Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2016

Our feature photo this month is of a local trio of nutria.  I caught some good pictures of the nutria youngsters bathing and wrestling in a drainage ditch we call Lake Roger, after the workman who installed the drain pipes back in 2004.  The ditch is dry in summer, but the nutria are having a good time in it now that it is in full flow with the winter rains.

The sticks in pots are cuttings of some Glenora Black Seedless table grape vines, taken from one of our own vines planted long ago.  All of them were labeled, but it looks as if the nutria have removed a few labels.  They probably took a bite to see if they were edible, and tossed them aside when the discovered they were not.

News from the farm
It has been a relatively quiet and wet winter here, with more than enough rain to pull at least western Oregon out of drought status.  We have so much water now, the gophers, including Jaws, have abandoned their holes on the downward slope of the farm, and fresh diggings are visible up along the north fence.  Old gopher holes can spout water like mini artesian wells.  In fact it has been so wet, nutria have moved in from somewhere.  Our nighttime visitor I stumbled across back in November apparently has friends and relatives, which have provided some interesting observations of these non-native but now naturalized rodents from South America that enjoy almost worldwide distribution.  Australia and Antarctica have managed to escape the invasion, according to the USGS map.


Nutria grazing out by Lake Roger, the drainage ditch.

A few links to government websites are listed below for the interested reader.

Worldwide distribution:

The Nutria Chronicles: The well-mustachioed, biggest and boldest of the nutria youngsters, now named “Yosemite Sam”, left the bath to challenge me, but backed down and ran for the shed, soon followed by another one.


Nutria high-tailing it from the bath….

A relative suggested they look a bit like the moon-men from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, so the names Gidney and Cloyd were given to the other two, and seem to suit them well.  Viewer discretion is advised due to the political content of this children’s cartoon I found on YouTube, but those unfamiliar with the characters will see where the names come from.

One can see where they have dragged an old fallen apple into the shed on some other occasion.  Snacking in a safe place!


Yosemite Sam strikes a pose for the camera in the storage shed.

On another day, the nutria youngsters managed to pull ALL the plastic label tags out of the grape vine cuttings.  I managed to find all the tags, and get them back into the pots.  I decided to move the pots up onto the porch on top of a barrel, as the nutria appeared to be staging some sort of protest to the presence of potted cuttings in their personal swimming hole, “Lake Roger”.  I saw Yosemite Sam and crew members Gidney and Cloyd later this afternoon, grazing and frolicking by the shed.  They have a strange custom of what looks like “kissing”, at least that what it looks like from the human perspective.  They greet each other by standing on hind legs, and like two people, “kiss” each other on each cheek, and then engage in some sort of muzzle to muzzle activity before resuming feeding.  They also wrestle,  and engage in something that looks like a form of Klignon head-butting.  Sometimes Yosemite Sam just sits and stares at the house from the shed.  We do wonder what on earth is he thinking about.

These youngsters and their insatiable appetites will probably move on (we hope) and return to their riverbank homes once we start moving into the dry season and Lake Roger and the low areas dry up to hard clay.  Prior to last November, we had only seen one large adult nutria in the last 12 years here on the farm.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is Mr. Nano, the Great White Hunter, who says nutria, also known as coypus, are wild creatures that cats with any sense should leave alone.  He much prefers monitoring these fellows through the window, and napping is preferable to that.


Mr. Nano, the Great White Hunter

Nano also reports that Abby cat, who will be 14 this coming April, had her dentistry this past week and done quite well.  Her blood work is good and she is holding her weight. She still thinks she is the Alpha cat, and quite in control.  Eleanor of Aquitaine might have been a better name for this one.


Abby (Eleanor of Aquitaine) Abyssinian

Old Willow still misses Rick’s mother, her elderly human companion who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge last month, and is adapting to life without her as best she can. She is very quiet these days and prefers to keep to her bed, although she still eats well.  We hope the arrival of spring and more sunny days will instill new energy in this old Calico matriarch.


Old Willow still misses her elder human companion. She is learning to purr again.

Lucio, Marcus, Hope, Wynken, Blynken and Nod kitties are also doing well, and remind readers of their own page listed in the menu on blog site.  Cats and humans are aging right along with the royal port in the wine cellar, and are collectively pleased when morning comes and all have awakened on the correct side of the ground.  Clouds and rain and welcomed along with sunshine, and somewhere around the world, a rainbow graces the sky.  Often here!  Another day begins.


