Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for May 2018

Our feature photo this month is Marilyn, one of our reblooming irises.  The Marilyn Monroes of the flower world, irises dominate the gardens during the month of May with their eye-catching blooms.  Tucked in here and there about the farm, year after year they add grace and beauty to whatever spot they find themselves in. Readers may click on any photo to enlarge.

“Marilyn”, our featured iris for May 2018. In full display, she is reaching for the afternoon sun, her ruffles crisp, clean and elegant.

The appearance of iris blooms signals the month of May is on schedule and in progress.

Looking down the throat of one of our original irises given to us by friends long ago.

And more irises. I believe these were from a discount box of Dutch iris bulbs planted many years ago.

A small patch of wild yellow flag iris.

News from the farm

May has been a tentative month, still feeling the presence of Old Man Winter with cooler, although drier, weather patterns.  Many a morning has been cool and grey, dissolving into a patchwork of assorted clouds forms against the stark blue of late morning or afternoon.  The aerial  rivers of moisture that flow across the Pacific Northwest have yielded little precipitation this month in our area though, and some plants here are prematurely showing signs of water stress.

The wild and everchanging skies of late spring.

Deer have already begun to make themselves known, sampling the roses in the garden.  Rick noted deer damage in the back of the rows of table grapes, mostly in the Niagara and Delaware varieties; fresh green shoots were eaten back to the main cane in many places. They will regrow from other dormant buds, but this will set back fruit production in those ones that were eaten. At this time of year we spray deer repellent on the new growth, often initiated by the first attacks on the vines.  Our pinot vineyard is safely behind deer fencing.

There were two of them that evening. This one headed for the woods.

Peering out from the apple tree tunnel into the back lot, this deer was waiting for me to leave.

The back meadow, beyond the apple tunnel.

The progression of spring continues into its last phase as more irises enter their bloom time; the gardens have shifted from the golden yellows and whites of daffodils to the predominant late spring and summer shades of blue and purple. Dark purple columbines have been increasing their representation in the gardens every year since a few hitchhiking seeds arrived in a bag of rabbit manure a number of years ago, and settled in by the old garage.

Purple columbine by the old garage.

Cherry, plum and pear blossoms have fallen like snow, replaced by small, hard, green growing fruit.

Pears in progress!

Our vineyards are at the flowering stage, and we hope for an uneventful summer and a good grape harvest.   To grow and tend the grapes, and taste one’s own wine made from them, is to truly appreciate what goes into a bottle of wine.  It is no longer just a drink, but now a living thing.  It is the alchemy of air, sunlight and rain, the soil with all its minerals, nutrients and microbial life,  guided by caring and hardworking hands from vine to bottle.

One of our table grapes in flower. When this photo was taken, they were slightly ahead of the pinot in development.

Our head grape tender, also quite happy about the pepper plant starts I grew for him.

Rick enjoys cooking what we grow.

A clear and chilly 36 degrees greeted me at daybreak this morning before I headed across the valley to Corvallis.  Down by the waterfront, I was greeted by cold and windy conditions which were mitigated by an unusual and fascinatingly beautiful milky sky.  Clouds seem much more impressive when seen through polarized sunglasses;  there is an increased sense of depth and distinct boundaries not available to the normal eye. A thin light grey film of high ice crystal clouds covered the sky, providing the backdrop for lower level amoeboid altocumulus and cirrocumulus wandering though the double halo, created by refraction of light through ice crystal prisms. These wanderers passing through the inner circular of the halo took on a faint opalescence of their own.  Many bystanders took pictures.

The first daylily bloomed today; the only peony to bloom this year is opening its buds; the north border heirloom rose is beginning its short bloom cycle. The air is thick with the heavy, musk of the black locust tree in bloom.  As frenetic as this time of year can be, it is a good time to be alive and feel a part of all things.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has called upon the Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk for Correspondent Lucky’s report on the olive farm at The House of 40 Paws in May.  Without further ado, Mr. Lucky will present his findings.

Correspondent Lucky, from the Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk. Lucky is blind, but navigates the upper and lower bounds of his world on the olive farm with ease. He is an inspiration to all.

Spring on the olive farm has brought longer days and warmer weather which led to the Sicilian Olive Farm cats changing their napping accommodations. The preferred arrangement now is boxes and crates which give enough protection and ample space for piling as many cats as possible into one place.  The sunny terrace provides a good vantage point for observation. The mulberry tree, which so kindly gives morning shade, currently shelters a nest of magpies,  who are always scolding any cat that approaches too closely.

How many cats can fit in a box? Photo credit M.G.

More cats. Photo credit M.G.

There are two kinds of lavender currently blooming, Stokes or Italian Lavender followed by French Lavender. These plants are a haven for the bees and good hiding places for felines in need of a good surprise ambush to raise adrenaline levels.

Lavender and a view of the spectacular Sicilian countryside. Photo credit M.G.

Early in spring there was a bumper crop of Spinacciola or wild radish. One might consider it a weed but here it is appreciated both for its fragrance and the edible leaves. “Cooked saltate” means boiled first then drained and sautéed in olive oil with hot pepper and garlic; it is delicious!

As winter wheat, vetch and fave beans planted in nearby fields mature, the countryside changes from shades of green to  yellow and gold. The wild red poppies that sprout amid the crops visually set the fields on fire.

View of the countryside overlooking the olive trees. Photo credit M.G.

Photo credit M.G.

Poppies abound! Photo credit M.G.

Among the olive trees in our field is a nitrogen fixing plant called Sulla which looks very similar to a red lupine.  The resident human farmers have tilled up our field to aerate the soil for the olive trees.  We feel fortunate to have a two acre sand box, quite suitable for a blind feline to take care of his personal needs, chase fellow correspondents and hide from human caregivers.  I am the primary inspector on this farm, periodically climbing the olive trees to check for buds.  I am pleased to report they are ready to bloom. We are hopeful that the rain will hold off until the bees can complete their work pollinating the entire grove.

