Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for November 2014

News from the farm

Our feature photo this month is an eastern view of the farm the reader can compare to the last two posts which show what the farm looked like under drought conditions.  The grass has revived to an vibrant emerald green with the rain, and will need mowing soon.  The mixture of brilliant reds, oranges and golds that our native New England is famous for in autumn are muted in this area, except for places one might see non-native Acer saccharum (sugar maple,) or other ornamental maple planted.  No leaf-peepers come here to view the foliage at this time of year! Our blueberry bushes turn a lovely scarlet and rows of grape vines turn to gold, but the trees slowly fade to shades of yellow and brown, and quietly slip away with the daylight hours, wind, and rain.

The harvest is over, and most its associated activities completed.  The rains have settled in, and the sky is once again filled with armadas of storm cloud galleons on their way over the Cascade Range. The moon is hard to find these nights unless there are breaks in the clouds, spilling light through cracks of dark sky-river like molten gold.  Another year is passing, and like the clouds driven by Wind, we are obliged to come along, another year older.  If you listen carefully, Wind will not only tell you where you’ve been, but where you are going.


The Boys of Salmon Brook Farm in the middle of an important conference on the topic of “napping”. Left to right – Marcus, Lucio and Nano.

Our first “crush”

Pinot noir, what was left of it, was harvested in late afternoon on 10/11/14.  4 trays were obtained of mixed quality fruit, which was all the birds and bees left us out of the 120 vines in Rick’s vineyard and 16 in my test block! The best fruit was from my test block, which had no canopy management (and therefore slightly more cover from birds), compost feeding and a mycorrhizal fungi-fertilizer mix.  I had netted way too late and was left with very little, but I decided to not pass up a learning experience!  None of the conditions were ideal.  No equipment to speak of, no experience, and only Google for help.  What I had might make a few gallons, and I decided to see what the native yeasts might be capable of instead of inoculating with some strain of commercial wine yeast.

All that the birds and bees left us from 136 vines.

All that the birds and bees left us from 136 vines.


Pinot noir grapes waiting for processing.

Much hand sorting of individual berries went into this process, due to bird and bee damage, some mold and insects. It took a good 4 hours to do all the pressing, literally by hand.  On the positive side, the fresh juice did measure about 22 brix, a respectable starting value for what I was after, a rose´ pinot noir I would name “Eye of the Gopher”.


In the “crusher”!


Pomace – left over grape skins, seeds and stems – will go back in the garden and vineyard. Grapes were processed a colander load at a time, crushed by hand.

Notes from 10/19:
“The native yeastie boys have something going after all…the hydrometer reads roughly 7% now, so 12 -7 = %5 alcohol.  It is tasting somewhere between muscat and brachetto.  Not bad!  I smell a touch of volatile acidity, but the flavor is good.  Nothing bad there.  So I will let it continue a while yet!  The stockpot is gently crackling, with a good foam cap, and there is activity.  Note: I had originally checked it after 2 days fermentation, and not much change in alcohol content, although we could see the cap forming.”


Checking the grape must for sugar and potential alcohol with a beer & wine triple scale hydrometer.


Fermenter – a 16 qt stock pot! Coolest room in the house, and the tub in use for growing plants at the moment. Eventually the old garage will be redone as workshop & micro-winery.

Notes from 10/27:
“Stopped the fermentation experiment this evening.  About 6% of the sugar was digested, but mainly Acetobacter at work now instead of yeast, and we had some good red wine vinegar.  Racked off the bulk to a clean glass carboy and transferred to the refrigerator in the pump house.  Rick sent me a good link to a Wine Spectator article on prions initiated by bacteria and their effect on yeast, basically stalling fermentation.″


The Best of the Yeastie Boys in 2014. Produced about 6% alcohol and was taken over by bacteria in the genus Acetobactor, which converted the alcohol to acetic acid – vinegar. It made a wonderful fruity wine vinegar! Settling out in the cool until I can rack it off into a clean carboy.

