Friday, December 21, 2018

choose your own adventure.

This is the pond where Nea and I cut a hole in the ice every morning to dip drinking water out for the sheep. This morning, emboldened by the solstice I stripped on the dock and dunked myself in through the ice. For whatever it's worth.

I've been having the feeling daily here that is palpable and different. I just love it here so much. Imagine being a child again and having the most incredible playground. This playground has fortresses and sandboxes and rope bridges, slides, swings etc. And lots of creatures to play with. There are endless things to do on this playground and the best part is there are no adults to tell you what you can and can't do - there are NO RULES! This is what Worlds End feels like to me lately.

What I'm talking about is unbridled creativity. One afternoon I find some strange meat in the bottom of the deep freezer and I make a weird fatty, garlicky meal for the big white guard dogs who sleep with the sheep. I cook it outside on the grill and take it up to them and delight in their reactions. I'm playing chef.

I have a sickly ewe who never gained weight after lambing last spring and I make a hospital for her inside the barn. I fluff it out with extra nice hay, feed her free choice alfalfa pellets and sweet grain. I call Farmer Meg to come over to hold her while I take her temperature and give her an injection of vitamin B. I bring an electric tea kettle up there and put tea on in the infirmary. Climb to the top of the haystack and sip my tea watching this ewe carefully making mental notes of her progress. I'm playing doctor.

Lately I'm (reluctantly) playing architect. I find some graph paper and sketch out window layouts for the second barn renovation. Those of you who have signed up for the summer residency program are helping me fund the finishing of this massive project and each of you will live in a different beautiful room upstairs. One has big windows that open up over the lily pond, one will be a small cave-like room just next to the library that will be decked floor to ceiling in floral chintz, and the third room has a writers nook perched over the main farm yard.

All is to say that the boundaries between work and play are blurred here.

Our culture is excellent at separating work and play; leisure and labor. This is a major theme in our discussions here at Worlds End and will be an organizing query in the Alternative Economic Summit we are starting to plan for September 2019.

Every morning I walk up to the field to do chores and I feel so fortunate to have this continual puzzle to engage in. I know I don't have to remind you that it's not always peachy -- that there are moments of sadness, loss, confusion and exhaustion in the mix for me and this strange place. But as a whole it's an endless choose-your-own-adventure sort of experience that I am looking forward to sharing more and more with you this coming spring. 


Monday, December 17, 2018

Summer 2019 RESIDENCY PROGRAM at Worlds End

We've finalized our calendar and schedule here at Worlds End and are excited to announce open enrollment for a very special residency program we're going to host here for 3 people at a time over the course of July and August.

Having just three at a time enables me to engage more with each resident and gives us the opportunity to tailor farm activities and our resources to each participants specific interest -- whether that be floral arranging, art making, textile arts, photography, cooking, resting, etc. It's not a flower arranging course, but there can include flower arranging and tutelage everyday for those of you who are looking for that. Some of you may want just to be fed three meals a day (we eat so well here, ask anyone) and to be able to swim and pet animals.

I'm really excited to dip a toe into a teaching arena again - this feels more intimate and drawn out than my past teaching experiences.

Some of you are going to think it's too expensive, others may think it's a good deal. I've wavered a lot on this and picked a price in the middle of all the suggestions I've had from various friends and colleagues. I want everything here to be free -- free from the often unfair constraints that money puts on experience and free from the unfair sorting of differing socio-economic groups. Time and space residencies should be free, but like a wise friend recently reminded me - Worlds End does not have an endowment, and unless I get out of my own way on this and sell more things from here, I'll be out of a farm and out of a way to do the work I know is mine to do.

I hope you trust that (despite my certain proclaimed proclivities for luxury) it is my intention to make this a place for sharing the kind of wealth that can't be measured in a bank account. The first residencies cost a considerable amount of money - but one day soon - as we get more and more organized here and able to sort out new ways of working and supporting this farm - I hope to be able to have the financial flexibility to offer more and more experiences and programming free or for a nominal fee - starting in June with farm tours and lunches here at our on-site Coyote Cafe.

If you have any questions about this residency program feel free to email me (sarah at saipua dot com). Once you sign up I'll follow up with an email containing a short set of questions about you, your work/business and what you're looking for in the week long residency. Details for registration are HERE.