Olive flowers. Photo credit M.G.

And more olive flowers. Photo credit M.G.

Correspondent Lucky, on the job. Photo credit M.G.

The other correspondents are not quite as adventurous. They express a preference for playing with laundry or having serious philosophical discussions on the terrace. 

Many a serious discussion has taken place here. Photo credit M.G.

The Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk wishes all our readers a bountiful and beautiful summer season.

 – Sicilian Feline Correspondent Lucky, reporting from the olive farm at the House of 40 Paws

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again, especially as a terminal musician.  Juggling music, farm and outside work which pays the bills which enables us to play music and keep the farm (and cats) going has kept me more than occupied.  May has not been any more conducive to finishing projects at home than April, and I will make no excuses. Things will be done when they will be done. If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

For those readers who are new or catching up, do visit the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel. Our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March, 2017. I am 15 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube. Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post. Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site. See https://archive.org/details/iuma-lavinia_ross

In the meantime, 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.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

Our roses by the house are now beginning to bloom. This particular one is hosting a spider enjoying a sunny afternoon in May.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for April 2018

Our feature photo this month is one of our more tenacious, scrappy and colorful residents, a shrub I believe is a most likely a flowering quince. Planted by the previous owner right next to the well house, Lucille soon outgrew her allotted space.  I moved her some years ago, to a location where she could grow unfettered by human gardening sensibilities. She proved difficult to extract from the hard clay soil, having firmly entrenched herself by sending many roots far underneath the cement floor of the well house. Like the original Disney movie The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, starring Mickey Mouse, the numerous rootlets cut and left behind soon regrew into many, sending up stout shoots between cracks in the floor, and all around the building. It is now a continual struggle to keep her myriad offspring at bay.

Lucille, flowering quince

News from the farm

It has been a long, slow transition from the cold, damp reign of Old Man Winter. He has lurked about longer than usual this year, taking his time moving on down the road. The exuberant growth of spring cannot be contained for long, however, each species in turn rushing to complete its flowering cycle before the next phase. Daffodils have peaked and are now waning with the moon; bud break has occurred in the vineyard; the first iris has opened by the old garage.

First iris of the spring season!

Our only surviving tulips outside any planters, planted in gravel by the garage. Too much work for gophers and voles?

The skies of spring are highly changeable, drawn from the rivers of moisture flowing over the Pacific Northwest and painted with an artist’s eye from a palette of blues, greys, golds and white. Coming down off the foothills into the valley floor below, the sky often opens a bit for the observer. From here, one can see the armada of wind driven clouds sailing up the valley, heading north, some lodging like river foam along the banks of mountains, the Coastal and Cascade ranges. Each cloud floats at a level according to its buoyant density. Dark grey flat bottoms mark the lowest level of the heavily laden cumulonimbus, carrying the lavender grey and stark white mushroom towers and canyons above like floats in a parade. The still angled sun casts its gaze upon these travelers, highlighting their forms in shadow and light, much to the delight of the viewer at the bottom of the aerial river.

Crab apple tree in full bloom. The sky is typical of this time of year.

Our first thunderstorm of the season blew through on Saturday. Some partial clearing occurred that morning, soon followed by a flotilla of heavily laden cumulonimbus clouds sailing up from the southwest, creating an ever changing scene of intense sky blue, dark charcoal to white cloud over spring green and bright gold amid the passing storms. I feel the same sense of wonder at such things as I did as a small child, when such phenomena were fresh and new. Sight evokes a sense of touch at times. One can feel the movement of clouds overhead in the shadows racing across the land, of being in warm sun one minute, then in the cold shadow speeding by the next. Eventually, all became heavy and ominous as the aerial wanderers coalesced into something bigger and more powerful than themselves. The grey ceiling became ragged. Lightning flashed, thunder pealed and rain fell as pent up energy from the day was released.

Redbud tree reaches skyward on April 28th.

Rainbows in both the east and west are many, a promise of peace to come after a long winter and dark skies. The sweet musky fragrance of fruit tree blooms fills the air, most notable towards early evening.  A growing symphony of chorus frogs ushers in the night.

An eastern rainbow created by setting sun and rain still falling as the bank of clouds moved on over the Cascades.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Mr. Nano, ever watchful

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has called upon Correspondents Miss Hope and Mr. Marcus to file their report for April. Sister and brother, they will be 11 years old this August. They have diligently been observing the farm from the window. Without further ado, Miss Hope and Mr. Marcus will present their findings.

Miss Hope (Left) and brother Mr. Marcus (right)

April came into being a wild, unruly month, not quite fitting of spring, yet no longer winter.  On April 7th, the wind was quite energetic by sunrise, ripping the cloud cover apart; the sun spilled through a break in the east, lighting the undersides of a growing mass of clouds to the west in soft shades of light peach and lavender; the waning moon in its last quarter hung pale gold in a morning blue sky. It was not long before we spotted an intense rainbow to the southwest, a sign of an approaching rainstorm coming up through the pass.

A morning rainbow in the west. Weather was moving in quickly up through the southwest pass.

The weather front moving in quickly obliterated sunrise.

Common Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale, punctuate the green fields with their bright yellow faces, adding cheer as daffodils will not last long now with the increase in temperature. Rain-swollen lichens cling to most every branch, festooning the trees in a vibrant light green-grey.  The remaining daffodils have bloomed as April bids adieu, and we greet the coming month of May.

The last of the daffodils. To the left are developing German bearded iris buds.

On many mornings, the coverlet of damp grey slowly rends under the rising sun into a patchwork of friendly cumulus, and sails away over the Cascades.   Sometimes afternoon arrives before the sun makes an appearance.

A textured afternoon sky to the south.

