Friday, January 27, 2023

making soap with the Big Boss


Soap - an accident of fat and lye, chemically bonded, that when mixed with water, create a lather.

It is thought that the first soap was 'formulated' after early people began noticing that their clothes were cleaner downstream from where they cooked meat. Wood ash below cooking fires is essentially lye and animal fat.

In the last two thousand years (among other events) cosmetics have grown to a 90 billion dollar industry. Companies small and large produce all kinds of cleansing and moisturizing potions and lotions.

These products go beyond our needs of fighting germs and varying conceptions of cleanliness - they appeal to our consumer-based desires for bathing rituals and self-care. (If you don't read it already, consider reading The Unpublishable, Jess DeFino’s brilliant criticisms of the beauty and wellness industries).

Here at Worlds End, our resident Expert Soap maker Susan Ryhanen will teach a course that will be packed with lessons on soap making and beyond.

It will cover the making of cosmetics in general; soaps, salves, lip balms, oils, lotions, as well as business development skills (LLC or S-corp, bookkeeping, employees, taxes, etc).

This small group will leave with all the tools to start their own business following SAIPUA’s model. The course will be held in person on Worlds End farm from May 2nd - 7th. Further details to come.

Can’t attend Susan’s soap-making course, but want to attempt our recipe on your own? It’s fairly easy to learn. You can support us by buying and downloading Susan's 5-page detailed instructional on cold-process soap making, which comes with her supplier list, and further support from Susan should you need it.

Part of our larger mission here at Worlds End School of Thought, Agriculture and Craft is to share the knowledge we have honed in our respective practices. We hope you can bring your skills to our big communal barn table to share sometime, helping us all transform the ways we live and work together.

Reminder: our barn doors open for these kinds of conversations on Sunday May 14th, the first Coyote Cafe day.

Friday, January 20, 2023

some gratitudes and the (working) buckwheat cookie recipe


The sheep are 10 weeks away from lambing, this is the time of gestation when they start drinking a lot more water. I say a prayer of gratitude every day for the miraculous technology of the electric tank warmer.

Years ago we used to chip thick ice out of the tank every morning and haul fresh water up to thirsty sheep. With a 5-gallon bucket in each hand, we would cross the stream teetering on rocks and strategically placed planks (grateful every day for the bridge across the stream too.)

I watched a clip of Oprah talking about gratitude; she emphasized how important it is to be highly specific with your gratitude practice.

I've never had a good journaling practice or gratitude practice but maybe I should. Now I think about the importance of specificity every morning when I look at the tank warmer, and then at other parts of the day. I pass by Pentti cutting firewood on the splitter and think; I'm grateful not only that both my parents have their health, but that they can participate in meaningful work that helps all of us on the farm.

I am very grateful for young healthy livestock dogs and for the fact that I probably won’t have to deal with sick or dying dogs for a while, which feels like such a relief after a tough few years.

I am also incredibly grateful for the 86 episodes of the television series The Sopranos which I am just discovering and also for our new highspeed internet on the farm which allows me to stream it while browsing used Dries Van Noten on the Real Real… which I decided is an integral part of my permaculture practice (only buying used things).

Suffice it to say, I’m leaning into television, online shopping and sugar this January.

(Working) Recipe for Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Cream for 5 min a least:
8 oz butter (softened)
8 oz brown sugar

Mix and then slowly add:
1 egg
2 oz yogurt
1 tsp vanilla

Sift and then slowly add:
6 oz buckwheat flour
4 oz all purpose flour
5 grams salt
5 grams of baking soda

Mix in:
10 oz chocolate chips (I like a semi-sweet disc) and nuts if you like

375 degrees for 7 min, then turn the baking sheet and give another 5-7 min depending on your oven.

Friday, January 13, 2023

notes on Posthumanism

January and February always prove difficult for me, and while I like to think that I'm special or an exception to the rule, I fear that I'm like many people in the North who are affected by seasonal depression.

I joked about the Huberman podcast on Instagram recently (here is that hilarious remix). Huberman is a scientist at Stanford; his lab studies the brain, and he talks a lot about the science of 'well-being'.

Caught between interest and disdain ('optimizing' language puts me off, as does the praise of supplements like Athletic Greens, nootropics, reishi coffee and the worship of Navy Seals) every day I find myself considering his advice; scanning the horizon back and forth to get a dose of morning sunlight in my eyes while feeding and watering farm animals. I walk past the frozen pond and imagine cutting a hole in the ice for cold plunging - apparently an excellent tool for modulating dopamine and balancing your circadian rhythms for better sleep (Finnish relatives of mine used to do this regularly.)

But optimizing rhetoric becomes problematic for me from a post-humanist, feminist perspective because it begs the question, who's not optimized?

Who is not fulfilling their potential and why and by whose standards? Post-humanism is not just about granting rights to robots like Sophia (a sexy chatBot modeled after Nefertiti and Audrey Hepburn and granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia in 2017) and it's about much more than trans-humanism which feels like a hyper-masculine shitstorm currently hovering over the potential of ChatGBT.

To me, Post-humanism at its fundamentals is a departure from the sexist and racist origins of Humanism which centered on white men in Europe under the guise of morals, reason, and the pursuit of truth through science.

