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.


41 thoughts on “Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for October 2015

  1. Timothy Price says:

    I love the white rose, all the photos from your harvest, Rick preparing tomatoes and bees and flowers. Pesky raccoons. Although, you have them credit for being clever. My mom likes persimmons, but I’ve never liked them very much. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a persimmon tree in person. Your kitties are looking good, but I think I would be weary of Jaws if I were them. That is one impressive hole in the rocks. Our gophers are wimps in comparison. Jaws would probably call them “girly boys”. The cooler weather sounds like a relief, and maybe El Niño will bring you more rain, but in more moderate quantities than California.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cindy, thanks for stopping by and the kind comment! I have been enjoying your site as well, and look forward to the photos and stories of your travels. The photos are amazing!

      Readers, please visit for some spectacular photos and stories of wildlife from around the world.


  2. Herman says:

    Please tell Nano, the Great White Hunter, that Mr. Bowie’s flight has been cancelled as a result of bad weather. Be patient! Meanwhile, Mr. Bowie says “Meow!”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lavinia such a beautiful post…all my fave things…land produce preserving flowers and pets…you had ne at gopher…love it..our Echidnas dig like that too…kills us with a post hole digger and they just make it look easy 🙂 about to plant out tommies as we call them here…had a good crop last year..lots of sauce 🙂 hugs Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bev, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! And thank you again so much for the lovely Roo cards you sent! I remember digging that trench across the driveway with the help of a neighbor, and we being worn out when we were done. Those gophers make it look so easy! But that is the first gopher we’ve had that has gone down through a hard-packed gravel bed.

      Readers, please visit Bev’s site at for another view into the world down under. Beautiful photos of Australian wildlife, flowers and spectacular scenery. And some magnificent cards for sale!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha yes the petrol operated post hole digger nearly threw hubby into the future…but those echidnas…amazing ! And so happy you love the cards..thankyou for the beautiful shout out 🙂 xxx

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t know where you findf the time to update your blog, but you do! It’s always a favorite read for me, and it reminds me of the joys (and sorrows!) of the garden. I miss gardening where I live now, and have to deal with people with weed whackers who don’t know the difference between a weed and an herb garden.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Doug, Andy and Dougy! Thanks for stopping by! I’m not sure how I get this blog updated once a month either, but it helps maintain a connection to the rest of the world for me without having to leave the farm and go somewhere. You all are a wonderful community of people, and I thank you for the bright spots of sunshine! Rick’s mother still lives with us, and is in Home Hospice now, so at least a nurse comes by once a week, and I have a little more help with her now, as well as some nighttime caregivers. The Hospice people have been a huge help.

      Give a scratch behind the ears to my favorite Persian brothers Andy and Dougy. Readers, please visit for stories and photos of these two mischievous kitty brothers! 🙂


      • My friend Deborah sent this thanks and update on Serena and the impact of her passing on the remaining kitties:

        Would you thank Lavinia for me Doug? That is incredibly generous and kind. It sounds as if she has a lovely life out there with nature all around and music and kitties.

        We are still trying to adjust to being a threesome. It’s hard, as you can image. André is more demanding of affection (and cheese) and Charles can’t seem to settle into his old schedule. He still goes up and calls for Serena. Because Serena was a quiet cat, the same level of noise but an absence nonetheless.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for stopping by, Doug, and relaying Deborah’s thanks and update on her kitties. Every time we have lost one, it leaves a tremendous hole amid the whole crew, including us. It will take time to adjust, but the wonderful memories of our animal companions will aways be with us. I will take pictures in spring.

        I have enjoyed your kitty blog so much, Doug, and look forward to the adventures of Dougy and Andy. You have also introduced readers to many wonderful people and their animal companions through your site.


    • Hi Jerry, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! Glad you enjoyed the rose, and the gopher story. You might be right about that gopher hole. It would be a first in the almost 12 years we have been here though. Usually they tunnel like mad where the ground is softer, preferring areas that have been watered. They surface in various spots in the course of their tunnelings. A friend in California grew watermelons one year. He had a huge, handsome watermelon in progress. When harvest time came, and the melon was rolled over and picked up, he found a gopher tunnel had strategically surfaced right under the melon, and a neat hole gnawed into the underside of it, unseen from above. Gophers are not without a sense of humor.