The sun made more frequent appearances amid dark skies and rain squalls, making promises of warmer days to come. The contrast of bright golden light against heavy blue-grey nimbus on a freshly washed, emerald green landscape is a delight to behold at this transitional time of year. On some evenings, the sky presents itself as a masterpiece in brushstrokes of light golden cream to many shades of grey cloud on a fading light blue canvas. The days grow longer; the last light faded at about 8:50 PM on April 18th as a bright silhouette of the dark side of the moon appeared with the growing crescent moon, hanging in the sky like a large eye trained out into the greater Universe. A star to the left stared back at the moon, set against the deeper Maxfield Parrish colors of last light.

Petals from plum and cherry trees are beginning their annual descent from the trees, single spent blossoms falling here and there as the apple trees begin their blooming cycle. Soon their numbers will increase until the wandering breezes are filled with them, drifting like snow and settling on the green grass below. The air is filled with their sweet, musky scent; it is a pleasant view of the orchard.

Ox-eye daisy and fallen cherry tree petals. Ox-eye daisy will bloom short and close to the ground if mowed.

The blending of pink and white in the opening buds of apple trees is a visual delight.

The pear tree. Most years it flowers too early, a hard frost or two occurs, and we get few to no pears. This year may be different.

We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

Heading towards LAX in January. View from the window.

– Resident Feline Correspondent Miss Nod, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again. April has not been any more conducive to finishing projects than March, and I will make no further excuses. Things will be done when they will be done.

For those readers who are new or catching up, do visit the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel. Our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March, 2017. I am 15 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube. Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post. Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site. See https://archive.org/details/iuma-lavinia_ross

In the meantime, 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.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

A solar powered frog light, a gift from a friend, watches over one of the front gardens.

 

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for March 2018

The transition from winter into spring brings forth a profusion of wildlife, blooms, and rainbows amid wild, kaleidoscopic skies. Our feature photo this month is a shy but comely daffodil residing by an apple tree near the house.

A single daffodil, tucked in near an apple tree in the previous year, presenting us with a smiling face this spring.

Over time, these individual bulbs planted here and there will continue to divide, forming colorful islands in the sea of green.

Protected from gophers, the old barrel of crocus did not disappoint us, putting on a spectacular show this year.

A half-barrel of crocus on a sunny afternoon in March.

A cluster of crocus from the same barrel, in full orange-throated song, as only such a joyous spring flower can do.

News from the farm

February passed the baton of cold weather on to March, although spring cannot readily be held back as the days lengthen and sunrise moves north along the eastern ridge towards equinox. Perhaps a blessing, cool late weather and early spring weather have kept bush, tree and vine in check from breaking bud and blooming too early.

February 26th, another light covering of short-lived snow.

Undaunted daffodils, silently waiting to open their buds.

Early March brought slightly warmer weather, and a return to green.   Stinklesby II, the first skunk of the season, came calling early on; inquisitive and hungry, he left his unmistakably scented calling card behind in many places, including the shed.  He seems to have spent some time investigating that outbuilding, unfortunately.

Stinklesby II, a handsome striped skunk, came to visit. I kept the flash off so as not to alarm him. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

Stinklesby II investigating the solar path light.

Stopping to smell the roses, although there are no roses blooming yet.

Showing us the business end. The photo shoot came to a close! It is said they can accurately spray up to 10 feet.

While the earth remained cold and wet, the first round of seeds were started indoors in preparation for warmer times.  Tomatoes are ready for transplanting into larger pots, making room for ground cherries, something I have never tried to grow, in the seed start rack.   Late winter changes continued to make themselves apparent in the local plants and animals, including myself.  Like the skunk, I feel ready to shake off winter’s torpor and wander about, soaking up the still angled but warm sun.  Everything is to be investigated, noted and logged; every ephemeral rainbow and passing cloud present a feast for the eyes to be appreciated.

Daffodils and grape hyacinths were a bit dismayed at encountering snow again on March 23rd. Hopefully this storm closed the final chapter in winter’s book.

Bright sun and a passing storm two days later produced an intense rainbow, as well as a fainter second rainbow.

Cirrus clouds quickly formed after sunrise one morning; the sun shone through the layer of ice crystal cirrostratus as if it were a light source behind a sintered glass filter.  A quick look about the sky with polarized sunglasses revealed a bright ring around the sun, and a faint cloud bow.  Nature provides a wealth of memories to those willing to take the time to look.

An evening just past sundown was noteworthy, captured in mind’s eye; sound and scent will be remembered. A sliver of growing moon hung in the fading light to the west behind the thin, long sweeping tails of cirrus clouds while the first frogs of the evening tuned up for their night-long performance; the scent of geosmin rose from the damp earth. All was as it should be.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has called upon Correspondent Miss Nod to file her report for March.  She will be 5 years old this August, and has been learning the valuable skills of observation from the crow’s nest.  Very little has escaped her sharp-eyed gaze.  Without further ado, Miss Nod will present her findings.

Feline Correspondent Miss Nod, keeping an eye on news from the crow’s nest.

In early March, I sat transfixed one morning as frost appeared to thicken into a solid white patina and sparkle as the sun rose; perhaps the mists added to it, or it was the illusion created by Old Sol’s gaze cast upon it.   The rising sun quickly dispatched Jack Frost’s handiwork; eventually the green below emerged, and all traces of the ice kingdom were gone.

Our daffodils by the old garage that bloomed in January had already begun to die back in early March, while others in less protected places were in the fat bud stage, or just emerging. Mint was slowing forming shoots and leaves from wandering rootstock, still keeping low to the ground. Crocus and other spring bulbs continued to push upward into the light, while other green shoots came out of hiding like Muchkins upon discovering Dorthy was not the Wicked Witch.

Another solitary daffodil among the daylilies.