*And to the commenter named 'K' who suggested a sauna-building residency: please email me ASAP and we can talk about a mutually beneficial exchange! sarah at saipua dot com

Friday, December 14, 2018

against chemicals, for better health care, and Bolognese

We bought this giant copper pot two summers ago to use for dying wool. What's nice about dying wool with plants (we use calendula, elderberry, birch bark, nettles) is that you can use the same pot later for cooking and not worry about toxic things too much. Which is the main reason we don't use pesticides or flower food in our fields and cut flower buckets -- theres always a dog or chicken looking for a convenient drink. In the city I would always bleach my flower buckets -- here we use vinegar instead since the run off ends up in the stream and pond which waters our sheep and gardens. I don't want my animals drinking water laced with chemicals. We might call decisions like these no-brainers.

The opposite of a no-brainer is the American healthcare system. A complicated chutes and ladders system devised to earn gigantic profits for insurance and drug companies. An attempt to understand my own health plan options and potentially renew at a cheaper monthly premium ended up in an epic tantrum I performed over the phone standing in the middle of Bleecker Street yesterday. It is a personal assault to put my health in the hands of a large corporation which immediately converts me into a statistic and puts a dollar value on the probability of my wellness (determined in seconds over the phone solely on my height and weight, a yes or no question about drug use, and whether I plan to be pregnant in the next few years (planning a family essentially bumps you up to a few more hundred dollars a month).

If health insurance companies could only grow to 150 people* then they -- like me and my chickens, sheep, apprentices, co-inhabitors at Worlds End, and friends -- would want the best for their clients and co-workers because they would know their names, know of their families, and feel connected to them in a way that was tangible and obligatory. You can remember 150 peoples names, and 150 people will certainly remember your name should you be the one holding the purse strings and deciding to fuck a groupmember in the ass.

(Is this sex-positive socialism?)

My solution to health care: form you're own group. Find 100-150 people with varying age ranges and start putting 400 dollars a month into an account. For the first 6 months no one can use the fund for care unless it is for a catastrophic emergency like an accident or sudden sickness like appendicitis. In three months you'll have 120,000 in six months 240,000. Write your own rules. When someone you know gets sick, you'll know about their struggle and not begrudge them for drawing on the account to pay for care. If possible have a few of those in the group be skilled in herbs and homeopathy. A recent rash of urinary tract infections made me realize that what I really needed in health care was a witch who could recommend some herbs and talk to me about my feelings rather than a gynecologist who never remembers my name and doesn't listen to me when I tell her that that YES of course I pee after sex.

I started writing this to tell you about a giant lamb Bolognese we made with everything grown here. I want to tell you that this is how we feed ourselves and it's great and this is how we're going to feed you if you sign up for one of the 4 weeks of residencies I'm releasing next week. We're selling these residencies as a fundraiser to raise some money to finish the second big barn which will house our giant farm kitchen. We'll still often cook outside, but having this barn finished means that we can make tea on a stove rather than on a bbq grill outside of my house. It means also that we can house people comfortably in private rooms with real plumbing.

It's uncomfortable for me to charge for experiences here at the farm, I think you know that by now and I think you know that I like to be transparent and honest with our work here. I want the residencies to be free: I don't want to charge people for experiences in nature. But I also don't want to lose the farm over my ideals. If I am serious about creating a paradise where hopefully one day things won't have to cost money and where we can operate more on an exchange basis then I have to keep the whole thing moving forward and exploring various modes of production, creativity and exchange. I need you to come and share your ideas with us at the dinner table, and at least for right now, I need some of you to be willing to pay us for the experience.
Did I mention we eat very, very well? ...I'm smiling as I type this.

The following is a very simple lamb Bolognese recipe given to us by a friend. Half of my favorite expression 'fast and loose' applies here: It's loose - in the sense that you can adjust the ingredients as you like; add garlic, use your own fresh or canned tomatoes, add chili flakes, etc - but it can't be fast. This is an all day affair. Recently for us it was a 60 pound, two day affair cooked over a wood fire which imparts a nice flavor...but isn't necessary. When our friend Sophie first made this for us in August she cooked it inside on a single electrical burner.

Sophie is one of Zoe's best friends, and though I don't know her that well I have gleaned that she really knows how to take care of herself. It's been rumored that when she's sad, she cooks this Bolognese. I aspire to be that sort of woman...and I firmly believe that taking good care and feeding oneself and others belongs in any worth while health plan.

Old World Lamb Bolognese

• 1 onion finely diced
• 2 celery sticks finely diced
• 2 carrots grated
• 1 lamb shank (bone in)
(• if shank has no bone then add bone, if possible w marrow)
• 1 28 oz can of san marzano tomatoes
• olive oil
• salt

In large sauce pot on medium heat sauté mirepoix (onion, celery, carrot) in olive oil + salt just until onion becomes translucent (not more than 4-5 mins).