Rainbow over the east end of Salmon Brook Farms. It was still raining lightly when I snapped the photo, and I think I also caught a raindrop on the right, forgetting to turn off the flash in my haste to catch the ephemeral beauty gracing the late afternoon sky.

Music News (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
I am still on hiatus, and will return when I feel sufficiently rested and renewed.   This may take a while….

Old Seabisquit the Subaru, my trusty gigging companion, has passed 430,00 miles!

In the meantime, please – wherever you are – help keep your own local music scene alive by going out to see live performers, of any genre you prefer.

In your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Bookings and home-grown produce:
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms


Cloud canyons in late December, southwest view over the neighbor’s house. A day of heavy rains, and beautiful fractured cloudscapes towards evening. With the winter rains come the promise of spring, and new life.

The Cycle of Life

In Loving Memory

Those who have been following this blog know that we have been caring for my husband’s elderly mother in our home for the last 3 years.  There comes a time when the body is too worn and tired to continue, and the spirit longs for freedom from it and life’s experiences, some quite painful.  She lost a daughter long ago, before Rick was born.  A beautiful 6 year old who ran into the road after a ball, Sharon was hit by a truck and died instantly.   The experience affected the rest of her life on many levels.


Daughter Sharon who died at age 6.

Mom was fortunate to be able to pass away at home with us instead of a hospital or facility.  Her feline companion Willow and the rest of cats were also in attendance.


Companion cat Willow, taken back in October. One can see the love between these two elder ladies, one human, one feline.

The outpouring of love and support from friends and relatives has helped us tremendously during our time of grief while we transition into a new life without her.  Special thanks goes to Samaritan Evergreen Hospice for all their assistance and compassion during the last 3 months.   We could have not done this without their support, and that of the caregivers we enlisted who have helped us during most of the 3+ years we have had her with us.

It is here I will close my own thoughts, and leave readers with an eloquent note I received from an old friend and long-time mentor.   It has brought us great comfort.

“I join you in your sorrow and joy.  I am aware that getting old is mostly a matter of letting things go, giving up many thoughts and dreams that we compile during our lives.  I have come to believe a page from the Buddhist philosophy, dependency arising.  All things are connected to all things.  Nothing happens without a ripple through the universe whether we are able to perceive it or not.

     I also believe it has been a blessing that she was surrounded by the cats and the farm, all the things that speak of life with their
cycles and acceptance of all that happens.  A few days ago I had a five minute stare down with a four point buck and several does.  He was a little curious but very separate with his little family.  He was also fearless and accepting of our sharing a space and time.  Eventually he went back to eating and I went along my way.  The doe’s weren’t concerned in the slightest.

      There’s nothing special in that five minutes except that we are all here, we all have our part to play and then we go forward to
whatever dimension is next.  The rest of us remain with our memories, selecting out the good and mostly letting the rest fade away.  While I’m in no hurry, to me Death is a friend who I’ll have plenty of time to get to know in the future.  I’m watching the seasons come and go with more intensity than ever before.

     You and Rick have come through a very difficult time that has increased the wear and tear on both you.  You are changed by it as we
all are by every difficulty that comes our way.  Now is the time to sit back quietly for a short while and cement the good while letting the bad find it’s own way down the road.  I admire your strength and fortitude tremendously, both of you.  I want you to finish out this winter and walk into spring with all of its new promise.  I hope you will find renewed happiness in the renewed season.    – K.”


Clouds and blue sky in spring over Salmon Brook Farms.

Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for November 2015

Our feature photo this month is of recent nighttime visitor to the farm.  On Sunday the 15th,  I went out after dark to investigate the activities of a Black-tailed deer buck grazing on fallen fruit under an apple tree near the shed.   The buck, who was probably the same one who demolished 10 blueberry bushes in the process of scraping his antlers on them a week earlier,  trotted off as I neared the tree, but there came a pig-like grunting and snuffling from somewhere very close by.  Startled and feeling like an encounter with whatever it was could have a bad ending, I looked around, but could see nothing, and the grunting creature sounded very displeased by my presence.  A small greyish creature at ground level appeared out of nowhere, and charged at my leg. I quickly high-tailed it, and got the flashlight and camera, hoping to at least identify my would-be assailant.  Although not the best photo, it was good enough to check the mug shot online and confirm my suspicions. Our visitor appears to be a nutria, a young one, from what I can tell.  In the almost 12 years we have been here, we have only seen one other come through the farm, a large adult traveling through during daylight hours. Nutria are known to intimidate small dogs, and can pack quite a serious bite if cornered.  These beaver-like rodents are not native to the United States, but have become naturalized in many areas, and can be very destructive.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website has more information for those who are interested.