Morning sun after a rain presents yet another view of Nature’s handiwork, spilling gold across the green winter grass and and causing the myriad water drops clinging to branch and stem to scintillate.  She sometimes sends us soft, rumply skies with patches of blue and hints of pastel color at daybreak, or dawn’s rosy glow on the underside of lavender-grey clouds.  I recall one dawn colored in Maxfield Parrish hues and a silver-gold sliver of waning moon, captured in mind’s eye.

The black locust tree at dawn on the 12th. The soft clouds in the background have captured dawn’s pink glow.

The aerial rivers of moisture that flow across the Pacific Northwest deposit a variety of cloud forms.  The light plays amid the canyons created by water-swollen cumulonimbus clouds, giving a sense of texture and depth, of places to explore.

Our multilevel sky on March 16th.

March has presented us with two full moons, on the 1st and 31st, allowing many opportunities for observation, even on nights with intermittent cloud cover.  The moon, in its last quarter, hung pale-gold in the sky.   I had seen it over the southeast horizon around 3:30 AM that morning, not long after it had risen, flooding the room with pale golden light. I fell asleep again to the sound of chorus frogs cheerfully serenading the moon’s passage high above through the blackness of space.  We all see the same moon, no matter where we reside, a common tie that binds us all on this one Earth we share.  If only that were enough.

We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead,  and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

Correspondent Miss Nod, on duty.

– Resident Feline Correspondent Miss Nod, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again.  March has not been any more conducive to finishing projects than February, and I will make no further excuses.  Things will be done when they will be done.

For those readers who are new or catching up, do visit the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel.  Our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March, 2017. I am 15 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube. Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post. Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site. See https://archive.org/details/iuma-lavinia_ross

In the meantime, 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.
 
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com
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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for February 2018

Our feature photo this month is of the first crocus of the season, which emerged on February 13th.    The delicately striped goblet and bright orange-gold stamens made a particularly pleasing image this month.  Early heralds of the coming spring, they often endure bouts of cold, snowy weather with grace and fortitude.

The first crocus of the season opened its striped goblet on February 13th.

News from the farm

February has been a short, mostly dark month in spite of the rapidly lengthening days, a study in shades of grey, white and green.  Our pleasant but unusually warm winter weather continued on into the first half of the month before descending into more seasonal cold conditions, confounding early shoots, buds and tree frogs.

Daylilies had grown quite a bit during the warmer part of the month, but weather cold and snow reasonably well.

The first of snow fell, leaving a pristine coverlet of white across the emerald green of the farm; many passing storms brought frequent squalls of varying flake sizes. The wind’s movements about the farm were recorded in the ringing of the chimes and in the patterns of the driven, swirling plates, giving form and intent to the invisible.  Fog crawled over the hills and down into the low areas, shrouding the perimeter and sealing us in.   Daffodils patiently waited with bowed trumpets; crocus goblets were tightly folded up like umbrellas; frogs remained silent. Old Man Winter was passing through.

Crocus buds in the barrel planter remained tightly folded.

One of many nightly rounds of snow that fell during the night, only to retreat during the day.

The ground, still relatively warm, did not tolerate her covers for long, throwing them off and leaving snow stranded in the cooler branches with their nested lichens like cotton balls.

The ground is still relatively warm, leaving snow on the cooler branches above. The combination of white and green was particularly beautiful.

The land is in transition from winter’s fitful sleep and petulant late season storms.  Grass continues to green and grow; buds fatten and determined tree frogs will perform their symphonies on warmer nights.  Spring will soon arrive.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano had assigned this month’s report to corespondents Mr. Lucio and Miss Nod, but they were too busy napping and keeping an eye on the other residents.

 

Correspondent Mr. Lucio (left) and Corespondent Miss Nod (right) had other plans.

Miss Nod’s sisters Miss Wynken and Miss Blynken volunteered to report their findings of February instead.  Without further ado, Miss Wynken and Miss Blynken will present their findings.

Correspondents Miss Wynken and Miss Blynken on the job, gathering news.

Corespondent Miss Blynken says they are ready with their report.

In early February we continued to wake to darkness, barn lights still glowing on the distant hills as morning attempted to shake off the long mid winter night.   On warmer, sunnier days it didn’t take long for the uniform grey to dissolve into a variety of cloud forms, from ragged, heavy cumulus to cottonball-like altoculumus and wispy cirrus; temperatures sometimes rose into the mid 60s.

The sun’s steady journey north continues; the point of emergence over the eastern hills will change rapidly now. At equinox, it will shine directly in our east window, our own Stonehenge of sorts.  On clearer mornings, we watched the mists rise from damp earth, coalescing into milky rivers winding around the base of nearby hills.  On these days, all is rising and becoming cloud, wandering up and away over the Cascades.

On cloudy days, the sky may eventually clear enough to allow the sun to briefly kiss the hills with golden light at sundown.  The colors in the east will transition, becoming darker on the horizon as the last longer rays of sunlight fade.  After nightfall, we look for the constellation Orion, and the moon at its various points in its cycle.

The eastern horizon after sundown on February 13th.

The last light fades in the west on February 13th.

February marks the return of the American robin, Turdus migratorius, to the farm in large numbers. They have been particularly fond of scratching about under the rose bushes.

The giant has come back to visit the greenhouse, and unwittingly disturbed the winter residents who wished nothing more than a dry, quiet place to sleep away the cold.   An overwintering yellowjacket queen was found in a pile of seed trays out in the new cement pad greenhouse. Torpid and helpless, she was put back in a protected place. A fat-bodied brown-colored spider was nestled in another set of tray inserts, complete with long-dead prey wrapped in silk.  Size and strength determine many an outcome in this game of life.

February 15th marked  a return to cooler conditions, decelerating the headlong rush into early spring initiated by January’s unusual warmth. Our frogs were mostly quiet at last rounds on this particular evening, not finding the day’s weather pattern to their liking. The  thermometer spider was actively hunting on her web that evening, undaunted by a cold morning start and a temperature that evening of 42 degrees.

