Friday, October 2, 2015

summer/ long post.

I've been paralyzed. Trying to write about the summer, to sum it up for you. Package it, including all the nuances of this particular summer, it's weather, it's business, it's people. The things that made it different and notable; the new kids at saipua: Alex, Vanessa, Taryne, Maurine, the lambs.

The things that are always the same, the ice cream cones, my birthday, the vegetables and the storms.


The iris. My iris. The iris we grew -- and how big of a deal it was because it's why we farm, to have iris, not so many, but more every year and only the colors I want, and I can cut them just to fill our shitty kitchen with them. It felt like the most luxurious few weeks of my life.

The T Magazine piece. The best press we've ever had. It felt so good, and made me feel really proud. Shortly after it came out I visited my parents who, in typical parental dilligence had read the comments online, and pointed out one from a negative-nancy type who wrote something about me throwing tantrums because I couldn't have the flowers I wanted, when I wanted them. Which Eric and I now laugh about constantly, because IF ONLY she knew the sort of tantrums I throw. Always been a tantrum thrower. Like when I couldn't go to the mall and I threatened to slit my wrists (parents ignoring me over coffee on the porch...I think I've told you that one) or whenever I lost in the family game of rummy. There's a point in a tantrum of sudden clarity and self awareness, and edge of cliff sort of moment where you think -- am I really going to let this out, the moment before the runaway effect.

This is something I reserve almost exclusively for Eric.

The other side of love; the screaming circuitous arguments about who is working harder...I think probably such a common relationship snag. Even if you are in a relationship that doesn't include running a business and building a farm I bet you can relate to it. To say the farm has tested us would be an understatement. Mookie.

Labor day rolled around. My favorite holiday - the official clank to mark the beginning of fall. In his book The Vox, Nicholson Baker writes about a sexual encounter... 'the clank of a belt buckle indicating the start of something serious.' That's how I think of labor day. Coming up for air you look around and think this is happening... an all too hotly anticipated freefall from the singularity in early September, after which you can no longer wear white. It spirals out messily and then it's over too fast.

If we can go from a sexual autumnal metaphor to the topic of canning tomatoes, then lets.
For all the ways that the flower field failed this year (beaver migration, drought, irrigation failure) our kitchen garden has really over compensated (we irrigate it from our house well). We have more tomatoes than I can handle on my intermittent stays at the farm in between events in the city. I can them over a burn barrel in the yard (we still don't have a stove). The whole process is like Kinfolk meets Survivor.

After picking for a few hours (meditative!), it occurs to me that these five gallon buckets of tomatoes will be wasted unless I can them. So, late in the evening, I start a fire in a burn barrel and wait for a giant pot to boil. I sterilize some mason jars, cut up the tomatoes fighting off chickens and Nea (do other dogs like tomatoes?) and cook them down with a little salt. I add some basil leaves and a bit of citric acid to ensure the preservation. Then they boil for 45 minutes to seal the jars.

This process ended in a tantrum one night at around 10pm, hungry and exhausted with scortched forearms ... struggling with a fire and still waiting for a giant kettle to boil. I think I literally sort of jumped up and down yelling I'M SICK OF THIS HOMESTEADING SHIT to Eric, who had emerged calmly on cue from the shadows with a can of Genese cream ale and perfectly quaffed hair.

Suffice it to say, we overplanted. But when you're seeding those little fuckers in March in a freezing basement under grow lights, having not tasted a real tomato in months, 1 tray of seed blocks looks like insufficient funds.

Saipua in the city (or on the road) presents another sort of hectic mess, but one which I'm more familiar with and which results in less 3rd degree burns. May starts the foghorn of wedding season that just keeps on getting louder until you think it can't get any more intense and then it does. "HI!!" I'm shouting right now from the middle of the storm; wind gusts blowing scraps of paper and compost and peanuts all around us... "HOW ARE YOU??!"