News from the farm

Water, water everywhere now, while the Pacific Northwest is getting pummeled with heavy rain and strong winds.  Jaws and fellow gophers have curtailed activities, and perhaps moved to higher ground as their burrows flood and sometimes spout water like mini artesian wells.  The weather can, and does, change frequently during the day, a kaleidoscope of cloud and sun, shadows and light. A fast running river of clouds passed overhead on Tuesday, a turbulent grey on grey I could see through the depths of to higher, brighter clouds and occasional blue.   I watched the tall, massive ash trees in the wooded corner bend and sway in the wind, marveling at the strength and flexibility of these rooted giants, and the force of the wind moving them in wild dance.  My thoughts drifted to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents, and I wondered if these thrashing venerable trees would somehow walk out of their section of woods.  Higher elevations have already seen some snow, and the forecast is for temperatures in the 20s here by the end of next week.  I will need to finish closing down the gardens for the season, and insulating exposed water lines.


Storm’s edge – an earlier set of storms blowing through the area.


A break in the storm towards sundown.

Night settles in.  At roughly 800 feet, the farm lies in a bowl of sorts in the Cascade foothills.  Cold air ponds in this depression, and thickening mists slowly obliterate the surrounding hills until all that is visible are the cold, dripping tendrils that writhe and curl under the lights.  Somewhere up above the clouds the moon is growing again.  It can be very difficult to observe the lunar cycles and night sky during the winter months here.  Old Man Winter is on the way now, and all in his path will bend to his will.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Willow, the old Calico matriarch, came through her recent dentistry with flying colors, and wants readers to know she is still a force to be reckoned with in the house, and is back to keeping Rick’s mother company.


Willow – also a Force of Nature.

The crew does not have much to report this month, and has decided napping is a much better plan than battling gophers and nutria.  Mr. Lucio is a master at looking like he is working hard at being comfortable.


Mr. Lucio, hard at work.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

We are taking a brief hiatus until next year, working on personal projects and elder care, which consumes much time and energy.  Keep checking the schedule.  We will surface again in 2016!  Old Seabisquit the Subaru , my faithful gigging traveling companion, got a much needed oil change and air filter from me, and is patiently waiting for me to pop in a new gas filter, spark plugs and wires.  Not to mention a good cleaning….

In your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Bookings and home-grown produce:
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms


The sun sets more to the southwest these days, and beamed a pleasant goodnight over the neighbor’s roof on that particular evening after a day of many passing storms.

Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for October 2015

Our feature photo this month is of our only white rose, which was planted in memory of my own mother some years ago.  White flowers were always her favorite, although the white peony planted by side door of the house where my earliest memories go back to was her real treasure.  In the absence of a white peony to be found at the time, a white rose down at the local feed store and garden center caught my attention, and begged to be taken home to fill this role.  This particular rose struggled in several different locations, but has finally decided to thrive in the current placement in the rose bed near the house.  My mother would be pleased.  The rose rewarded us for our patience with many fine blooms this year.

News from the farm

The blazing heat of summer has finally left our little farm in the Cascade foot hills, and we have even had a little rain, as well as a light frost one morning.  Our days have mostly been warm, ranging from the 60s into the low 80s.  Herds of heavy blue-grey to stark white clouds wander through October’s blue skies on their way up and over the Cascade Range, drinking along route from the rivers of rising morning mists.  The silvery-grey mists of dawn transform to pink and gold, and finally to day-white, and float away as the temperature rises and the morning unfolds. The air has a slight nip, which can be felt as these behemoths pass overhead, temporarily blocking the golden warmth of the afternoon.  The moon is in the growing phase again, and I have been noting its familiar crescent form in the western sky in the evenings.  The combined silhouette of the dark zone and the bright crescent give the impression of a large eye, focused on and observing the greater universe.  I look forward to seeing this moon-eye at the beginning and end of every lunar cycle.


The old female persimmon tree, festooned with many small fruits that are slowly turning orange. The make tree companion is almost bare of leaves at this time, and just visible in the right of the photograph.

Bees and birds got to the entire pinot vineyard before I was able to harvest, so this year’s experiments making wine and vinegar were a total failure.  The drought was hard on all creatures, and with little forage or water to be found, attention turned to any unprotected crops of interest, and sugary grapes were no exception.  Honeybees, and yellow jackets can get through bird netting, although I also found some enterprising youngster raccoons slipping in under netting at night!


