleasure of cut flowers -we keep them relegated to a luxury market (which considers flowers as a special-occasion device, appropriate for weddings, funerals, and the occasional celebration or apology.) Peonies are available in December for $7.50 a stem and get packed into a cube vase for Madison Avenue boutiques to translate luxury. It is a bizarre use of nature.

I used to want to crack the code on art and commerce, now I'd be happy to just redefine the notion of luxury, something which I feel I'm always both courting and rejecting.

Here at the farm we read a lot in the early mornings, sitting around the table together quietly. In the evenings we eat together and discuss ideas about how to make a better future for ourselves and those around us. Living with other adults feels like luxury, we take care of things together and it makes me feel supported in very simple, important ways. We grow a lot of food and flowers and that's very luxurious feeling. 

Now with all my overhead in Saipua consolidated here at Worlds End, I have (at last, at least!?) the luxury of considering all these ideas with a little more freedom. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

One time here I took a walk in the woods with one of the witches in my life. We were talking about change and waiting for lightning to strike. When lightning strikes it is an act of god, isn't it?

Isn't it? 

I am still deeply attached to the idea that it could all be binary; zeros and ones; pluses and minuses. Because then the math could be done in real time with a human brain. I could sort it out, complete it. With answers, then I could finally be a professional and maybe even go back and join the work force. Ever since I can remember I've wanted to hurry up and be an adult.

But the conversation in the woods. Catherine has very long hair and excellent clothes. She thinks and sings. I asked her why we get stuck. She said we often fail to consider the simplest solutions because we're in love with our own creativity; desperately attached to our individual potential to invent radically new and elegant solutions. One half of me believes this (+), one half does not (-). 

Hubris. You might try to get around it all with magic or luck or god or mystery -- call it what you will. You might throw a coin in a fountain, sacrifice a lamb.

I moved to the farm, packed up the last permanent vestiges of Saipua in NYC and arrived with a van full spilling at the brim with black trash bags full of my fancy clothes, plants teetering precariously on top, a bicycle wedged in between, the last of my drycleaning hanging from the spokes. 

At the farm last week, awhirl with friends and autumn activity I found myself slinking around secretly watching the Kavananaugh hearings on my phone thinking why can't the world just be better? The most obvious answer is the simple one right in front of you. We all know what happened; the difference seems to be whether or not you are willing to excuse it.  Crouched in the stairwell of the farmhouse just out of earshot from a group of our weird women having lunch I watched Senator Graham vehemently defend the tenants of white male power and I thought to myself: this American experiment is in the ugly end stages, so I might as well stop looking at the news and just focus on building my own government.

Which is we're up to.

*FINE PRINT: I realize there are a lot of rumors surrounding Saipua lately (or I'm just a narcissist?) so I might take a minute to address a few of them: 

- We're still florists (and soapmakers). We still make flowers for weddings/parties, although I reserve the right to continually change the business to best suit me and the people who work closest to me. Someone said they heard we only work with budgets of $250K and up which I laughed at, the truth is we still work with all budgets for clients who truly want what we offer which is fiercely seasonal flowers arranged in vases, in water. Which is to say we don't build flower walls, or do any obscene installations with anthuriums and flower foam. God bless those who do.

- I have not had a nervous breakdown, or a mid life crisis as my barn builder called it recently. Though I reserve the right to one at any time. I do like drama, and I do like to throw everything up in the air and shoot at it which is arguably what I've done for the last 12 months. The only way to really good change, I might add.

- I'm not a communist, though I do believe that everyone should have access to beauty, good food and experiences in nature regardless of their socioeconomic standing. 

- We're not starting a cult. Although I do love power, and color coordinated teams of people - cult culture scares the shit out of me. I don't like drugs, I don't like meditating, and I don't like group singing.

- Lastly, I did delete my instagram account. More on this someday, but meanwhile I will try to write more here, share more photos here and if you'd like to reach me - email me at