Turn up heat. Dump in raw lamb shank + bone + canned tomatoes. Add enough water to cover everything in pot. Add a generous amiunt of salt + olive oil. Stir. 

Bring to a boil uncovered. Lower heat so that sauce is bubbling gently (medium low to low flame). Cover with tight fitting lid and let cook like this for at least 3 hrs. Keep in mind: time permitting, the ideal way to cook this sauce is slow and low - it is my fantasy to one day cook it at lowest possible flame for a full 12 hours.

It is important to check in on it now and again, especially at the beginning and near the end, to ensure it does not burn. 

Near the 3 hr mark take the meat out and pull it apart + remove any gristly bits. Put the pulled lamb back in the pot, discard the gristle. (Zoe, for making feast amounts of sauce maybe it would be easier to cut the meat up into bite-sized cubes when first plopping them in the sauce. That way it won't be necessary to do this annoying pulling part. And maybe only using large, easily retrievable bones will also help here.)

If it hasn’t already happened naturally, push the marrow into the sauce. Leave the bone in until the sauce has evaporated all water and reduced to a perfect saucy consistency. (Sometimes getting the sauce to its final stage requires turning up the heat a little. Don't be shy to really bubble off all that water.) Remove bone. 

Reduce heat to lowest simmer. Grate a ton of parmesan or romano into the simmering sauce (per can of tomatoes I grate half of a wedge of cheese, so sue me). Taste. Adjust seasoning. 

Combine pasta + sauce and there ya go. 

*in the 1990's British anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed that 150 was the limit to the number of stable relationships any one person could maintain without loosing track of intimate details about any one relationship. Essentially it shows a possible cap on healthy communities where members can feel intimate enough with each other so as to support and be supported without superstructural elements such as laws and governing bodies.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The medium is the message

Many of you have emailed to say you miss sheep pictures and videos on social media and it gives me great pause. The leo in me really misses making that content for you (I especially miss filming episodes of Homesteading Today) but the Aquarius in me loves having these moments private and not feeling obligated to pull my phone out every time something funny or beautiful happens in front of me on the farm. It is a freedom, but one with a cost; our inquiries have dropped off and my bookkeeper (my mother) keeps asking me to get instagram back.

The truth of the mater is that I had been thinking about quitting instagram since last year. I had felt in my gut it was the right thing to do for myself, but more so as a statement against what has become an out of control system of branding oneself and the dangerous formation of hyper homogenous groups of people organized around the same tastes and ideals. Everything began to look the same. Name something interesting in the world and it's turned into a fashion trend through instagram. Nature is fetishized - the occult suddenly demystified; flattened and ironed onto a flower brand, a ceramics brand, a food brand. I often fantasized about posting the most provocative, off-brand images I could find; I wanted very explicit porn, I wanted some big dick butt fucking in the Saipua feed.

Do I begrudge others for using it? No I'm often leaning over on the train to catch a glimpse of someone else's scroll. Do I think we as small (and large) business owners should consider it carefully? Absolutely. I think we have to look around and question everything right now. All the systems and institutions and modes of communication that give us business opportunities and provide ways of 'connection' also give us feelings of isolation and disillusionment --  Donald Trump, and a burning planet.

Despite talking a big game, I didn't actually have the balls to quit. I came very very close several times but in the end I was hacked, or 'phished' as they say with an official looking email from Instagram asking for my username and password in order to get 'certified' with the infamous blue tick. I couldn't come up with this sort of hilarious irony on my own.

In the stupidity of that moment - as I blindly typed in my username and password I felt some part of me knew what was happening and I perhaps thats why I wasn't upset when suddenly within seconds I was turned out into the dark alley of the faceless souls without instagram followers. I was on the farm, sitting at the kitchen table and I stood up and went outside.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

I think we're always looking for some ceremony. Markers to indicate and honor our labors around love, work, our achievements. I love a ceremony because I'm so serious and like drama. I also think I like (as do most humans) to have time segmented and marked off in ways that help us make sense of the stories of our lives. But in truth rarely do we get neat and clean delineations between eras or relationships. Rarely a hot knife through butter.

This morning I'm thinking about some of my friends and co-workers and the entity of Saipua itself; a big organic entity that is difficult to define, beyond my control in many respects and always shapeshifting right in front of me. Many important relationships and eras slide quietly into the night without fireworks or ceremony.

