Monday, November 26, 2018

cyber monday

Happy thanksgiving from the front lines of the frozen tundra here at Worlds End. When I'm not thinking about the transportation of drinking water to sheep I'm thinking about about marketing and business. When I was little and trying to understand advertising my father explained it to me in cookies; "If you have the best cookies in the neighborhood but no one knows about them, no one is going to buy them..." It was smart of him to talk to me about cookies - little Sarah, always a bit pudgy, paid attention to cookies -- how to get them more than how to sell them. Alas this still may be my problem.

I don't know why we receive LL Bean catalogs here at the farm but we do. Two or three a week. I keep meaning to use my precious internet satellite bytes to look up how to be removed from catalog mailing lists. The waste of paper is infuriating to me let alone the reminder of our consumer culture that requires so many new mediocre poly cotton blended flannels every year. Nothing sells LLBean like winter.

Filson is another catalog that mysteriously appears in my mailbox, their pages now full of 'workwear' campaigns featuring real looking workmen and workwomen which is to say professional models but a bit older and more rugged looking. All these catalogs end up in my recycling bin (which likely ends up in a landfill) and all of that apparel gets gifted at the holidays as part of an antiquated cycle of consuming that is so clearly in need of immediate changing if we want our children to have any experience of the semblance of nature that we have.

And yet nature is constantly conjured to sell these things. I was recently made aware of the term 'athleisure' - which, mom if your'e reading this - is essentially yoga pants and other accouterments for an active lifestyle. In 2015 this sector of fashion was estimated at 83 Billion dollars. A popular company in this vein is called Outdoor Voices whose yoga pants I'm told are all the rage. This company's slogan is #doingthings which I find incredibly problematic in that it assumes that you need to buy something in order to do something. According to the Outdoor Voices website #doingthings is 'about being active on a daily basis and having fun with friends without the pressure of being the first or the best.' Instead of buying outdoor voices athletic wear, maybe people should all just come work at Worlds End. Between Zoe and I there are lots of clothes you can borrow.

Look, I'm a child of the 80's -- I grew up in a shopping mall -- the Jefferson Valley Mall in Yorktown Heights, NY.  I love to shop. Like really love it. I love clothes. I love jewelry, perfume, dishes, groceries, etc. And I've devised clever ways to rationalize my own consumption over the years -- only buying handmade things or things that are natural fibers or things that are consumable, etc, etc.

But with all the damning news about climate change I really feel that all of us with means (which is to say people with enough privilege to consider their consumption and influence others through our businesses) must to make an effort to consider the ways which we consume and encourage and support each other in consuming less. A simple practice; one that I've adopted recently is to only buy used clothing and housewares and the occasional aspirational the spirit of the honesty that you have come to expect here, I'll tell you that I spent my last dollars two weeks ago on a pair of manolos for Bryony's wedding. Wearing these pumps at Thanksgiving gave me a lot of pleasure. Granted I had to switch out of them periodically into snow boots throughout the evening  in order to prepare our meal on the fire outside. Part of my ethos around farming is this; the hardest tasks are simple when you allow for some bit of ridiculous pleasure. Arguably, I could afford to renovate the farmhouse and put in a proper kitchen with an inside stove if I didn't buy fancy pumps, but what fun would that be?

I started writing this post this morning and then had a grim financial phone call from my mother who does the books. Our business has been perpetually tight and sometimes it feels that no matter how much I consolidate and pivot towards what I know is right we might not get through. How the hell can I post about the evils of consumption when I really need to get people to buy my soap and flowers in order to pay my bills this week? Then my friend Taylor calls. She wants to talk about hypocrisy and how we're all afraid of it in business. I realize after I hang up the phone that we're all afraid of being called out on something -- as if any of us were clean and getting away with capitalism scott free. The best thing I can do is be as honest as I possibly can, lay myself open to criticism and not be afraid of the difficult conversations -- to push the dialog at my dinner table and with you all here. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

making flowers again, teaching again

This is work from my studio here at the farm around the beginning of August.
Morning glory, service berry, borage, hydrangea, daucus, black lace elderberry foliage. 

I was very happy to make it. It was a good day on the road to recovery with me and my relationship to flowers. 

I've enjoyed many conversations with other florists this fall - both in person and via email. Many of you that I talk to describe feelings of burn out and emptiness around the flower industry and events and I've been thinking about this a lot. 

I think it's tricky to take something that starts as an intimate personal joy and turn it into a business. That there is even a flower 'industry' stands in contrast to the intimate power that flowers have to express joy, highlight celebration, or aid in the process of grief. 

I felt disconnected to flowers for most of the last two years - indifferent and empty around them. I did not care to think about what to grow on the farm. It was like being out of love. 

When I gave up teaching it was because it felt disingenuous to preach the floral arts to excited women at the start of their careers in flowers, or even worse - women who were coming to me for inspiration and rejuvenation. The last class I taught here, two Septembers ago, I fell apart in tears when a student innocently asked me what I did to 'refill my cup.' That was the beginning of the end of a certain era of Saipua.