The first snow of the season fell on February 18th.  We awoke to a light frosting and overcast skies that day. There is something magical about the first snow; heavy skies that are neither grey nor white seem to be one with the earth below as they meet in a fury of drifting, swirling precipitation.  A light wind drove the flakes at a gentle angle before it. Although the temperature was hovering just below 32 degrees, the ground was still relatively warm, resulting in a slushy, slippery footing just below the pristine white coverlet.

Sky and Earth become one in a snowstorm.

Daylilies frosted with snow. The walkway was quite slippery.

Our thermometer spider appears to have company now; a second web occupied by a smaller spider has been built further down and at an angle to the larger spider’s web.

The porch spider only comes out after dark, and has been rather elusive.

All has returned to green as of today, February 25th, as a steady rain falls.  It was 38 degrees at daybreak; a light wind at ground level was accompanied fast moving, low-hanging clouds, dragging their bottoms across the hills like heavily laden ships in aerial seas.  Trees, festooned with water-swollen lichens and moss, appear to have a covering of new spring growth if viewed from a distance.  It is not long now until the arrival of spring.

We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

View of Mt. Hood from the plane coming into PDX in February, 2017.

– Resident Feline Correspondents Miss Wynken and Miss Blynken, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again.  February has been busier than I expected, but I do hope to be catching up with some projects in March.

For those readers who are new or catching up, the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel now has content, and our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March. I am 14 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube. Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post. Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site. See https://archive.org/details/iuma-lavinia_ross

In the meantime, 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

http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

Spring will arrive soon, with all its promise and renewal.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2018

Our feature photo this month is of the first snow iris to emerge in the garden on January 28th, from within the clump of a volunteer lemon balm. Another snow iris has appeared this morning, along with the first snowdrops of the season.

The first snow iris to emerge. This iris is part of Archie and Marion’s memorial garden. Please visit https://thelandy.com/2013/11/04/the-pain-of-the-loss-of-a-loved-one-menieres-disease/ and https://thelandy.com/2013/05/21/life-death-and-grief-well-miss-you-mate/

Daffodils started their journey towards the sun back in December, forming buds but remaining in a sort of stasis during the colder part of the season, which often went down into the 20s at night. Our first daffodil of the season bloomed on January 16th.

A golden daffodil trumpet out by the old garage, herald of spring yet to come. I think of Wordworth’s poem when I see these beauties. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45521/i-wandered-lonely-as-a-cloud

Elbert’s memorial garden over by the cement pad greenhouse is continuing to send up new growth, and will soon be bustling with blooms.  Gophers have presented their challenges!

Elbert’s Garden continues along the north side of the greenhouse. More bulbs get added every fall as this garden continues to expand and develop. See https://phainopepla95.com/2016/04/19/

From Elbert’s Garden in late summer 2017, a sun-drenched golden gladiola.

Other memorial gardens will also make an appearance from time to time.  Watch for them in spring.

News from the farm

It is mid winter here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. Yet amid the fallen leaves and skeletal remains of the previous year, green shoots continue to push their way up out of the cold, wet soil, their own internal clocks driving the annual reach for sunlight.

All that is left of the deer that expired in our yard back in October 2016. More soil will be added and a new perennial flower garden planted here. See https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/rick-and-lavinia-ross-farm-music-newsletter-for-october-2016/

It is our winter rainy season in western Oregon, punctuated with days of sun and even some days reaching 70 degrees. Low areas are channeled with runoff, and there is much standing water about. In heavy rains, even gopher holes will spout water like mini artesian wells; I wonder about the inhabitants and their evacuation strategies. Barn lights still glow on the distant hills on heavily overcast mornings; the night’s darkness is reluctant to leave under such heavy atmospheric conditions.

Some of these low areas do not dry out until some time in June.

Pruning work in the vineyard continues, trimming vines down to two lateral canes.  Our lives are intertwined with the farm, orchard and vineyard.  It is a part of us; like the plum tree whose branches have fused, separation is unthinkable.

Rick at work pruning the pinot noir vineyard.

The old, twisted purple plum tree, we think is an Emperor plum. Two of the branches have twisted around and grown into each other.

On last rounds one evening I noted the resident spider by the porch thermometer, bravely tending her web in the 45 degree wind and rain. She shelters when needed behind the thermometer, which is fastened to the post; there is just enough clearance for her to slip in behind. She is not the first spider to set up housekeeping in this convenient location, prime real estate for catching insects attracted to the porch lights, and for shelter from the elements.

We have a had some days in the mid 60s and even 70 degrees. To the right of the thermometer, a spider web can be seen on close inspection. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

On clearer evenings, the moon is a pleasant companion when she is in the visible part of her journey. A few nights ago, a gibbous moon shone down through a mostly clear sky, which appeared to be rapidly filling in with clouds as the evening progressed. Only the most prominent stars were visible, and I was able to find Orion, a familiar landmark in the sky. Pacific Chorus frogs, enlivened by the day’s warm winter sun, provided the music for the nightly dance of the moon and stars across the heavens. An owl softly hooted in the distance.

A chorus frog from 2016, found hiding under the roll-up window on the porch greenhouse.

I continue to marvel at life springing from the ground in winter, the sound of chorus frogs, the nip in the wind, and the perfection in all these things. The smallest details of life are the most important to me, to be held in the moment, studied, and released to go about their business.

The small winged insect in the center I believe is a species of hoverfly. They were out visiting daffodils.

What I believe is a hoverfly visiting a daffodil.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has observed much from his window this month, and has also enlisted fellow Feline Correspondent Miss Hope to record her observations from the crow’s nest basket perch next to her window. They have once again sent the photographer out to investigate. Without further ado, Mr. Nano and Miss Hope will present their findings.

