Monday, February 17, 2020

Shampoo song of myself.

This is going to read like sponsored content because I'm about to tell you a story about my bathing routine and truth be told my paycheck (let alone this farm) is supported by the sale of bar soaps and recently, a little body oil. Relinquishing wedding work and floristry made for some big economic shifts in the business of Saipua and my life - I had to cease most of my frivolous city type spending and adopt austerity measures.  I'm shy to get into this topic too deep as it's one I know we love to judge one another about. That aside, my relationship to money and luxury is so complex I could write multiple memoirs on the topic (lace it with flower arranging how-to pages in order to attract a publisher?) Suffice it to say I like extremes and my practice here knits together a deep sense of frugality with exemplary acts of hedonism. We do, after all, have a 4-foot disco ball in the big barn which we fire up not only for large dance events (save the date; SUPERNATURE is July 25th!) but also for the occasional mid week 'microdisco.'
Mediocrity is the enemy!
And so follows, my story. My song of shampoo.

All fall I used the scrap ends of shampoo bottles lying about my farm house; a place which housed on and off many women in the last few years and so there were a plethora of random travel sized bottles to use up, and then some quite luxurious bottles, half full and stuck deep in the closet. I went through them all, a desire to not waste anything, all the while in the back of my mind devising a plan to - only when this cleaning out of old shampoos was complete - I would go online and treat myself (dear god I'm getting sparkly telling this part) to giant brown bottles of AESOP shampoo and conditioner with the pump handles and then! I would be a complete woman.

I do all this and get to the checkout phase on the website of AESOP and stop. Days go by. 
I use a bottle of Dr. Bronners once and say never again. Every time I'm in the grocery store or food coop I peruse the haircare section but nothing seems right or good enough -which is also to say that nothing compares to the status-signaling brown bottles (the largest size!) that I have deeply sewn into a future version of my best self. 

More time passes, now I'm using a bottle of Johnson&Johnson no-more-tears shampoo reserved for my nephew. Jessa Blades, natural beauty extraordinaire visits us and I casually mention that I'm looking for a shampoo. She rattles off some small brands - all of which I immediately fail to register. 'And AESOP?' I ask. Full of synthetic ingredients. Which truth be told, never bothered me much - I don't need organic skin care I want packaging! I want gold!

What transpired from there was a dark cycle of weeks in which I would repeatedly tell myself that I would buy the shampoo if I accomplished certain goals around the farm. Then inevitably I would wisk away the reward away right at the end leaving myself feeling pitiful. This is a pattern I'm an expert in, and rather than try to unpack its origins (rooted surely in my suburban childhood shopping mall traumas) or analyze my sense of self worth I now try to reroute and reprogram when possible. Or as my therapist suggests; kindly acknowledge it with an "oh, there THAT is again" and move on.

It was haircare recently. This past summer it was linen sheets. Soon it will be something else that I begin to associate with my sense of 'deserving' and my ability to give myself permission to spend money. The work of capitalism is so deeply engrained in us, and our sense of pleasure, care-taking and well being. I think it's wildly fascinating and I enjoy pulling it apart at the edges of myself, for better or worse. 

I don't think about shampoo anymore because I sorted myself out this way -- I use my own saipua bar soap (clary sage recently) to wash my hair...I get a really thick lather going in my hands and wash the hair closest to my scalp. Then after the bath, I rub our new snake oil into my hair, just at the ends. This makes me very pleased, to have rerouted this obsession with products I make myself. I also really like the way my bathroom looks without branded products lying about.

You can make it too if you want:

SAIPUA 'SNAKE OIL' for Face and Body (and now also for hair conditioning) 

4.5 oz. grade A olive oil
3.5 oz. virgin organic deodorized argan oil
2.5 oz. virgin rosehip oil
a few drops of the essential oil of your choice -- (NOTE: don't overdo it with essential oils. When Jessa was here we had a conversation about how powerful and potent essential are, and how people tend to go a little gung-ho when using them. They can in fact be tough on sensitive skin and as with any potent plant preparation, require some respect or shall I say - the benefits are felt more deeply when one practices a bit of restraint with them. Easy for me to say, in truth I'm the one standing over Susan in the soap kitchen yelling MORE! MORE! as she works on scents with essentials. We contain multitudes.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

There has always been a blue heron here. There could be many, but I can't tell one from another.
I only ever see one at a time.

The heron seems to spend most of his time tucked into the depths of swampy areas around the farm. The way to see him is to walk along the edge of murk -- alone because he only flies in the presence of a single witness -- do this early in the morning or at dusk because he rarely flies mid day. You hear him before you see him, the sound of air displaced by his six foot wingspan as he scripts a path through the drowned out poplar trees in the beaver swamp. When you catch sight, it will confuse you; startle you as if you are seeing something you should not. A bird entirely too big. Impossibly elegant.

The way to see the heron, of course, is to never be looking for him.