Most of the pinot vines have already dropped their leaves. The table grape leaves are still ranging in color from green though gold.

At this time, dandelions are mainly what the area honeybees bees can be found feeding upon, as well as any fallen apples with exposed flesh.


Honeybee feeding on a Coast Dandelion, Hypochaeris radicata


California poppies are still blooming, now that they have recovered from the summer heat.


The same California poppy, photobombed by a passing honeybee, Apis mellifera.


Honeybee feeding on a different type of dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, the Common Dandelion. Both kinds provide vital pollen and nectar for bees.

Rick has been busy converting this year’s tomato harvest, fortunately not coveted by birds and bees, into sauce which I am busy canning.  Hot peppers will be dried into long strings, and will heat up many a winter dish.  A mystery squash plant which came up from a volunteer turned out to be quite good, and many of its numerous golden hard-shell torpedo-shaped fruits are stored in racks for the winter.  It takes a meat cleaver and a mallet to cut open the shell of these golden delicacies, but baked at 350 with salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil, they are quite good, and make their own baking dish/soup bowl for other ingredients which can be added to the cavity once the seeds are removed.


The bounty of the garden.


Rick preparing crushed tomatoes for canning. We will put away close to 70 quarts this season.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is Mr. Marcus, at 8 years old, the youngest of the Boys of Salmon Brook Farms.


Mr. Marcus, enjoying time in the leather chair.

News of Jaws, the newest rough and tough gopher in town, has reached the boys, and they are not sure what to do about him!  Mr. Nano told Marcus he will keep watch out the back window, while Lucio said napping is a much better idea, and anyway, isn’t it someone else’s job? Marcus is not sure he is up for such a daunting task, catching a gopher who can tunnel down through hard-packed gravel!


Lucio – getting comfortable is such hard work!


Lucio – prefers to curl cup in his cushion rather than chase gophers.


Nano the Great White Hunter – remembers the days when he used to live outside and would catch, and eat, 5 or 6 gophers in a day when he was a wild feral cat. Been injured on the job. Came inside to be my guardian. Thinks we should call Mr. Bowie, The Great Grey Hunter to take care of Jaws. Mr. Bowie can be found at :

This is an area of driveway where I previously had to use a pickaxe  to dig a drainage trench, a testament to the power of these rodents.  A good nap in the old leather chair sounds much safer. Old Jaws has been tunneling around the old well house, making quite a mess of things.  Rick thought perhaps Odd Job might have been a better name for this particular rodent.  I have watched various cats hunt these pocket gophers, and have noted the successful captures occurred when the cat patiently watched the hole for hours.  One would eventually see the cat initiate a sudden vertical liftoff several feet off the ground, quickly coming down directly on the gopher which had just emerged from the hole.  The feline hunter must be careful not to miss the quarry upon landing.  A failed attempt can result in bodily injury when the gopher strikes back with sharp teeth that can easily cut through roots.  Gophers are a Force of Nature.


It Came from The Gopher Hole – hideout of Jaws-Odd Job the Gopher. He means business!


View of gopher hole from further away. Why this fellow tunneled through thick gravel when he wasn’t far from dirt is a mystery. Intimidation, perhaps?

Old Seabisquit the Subaru is waiting for some autumn maintenance from me, and may have something to say next month.  This Wednesday morning, Seabisquit and I take Willow, the Calico matriarch, down to the vet for a dentistry.


Willow, Calico matriarch. Does not like the idea of an upcoming tooth extraction, although she understands it is necessary. She will have something to say about that!

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
I have now finished up playing out for the season so I can rest up, refresh, recharge and get a few things done here on the farm that will take up a considerable amount of my time and energy.  Thank you to all who came to see me perform or took a minute to listen in 2015.  I will be resuming playing out again in January or February of 2016, and look forward to seeing you all again!  In the meantime, please – wherever you are – help keep your own local music scene alive by going out to see live performers, of any genre you prefer.
In your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Bookings and home-grown produce:
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms


A beautiful sunrise over Salmon Brook Farms, a reminder every new day is a gift to cherish. Each day is unique, a new opportunity. Choose wisely.

Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for September 2015

Our feature photo this month is of our goat neighbors Trinity, little Wheezie, and Mango who have come to keep burro Speedo, and ponies Joe and Jack company. The two little sheep who also live there are a bit more camera shy, and are not pictured.