Time passing is the only way to sort things out. This last year has been a different kind of hustle for me; tying off all the loose ends of what was once a large complicated company. Trying to learn how to take time and find new pathways to patience and rest. Times of transition are incredibly painful. But we don't get new things, new births without them. 

This summer and fall I started to feel my way around flowers again. There were no epiphanies and there were not many euphoric highs - at least not the way I used to have. Which is ok. 

I made work in my barn studio. Sometimes I photographed it, sometimes not. Sometimes I would collect a bucket of stems from the field and then let it sit for days without ever making an arrangement. I realized that just the act of collecting - walking the field at dusk and selecting certain stems was the work.

As I've gotten new bearings in just the last few months I've thought a lot about teaching again. I want to do it in a different way; a way that is longer, more thoughtful and more holistically oriented around all sorts of things that we do here at Worlds End. I can show anyone how to make a flower arrangement. But really what I want to do is show people how we live. 

I'm working on a series of Worlds End Floral Classes to launch in 2019. Providing time, space, and solitude first with some floral tutelage sprinkled in for good measure. 

It's what I could have really used; what I have had to figure out for myself, and what I can now offer to you. It's going to be so, so good. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

It's been snowing everyday and there is about 8 inches give or take on the ground with a thick enthusiastic substratum of autumn mud underneath. Temperatures have been oscillating on both sides of the freezing mark all week and so what manifests with each daily dusting is an true artform; a heaving layer cake of powder, slushy ice, hard ice, liquid mud, and semi frozen dirt.

A nice break to my solitude came last week when Tmagazine came to do a fashion shoot. They were excellent sports; navigating our snowy mud (shall I repeat the layers for you?) in their petite fashion sneakers with never a complaint but some odd requests: I found myself in the yard digging up fall foliage from under the snow so they could create a more autumnal looking shot setting. I love this uncanny aspect of the fashion world, I really do. They cleared out and I was alone again sitting in the gloaming left to ponder their remnants: a half eaten foiled packet of poptarts and a lone glove warmer - of the gel pack variety. I consider stashing these items in the WORLDS END celebrity fashion archive which is also home to a half pack of Camilla Nickersons Marlboro lights.

This morning, chores as usual with three new inches of powder and my canine sidekicks. They both have their own agendas up in the field. Nea is on vole/mole patrol and occasionally will catch one under the snow or behind a stack of wood. She barely chews them - I watched her a few days ago and wondered about what it's like to be swallowed alive. Best not to dwell on such things.

Georgio stalks sheep from outside the pen, desperate to be put in to work. Occasionally one or both of them will tire of their usual tasks and wander up to area X where dead sheep are brought to compost or where we lock up the skulls of culls to be picked clean by bugs over the course of a year. If you've never been to area X its because its not on the general farm tour. We lost a tiny sickly lamb in October -- her mother died of mastitis in June. It was her second time with mastitis; three years ago she had it and survived. When you save a sick sheep it feels like such a victory that culling them later seems odd. But a mentor of mine told me straight - if she has mastitis once, she's prone to get it again, and she was right. Patty died early in the summer, and as a result her twins were slow to grow on just grass. The tiny female got sick and succumbed as soon as the weather got cold. We buried her as deep as we could in area X but the dogs love a long game and a few weeks later when they would not come after 20 minutes of calling for them I hiked up to area X to find both wide eyed and covered in mud and putrefying flesh.

No matter how much I try to cover this spot with soil, wood, sticks etc the dogs sneak up there and get into it. I now keep a small blue pail and a bar of our coffee mint soap near the sink to wash dog heads with. Sitting on the couch last night, a dog on both each side of me I caught the faintest whiff of rot from both directions, and shrugged. I've been alone here for a week and with a limited economy of energy, one has to choose ones battles wisely. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018


'cherry carmel' phlox from my garden this september

My friend Greta told me she thinks whats wrong with American politics is the fear of hypocrisy...wouldn't we want our politicians to be able to thoughtfully change their minds and political stance -- doesn't that mean that they are living, listening creatures who are working to represent the people they are intended to care about?

As an evolving species we have to relinquish greed and fear and learn to listen.

Throughout history all patriarchies have equated power with authoritarian aspects of relating. We need new ideas around power and leadership and I feel that related to this is a new understanding of feminism. I don't think women need to rule the world (fine if that happens) but instead all genders must embrace a more receptive, feminine energy which values listening as opposed to dictating. 

Imagine if politicians were thoughtfully able to pivot, were allowed and praised for mutability. As my friend Holly says -- imagine if Kavanaugh had been able to look Dr. Ford in the eyes when she talked, listen to her, and then apologize for himself, for other men and publicly acknowledge remorse for the fact that she had to experience what she did. Don't we want our judges to listen? The denial and anger and rigid authoritarianism of so many of our politicians can't last. If it does we won't make it past this century because nothing real will be done about climate change and nothing will be done about poverty and the greed of major corporations (which gives us the opiod crisis) nothing will be done about racism (which is leading to more and more gun violence).