Prions in yeast?  One typically associates prions, disease inducing forms of normal proteins,  with diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and some forms of dementia. Yeast have prions?  Apparently some strains of bacteria appear to be able to chemically induce yeast to produce prions in their cell membranes, resulting in “glucose repression”, and a stuck fermentation.

It is hard to tell what all may have happened in this experiment, but I am quite pleased at diving in under less than ideal conditions and at least coming out with good vinegar!  I have received one suggestion that it may not be available yeast nutrients, which was another possibility, but that the native yeasts themselves weren’t up to the job.  Epernay-II was suggested, as it is known for imparting fruity aromatics, working well in long cool fermentation conditions and will reach a max of about 11-12%.  I may try a dual run next year with the native yeast again vs the Epernay-II strain.  At some point, with commercial yeast in the environment in the building, grape pomace going back into the vineyard/garden area, the “native” yeast will probably contain some percentage of the commercial strain, and no longer be reflective of what was originally here.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

Harvest, crush and my eye issues are out of the way now, and we have some extra help looking after Rick’s mother,  giving me a breather to focus more on music for a while.   Seabisquit the Subaru and I are back in McMinnville at the end of next January!  Cornerstone Coffee does a lot to support music. If you are in the area, please drop by and support them with your patronage.  I’ve just started booking for the coming year, so be sure to check the Performance Schedule page periodically.

And, if you don’t mind virtually traveling to North Dakota, do give a listen to Jessie Veeder’s music video “Boomtown” at  I came across this musician rancher some months ago.  Great song, great performance and the video tells the story of her town in song and pictures.  Well done, Jessie!

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

Sunrise over the farm in October.   Every new day is a gift, a clean slate on which to write one's story.  Lives are like books in progress, the ending still unfolding.

Sunrise over the farm in October.
Every new day is a gift, another page on which to write one’s story. Lives are like books in progress, the ending still unfolding.


23 thoughts on “Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for November 2014

  1. ratemakers says:

    Hi Lavinia,

    Fun and informative; actually, very complete documentation!

    Glad you are getting some time and space for your music.



  2. Nice colors. Your place is really green compared to ours. Kitties look good, and great looking grapes. Wine making, and doing test runs, is interesting and complicated. I hope you come up with a good solution. Good work on you music scene. Albuquerque has a really vibrant music scene for the size of the metro area. We have booked our favorite jazz guitarist for our annual holiday open house at the office. I think this with be his 10th year playing for our open house.


    • Thanks for stopping by, Herman, as always! It was interesting, jumping into trying to make something out of those grapes. I learned a lot in the process.

      Nano the Great White Hunter and crew send their regards to Mr. Bowie. We all look forward to reading about Mr. Bowie’s adventures with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This fleeting time of year has such beautiful colours! Have enjoyed following the progress of your grapes and it was so nice of your various visitors to leave you enough grapes to try some wine making. Sounds like you’re finding time for other pursuits as we move towards winter and I look forward to future posts.


    • Thanks for stopping by, Carol! We had our first frost this morning. It was 32 degrees on the nose at 6:15 AM, and my world was covered in glittering silver. The temperature is rising quickly with the sun, and a stiff breeze has sprung up. The sky is crystal clear right now, but I hear a storm is brewing off the Oregon coast. We’re going to get some of that Polar Vortex. My goal for today is moving the rest of the chipped wood pile onto paths before mud season starts in earnest.


    • Thank you! That’s how I saw it too. No good vinegar goes to waste here! Next year’s vintage will be yet another adventure.

      The kitties, mainly the boys, make good use of the futon in my office. It has a good view of the sunflowers, and all the visiting finches and chickadees outside the window there, as well as a good sunbeam in the afternoon.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely to read of your adventures into wine-making. It gives me greater appreciation for all the grape marc we have fed to cattle this year – imagine hand pressing enough grapes to produce 90 tonnes of by-product!!


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