Little Wheezie. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Little Wheezie got into trouble trying to nibble branches up on an apple tree on our neighbor’s side, getting stuck in a fork in the main trunk (see the tree in the far right of the photo). Sounds of emphatic bleating emerged from behind the shed on our side, and I saw the two bigger goats come running over to investigate. I joined the rescue team, hopping the fence and extricating Wheezie from the apple tree stockade that was holding her fast. Shaken but not injured, Wheezie recovered quickly and later posed for today’s feature along with the wee one’s guardians.


Close up of Trinity. She is quite the talker!


Speedo (left) and pony buddy Jack wanting in on the photo session.


Here’s Joe! He thought I might have an apple for him.

News from the farm

The long, dry and exceedingly hot summer is drawing to a close now as equinox approaches. The air has cleared of smoke from forest fires and most of the dust from larger farms tilling and pulverizing their soil post-harvest. We have had some much needed rain recently, but not enough to provide more than a top dressing of moisture on the parched earth. Drought-stressed leaves hang limply on tree, shrub and vine, slowly exchanging their summer dresses of dark green for more appropriate autumnal yellow and brown apparel. Those too, will be soon slipping away along with the daylight hours, and they will stand bare against the coming winter weather. The sound of rain on a metal roof is one of the most beautiful melodies I know, and I am looking forward to the return of the winter rainy season after the grape harvest is finished, and many quarts of applesauce and tomatoes have been canned.


Smoky sunrise on August 23rd. Forest fires and weather patterns created poor air quality throughout the valley.


Cascade table grapes netted with bird netting. Useless against bees.


Pinot noir grapes from my personal two rows of test grapes. I get to experiment with these two rows.


Pinot noir from the main vineyard, ready to harvest.


Apples festoon the trees like Christmas ornaments.

Honeybees and Yellow Jackets do as much damage as birds in the vineyard, and I would need to put up insect netting to keep them out.  At this time of year, there is little else for them to feed on, and they are attracted to the sugary juice of ripe grapes as much as any other creature.  They will do what they need to do to survive.  I leave them alone, and try to harvest what I can.  Tables grapes we eat as well as market, and  pinot noir is only for ourselves at this point.  We made vinegar last year in an experiment with fermenting our pinot on native yeast (see our November 2014 newsletter in the blog archives) .  This year, if I can, I will attempt a batch of wine using Epernay II commercial yeast as well as another batch of vinegar on native yeast and acetobacter.  Much of what I can get done on any front depends on juggling farm, personal life and elder care.  We now have home Hospice help now for Rick’s mother, which will help.


Honeybee feeding on pinot noir cluster.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is Willow, close companion of Rick’s mother, eldest of the cats here on Salmon Brook Farms, and Chaircat of the Board of the Girls of Salmon Brook Farms. We think she is in the vicinity of 18 to 20 years old, but she’s not telling, preferring her age to be part of her mystique. We think her eyes give it away though. Willow would like to acquaint readers with her girls, Abby, Hope, Wynken, Blynken and Nod. A formidable older Calico, Willow has soundly thrashed the Boys of Salmon Brook Farms, mainly Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio, when necessary. Mr. Nano, always a reasonable fellow, feels discretion is the better part of valor, and prefers to show respect to this grand old Calico matriarch.


Willow – Calico matriarch!


Willow, enjoying some time in front of the window.


Miss Hope, consenting to a photo shoot.


Miss Hope cat.


Miss Abby in her bookcase shelf hideaway.


Closeup of Abby cat.


Lovely long-haired Wynken.


Blynken (left) and Wynken (right), loafing in their baskets.


Blynken, the Quiet Intellectual.


Blynken (left) and Nod (right), loafing int heir baskets. Nod has taken over the basket from Wynken.


Nod, spokescat of the Three Sisters, showing off her Paul Newman blue eye.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I like to help other performers, when I can, by introducing them to the readers of this newsletter.  Kiamichi, Tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, will share her gift by performing with authentic American Indian Flutes and telling stories of her culture. Her CDs will be available for $15. Seniors may purchase them for $10. There will be a raffle for one of Kiamichi’s CDs for $1.00 each ticket. Please attend if you are in the area.

“Native American wooden flutes, played for calmness, balance and comfort. Creator gives me the breath that I breathe into the flute. He creates the music that comes to our heart and ears.”

2015 Native American Feast Poster v.2

As for my own schedule, one more show managed to sneak in before I take some time off from actively performing until January or February of 2016. I will be at the Albany Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning, September 26th.  Check the performance schedule page for details, and please visit

In your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Bookings and home-grown produce:
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms


A beautiful evening in late August after the smoke from fires had mostly cleared. A time to be thankful for good friends and neighbors, good food, and a good well. May each and every one of you out there have what you need. Help others in need. And whatever you do in life, do it with love.

Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for August 2015

Our feature photo this month is of one of our red roses entertaining a couple of bee guests. The rose garden is finally recovering somewhat from the heat earlier this summer, and has decided to chance another round of blooms.

News from the farm

It is the season of Dust Devils, those carefree vortices spawned by heat and rising air, and fed by exposed fine, bare soil. The large grass seed farms and wheat producers have harvested their crops, and in many cases tilled and pulverized the soil with impressively large machines. The dusty soil of Oregon farmland spins slowly across the fields, spiraling upward in the heat of August, and the pale blue, milky sky takes on an additional tan hue. Smoke from forest fires, near and far, ride the winds through the valley and mix with the airborne dust. The air has a distinct burnt scent to it from time to time, and sunsets are more colorful and deeper in hue. A few passing storms have only barely wetted the surface, releasing the pungent aroma of baked earth and thirsty vegetation. It is late summer in the Willamette Valley.


Last light of sunset on the farm.

I am looking forward to the end of summer and the return of the autumn rains on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. We have experienced all too many days over 90 degrees, on top of insufficient snow pack in the mountains and winter rain to see us through the normal dry season. Several wells in the area have already run dry. At roughly 800 feet, we are fortunate to be in a bowl of sorts, as opposed to up on the hills that encompass our farm, with a deep well and good water. We are still careful, and only spot water and drip irrigate enough to keep water-stressed trees, blueberries and gardens alive and producing. Grass is allowed to go dormant during the summer dry season, as we do not raise livestock requiring pasture here.

Veraison has begun in the table grapes and pinot noir, and Rick has begun netting. As you can see, the grass in the vineyard is dormant, and bleached to a light tan in the heat. Even yellow jackets, those pesky, stinging members of the genus Vespulaseem to be struggling a bit this year, and we have not seen the usual mobs of them on the plums, although I did spy a possum feeding in the plums one night after dark. Two bright silvery little eyes caught in the beams of the flashlight revealed a nighttime visitor to the farm, the one most likely leaving nibble marks on fruit that has dropped. Fallen fruit he will clean up for us, and is welcome to his share. Rick will climb the tree and harvest the rest, hopefully without to much interference from yellow jackets.


View down the rows of netted table grapes. Veraison has started already!


View of ripening table grapes.

Old Seabisquit the Subaru is closing in on 428,000 miles now. Still a dependable old workhorse and traveling companion, rarely grumbles about the next outing. Waves a fender and smiles on good days.


Old Seabisquit the Subaru, closing in on 428,000 miles.


News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is Mr. Lucio, official spokescat for the Boys of Salmon Brook Farms. They are outnumbered by the six girl cats, and the boys felt they had to spin off their own division of The Cats of Salmon Brook Farms in order to get work done. We are still not sure exactly what work they are doing, but Mr. Lucio would like to acquaint our readers with the boys. The girls will have their turn later.


Lucio T. Ross, official spokescat for the Boys of Salmon Brook Farm, wondering why I have disturbed his nap time for a photo.

The Boys Of Salmon Brook Farm

Early days of the Boys of Salmon Brook Farms, actively watching for gophers out the east window. The house is our old doublewide, dubbed the “Glorified Mouse Hotel”. Left to right: Lucio, Nano, Marcus

Boys of SBF

Current day Boys of Salmon Brook Farms, older and more settled in the new house. Engaged in the serious business of napping and loafing. Why bother watching for gophers when a good group nap is in progress?

Lucio was out “home shopping” back in 2006, and decided three square meals and a soft bed at our house fit his requirements, even if he did have to live with a couple of Abyssinians who didn’t understand his wild west view of life.  Along came Mr. Marcus and sibling Hope back in 2008, and he happily took on the role of Big Uncle Lucio. I happened to catch Mr. Lucio in mid lick. and little Marcus looks pleased to have an older mentor who will groom him and guide him through life.

Way back when Marcus was a kitten...

Way back when Marcus was a kitten…


Mr. Marcus, sidekick of Big Uncle Lucio , as an adult, now 8 years old. Wondering why I am disturbing an all-important nap.

Mr. Nano joined the group back in 2010 when he moved inside. We are not exactly sure where that scrawny, starving, snow-white waif came from (that is why he was called Nano), but from the start he was like a third twin to Marcus and Hope, and his good-naturedness allowed him to accommodate Mr. Lucio’s rough play.