Listening is hard. It's slow and unproductive feeling when you're not used to it. I struggle with it. But I think it is the only way forward -- the personal is political. Listening and practicing empathy in our immediate communities is the best way to begin to change the fabric of an outdated patriarchal system which serves no one except those who are desperately trying to hold on to the last vestiges of an antiquated power. One predicated on masculinity, whiteness and wealth. Absolutely void of compassion, absolutely void of nuance and beauty. 

I think of Kavanaugh and his abhorrent outrage during the hearings and I think; that's the look of dying power. Thats what a death rattle looks like. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Last grass

The sheep are on the last bit of pasture for the season. Or they were when I started writing this; before the farm became a winter wasteland covered in 3 inches of slush followed by 3 inches of snow a few days later. Entirely too early for early November - and - I cringe to write this, but giving a few too many folks up here a good old laugh over the zany science of climate change. God help us all. Last week on the first day it snowed Zoe and Jennell were singing along to Bing Crosby-type christmas carols, conjured from our last bytes of internet for the month. They sat crafting at the table drinking tea as I moved grinch-like on the periphery, cursing our poor country satellite internet connection while trying to watch videos on socialism upstairs in my princess tower, an area in the house which remains largely off limits - private - except for the calling of someone 'to my office upstairs' which I'll deploy intermittently as a power move (it doesn't work) or the occasional laundry delivery. When neat packages of my socks and underwear appear on my bed the immediate feeling of violation (who's been up here!) quickly fades to appreciation (I've always bemoaned laundry duty) and in light of all these nuanced complications of living with adults, I think well shit maybe after all we are starting a cult. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

It's hunting season and the dogs get dressed every morning in their neon superhero capes so that if they're off in the woods they don't get shot by an enthusiastic sportsman.

I hate hunting season because I hate guns - but more than I hate guns, I hate gun culture which up here has a lot to do with twisted notions of freedom, and a very antiquated idea of manhood. As if riding around on an ATV with loaded rifles has anything to do with masculinity. I have more masculinity than that.

Nea also hates guns and quivers indoors when my neighbor down the road shoots some sort of gigantic, semi automatic rifle at target practice. We inherited two hunters with this property, who have hunted it for a long time before us, and continue to. They plow our driveway in return. Paul and Neil are very nice and respectable and share the meat with us when we're lucky. When I get angry in general at hunting culture and want to tell them NO MORE! I conjure my feelings about sharing and ownership. How do I own this land anymore than the creatures and people who live here and use it? That's the future I want, and it has to start with my own feelings about sharing. I also, very much enjoy venison.

Also, carrots. Also, Kerrygold. Also I enjoy a fermented vegetable, and up in that picture you can see the edge of a recent fermenting project aimed at saving the last of our hot peppers. No one ever died from eating a fermented vegetable says one book on the topic. But a lot of people die of guns.

We don't own a gun here, but I have shot one once just to see if I could. I'd rather have a very sharp knife and a german shepherd. I tried to buy a simple .22 once after a run in with a rabid raccoon but ironically the salesman made it seem very difficult for me or else I just didn't try that hard.

The knife is for putting a sick animal out of its misery. The german shepherd is for the type of men who sometimes drive up here and ask about hunting our land and then ask for my husband when I tell them NO.

I'm angry this morning.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Noam Chomsky

Nea, wholly uninterested in any notions of work or productive labor.

I'm reading Noam Chomsky right now; the great linguist and political thinker. His 1971 debate with Michel Foucault was an event produced and televised by the Dutch as part of a series which aimed to bring opposing philosophers together on television (imagine?).

It is uncanny to read this debate now; almost 40 years later and note the similarities. Read the following as it relates to ideas about the nature of work in capitalism, the oppression of creativity and rethinking the concept of 'the proletariat'...


"I've never seen a child who didn't want to build something out of blocks, or learn something new, or try the next task. And the only reason why adults aren't like that is, I suppose, that they have been sent to school and other oppressive institutions which have driven that out of them.
Now if that is the case, then the proletariat, or whatever you want to call it, can really be universal, that is, it can be all those human beings who are impelled by what I believe to be the fundamental human need to be yourself, which means to be creative, to be exploratory, to be inquisitive, to do useful things...

It is not true in our given society that all people are doing useful, productive work, or self-satisfying work - obviously that's very far from true -- or that, if they were to do the kind of work they're doing under conditions of freedom, it would thereby become productive and satisfying.

Rather there are a very large number of people who are involved in other kinds of work. For example, the people who are involved in the management of exploitation, or the people who are involved in the creation of artificial consumption, or the people who are involved in the creation of mechanisms of destruction and oppression, or the people who are simply not given any place in a stagnating industrial economy. Lot of people are excluded from the possibility of productive labor..."

I want to transcribe it all for you here, but instead I'm going to organize a reading group and continue to think about how to use Worlds End to create more fulfilling, creative work for people. Many of you have sent me emails and notes about your own experiences in business or specifically the wedding industry. This is exactly what I wanted to happen -- which is to say direct dialog with people I can know personally and have direct relationship with instead of pouring my energy into the gigantic sea of social media. So - thank you. Hopefully you'll consider coming to my reading group, which I think must be here at Worlds End so that we can feed you.

Thursday, November 1, 2018