Resident Feline Correspondent Miss Hope, reporting from the Crow’s Nest.

Taking a break while Mr. Nano is on duty.

The days are discernibly longer now that we are almost 6 weeks past solstice, especially notable on clear days when one can observe sundown through last light, unobstructed by cloud cover. Of particular beauty is the banding of colors along the eastern horizon, night’s rising purple veil transitioning into rose-pink. Contrail and cloud pick up the last long rays of sun below the horizon, briefly flaming the sky before fading to lavender and finally grey. The guard changes at the boundaries of day and night; the realm of stars becomes visible; creatures of the night begin to stir.

This is a sundown image from 2016 I particularly love for its colors and depth. It was on my wish list to get a good photo of the color transitions on the eastern horizon at sundown this month. Colors change quickly at the bookends of the day, and one has to be prepared to catch them.

Earlier in the lunar cycle, the bright sliver of growing moon bobbed in and out view on night’s partially cloudy sea one evening. A few stars peered down through portholes while a light breeze played in the wind chimes; Pacific chorus frogs struck up a symphony in the low marshy areas.  All seemed as it should be; the sense of peace was as encompassing as the mists at ground level.

Marshy wooded area in the back lot.

A walk in the back lot in late afternoon reveals signs of other lives at work. Small green shoots are everywhere, from wild garlic chives and catkins dangling hazelnut trees – the tiny red female flowers will follow in February – to fattening buds on blueberry and tree alike. A blueberry bush near the house was recently damaged by a male deer scraping his antlers, and many cuttings were made from the broken branches. This sort of destruction by roving cervids is usually not seen here past the end of December.  Hastily stuck into a pot of good clay gopher mound soil until they can be separated and individually potted, some of these cuttings may survive and root.

Wild garlic chives have sprung up many places out back.

Hazelnut catkins. Tiny red female flowers will follow.

Digger at work. Many such holes were found out back.

Blueberry bush battered by deer scraping antlers. This usually results in new shoot growth from the roots. I am attempting to root cuttings from broken branches.

A pot full of blueberry cuttings, waiting to be separated into pots of their own. Gopher mound dirt, mostly clay soil, makes good medium.

Many small tunnels lead out of the swampy area, including one that leads into the garden. The wire fence mesh would be big enough for a small fox, cat or nutria to get through. A rotten apple had been pulled out of the compost pile and dragged outside the fence; a hungry nutria tired of grass is suspected.

A well-worn path and grassy tunnel into the garden. Gopher mound in the foreground.

Another year is underway as Father Time continues his travels, taking us along with him.  We will change along with the land and the seasons, growing older, and hopefully, wiser.  Everything here is temporary, including ourselves.  Choose wisely, plant happiness wherever possible.  Live in the moment, cherish the memories.  They too will pass into the great abyss of time.  We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

View from the plane heading from Phoenix into LAX earlier this month.

Resident Feline Correspondents Nano and Hope, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

We are continuing to enjoy the slower winter months, and a return to music.  An appreciative listener in an airport recently asked me what I wanted most in 2018.  I told him I would like the year to work for everyone, that World Peace would be a nice change from current events.  He smiled and said, “Music is a part of that, and so are you.”  I am humbled by those whose lives I have touched with my music, and who have touched mine in return.

I am also please to report Kate Wolf’s family has included the Keepsake CD on her Tributes page, a listing of those who have covered Kate’s songs.  Kate passed from this world all too soon and left a legacy of beautiful, soulful music.  Please visit her site to learn about this amazing singer-songwriter from California at  https://www.katewolf.com

For those readers who are new or catching up, the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel now has content, and our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March. I am 14 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that the harvest season, and holiday season, has passed.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube. Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post. Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site. See https://archive.org/details/iuma-lavinia_ross

In the meantime, 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

http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

Morning mists to the south of the farm accentuate the dark forms of conifers and winter-bare trees.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for December 2017

Our feature photo for this month is of a colony of what I believe is Usnea
longissima, or Methuselah’s Beard Lichen, growing on an apple tree along with some Parmelia sulcata, or Hammered Shield Lichen. They are quite common here, and can be seen hanging about on many trees around the farm.  When these lichens are swollen with rain in winter, distant heavily festooned deciduous trees appear to be clothed in light grey-green leaves, riding out winter alongside their dark green coniferous cousins.

Feature photo for December 2017, Methuselah’s Beard Lichen, growing on an apple tree along with some Parmelia sulcata, or Hammered Shield Lichen. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

News from the farm

The month of December passed quickly on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  The days have been a highly variable mix of cloud, rain and sun, warm to numbingly cold days and many nights below freezing.

Land of the Long Grey Cloud, a southern view from the farm on Christmas day. Many winter mornings begin this way.

Or begin this way, dawn’s colors reflected on the underside of morning clouds.

Or perhaps in misty pastel colors.

Or rose-colored contrails.

Old Man Winter established himself here early on, but seems to be currently occupied with the eastern regions of the country as they experience extremely cold and harsh conditions.  By contrast, our weather here today in western Oregon was in the mid 50s, sunny and pleasant.  We will enjoy his forgetfulness, while we can.

Christmas morning.

Fresh late-season apples were still clinging to trees in the early part of December, including a neighboring tree that has grown branches over the fenceline and over the roof of our shed.

The last hold outs, for birds only now. They were quite tasty and crisp earlier in the month.

The larger, hungry birds have since worked their way down the tree, drilling holes and slashing fruit with their beaks.  They are welcome gleaners.  Everyone must eat.

Daffodils in warmer areas with good southern exposure have already shaken off their slumber and begun the journey back up to the world of light.  Many sport buds, which will remain tightly closed until mid to late January.

Daffodils coming up by the old garage amid purple columbine seedlings on Christmas day.