Mr. Nano, hard at work. Note that the antennae are paying close attention to what I am doing behind him.

And finally, Mr. Lucio would like us to pause for a moment of silence to remember the Cats Emeritus: Old Klaatu, Mr. Austin, and Mr. Beaucastel, the black cat on the cover of my CD.  These beloved old souls may have passed on, but will live forever in our hearts and memories. The story of Old Klaatu initiated this blog back in June of 2013 as a tribute to this very special cat and his all too short time with us.

Old Klaatu on his barrel dining station

Old Klaatu on his barrel dining station

Mr. Austin

Mr. Austin


Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I had an enjoyable evening playing outside at PanezaNellie Breadstick Shoppe up in Sublimity, Oregon this past Friday evening.  If you are in the area, please stop in and help support this venue which is a very, very good supporter of the performing arts.  The food is great and these are some of the nicest people you will ever meet!

I will be taking a break from performing for a few months after my last show of the season, which will be at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market on September 5th. I will hopefully wrap up, or at least make some progress, on projects that have been moving at a snail’s pace, including the YouTube site. I look forward to resuming performances in January of 2016. Stay tuned!

In your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Bookings and home-grown produce:
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms

My early days of non-conformity, age 5, captured by my mother. Wearing big brother’s boyscout uniform and knapsack, and quite proud of it! I started a new branch of scouting, calling myself a “Bird Scout”. We did not live near other children during my earliest years, so unfettered by peer-pressure, the limits of my imagination at that age knew no bounds. The stars were mine!


Lavinia as a “Bird Scout”, age 5, wearing big brother’s boyscout uniform and knapsack. Quite proud to have started a new line of scouting! Snapshot in time captured by my mother. Those were the days….


Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for July 2015

Our feature photo this month is the Return of the Jedi Deer. I spied them under the apple trees in late June, in the dim light of early dawn. One turned to look at me just before I pressed the shutter button, and the surprised doe’s eyes caught the camera’s flash, giving her a laser-eyed Jedi look. The pressure from these roving cervids, who are looking for water and anything green, has started early with this year’s drought. Click on any photo to enlarge.


Visiting deer, early morning late June.


Deer fencing up in the background, protecting the pinot noir. They would love to get inside the gate…

News from the farm

The long days of summer are passing all too quickly on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. Blueberry season is upon us, and we are in a race with hungry birds for the dark blue treasure! Cherry season was early and short due to early hot weather, and Robins, cedar waxwings, bluejays and flickers are among the feathered ones who have now turned their attention to the berry patch. There is much wastage as the birds often stick their beaks in fruit without actually eating it. I pull off and toss those on the ground, hoping to deflect attention away from good berries still on the bush.


Fresh mound. Gophers still hard at work. They never take time off…


Blueberry patch.


South view. The surrounding hills are looking a bit brown and dry.

August weather patterns and high temperatures arrived in June, and the landscape looks more like early August out there as opposed to early July. We had a small amount of rain last week coupled with some passing thunderstorms. For a short time, the mineral scent of wet earth and pungent vegetation permeated the air and revived the senses while the staccato sound of rain on the metal roof played in the background. Old Man Thunder and his herd rode though quickly that evening, leaving us with a rainbow to the east in the fading light, and the promise of a clear evening and open skies for cooling off the land to the west. Although still dry, we are down in the 70s and low 80s for the time being, and the evening’s breeze sends cool tendrils in the windows. I take a long look across this bowl we live in to the hills beyond, and drink up the elixir of the coming darkness. Deer and small creatures of the night emerge. This is their realm.


Rainbow in the eastern sky at sundown.


Clearing skies to the west.

The Egg Fairy has started coming around again, now that his chickens are recovering from the heat. He stealthily rides in on his BMW 1150 motorcycle, or red truck, depending on where else he is going and what he is delivering. I don’t know quite how he does that, as I often don’t hear him come down the driveway with his daughter, who actually maintains the flock. They magically leave fresh local eggs in a special location, and our empty egg cartons disappear. We still struggle with elder care, which consumes more and more of our time. It is wonderful to have good friends and fairies of various types who help us and makes deliveries!

