Thursday, August 6, 2015

some campanula, but mostly rambling

When I take a look around the farm - a museum of farm failures - then I remember that we grew these campanula, and that is something. When I found the first one in bloom I came close to tears. The exhilaration was new to me. 

You know what else is exhilarating? This music video of WE ARE THE WORLD from 1985.

I watch it and I feel really good. And I also sort of feel like all those musicians are old friends of mine, and I'm suddenly beaming at the computer my friend Waylon Jennings. 

Really I just want to do this in the flower world. Get all the florists together and make a music video. I'd like to be the Diana Ross character equivalent, which is to say really pretty with amazing hair and seemingly genuine charisma. 

I could really stand to watch it now in fact, as I've had a terrible day full of sheep mastitis, a miserably weedy flower field, and general uncontrollable entropy on the farm. The internet here involves a 'satellite' dish on top of our house made out of old hubcaps and tinfoil, powered by a gang of oversized field mice on stationary bicycles. They are oversized because they eat the cat food that we put out for the two 'barn' cats who were brought here from Brooklyn to eat such mice but instead prefer the sport of catching songbirds and butterflies. You can't always control who lives and dies at Worlds End.  It's savage.

All this to say there are just not enough sky beams coming into that damn satellite to bring Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Bruce Springstien and all my other friends down. Only enough to watch partially downloaded videos on my phone as to how to milk out a mastitis infected udder. Not giving you the link to that one, because we are also friends. You and me, and Lionel, and…

But besides a sick sheep and a busted brush hog on our tractor and besides the fact that I royally fucked up some flowers in the field, things are great. And when people ask me lately how things are going, I try to stop and think objectively, and then usually respond THEY ARE GREAT, and I try to be convincing, because it's the truth. You, perhaps like me, have had a bad habit of always focusing on what's wrong instead of what's right. I think that can be a female thing more than a male thing; modesty sounds like a feminine word or a brand of maxi pads or something...[here did lie the paragraph where I ranted about 'humble bragging' and my distaste for the sweetness of women in my industry which arguably borderlines on misogyny...we are the world?!]

I google modesty, just killin time and procrastinating. I find a religious website about dressing modestly. I take a quiz 
Q: Do your shirts reveal your abdomen or back? Do any of your shirts have sexually suggestive slogans (such as “sexy” or “flirt”)? Do velour sweatpants with such slogans brazened across the backside count? If yes, then yes.
Q: Do you have to suck in your stomach to zip any of your pants? Do any of your jeans ride so low that your underwear can be seen? I unbuttoned my jeans when I sat down to write this, so yes.

I get bored with this quiz and instead continue to procrastinate from my chores by making a mix called "Modesty" that features Enigma Age of Innocence, because fuck it. But not before, in awe of this religious zealousness surrounding 'female modesty' unearthed on the web (the mice, breaking a sweat up at the dish), I google some of these books on amazon that instruct women on how to pursue purity in a sex-saturated world. A few minutes in I regret this, my amazon profile - with it's usual suggestions of astrology, gardening, and sheep related titles is forever marred with this new data; a shit smear across my preference logarithm that now results in pastel-colored covers on the sidebar with titles like "Strategies for Victories in the Real World of Sexual Temptation."

What's appalling to me about the sentiment behind this sort of thought is that it puts more 'shoulds' and 'should nots' on women...

[And here did lie the SAIPUA FEMINIST MANIFESTO that I choose to remove for more revision and editing, you can look forward to it in the book I'm finally writing...]

When I read or hear about the planned parenthood shenanigans in the media I get angry. I think hard how any logical person could think that this non-profit organization -- whose aim has always been to help people choose appropriate health care -- is coercing women into abortions and then selling fetal organs to get rich. It's comical and absurd and I get furious, and then I watch myself get so upset and I wonder where that comes from, the fire. 

I guess it's the simplest question which I just can't understand why we're arguing about: Why can't women just do what they want to with their bodies? Why? It makes me teary to type it.

Thats the sort of feminism I feel, its a desire for women to be truly free. I'm shy to talk about this stuff because I don't honestly know a lot about feminism; it's history and where the thoughts are now. But I've been thinking a lot about gender roles lately and the way we all express different masculine and feminine energies... 

For me those norms are little skewed. I grew up in a house where my mother was the primary bread-winner, and learned inadvertently perhaps that women were equal or even more powerful in the sense of drive and career. I've never wanted children, so I've never felt that pressure which in so many ways is a burden to women of our generation who are the first to be able to choose whether they want a family (my mothers generation felt less of that choice). And lastly I'm a bulldog in a very feminine soft-sided industry, one where I've never felt completely comfortable.

All this rambling to say that things are alright, and actually really good. I've got sheep problems and flower growing problems, but I've got SHEEP and I'm GROWING FLOWERS. There's no big dramatic soundtrack to life when your dreams are coming true. And I'm trying lately to stop more and enjoy those fortunes and beauty of life -- the ones that I (we -- all of us in the Saipua family) have worked so hard to achieve. I hope you all know that lots of those good fortunes have resulted from all of you who've supported and cheered us along the way. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

It's going to be a good year for apples. the trees upstate were full of flowers a few weeks ago when spring started. spring which is now practically summer.
it's been a really chaotic spring/summer and I've barely hung on at moments, between the chaos of lambing and wedding season. At my worst I get resentful. When people ask me things and ask to come to the farm and ask for internships -- all things I want -- but there is not enough time. there's not enough energy. so i'm learning about urgency, and prioritizing. 

Once someone said to me; "everyone wants to think they are a giver." I love that, I think it's so true. giving and taking. in my eternal quest for balance or some semblance of it I realize there is no such thing and that sometimes the scales tip one way, sometimes the other. I had a moment yesterday with sheep. i was eating a bunch of strawberries and walking up to the field. I found a little brown lamb, one of my favorites, and fed the ends of the berries to her. she seemed to like them so much. then I picked her up and held her for a while. she's one of the few small enough to hold. she sniffed around my face and put her mouth on my nose. her little mouth smelled like grass and strawberries. its was a moment where I felt immensely lucky.

what I need to do is write about vitamin b, tell you about her and remember what it was like to have this sick lamb and try to save her and then what it was like when she died. 
to some extent I've avoided writing about it, not because it was so hard or maybe because it was. 

we called her vitamin b because the first time i tried to give her an injection I put the needle right through and shot her fleece up with vitamins. the smell of the vitamins stayed on her for weeks and was still faintly there the morning she died. we have a few little black lambs and you could always tell vitamin b by picking her up and smelling her back. smelled like the softest biggest multivitamin. 

i don't feel like writing about her yet, because i don't feel like crying and I can't really do this without getting upset.

but here's the thing - the most important thing in all of this that I realized yesterday that I want to share: you don't get to kiss a lamb that smells like strawberries without also having to witness one suffering and then die in your arms. that is just life. it's like a wave chart, up and down. the crests correspond to the troughs, they have to; its physics.

For me the challenge is to be equally present for both sides of that wave. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Detroit download

Took the show on the road last weekend. Packed up two 24 foot trucks in NYC and drove to Motor City. I can no longer deny my desire to become a professional truck driver, and so this road trip was especially satisfying for me. Let me tell you Pennsylvania is a long state and you can get lots of thinking done across it. 

It's an exercise in logistics when we travel for weddings, but I have to say we've gotten pretty good at it, and with enough peanut butter sandwiches, I can make anything happen anywhere. Or my team can, I should say...The venue was the Elanor and Edsel Ford House in Grosse Point, on the shore of lake Michigan. The weather was unseasonably hot; reaching the mid 80's. The main tent was a clear top; a structure which acts like a giant greenhouse as soon as the sun comes up. The HVAC team had a hard time getting their system up and running; air conditioning promised at 9am didn't get turned on till 6pm that evening...

Which made for Bikrim-style flower arranging Friday morning, roses and tulips exploding open before my eyes, the team racing to finish centerpieces by 11am in order to load them back into the refrigerated truck. I cannot stress the importance of reliable temperature control on these sorts of big events…

We stayed in downtown Detroit, renting a big old house on a beautiful historic street near cork town. Through the course of the week the lives of our staff merge in this strange, suspended sort of way; showers waited on, chapsticks and sunglasses are shared and lost. Meals can become these haphazard conglomerates, brussell sprouts for breakfast, who knew? Mothers day, did everyone call their mothers? Can you do a handstand? lets see

The first night we arrived our host recommended hiring guards to stay with our trucks on the street overnight. For $21/hour they could be armed. We hired one. Driving around there is so much space - compared to the congestion of New York City it feels refreshing. I love it there so much. I fantasized about moving Saipua to Detroit…on the road home through Ohio, another very long state. 

Jenya - interantional freelance extraordinaire, not sure how we would have pulled this off with out his calm laser focus. Courtney from Swell Botanicals, one of the most sensitive people I know and a fantastic listener. Do you know that feeling when someone is really listening to you? It's special and rare.

There were lots of large installations in this wedding, feats tackled by Deanna and Dan and Justin. They say that you should know how everything works in your business, but hell if I know how some of these things went up. At certain points I'd watch in awe. A scene very far in the distance from the first days of ball jar arrangements in the back of my pickup truck for a backyard wedding in Brooklyn.   

But ball jars don't bring you to Detroit, and traveling weddings has become one of my favorite parts of the job. Discovering flower people and new floriculture around the world keeps wedding work really exciting.

We got to meet some amazing designers who joined our team to pull the event together -- many thanks to Katie, Jody and Lia for being so professional and hustling so hard. Thanks to Sarah from Fresh Cut Detroit for bringing fresh crabapple after all ours started to shed. And thanks to Jennelle (who happens to be one of our next farm apprentices) for bringing branches from her parents house and helping out for the wedding day. And many many thanks to Alison and Brian for VLD Events who brought us out and were a dream to work with.

What do you want for your business? I always think it's important to consider what you actually want your day to look like. I mean, do you like waking up early? Do you like eating? You like long walks in the woods? Do you like driving? Because those are the things I like doing, and those are the things I do a lot of in my work. But the best part of my job is getting to work with lots of different people and watching the Saipua community grow. I like a lot of people around; I like watching them work together and make friends with each other. I like feeding them. I like to be driven around by them and hunting flowers with them. And then I like to be alone.

We got back into New York late on Monday night. I lugged my shit upstairs. My apartment was a wreck. I took my dirty jeans off and they walked away without me. I fried an egg and some brussell sprouts that came back from Michigan. Then I folded myself into my chair by the window, warm dark air blowing in from the street. I thought about what I needed to do before hitting the road again the next day for the farm. My old houseplants hung dusty and thirsty around me. I sat there into the very early morning, feeling very happy. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Lately more than ever it's back and forth between farm and city. Back and forth. Forever. 
Leaving baby lambs is difficult. I called Eric tonight. I hear in his voice right away when something is wrong, even if he saves the information until after we gone through the typical formalities of hello, how are you...our first born lamb, named Butters, has lost a horn today. A bloody mess. She's a big girl, likely 30 pounds now. She's a single so she's getting all of her mamas milk without having to share. Sounds nice. Makes for a fat lamb.

He fixed her up, ripped it the rest of the way off and treated with iodine and fly strike. Says she's eating and running around tonight. Every shepherd tells me: sheep are masters at finding ways to sucicide; she likely got her horns stuck in a cattle panel fence and ripped her way free. So we know it could have been worse.

But I've been in the city for a few days -- I have to think hard to remember how many -- 4? working on back to back big events. I have not been good about documenting any of them, but they happen all around me, a swirl of interns and staff and flowers and trucks packed and unloaded, wine, half fast emails and boxes of arugula eaten at the counter at night before crawling to bed with a glass of water and a head full of intensions for the early morning when I regain focus. 

I don't take my phone to bed anymore. I don't like looking at.
Or I'm afraid I'll sleep-text old bosses or boyfriends.

At the farm after evening chores I lay around in the grass with the sheep. The lambs jump on my back... one in particular - #925's brown ewe lamb - eats my hair with such unbridled joy and excitement, it feels almost unfair to pull her off and deny her this simple pleasure. 

Tomorrow we load out at 5:30 am headed to Detroit for a big wedding. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wednesday April 8th update

I'm at the farm. I promised myself I would not make any jokes because at this early hour I do not trust my filtration devices. I've been up since 5, which is not abnormal, but what is abnormal is to trudge out to the field at such an ungodly hour to shine my headlamp on sheep rear ends looking for signs of more lambs coming. I have a pretty strong aversion to birth, so this is not my favorite thing to get up for. In the afternoons here I take long walks with the dogs through our fields and through the woods. I look at them and am thankful they are unbred. Strong, tough, butch type bitches. Easily mistaken for males. 