In my early twenties I picked up a book of essays called How To Be Alone by one of my favorite writers (and birdwatcher) Jonathan Franzen. He takes a lot of heat for - being an asshole? - but I still like the way he writes - especially about the suburbs, modernity and our relationship to nature. At the time I bought this book because I thought it would give me insight as to why I always want to be alone.

A few years ago I dug this book out and brought it camping on an island off the coast of Maine in order to start breaking up with a boyfriend. The conversation was impossible, I did not know how to enter it. I thought I left this book intentionally in the cabin - imagining another poorly matched couple trying to sort themselves under the romantic guise of a rocky coast September getaway. And yet - when I swivel on my stool here in my office on the farm, a tiny room at the top of my house with a view of the farmyard and the place where I keep my personal books - there it is. Lurking on the shelf, an irritating creep of a book that never seems to go away.

Isolation is a leitmotif in these essays. I recall being enlightened by an excerpt about couples who fail to socialize together (a death knell for relationships). There are some correspondences with Don Delillo in which they bemoan the fact that no one reads anymore. The essays are full of delicious Franzen-ish whining about our wasted, watered down culture. I used to relish this sort of thinking but now I see it as a thin guise for the authors self imposed alienation.

It's easier to isolate than it is to connect. It's safer.

My personal struggle this winter has been how to keep my relationship from being consumed by my relationship to the farm; a dark sabotage pattern which I have watched repeat. I have to continually remind myself that I love James more than that pattern, I love who I get to be with him separately from my work here. It's confusing and I still feel like I lead a double life...

I was at a conference last week with 30 flower farmers from the North East. Everyone expressed their difficulty with 'work life balance' which made me think -- maybe the trouble is believing in balance.
Farming can be isolating; it is easy to fall into the trappings of 'no one understands what it's like' sort of thinking. But we urgently need more small scale farms and land-based businesses. And more importantly we need to connect those businesses together and also connect them to urban centers. Farming doesn't need to look the same way that it has for the last few generations. It can drop the leitmotifs of hardship and isolation, it can reorient creatively around different family structures and different economic models.

Farming is not everything! Relationships are; our connections to people, animals and place (land). All of the 'successful' farms that inspire me hold their power and wealth though relationships. Their brilliance emanates through community and communication. Growing the best flowers or tomatoes seems secondary.

I am gearing up for our 9th season here at the farm at Worlds End. A lot has changed and continues to change...Eric (though here right now helping prepare us for lambing) is farming in North Carolina at Bluebird Meadows and creating a life for himself more permanently in Durham. Zoe is off now in the world on an extended sabbatical and we don't know if or when she'll be back. It's impossible to express how deeply she has imprinted the character of this place and I just miss her terribly. Catherine, who has spent the last 5 months finishing her book here is helping us articulate the future of Worlds End and  brewing a new format her for her pedagogy work. James, my favorite bee-keeping DJ is planning the second annual SUPERNATURE disco (July 25, 2020) and helping to set up a more extensive pollinator program here with additional hives and a wildflower field remediation plan. Our farmer Meg is having a baby! and turning her focus more towards developing her farm down the road. My parents - so integral to Saipua and this farm - have just sold their house (after living there for 48 years!) and are moving upstate. We're building a soap factory here on the farm... I'm working on a cafe project in Brooklyn that will help integrate our work here with so many of our followers from the city...I'm working again with Deborah Needleman to develop her craft school programming this year with a Broom-making class May 18-22, a second coming of Basketmaker AnneMarie O'Sullivan in June and October and a natural dye collaboration and workshop with Sasha Duerr.

And of course flowers, still, and likely always. The floral residency program kicks off its second year in June -- thanks to those of you who've signed up.

Writing that all down makes me feel full, inspired and grateful. I've been silent lately. I tend to enjoy isolation, especially in winter. I like to be dramatic and moody by myself but it's not conducive to the work I want to do here, and to the other half of myself that regenerates and energizes through connection and sharing this place. So onward. The trope of the lonely heron aside. She likely has a siege of herons deep in that murk that I'm simply choosing not to see.

*Note; if you'd like to join us at the farm in 2020 there are lots of ways;

- There are 5 spots left in the floral residency program here.
- We're hiring! Check out the job listings here.
- We'll be having a work week in May that you'll be able to sign up for soon...
- We're shifting the Coyote Cafe lunch program to be a dinner series with four dates across the season.
- This season we'll be having 'open hours' for visitors to come see the farm, grab a map in the big barn and take a self-guided tour. Visitors can hang out in our pond side reading room and peruse a selection rotating thematic reading material and help themselves to the 'coyote cafe' snack bar. 
- We're (most likely) going to have a LAMB CAM up and running for the month of April where you can log in to watch the lambing barn 24 hours a day

Lastly, group of herons is called a siege, and a group of finches is a charm. A group of hawks is called a cast, a group of pheasants is called a Nye, and a grouping of snipe is called a wisp. A group of swallows is called a flight.