For Mandy, at Rocky Springs Rambles in Australia ( ) , here are the promised photos of the old horse Brimstone, and pony Spring Frost. That is me back in my teenage days riding Brimstone bareback in that photo, heading out for a trail ride, photographed by my mother. He was a handsome Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred cross. Known as “The Pickle” to the horseshoer. He would lean on Jerry, slowly pushing him down as the farrier worked diligently on a front hoof. Jerry, who was slowly sinking down under the weight of a tilting horse, would eventually figure out what was happening, and wap him one. Slowly the horse tilted back up, removing the weight off of Jerry’s back, and shoeing continued once again. This show repeated itself several times during the process of shoeing. Tilt down.  Wap.  Tilt up.  Wait.  Tilt down.  Wap.  Tilt up. Wait.  Repeat…..  Brimstone was also branded “daemon” by my mother for sneaking up behind her one day and pushing her into the manure pile. Occasionally chased children who cut through his field, in spite of being warned about him. “DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE FIELD!!!! HE WILL GET YOU!!!!!” Standing alert by the barn with ears forward, he would spy a potential victim crossing the back pasture. Starting off at a happy trot towards the unsuspecting “intruder”, the ears would go back in a threatening position once he was sure he had been seen by the victim, and the happy trot became a determined lope. He would stay just behind the children who were running for their lives (in one case, an adult), stretch out his neck, snapping his teeth just behind their heads. He liked the “fear factor” in his shows. He never hurt anyone, but liked to have “fun” with people. People who were warned….  All I remember being told about him back then was that his father was a Quarter Horse named Little A&M, and his mother was a Thoroughbred named Agnes. I was also told he was 8 years old. The vet said more like 16….but he was beautiful, strong and was in great shape. And he could jump. He came to live down at the barn with Frosty the pony.


Brimstone and Lavinia, way back when. Heading out for a trail ride.

This photo is of me on Spring Frost, my pony, and school chum Tracy who borrowed Brimstone for one of the local fair horse shows. Frosty won a first-place blue ribbon and trophy, and Brimstone came in third with a yellow ribbon in whatever respective classes we were registered for that morning. Brimstone also had a habit of taking an occasional pot shot with a rear hoof at nearby horse in the ring, which the judge understandably would frown upon. Dear old Mom was not an exceptional photographer, but she was a good documenter of the occasion. She captured the most important part of this scene, our mounts sporting their hard-won ribbons. Somewhere I have a photo of Brimstone with his Reserve Champion ribbon he and I won one year. That is the missing photo I am looking for! And I still do have the ribbons and trophies.


Brimstone and school chum Tracy in the back. I’m on Spring Frost the pony. Horse show at a local fair.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is little Nod, a.k.a “Sister Bertrille, The Flying Nod”, for her ability to take a flying leap from 6 feet away and land on my shoulder. Fortunately for me, she is the smallest of the Sisters, and lightest weight. As well as being an accomplished acrobat, she is never short of comments, on any topic. Nod would like to reminisce this month and show photos from the old days when The Three Sisters first arrived at Salmon Brook Farms as little homeless waifs with brother Tio Pepe and Mama Silvie. Tio and Silvie went to live with a friend, and are doing quite well as one can see! The Three Sisters never found placement, as I did not want to break up this close-knit cat family any further. No one wanted, or could afford, three cats. Being a rural area, everyone around here seems to have six or more of their own, and not by choice. Comes with the territory. The girls are now almost 2 years old, and this is the only loving home they have ever known. So the Three Sisters will remain with us, and have become a part of the legends and stories of this place we call home.

The Four Kittens

The Gang of Four kittens. Little brother Tio Pepe looks comfy in the company of his sisters.


Nod in her kittenhood days. Plenty to say about everything! Her unusual eye color was becoming apparent.


Nod all grown up. Still a kitten at heart.


Mama Silvie when she first came to visit. We knew she was nursing kittens…somewhere….


Mam Silvie and son Tio Pepe in their new home, some time later. Tio has grown up but still loves his mother. Photo courtesy of J.B.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

The farmers markets here are in full swing, with music of all kinds to heard and enjoyed. I am one among many out there performing at these local markets, as well as book music for a couple of them. Most of us will never have been heard of outside of our respective areas, and will only have been heard in passing.   I will be taking a break at the end of September for a short while, unless something comes up I can’t refuse, so I can get back to working in my studio again. Between farm, performing and caregiving, I had to put something aside for now. Everything in its place and season. Fall and winter will be here before too long, and I will have a bit more time to play in the studio and get the Tiny Farm Concerts channel up and running on You Tube.   Stay tuned.


Lily’s Memorial “Don’t Bully Me” Garden. For a teenage girl who committed suicide a few years ago after being bullied. Kindness, patience and respect for others is often the hardest thing to achieve in life, but one we must all strive for. May her spirit find peace.

In your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Bookings and home-grown produce:
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms