Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for June 2014

I’ve added a couple of new pages to the blog for those who are interested – The Cats of Salmon Brook Farm, and  Seabisqut the Subaru, my old Impreza hatchback with over 418,000 miles and still has the original engine and transmission.  The old Seabisquit and  I have traveled many a mile together.

News from the farm:
Summer will soon officially be here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills, but is already in full swing for us.  Roses and daylilies are in full bloom, adding splashes of bright color to the emerald green everywhere.  The honeybees have moved on from the fruit trees and blueberry bushes, and are now working the clover and blackberry.  On warm days, the carpet of white clover blooms is a wall of sound, and can appear to be moving.

A bee's clover field of dreams.

A bee’s clover field of dreams.

Like a bee, Rick has frantically been buzzing about and working the vineyard, keeping exuberant grape vines under control and focused on their purpose.  The fruit looks like small clusters of green berries at this time.  Veraison, or the first blush of ripening, is yet to come.  The farm originally came with two long rows of table grapes, mainly Cascade, with some Concord, Delaware and Niagra.  These provide good eating for us, as well as grapes for the local market.  Unfortunately, birds, raccoons, yellow jackets and honeybees also love the succulent fruit of the vine.  Yellow jackets are able to get through the bird netting, and puncture holes in the grapes to imbibe the sweet juice.  Honeybees will also feed at these puncture sites, especially when conditions are very dry and the only flowering plants in any quantity are the Coast Dandelion (Hypochaeris radicata) and the Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).   Although yellow jackets will prey on honeybees, the two species will feed side by side on fruit in an apparent truce at the watering hole.

Developing table grapes

Developing table grapes

Rick and I planted our 120 vine pinot noir vineyard together, comprised of mainly Pommard, 777 and Wadenswill on a mix of Riparia Gloire, 44-53 and 3309 rootstock.  As our subterranean friends the Gophers have chomped through and taken out individual vines, we have replaced them with cheaper own-rooted cuttings we grew ourselves.  Hopefully we will not experience an infestation of the aphid-like Phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) which almost destroyed the great vineyards of France (and most of the Vitus vinifera vineyards of the world) before the introduction of resistant rootstock.  Being in relative isolation here, we have been lucky, so far.

Rick working the pinot noir vineyard within the deer fencing.

Rick working the pinot noir vineyard within the deer fencing.

Our geographic location also plays a hand in how the year’s fruit production fares.  At roughly 800 feet, our farm is nestled in a bowl, and experiences a “ponding” of cold air which affects not only the vineyard, but also our fruit trees.   During the seasonal transitions, Old Jack Frost can smite both flower in spring, and ripening fruit in early fall with his icy paintbrush.

At some point, we hope this vineyard will  produce good fruit that we will turn into our own wine.  For the interim, we grow and learn how to work with our environment and its cast of characters.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page):

I’m continuing to expand and rearrange the sub-pages under music.  The full listing of songs on the CD, the stories behind why some were written, or chosen to cover, are now there.  Help yourself!

The local Farmers’ Markets are in full swing now, and most feature a variety of music and dance along with  fresh produce, meats, cheeses and home-made goods.  Support your local growers and artisans.  Many wineries also feature music during the summer season.  Check your area listing for details!

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

Both beautiful and functional, daylilies planted around the base of our fruit trees help protect trunks from mower and weedwacker damage.

Both beautiful and functional, daylilies planted around the base of our fruit trees help protect trunks from mower and weedwacker damage.


19 thoughts on “Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for June 2014

  1. At first glance it looked like Rick was wearing a sixgun. I thought “pruning grapes with a sixgun” that’s cool, but then I noticed they were clippers. Oh well! “Pruning Grapes with a Sixgun” might be a good title for a folksong;)

    Wow! Everything is so green on your farm. Making your own wine would be great. When we were traveling around the north of Spain and in Italy, camping and staying in small villages, we always bought the house wine from the hostels, farms and campgrounds we stayed at. Those wines produced at the places we stayed were the best wines I have every had. Laurie’s bother visited us while we were in Spain, and we got some wine at a hostel in Galicia that was out of this world. He has spent the past 16 years searching for a wine as good as the house wines we had in Galicia and he always comes up short.

    Grapes grow really well out here, and a lot of people put in vineyards so they can get an agricultural exemption. We have a few varieties of grapes that tend to grow all over everything, but we never really harvest any grapes off them.


    • The grapes can grow so fast and get so out of control in a hurry that he may feel like he wants to prune them with a sixgun some days. I’m still chuckling about that… 🙂

      I’m hoping to make wine. I think Rick and I would make a good team there. My degree is in Biochemistry, although I wandered about in the fields of engineering and computing for a while. No knowledge ever goes to waste though. Winemakers tend to make use of everything they learn over the years.