Wild garlic chives stand tall above winter’s green but slower growing grass.  Pocket gophers tunnel everywhere, mounds piled up and plugged above the entrances.  Life stirs below as well as above.  I note where the tunnels are, and will collect their leavings for the gardens and barrel planters.

Gopher mounds amid the wild garlic chives.

As the afternoon comes to a close, a gibbous moon hangs in the eastern sky, white and marbled, like quartz tumbled by the sea.  My mother called such treasures cast up by the waves moonstones, and I think of her when I see the moon, looming large over the horizon, ghostly pale against a fading blue sky.  Another year has passed;  I am another year older, acutely aware of my own time and its passage here.  Mercury vapor and high pressure sodium barn and utility pole lights will soon glow like blue-green and orange stars on the surrounding hills as the sun dips below the horizon, and last light fades.  The sky is mostly clear tonight, and will be down in the 20s by morning.  A visit from Jack Frost and his silver brush is expected to close out the year.

We are thankful for all that we have, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures at this time of year.

An important and timely message for the world from the producers of these cheery and colorful crocus bulbs.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has observed much from his window this month, and has once again sent the photographer out to investigate. Without further ado, Mr. Nano will present his findings.

The winter solstice has passed, and slowly, imperceptibly, the days are lengthening.  The foxes have continued to be sighted near the border of the hazelnut grove; their nightly vocalizations are muted by windows closed against the cold.  Out in the grove itself, life stirs.  A plump squirrel has taken up residence in the old ash tree, nest visible up high.   He will need to exercise caution when foraging below; many would find him a good source of much needed calories at this time of year.  In protected areas, the Lilliputian forests of ferns, mosses and lichens abound.

Ferns growing at the base of the old feral apple tree, one of the guardians of the tunnel to the back lot.

Mosses and lichens on a hazelnut tree.

Possible signs of nutria have been sighted in the form of small tunnels coming out of the underbrush leading to areas where the grass has been clipped short.  We have noted that the last set of nutria that lived here liked to “farm” an area, keeping a patch of grass clipped short to provide tender growth for their dining pleasure.  Fresh scat has not been found, however, or an actual nutria sighted this season.  The presence of foxes about may have left them more wary.

A young blacktail doe, probably one of this year’s fawns, wandered through the orchard, casually nibbling grass.  We found it surprising that they appear to urinate by squatting like a cat.  The photographer was too slow at getting the camera to catch this in progress.

Pruning of the vineyards has commenced, as it does each December, beginning in the table grapes, and ending in the pinot noir vineyard behind the deer fencing. 

Unpruned vine in the foreground. Vines pruned back to two canes in the row behind.

A venerable old table grape vine pruned back to two canes.

Cuttings have been made of the Glenora Black Seedless table grapes, and started in pots filled with gopher mound dirt.  The pots will remain in the drainage area for now to keep them wet until bud break.

Glenora Black Seedless cuttings potted up for the winter.

December has been sunnier and drier than the previous year, leaving many days to observe clouds forming in the blue rivers of moisture above.

A view from the back lot looking west.

Multilevel cloud formations, all floating at their point of buoyant density.

Friends of the farm have sent us identification and propagation challenges.  Anyone having experience propagating wild Columbia Lily from seed is encouraged to contact me.  Columbia Lily is a native lily with a tall stalk, orange tiger lily like flowers, and seed pods similar to Columbine.

This photo was sent by a friend in Cornelius who lives in a house previously owned by an avid gardener, who may be deceased at this time and unavailable for questions.  We believe this plant is in the mallow family.   A positive ID is requested.  Readers may click on the photo to enlarge.

A kind of mallow, perhaps?

Father Time continues his slow, steady tread into the coming year, taking us with him.  We see the changes in the land, and feel the changes in ourselves.  Everything is temporary, including ourselves.  Choose wisely, plant happiness wherever possible.  We wish all our readers a peaceful and bountiful year ahead.

Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nod, decided to have an eye to eye conversation with Rick regarding the vineyard.

Correspondent Blynken (left) and retired Correspondent Willow (right), warming themselves in the winter sun.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am enjoying the winter hours of slower days, long cool nights, and more time to spend on music. I completely burned out in 2015 during the last year Rick’s mother was alive and with us, trying to work part-time, play music and provide round the clock care, resulting in my taking 2016 off entirely to recover my health. This has been a year of slowly regaining my sea legs as a performer.

For those readers who are new or catching up, the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel now has content, and our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March. I am 14 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that the harvest season, and holiday season, has passed.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube. Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post. Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site. See https://archive.org/details/iuma-lavinia_ross

In the meantime, 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

http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

A primrose in winter, photo taken 12/30/2017. This plant was being thrown away, and found sitting out by a dumpster, sad and dehydrated. It was rescued and planted out front here at the farm. It has rewarded us with blooms for years, even in winter.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for November 2017

Our feature photo this month is from early morning on November 18th.  A frosty 30 degrees greeted us at daybreak under mostly clear skies that day, dawn’s colors captured on the underside of the few clouds out and about at that hour.

Our feature photo. Dawn on November 18th, cold and colorful.

A lonely row of cotton candy pink altocumulus clouds was sighted in the west, perfectly aligned as if they were there solely to witness the arrival of the new day.

A row of little altocumulus clouds in the west, out observing the morning’s light show and beautifully reflecting dawn’s colors. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

Nature puts on a brief but intense show; the price of admission is free to those able and willing to attend.

Dawn’s saturated colors on November 7th.

November 7th. Roughly the same scene as the previous photo, a short time later. Color changes quickly.

News from the farm

The harvest is in; garden, orchard and vineyard finished for the season. A few late season apples still cling to trees, and are still quite good, enhanced by a little frost.

Early morning on November 4th, a view of the southeast hills framed by apple trees. The jagged line of conifers loom above the silver-grey mists in the low areas.