 I jokingly refer to these as my meditation walks. It's a joke because it's actually where I get all my thinking done. Currently most of our land is locked in an glacial meltdown period. Field of streams. When I look at instagram at other farms in other places and I see them planting out healthy seedlings I am filled with a competitive hunger to make it go faster on the farm. But thats just another of the fucked up lessons for me here: we have to let time unfold nature for us, at its own pace. Zelda here starts training on sheep soon. She just went into heat. Christ, thats a lot of reproduction talk for one morning. Spring is in the AIR

In the city after my time in Jamaica (ancient history) much was accomplished, many beautiful things made, never to be seen. As it should be. For some reason I've not picked up my camera much these past months, and it's felt sad but also liberating. Ruffling through old things in the apartment last week I came across some old photos of myself and friends from a particular time, a particular occasion that I did not enjoy recalling. I dropped them in the trash. Just like that. Sentimentality has a way of blocking progression. I walked to Williamsburg after lunch with Nikki. I was getting sick but trying to ignore it. I never get sick. People love to say that, don't they? I walked all the way to blue bottle on berry street. I sat outside on the phone with Samin and watched people walk by. I had not been around there for a long time....

What I saw was a great mix of people and I noted that the current fashion seems to be centered around black metal these days? I start walking home, freezing, cataloging my now undeniable flu-like symptoms. I call Eric at the farm. I say, remember when we were 23 and living here? He is eating ice cream and taking a break from the sleeting weather outside in the field; categorically miserable. Spring felt so far away in that bleak moment. What do you see in Williamsburg? he asks. Black Doc Martens and baby strollers I tell him. 

In the city though we get to fake spring with flowers, thats my job. The flower market is always at least one month ahead; as daffodils just barely start to break through the ground here they are old news on 28th Street. Nikki and I taught our infamous Dutch Masters Class at the Metropolitan Building. It was an indulgent afternoon of teaching. When I watch someone in class get so excited and lost in flowers it reminds me that I too can feel that way still sometimes. It's a happy thing for me... I admit, cautiously.

Last weekend was our third annual plant sale. Best one yet -- we sold $15,827 worth of plants thanks to Taryne who helped pull it all together and kept spreadsheets to track profitability (!!!) 
If you came out to support us, please know that because of your plant purchase we are absolutely able to build our first hoop house this July at Worlds End. I am so thankful for your enthusiasm and support; you all really came through. Small things like keeping houseplants make a difference. What we're trying to do here at SAIPUA is build a community around flowers and plants and agriculture. Every plant, every flower arrangement, every thing we try to grow on the farm -- even the failures -- helps us to build those connections and foster an affinity for the natural world. 

Now to present day; 5:54 am Wednesday April 8th. Here at Worlds End we're in the middle of lambing. We cross the stream which is running high from snowmelt on boards jerry-rigged on cinderblocks every two hours to look around and make sure there's not a ewe in distress or needing to be brought into the 'nursery' which is a series of cattle panels and covered areas with nice hay and supplies. Birth is unpredictable you can't control it. I like to control things. Last week when I got here from the city there was a ewe in distress and within 5 minutes of arriving I had my nails clipped to the quick and dish soap on my arm to the elbow as lube. I could not figure out what the hell was going on inside this ewe. Eric rolled up his sleeve and I watched him work locked elbows of the unborn lamb up over the pelvic bone of the sheep and pull out the limp dead body. I don't know if I've ever loved him as much as in that moment. The ewe stood up relieved and saw to her first born lamb. We watched them for a while in a sort of stunned silence and then threw the afterbirth to the dogs. 

Yesterday I planted out all our sweet pea seedlings and as I stood in the field looking around at the overwhelming mess and work that needs to be done in the field I thought about the nature of struggle. 
I tried to imagine a life of calm and clarity... a life of ease and fun. Overwhelmed, I took a break and sat in the hay watching baby lambs play with each other for a while. Lambs dance in this animatronic sort of way that is likely the cutest thing to ever occur on planet earth. 
I caught myself smiling, which I don't do often. Onward.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Plantastic Voyage

This Saturday March 28th will be our third annual PLANT SALE at our Brooklyn Studio. It's one of my favorite days of the year. 

Profits we earn from the sale go towards a big purchase we're planning at the farm...two years ago it was a tractor down payment, this year it's a hoop house: our goal it 10K. That's A LOT of plants. More than I can reasonably see fitting in our studio at this moment actually...

On the list of goodies: begonias, lots of cacti, succulents, a myriad of ferns, a smattering of potted trees and a host of green leafy's that make good house plants. Also on offer are hundreds of Baker Creek seed packets; tomatoes, kale, squashes,  salad greeds, herbs, morning glories, poppies, etc...for those of you with outdoor space for growing.

