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...

Monday, February 23, 2015

post valentines/new idea

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and if you follow us on instagram you know we've been hustling hard through fashion week and valentines day. No one cares about how busy you are but it's worth saying that we've been working really hard to raise some money for some serious projects we're trying to get off the ground...

One of the things that has always lurked around in my master plan for Saipua is how it can have a real effect on the environment. Growing clean flowers is not good enough for me; shouting the benefits of sustainable living (what does that even mean) from my soap box (pun) is not either and I don't like preaching (lie) I just want to make some actual, countable, quantifiable difference.

Lately this idea has taken form in a new scheme; offering NYC florists a breakdown service that composts their flowers and branches, thus keeping thousands of tons of natural materials out of landfills.

Typically, when a wedding is over we send a crew of people to trash the flowers and collect the vases. During the high wedding season we send trucks back to the farm full of spent flowers and branches; haphazardly depositing them into our 'flower compost' heap which is in the woods next to the trucks. Come fall, Nea nests in it; I like to think shes sentimental and misses life at Saipua.

This spring we plan to have a regular truck route that brings flowers from Worlds End and other farms to the city. My dream is to sell these flowers to Saipua and my flower friends and then have them hire us to break down their weddings; bringing those same flowers back to the farm to compost them. If I can make it work, it would make a beautiful cycle - further vertically integrating Saipua, maximizing the use of the truck and keeping more compostable natural materials out of black trash bags and landfills. We'll need to buy a new used box truck; convert it to bio-diesel and install a solar powered refrigeration unit on it.

Have you ever bagged flowers? Sticks poking holes out the sides, a caterpillar or ladybug clinging to a leaf as its shoved into the abyss; unknowingly entombed forever in a 55 gallon, 4 mil contractor bag. I think about bugs in this flower trash eating away for hours and days until they sense in their tiny bug brains that something is awry. (Dramatizing for effect here.)

This plan has so many obstacles. My friend Sarah, an insanely talented and responsible farmer asked me last week: did I really want to become a composting business? I know so little about compost, and it is an incredibly complex process. So many of the flowers that we use in the city are laden with pesticides. The last thing we need at Worlds End is an albatross of a toxic compost heap leaching chemicals into our water stream and soil.

But this side business addresses both of my main goals for SAIPUA: to start to affect real environmental change in the world through flowers and farming and 2. to build a business that can support more and more people.

So I'm going to keep working on this idea. First, I need to talk to some compost brains.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I was in the city, as I always tend to be when shit goes down at the farm. I'd say 'poor Eric' but does disposing of a bloody half eaten chicken trump a 2.5 hour site visit at a stuffy hotel in midtown? Ask yourself.

Chickens have it tough in winter - as we all do I suppose - and spend a lot of their time cooped up. When the snow is deep we shovel paths for them, and the intrepid girls will venture outside to do a few loops and then return to the coop. If a chicken flies off the path it can get stuck in the deep snow - a sort of a adorable struggle to watch - unless you're not watching in which case an onlooking hawk has an easy lunch. Eric came back from a walk with the dogs and the hawk was feasting. The dogs just can't be on watch all the time. So it goes.

Admittedly chickens are low on the totem poll of loveable farm animals, though I'm sure someone will jump to argue this with me. They are seeminly angry, mean little things (perhaps why I'm drawn to them?) with a brain-to-body weight ratio that is somewhat askew.

Our flock is an even spread of three breeds of cold hardy layers: Black Lace Wyanndotes, Araucanas and Buff Orpingtons. The Araucanas are the only chickens with names as they are easily distinguishable from one another. Boris (a female, don't ask) is by far the most clever chicken. When I cut flowers and drive the truck into the yard, she's the first to jump into the back (encouraging many NYC stowaway chicken jokes which are not really that funny) looking for grapes or amaranthus - both of which she's enjoyed in the truck post harvest and remembers. In her tiny, tiny, evil chicken brain.

Still, I'm crazy about them. I wish I had a photo to insert here of me casually holding a chicken under my arm gazing down at it in adoration, but no dice. Instead here is our dear Cruella working on a cadaver provided by the Worlds End School of Chicken Dentistry. She was the top of her class, and despite several complaints ("this school SUX") she was prized by her mentors.

Now might be a good moment to mention the fact that humor comes to die at Worlds End. Especially in the winter, we live in a black hole of bad jokes, told to each other but when taken out of context - say in a bridal consultation at Saipua - don't quite translate as funny. For example, the joke about which R Kelly song would make for the most inappropriate daddy-daughter dance at a wedding... or any mention for that matter of Eric's 'Awkward Slow Jam' mix should not leave the safety of our evening cocktail hour. There is an important escape velocity of humor which needs to be respected.

But now I'm not joking, I'm going to be serious and talk about life and death.

In the city, thinking about Cruella and imagining her one moment pecking around in the snow and the next in the clutches of a hawk I came back to the same conundrum I often get stuck on with death. Why can't you watch it happen and then turn back time and make it so it doesn't happen? Why can't you control it better?

I watch a lot of death on the farm, mostly my plants in the field, or small creatures like moles eaten by dogs. I'm not obsessed with death, despite my propensity for dark pictures and bones. I'm just struggling to understand nature - if one ever does - or at the very least feel more comfortable as a part of its grandness and its mystery.

I realize it's not unusual at all for a hawk to eat a chicken, but it is very human for us to dramatize it or try to prevent it. That is farming in a nutshell; controlling what lives and dies. And farming is how we all ended up with better brain-to-body ratios. Big brains that afford us the luxury of considering our place in it all.