      I can put you in direct contact with Rick, if you wish. If you have any wine related questions, including what to look for, he is the guy with the knowledge. We love Spanish wine too. If you and Laurie ever make it up this way, let us know and we’ll have you over for dinner.


  2. We live on a small wine domain in Southern France so your stories about your vines are always of interest. After ten years of trying to cope with existing 70 year-old vines, we bit the bullet this year and ripped them up. The new babies are in and we’re learning more vine-related french and other areas of viticulture than you can shake a stick at! Our luck hasn’t been great as we’re in one of the only departments in France with drought-like conditions. Most evenings I fill up big water containers and trundle round the vines giving huge doses of first aid where needed. It’s proving worthwhile but exhausting! We know all about Phylloxera and are very relieved that your American root stock was the saviour of modern wine making. When do you think your vines will produce enough for a first recolte? We’re expecting a viable harvest in three years. Such a delight to watch them grow and to learn what they need. Quite beautiful to see too.


    • Rick and I planted our vines in 2004, and in theory, they should have been producing some good harvestable fruit by 2008. We inadvertantly made every mistake possible, being bumbling newbie grape growers on a shoestring budget, and have learned much the hard way. We learned 8 foot high deer fencing is a necessity, for one. Deer will clean one out when the shoots are developing in spring. I call them “deer candy”. Watching the two of us put rolls of metal fencing up without help or fence stretching machinery would have made a good video. But we did it! This year, things are looking pretty good, and if all goes well during the summer, should get some good fruit. Birds and yellow jackets are always a potential problem at harvest.

      Watering until vines are established was harder than we thought, and both of us are familiar with taking the watering can around administering first aid to vines. It doesn’t rain most of July through Sepetember here, and the clay soil bakes hard like a brick. We are headed for a drier than normal summer here, so it should be interesting.

      I have a couple of “test” rows of pinot vines at the east end of the deer fencing running north-south. Not ideal, and they are a bit unruly looking at the moment, but they provide cuttings for replacements and I can try out different strategies on them, and learn. Rick takes care of the main 120.

      Winemaking itself? Various winemakers I have talked to here have smiled and told me just to jump in and start making something, just to get going. Working all this in around elder care will be interesting. Stay tuned! Life is one interesting ride… 🙂

      And please do stop in for dinner and visit the farm if you are ever over here.


  3. Elder care, rampant vines, wasps, bees; you are mighty busy. But when your first wine is made you will really have something to celebrate! I love the idea of day lilies around the fruit trees. I must do something like that around my dwarf fruit trees.


    • Hello Gallivanta! Thank you! Yes, those lilies areound the trees are lovely. I’ve been putting my large German bearded irises around trees as well. They spread quickly. The big Black Tartarian cherry tree got a mix of daylilies and irises around it this year, and should look lovely next year. If you make it over here to this side of the pond sometime, do stop in to see all.


  4. Crikey, looking forward to the wine starting to flow, perhaps I could kill two birds at once here. I could lend a hand stomping grapes, got to be good training in that, and we could share a glass of crushed grapes!

    Um, how long do they take to grow? 😉


    • Hi Baz! Harvest time here in Oregon is generally September through October. Much depends on what weather, and creatures, Mother Nature throws at us. Things look pretty good right now. We have the best fruit set of any year yet. This will be my first run at making wine, just to get some equipment in place and learn the process, so this may be a real comedy in the making. Every mistake possible will most likely be made on my part, but all goes into the learning experience. Come by any time! Always good food and wine here. Rick is a great chef, and has a good cellar of wine made by competent winemakers (not me!). You and the family would also enjoy the Cascade mountain range here with it snow capped peaks. So much to see and do!


  5. Lots of interesting things in this blog! We recently stayed at a B&B on a vineyard in the Niagara region of Ontario and they were saying that the past winter has wiped out a lot of vines and the fruit trees barely blossomed – looks like you came through it okay? So glad.


    • Thanks for stopping by! I really enjoyed all those photos in your post of your hike on the Bruce Trail. Beautiful place! I love toads, but haven’t seen a one here, yet.

      I think you were hit by the Polar Vortex there in Canada much harder they we were in this part of the U.S. We had an unusual run of low and single digit temeratures this year which did affect us, but not too badly. The Willamette Valley of Oregon is relatively mild in winter, and we know of friends with fig trees (down on the valley floor) that grow outside year-round. Rosemary is touch and go at 800 feet here, especially being in the bowl. There was some winter-kill in our vines, and all our roses died back to the roots but came back better than ever. One young plum tree died that was a replacement for one that blew over in a storm, but the other new ones that came back from roots of the old tree look to be healthy. Washington, just north of Oregon, sometimes has winter-kills of vineyards back to the roots in the eastern part of the state where it drier and the winters much harsher than here.

      So far so good this year! Sometimes December can be rough on plantings if the autumn is warm and mild, and Old Man Winter suddenly makes an appearance in early December. The plants haven’t sufficiently hardened off, and die back.


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