Amidst all the travel and event making this summer, we hosted our first annual SAIPUA staff retreat at Worlds End. I planned activities each day. In some ways you realize you fill out your adult life with childhood fantasies unrealized. I was in charge! I got really into it and had to keep tempering my plans with reminders that 1. I am 35 years old and 2. games and races and scavenger hunts shouldn't result in tears.
Swimming and campfires ensued.
The last day we went to a water park. I practically held hands with my 11 year old self and braided her hair.

The sheep struggled with parasites all summer, despite Eric's valiant rotational grazing efforts. Mornings in July and August would be spent making a paste of garlic, mixing it into some corn and walking it up to feed the sheep. There were lots of apple cider vinegar drenches (the cure for everything!) When a sheep started to really succumb, we resorted to Ivermectin or Levamisol (chemical meds). You start off reading on the internet about holistic flock management and herbal remedies and in the end you're just flying down Route 20 in the mouse infested prius trying to get to Agway before they close to get the juice.

One day right before my birthday Eric found Maverick, one of the ram lambs dead as a doornail in field. He was right as rain the night before. We deduced it could have been 3 things: something poisonous in the pasture, internal injury from rams ramming each other, or Enterotoxemia (overeating disease); a bacterial infection that takes a sheep down in a matter of hours. This disease is preventable with CDT vaccine, an injection we chose not to give our flock this year. Each dead sheep provides valuable lessons. Maverick taught us how to skin a sheep (even though we couldn't eat him, we could harvest his pelt - a valuable and beautiful thing.)

Eric strung his body up in the tree in front of the house and with the help of a homemade youtube video by TEXASPREPPER2 we had his pelt off a little after dark. Eric cleaned up while I hauled his bloated skinned body to the edge of the property in the bucket of the tractor for the coyotes to have. It took them 3 days somehow to find it. Walking the dogs I'd sort of gently and hesitantly approach the spot we call the sheep graveyard, hoping to find cleaned bones so I could take his skull. Of course coyotes don't care about your talismans. They eventually dragged the whole thing off into the woods and we have never found it.

If I could tell you one thing that has changed for me lately its that I am more patient than I used to be; an ironic end to a post featuring several tantrum stories. I may be playing myself. But truth be told, I smiled at a miscellaneous group of children on the street the other day. Eating ice cream. They were reveling in their popsicular moments ... with no way of knowing all the things that will unfold in front of them. And not caring. 

Monday, September 21, 2015


We're serious about fall at the Brooklyn SAIPUA headquarters...gonna devote a day to open up our studio and sell the most unusual pumpkins, cacti for your apartment, gorgeous pieces by Gammafolk, knitwear by Kordal, and afternoon tarot card readings by Bakara Wintner. COME THROUGH CHICKENS!!!

Monday, August 31, 2015


Now accepting Fall 2015 Design Apprenticeship applications: 

Design apprentices will be integrated into the world of SAIPUA by supporting our design team starting in mid September and finishing in December.

The right candidates are tough, smart, and passionate about event planning and design. You must have a working knowledge of Microsoft Office  and Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign, etc.) – rendering skills are a huge plus. No floral experience necessary. 

Design apprentices will enjoy a creative and interactive work environment, and will be involved in an exciting array of projects to (i.e. photoshoots, developing product design for retail, preparing design decks for events, devising schemes to further Saipua's mission to create and promote more sustainable practices in the floral industry, fiber projects utilizing the Saipua flock of Icelandic sheep at Worlds End Farm… the possibilities are infinite). 

Since our apprentice program began 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. Potential opportunities for long-term employment for the right person if the stars align. 

Must be based in NYC. Must be available 2 days per workweek (Monday - Friday).

Interested applicants will send their CV and a brief letter of intent to genevieve at saipua dot com. Only those applications that include 'DESIGN APPRENTICESHIP' in the subject line will be considered.

Optional attachments: portfolio and/or links to personal media accounts (i.e. blogs, pinterest, instagram, etc)

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.