The thing I love about the plant sale is that it gives us an opportunity to connect with people who follow Saipua but are not getting married or planning flowers for a event. That's a lot of people! And a lot of opportunities to encourage them to cultivate their green thumbs. I always tell people to start small; one plant on your window sill can be a good beginning. I also tell them; 'Look, you're probably likely to kill it.' Because the truth is, you gotta kill a lot of plants before you figure out how to keep them alive. God knows I did. And still do occasionally.

Inside Saipua we talk a lot about how we can possibly change the world through flowers...make it a little cleaner, a little greener. Make more people pay attention to the changing seasons, get them to notice and understand the rhythms of nature, even if they live in midtown manhattan. You'd be surprised at how often I explain to people that trees flower in the spring and make fruit in the fall. (Often in reference to why they can't have crabapple at their April event.) This opportunity to educate is precious and invaluable!! If we can get people excited to notice and tune into the small bits of nature that surround them, then we might be able to get them to practice some small bit of stewardship towards that nature...even if it's tending to some plants inside.

All this to say, come on Saturday if you can, if you like green, if you need to usher some spring in your apartment. I can get you set up right. I can also advise on ill-fated existing plants of yours. I can also make you a coffee. Supporting us in this way will help us to grow even more plants. 
It's like we're going on a plantastic voyage together!

*Sale starts at 10am sharp. Please no early birds! Delivery on Sunday is available to Manhattan and Brooklyn for orders over $350. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

burn it all down

Three weeks ago I told Eric I thought he should leave and travel around the world and we should break up and we should sell the farm. I had just come back from the city and walked around the house yelling and crying at him...upstairs, downstairs, face down on the bed, up down dropping grenade after grenade. I saw the hilarity in this as I was in the middle of it; as if I was watching a shitty made for TV drama staring sally field --  bless her -- and yet inspite of this understanding I could not pull myself back into clarity and kept marching around blowing things up in my life for an afternoon. In reterospect Eric must of recognized this because he didn't seem to take it as seriously as I hoped and went outside to do mid day chores, me sinking into bed fully clothed where I wept and then looked at instagram.  

Where I saw a picture of a swimming pool in the tropics. 

Ariel Dearie is a florist here in Brooklyn and we're friendly despite the fact that she's a tea drinker. A few days later she had given me all the information I needed to get to this pool. We've got a good thing going on here in Brooklyn; florists don't let florists burnout

Getting off the farm together is no small feat for Eric and I. We run it by ourselves in the winter, and although the chores this time of year (feeding and watering animals, throwing sticks for dogs) are relatively slim in comparison with our growing season.. Our sheep are clever girls, prone to testing the limits of their fence; one of our young livestock guardian dogs has a penchant for chewing on those sheep when he gets bored, and we've recently accumulated a frock of hungry hawks who've discovered the delicacy of fresh chicken flesh. 

All this said, a farm run by haggard burnt out farmers is no farm at all. I called Sarah Montiero from Farmhand Flowers. Few women are as skilled. She agreed to farmsit in an email that outlined her plan to 'handle anything that came up and tell us about it later' and I booked our flights. I tell you, it takes a village. 

While we were away I made a conscious effort to avoid conversations about Saipua and the farm. We read, applied sunscreen and listened to the only music that managed to download from spottify on Eric's phone: a playlist called Awkward Slow Jams. It was pretty epic. I travel a fair amount for work, but to go away with Eric and have nothing TO DO was a luxury I am so grateful for.

I've been back now for a week. In that time, things have gone right back to the chaotic whirlwind that is Saipua. We are having serious growing pains right now; we're on the precipice of our 10 year anniversary and it seems that everything has been thrown up in the air. I'm patiently waiting for it all to settle. 

At the farm we're waiting for lambs. We have 8 bred ewes and they are due to deliver in April. I order lube, and a bunch of small tubes and bottles and things that are all slightly too medical looking for me. 

My astrologer once asked me to think about what it would be like to wake up one morning as just myself instead of sarah of Saipua. Take all the flowers away, the farm...all the identity 'stuff' stripped away. Can you do that in your mind for yourself in your own life? It's strange right. And frightening. We build these things as armor. Protection from what?

Today is Monday. All this week we'll be gearing up for our annual Plant Sale this Saturday the 28th. More soon on that...