All is to say I found myself plucked out of farm planning and dropped into the flower district this week, slipping into an older version of myself and buying out of season peonies from Australia and - fuck it - a handful of spray-painted foliage. We had it all boxed up, incorrectly labeled with our business name (thank god somethings never change) and sent it to various city locations in order to engage in what I call the 'Saipua machine' which is Bryony, myself and the best freelancers New York City has; many of whom I'm lucky to count as close friends.

Deanna is one of my oldest friends; we met the first week of college at Virginia Tech when I though I might be a scientist, and she though she might be a journalist. Her and I worked on a wedding at the Green Building in Brooklyn yesterday - a local venue that made me nostalgic for an older version of Saipua and myself. I made 44 ball jar arrangements, 11 bouquets Deanna did her thing on the ladder that she's always done so well - which is to say find a way to hang some jazz from the ceiling over the ceremony.

At lunchtime Nahvae sent over lunch for the two of us from the kitchen at Eleven36 and we put our feet up and dined on tuscan bean stew with focaccia croutons, roasted broccolini and some sort of chocolate bread pudding that should be illegal. We gossiped of course, as I think most people do inside their various communities. Gossip is the glue that binds us together - at it's best it keeps us all on the same page; at it's worst it stirs nefarious motivations. I've always carefully cataloged how and why people gossip. If you want to stay on the high side of this inevitable hustle my advice to you is play it straight - never ever lie; to yourself or others.

The two ladies getting married yesterday were special to me. One was my neighbor in Brooklyn for years, Allison. I have very fond memories of living above her on Coffey Street in Red Hook, in a different era. Witnessing someones love evolution from a neighborly distance is always uncanny. I met her bride for the first time yesterday amidst the hustle of making 125 place-setting twiddly bits and felt warm on the inside. People finding the right people feels good, it radiates somehow.

During the ceremony rehearsal the officiant spoke of love as the one thing in our world that we know is right and good.

Always grappling with how to steer the ship of Saipua and the work at Worlds End, I am reminded of what an oracle friend once told me about what to do in the face of a our burning world -- focus on human connection. Try to make it as good as you can for just the people you have access to. The fabric of this world can only transform from inside, thread by thread.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

We've been thick in planning the future, so much tedious mental math around using our existing resources. We may not be money rich but we are extremely wealthy. We have a spectacular community that supports us and 107 acres of nature that teaches us a lesson everyday if we just show up for it.

Thank you for your emails which always seem to arrive in my inbox at a low moment when I need them the most.

What we've been working on is essentially plans for a Worlds End hospitality group. It will aim to serve each and everyone of you in 2019 and will consist of a conglomerate of homespun businesses here at the farm including the Coyote Cafe, the Heartbreak HotelA New Ewe day spa and some sort of cocktail bar (yet to be branded) that centers on my mother Susan's ability to mix a killer martini and draws on a 1971 version of herself in which she had a successful matchmaking business. (She found a husband)(Not my father).
Did I mention the Heartbreak Hotel?*

At some point in the last year or so we started to receive more inquires about visiting the farm than wedding inquiries. Even though we started the farm in order to grow flowers for our wedding work it has unfolded into much more than that. It is home to multiple questionable fermentation projects, a summer camp for lackadaisical dog training, a sanatorium for washed up florists, Zoe's experimental shed of sourdough and sewing, my personal color theory lab, and an ongoing inquiry into alternative plumbing and composting toilets. It has essentially become our test kitchen for living ... a place of such strange beauty and joy that extends far beyond our floristry work.

In many ways I have kept the farm to myself and to those close to me. I think this was important through what has been a big transition in me, for Saipua, and in my attitude towards business - a word that I loathe but have come to realize is the only way to keep doing the work that can make for positive change. In order to keep striving for new creative ways of seeing value and economics we have to work inside the current economic system. Or else I'll have to sell the farm and end up freelancing for another florist. I'm a terrible freelancer, arrange flowers at a snails pace (always have - ask Nicolette) and require too many snack breaks.

Last week I traveled to the city and sat with a friend to explain all of our schemes for 2019. Behind the hospitality group is a serious grid of interlocking micro-plans; crop plans, living plans, new staffing plans, new city cafe plans, etc. In some ways all these plans are quite complicated, and in others way quite simple. But recently I realized that they mimic the economics of nature which are evident everywhere here: Take note of what you have a lot of, use that to the net benefit of everything around you, and don't exploit it.

We're very excited to have you here in 2019.

*Who wants to get married at the Heartbreak Hotel at Worlds End?