An easy visual that really helped me understand these concepts is Leonardo da Vinci's iconic drawing of the Vitruvian Man - "a perfectly proportioned, healthy, male and white model, which became the golden mean for classical aesthetics and architecture. The human thus defined is not so much a species as a marker of European culture and society and for the scientific and technological activities it privileges." (Braidotti, Posthuman Feminism, 2022)

Humanism put a sharp point on difference and laid the groundwork for the modern rationalization of the exploitation of difference (sexism, racism, classism, anthropomorphism.)

The infamous hot priests calendar - a gift to the farm hangs on the big fridge. During the Renaissance, Humanism was born as a reaction to the mystical divinity of the Catholic church that governed reason at the time.

Through Rosie Braidottis writing (and Haraway's cyborg, posthuman, interspecies work) I've come to see that post-humanism allows us to move forward into more equitable and exciting ideas of living together and better (at least to me) futures.

The optimizing stuff of the Huberman brand - especially the Jordan Petersen, Jocko adjacent bits - feel like a masculine version of Goop, i.e. the pursuit of perfectionism (through the comodification of wellness based on a very specific standard of health.)

Ages ago I talked about how perfectionism has racist underpinnings. I think this brief conversation about humanism illuminates that connection. When we worship and practice perfectionism, or even when we are attempting to ‘optimize,’ to whose standards and what systems of culture and power do those standards benefit?

Sunday, January 1, 2023

new year, new ewe


In sincerity, I love the energy of getting through the holidays (I'm a complete grinch) and the opportunity of a clean slate on January 1st. This year I’m embracing the art of writing things down in lists and attempting more structure for myself, Saipua and the farm.

The iterative aspect of farming (every year a new crop along with a new crop of participants) is one I have grown to appreciate as an unusually long game, a race that starts in March and finishes in December.

January and February are achingly quiet and frozen months here, with very little to do but feed and water animals.

Inside I'm on the phone a lot, hovering around the woodstove, interviewing farmhand applicants and chatting to their interesting and varied references.

I'm also planning residencies (thanks to those of you who put your deposits down on 2023's Floral residencies!) short form classes, volunteer schedules, budgets and working on the perfect Worlds End buckwheat chocolate chip cookie which I plan to have on offer at the Coyote Cafe (opens May 14th!).

Buckwheat is a great crop for our wet clay soil and one day, mark my words, we'll grow it, mill it and make that cookie and give it away on Sundays. If you believe in my deep-time, anti-profit ventures; bless you.

Tess, or ‘Tuna’ as I sometimes call her, has been settling in with us at the farm, working sheep and providing great companionship to me. She is 8yo and came to me from the working border collie network - a woman who trains her dogs for trials found herself limited with Tess because she lacks some of the focus and precision needed to win at sheepdog trials. Her other dogs were getting more time on sheep and Tess dropped on the totem pole. She decided to adopt her to me knowing Tess would get more work here. What a great world of dog people there are out there, I feel very grateful.

The communal living experiment continues to evolve beyond the confines of the human campus - in the specific ecosystem of Icelandic sheep and Maremma dogs up in the permanent pasture.

The trouble we were having with Donnie chewing on sheep this fall (unfortunately a common 'playful' behavior with adolescent LGD's) seems to have subsided for now though I still don't trust him with his 'favorite' ewe - No. 32 a rare black and brown mouflon born last spring.

Inspecting Donnie’s chompers. We also had Donnie neutered a few months ago which should level his hormones out and help him get more serious and settle into his responsibilies.

She gets the princess treatment along with her young sisters; they come in the barn for safe keeping every night (Donnie is triggered by boredom early in the morning before I get up there to feed him) and get fed not just hay but also alfalfa pellets. This treat has them trained to come in without much coaxing and also helps get these lambs’ weight up as we've bred them a tad earlier than some shepherds would.

Here she is - her front right leg nicely healed, little No.32 our first Mouflon ewe - It’s relatively rare, we’ve never had these genetics present in our flock.

The greenhouse and gardens are now all officially resting. Mark and I are anticipating a most excellent set of gardens next season after so much work in 2022 setting up the greenhouse and renovating the flower fields - solarizing large portions to smother and eradicate the perennial weeds that prove difficult to fight without landscape fabric (I just hate the stuff) and building up beds with manual shaping and the addition of compost and topsoil.

As always with this time of year I'm bored with the 'necessity' of winter rest and aching for the sprint that lies ahead - the fury and its foments.

There will be more ways than ever for you to get involved with the farm this season - no matter where you are. In a few weeks, I'll release volunteer dates - opportunities to come live and work with us for 2-week stints this season.

I'll also be describing a new subscription-based educational service that will be comprised of video content and text-based documents aimed at sharing our work here with a larger audience. It's going to be Worlds End TV and will include everything from the much anticipated 'Lamb Cam' to floral arranging tutorials to soil science to Susan's 'perfect scrambled eggs instructional.'

Till then I'll be here at my computer more than I care to be; making spreadsheets on sheep breeding and finagling budgets, longing for the heat and chaos that lies around the corner.