It has been a good year; I have been slowly able to do more. Two test fermentations of pinot noir rosé wine as well as two test runs of whole berry, stainless steel fermented pinot noir wine were made from grapes from our own vineyard, a tribute to the value of insect netting which not only keeps out birds, but also yellow jacket wasps. The quality of life here is measured in what we can eat and drink from what we produce, the natural beauty that surrounds us, and most importantly, the love of home, each other, and our animal companions.  Life is not always easy, but it is good, and sustains us.

Rick and Lucio cat.

I look forward to the long dark of winter, though. Like the orchard and vineyard, I feel the need to slow down, to withdraw to my roots, and recover from the physiological debt of the year’s fast pace.  It is a time for peace, a quieting of the mind so that creativity may flow again.  A friend once described peace as “a place of one’s own to listen to the wind”.  We know we are there when we arrive, but often lose the track to that elusive but vast internal space, the Outback of the Mind,  where the wind tarries a while to speak of where it has been, and where it is going.

Mare’s tails, windswept cirrus clouds at dawn on November 19th.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano, always watchful!

Resident Feline Correspondent Miss Wynken, deliberating liberating Rick’s buckwheat pancakes. She insisted it would make a good report in the fine dining section. Rick thought otherwise, and Mr. Nano agreed.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has contacted the Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk for a report on the olive harvest at the House of 40 Paws.  Without further do, Mr. Nano will turn this section of the newsletter over to Sicilian Feline Correspondent Lucky of the House of 40 Paws.

A venerable old olive tree at The House of 40 Paws olive farm, Sicily. Photo credit M.G.

The weather here in Sicily has been exceptional, with temperatures in the low 60s, perfect for olive harvesting. Rain occurring a few days before the scheduled harvest date threatened to take us off schedule, but the reappearance of sun dried trees and olives sufficiently enough to make the harvest possible.

A view of the countryside from The House of 40 Paws. Photo credit M.G.

I attempted to recruit our other correspondents to help with the harvest. We are seven in total, and many paws can make quick work. This proved to be an exercise in herding cats.

The Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk. Photo credit M.G.

Correspondent Simona was missing from the initial meeting, leaving Dexter to try to convince her that harvesting olives would be in her best interest.

Photo credit M.G.

Only Dexter and YouTube showed up to listen to the requirements of olive harvesting. NewDude remained on the terrace, keeping a safe distance from any work.

Photo credit M.G.

Another correspondent, Lulu, decided staying home and enjoying pizza was much more to his liking.

Photo credit M.G.

Ranger finally convinced YouTube that laying in the sun on the terrace would be more far more exciting than working,

Photo credit M.G.

and were soon joined by correspondents NewDude and Dexter.

Photo credit M.G.

Although I am blind, I was the only correspondent still willing and available to climb trees and assist.

Correspondent Lucky, who is blind but not disabled! Photo credit M.G.

It took four people 40 work hours to harvest all forty of the trees. As the trees were raked, the olives cascaded on to the waiting nets below.

Worker at the House of 40 Paws olive farm, harvesting olives with a rake. Photo credit M.G.

The olives are then gathered up and placed into totes, loaded onto the tractor and hauled to a waiting vehicle. The Almond Brothers, correspondents NewDude and YouTube, were found basking on the car, waiting to help load olives.

Photo credit M.G.

Photo credit M.G.

Olives were safely delivered to the the olive milling plant, or Oleficio, for processing. They are transferred into large totes, weighed and then emptied onto a grate to eliminate some of the leaves. From there, they travel up the conveyor belt for the first step, which is to clean the olives by removing stems, leaves, debris and dirt.

Photo credit M.G.

Photo credit M.G.

Olives are ground and then go into a horizontal trough with spiral mixing blades where they remain for about 45 minutes.

Photo credit M.G.

The paste then passes through a traditional centrifuge, which is a three phase process.  Olive paste is spun in a horizontal drum; the heavier flesh and pits go to the outside, while water and oil are tapped off separately from the center.

Photo credit M.G.

We started with 7.8 quintale of olives, or 780 kilos, (1,716 lbs) and came home with 140 liters of fresh oil, a good harvest in spite of not having all our feline workers available.  They are strongly encouraged to participate next year.  Their help will be most welcome.

Correspondent Lucky resting after a hard day of harvesting olives. Photo credit M.G

Sicilian Feline Correspondent Lucky, reporting from The House of 40 Paws.

Thank you, Correspondent Lucky!

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

Saddle up a trusty vehicle, head up over the Cascades and on to the gorge where the olive-brown velvety hills of Washington come down to drink from the mighty Columbia River on sculpted lion’s paws.  Head across the river, through eastern Washington and on to Spokane.  This was my first year back at the Spokane Fall Folk Festival since 2011, having taken on elder care, and then recovery from elder care during the intervening years.  I completely burned out in 2015 during the last year Rick’s mother was alive and with us, trying to work part-time, play music and provide round the clock care, resulting in my taking 2016 off entirely to recover my health.  This has been a year of slowly regaining my sea legs as a performer.

View from the top of the Cascade pass. Snow!

Mount Washington at the left.

Looking back at The Three Sisters mountains.

Breakfast at the Black Bear Diner.

I took no pictures from the festival itself, as I forgot to bring the camera along to the community college where it was held.

Closer to the river on the return trip. The hills of Washington look like olive-brown velvet lion’s paws from across the river.

Another view of the Columbia taken from the car.

The patterns in the rock wall face are quite impressive.

A rainbow greeted us when we returned home.

For those readers who are new or catching up, the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel now has content, and our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March. I am 14 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that the harvest season has passed.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube. Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post. Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site. See https://archive.org/details/iuma-lavinia_ross

In the meantime, 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

http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

Dawn glowing beyond the mists on November 29, 2017. The anticipation of a new day, and what it may bring. Live each one as if it were the last.

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