Tuesday, October 15, 2019

fall updates

The frost came about a week ago and with it, a new breeding ram.

The ram arrived with a pair of big bearded men inside a trailer full of travelers. It was after midnight and the evening was excruciatingly drawn out. I tried and was annoyed by Rilke, let the dogs up on the couch with me in a moment of weakness and then passed the last hour engaged in an unsettling epic scroll, at the end of which I was seriously contemplating downloading Anna Wintour's Master Class (!)

Shortly after 1am the lights of the animal transport big rig flashed around my living room and I pulled on my gear and hiked up to the sheep. The frost had already fallen, the field frozen and crunching underfoot. Earlier, around dusk I had poked around the flower field, cutting some things to save for good measure. Frost is a strange moment, and stranger still for me this year when flowers seem to be failing me. Or I'm failing them. I try not to overthink it. 

The men take the ram off the truck and I wish I had the gumption or nerve to photograph this uncanny process because this small pretty ram lamb looks like he's being handled by big beefy body guards, one on either side of him as they escort him to the barn while 20 female ewes stand watch at the fence 50 yards away.

Caption would read: 1:25 am, enter the club.

Iterations. In farming, they fall in neat blocks; summed up in seasons and years. Farmers talk a lot about their work in these blocks like; 'year one' (a sandstorm of a time) or 'year five' (when most people find a stride). This was 'year eight' for us; we grew a lot more food with the help of Meg Paska and ran the farm with just women - Eric is living in North Carolina and farming at Bluebird Meadows in Durham. People ask me why I wanted to run the farm with women only and I pause; do I need to explain? The pervasive imperative for women to explain themselves is a poisonous pattern.
We were curious.
We wanted to.

That said, not describing some of the joys of it would be a disservice to the project, and in time I will reflect and share. Meanwhile there are some other housekeeping bits I want to bring forth here.

One is our Saipua wedding work is moments away from being closed officially. We stopped taking new inquiries about 8 months ago, and are now finishing out the last 3 (!) remaining contracts of our tenure. All the flowers we grow at the farm now will support the floral residency program and our own personal endeavors here; be it dying material for the wool program or floral based herbal tea blends we're developing with gardener Deborah Needleman.

In the spring we're moving the soap business to Worlds End where it will continue to provide the economic engine for the slippery experiment that Saipua has become.

This past weekend I worked on two weddings in the city, one at the castle, now run by the Marlow Group as an event space. I think its the best place to throw a party in NYC. My bias aside, the food (actually locally sourced meat and produce) is the most beautiful catering around. For a moment there in that beautiful sun lit space, surrounded by our farms flowers I thought - was I foolish to give this work up?

But for something new to emerge, I had to let this part of Saipua go. I think it became painstakingly hard to maintain emotional enthusiasm for strangers weddings. I ran out of steam, ran out of the energy to be present for clients in the way they deserved -- and my company, full of the most sensitive and sharp people in the floral world felt it too. It began to feel too much like a business, cold like so many of the wedding venues (wedding factories we call them) we were working at.

Some florist companies operate like a well oiled machine in the wedding industry. I look around and see them and applaud them. They act professionally and have clearly delineated boundaries intact for their staff and client relationships.

That was just never, ever going to be the case at Saipua.

We live in this culture that spreads a complicated message; 'do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.' Buried in the underbelly of that sentiment is a sacrifice of one's personal pleasures and art for capitalism. Never have I felt so validated as when people started to want to pay me a lot of money to make flowers for them. In the decade that followed I was pulled into a complex monied world that was full of false notions around value and beauty. Let there be no confusion - the flower industry (not unlike the fashion industry) is absolutely exploitative and toxic. Efforts to combat that; composting, trying to pay people fairly, growing our own flowers were expensive and the majority of clients were not willing to pay for those improvements which were not visibly part of the beautiful product on the day of their event.

Our last wedding is December 7th. These last three are all very special and we will give everything we have got to making them the best. Then I'll be retired from the industry for good. I'm going to nurse my carpal tunnel wrist and focus on my floral residency program at Worlds End.