Friday, January 30, 2015


[do you like sweating and sipping champagne? this could be you]

As we expand in 2015 we are looking for two new apprentices. The right candidates are tough, smart, hungry, and willing to get up early. Applicants should be able to commit 3 days a week starting March 1st and finishing in June. 

1. Events/Weddings Apprentice

This person will work under Genevieve Rainsberger our Art/Marketing Director and assist her with administrative tasks pertaining to client inquiries, budget preparation, contract writing and Saipua marketing and outreach. This person will see through the planning and execution of several large spring events; and will learn to arrange flowers in our distinct style. Strong communication and interpersonal skills required. Knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office a must. 

2. Studio/Event Production Apprentice

This individual will work under Deanna Nairns our Studio Director. Deanna runs the Saipua studio, and her apprentice will learn floral design in the Saipua style in order to assist with deliveries, retail sales and general studio upkeep. This person knows how to always anticipate the next task without being told. He/she is willing to get their hands dirty, clean buckets and occasionally ride along on deliveries. Knowledge of coffee a plus. [We're soon launching a coffee program at Saipua....]

Internships at Saipua are rich with possibilities. Since the programs inception in 2008 Saipua has turned out some of NYC’s most sought after new florists. We expect above and beyond performance from apprentices and in return offer free soap, flowers, lunches...and floral guidance forever. Collectively our interns have helped build Saipua into what it is today. They become like family and we are eternally thankful for them and keep them close in our fold. Potential opportunities for long term employment for the right person if the stars align. 

Interested applicants will send their CV and a brief letter of intent to sarah at saipua dot com
In the subject line, please note which position you are interested in. 

Application deadline is February 6th
Interviews conducted February 18 - 25th. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

on flowering for Louis Vuitton and growing pains

Well into my third week of isolation at the farm, I had the chance to reflect on some of the projects we worked on in 2014...a few of which were with Fiona Leahy for Louis Vuitton. Fiona is one of those women who can wear fringed capes like it's nothing and who, when she posts videos of herself hoola-hooping in gold snake stilettos poolside, inspires me to be a better woman like that.

These photos are all by Belathee, one of only a handful of photographers who really knows how to shoot flowers. I am grateful for her prowess in low light scenarios.

We don't typically do a lot of fashion work, I think for one thing we were pigeon-holed some time ago as wedding florists - hashtag brooklyn hashtag romantic - and arguably weddings are where we can really make some of our best creative work - #wild #organic #seasonal #local #obama ... But occasionally I think it's nice to test the waters in other stratospheres of the NYC event world. It keeps us on our toes, and admittedly one can only make so many 'beauty and the beast' weddings, as our breakdown crew apparently calls them (much to my horror).

These pictures are from November 7th when Louis Vuitton hosted 150 of the fashion elite in a glass house fabricated in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art. The production took a week, hundreds of people and the logistical wizardry of Prodject of whom I am in great awe of. I love logistics but these people obsess over them. It was fun to watch this come off.

Hi it's me, I'm just fixing something here...

These next photos are from back in September when we flowered with Fiona for LV at Saks Fifth Avenue. Again, so different from what we usually do, but interesting to struggle with the simplicity of single stems in Fiona's collection of gold tube vases. Not as easy as it looks.

[Rest assured that an entire section of my upcoming flower tell-all memoirs will be on the incongruity of my city/farm experiences. Leading up to this event, there was a day that started with a messy sheep wrangling scenario and ended with a Louis Vuitton meeting in midtown.]

Right now we're working on a new mission statement at Saipua. We've actually never had one, and when a business gets as top heavy as ours we realize we desperately need one to refer to as we say yes to somethings and no to others. We've been in a period the last few months of saying YES to everything which has taught us (or reminded us) about why we are good at some sorts of things, and bad at others.

For example, we are bad at making money on small events. In fact, often we loose money on small events. Because we have built a machine geared towards producing large events, we unknowingly apply those practices to small events. For small weddings now we tend to overbuy flowers and materials, over hire staff. We take too many taxis or spend too much on lunch out of habit....

In December our team hustled so hard saying yes to everything: deliveries, events, photoshoots... all these little things swarming the studio every week. Come January I had a depressing meeting with our bookkeeper and accountants to learn that all that work resulted in *zero* profit. Money was coming into the business and leaving just as fast. More importantly, saying yes to all the little things meant that we were not focused on the events that we really want, the ones that we're good at. For us now, the sweet spot -- where our business really works (meaning we have the right staff, the expertise, the right infastructure) are events with budgets of (and for those of you outside NYC, remember this is a bubble market) $25-$150K. That's what we've grown to do well. Over that and you get into construction elements that we're not equipped for, under that and we don't profit or worse, loose money.

These last few months I've been struggling with how to make Saipua profitable again so I can start sending resources to the farm. I've become a money-head which I fucking hate. Money is so boring; it feels like the absence of creativity. When my bookkeeper (who - lets be honest - is my mother)(who is also our soapmaker) calls me to talk numbers my eyes glaze over and I get confused. But the reality is that you need the green to do some things in this world. Like build a farm.

I want to finish our barn already and get moving on building the farm into the creative mecca it's destined to be.

So I'm working around the clock starting at the beginning -- writing the goals of Saipua both BIG (to fund a farm that can become a non-profit floral nerve center where people can come learn not just about flowers and farming, but also explore the juncture between general creativity and the natural world) and small (to have more excellent coffees, and less shitty ones -- i.e. open my coffee shack on the beaver pond.)

So that where I'm at; where Saipua is right now. Wish us luck chickens, we need it!!!