      Readers, please visit Jerry’s site at Beautiful photos of wildlife and scenery, and plenty of commentary on photographic technique.


  5. You write so beautifully Lavinia! I was hoping you’d have enough rain this winter to raise the water table but it seems unlikely from what you say. Thank-you for the links to the other interesting blogs. I’m sorry you’ve had such a hard year – I hope things improve for you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Clare, thanks for stopping by, and for the kind comments. As for the dismal winter rain forecast, at least the main fire danger has passed, and the grass is beginning to green up a bit. We are so lucky to have a good well!

      I love those pictures of your Suffolk countryside. So green and lush! I am so grateful to Gallivanta for letting us know about the existence of a number of you other bloggers. I feel privileged to be a part of such a wonderful community of people. Readers, please visit Clare at “A Suffolk Lane” at for a pleasant journey through rural Suffolk.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Diana, thanks for stopping by! Pinot honey, I wish! The bee club told us long ago that fruit juices don’t ferment the same was as flower nectar, and it rots in the comb. I think these poor girls are just trying to stay alive on whatever sugar source they can find.

      These are area bees, probably a combination of some local hives and wild colonies. I stopped keeping bees the year we took Rick’s mother on, and will not start up again until she passes on. Hives on top of elder care were too much for me. I would like to get more drought-resistant forage planted as well.

      Readers, please visit one of my favorite Welsh writers, Diana Ashworth at for some wonderful stories about life on the Celtic fringe.


  6. Good Morning neighbour 😀 We’re only a heartbeat down the road, ha!
    I was sure I typed half a message two nights ago and must have fallen asleep before the end. Does that ever happen to you?

    Sorry to hear about your Pinot grapes. I’d love to see racoons munching on them though. We don’t have Racoons here. I guess they’re a bit of a menace but they’re really cute looking. Do you get the fuzzy bumble-bees? We do here, but in California, they actually looked like a wasp to me. Their bee’s are very different that the ones we get. I had a lot buzzing around my climbing rose in June. Oh, they love it. It’s a pink one and it doesn’t really have much of a scent, but sure looks pretty. I think your white rose is pretty spectacular. I had no idea you could move them around like that. Good for you to hang in there, now you have a treasure.

    I gasped at the number of can’s you’ve done for tomatoes. That’s an pile of work. Good on you Rick. You’re cold room must really be something! My ex’s parents lived on a farm in a small 100 yr old home. Betty was English, with a knack for practical decorating. Like ropes of garlic in the kitchen, riding blankets in the porch folded neatly on an old bench. It seemed like something out of a magazine to me. Anyways, her cold room/pantry smelt so delicious. The cold part was just an old wooden, overhung window propped open with a rock she’d painted. She could turn the practical and everyday into an effortless decorating statement. I’ve always wanted a cold room like that. Maybe next house.

    Oh, geez, how’d I get onto that, HA! Now that I’ve spammed you with this long message, I’ll applaud all the kitty cat happenings. Jaws is one determined rodent. I bet he’s really entertaining them. We used to lay long liquorice whips into the hole and laugh like mad when you’d see them slowly disappear down the hole. Sometimes I’d hold it just a bit and they’d tug a little harder. Again, probably a nuisance to farmers but I think gophers are adorable. Needless to say, I’d make a very poor farmer. I’d go broke buying liquorice for the gophers, LOL. Sending love and hugs x Boomdee.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Boomdee! WordPress is reacting a bit weird to the length, but I found a way to approve it and reply! Good of you to drop in! Sometimes comments or replies disappear off the site, and I have no idea what is going on.

      Our cold room is 2 old refrigerators for canned good storage. No room in the house! It’s a Market day for me so I have to prepare for today’s caregiver for Rick’s mom and head off to work. And we do get lots of bumblebees, although I saw fewer this year.

      Readers, please visit one of my favorite Canadian “neighbors”, Boomdeadda, for some wonderful stories, crafting and more!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my, silly WordPress, they must realize they have a chatty Cathy in me. I just love visiting way too much I guess.
        Awfully nice for you to provide a link to me too. Thank you, you’re a great neighbour 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Boomdee! WordPress/Askimet has sometimes nuked my own G-rated comments off of my own site. Not sure what happened with your comment. You didn’t end up as SPAM, but in some kind of Phantom Zone state.

        Always glad to provide a link to you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. What a wonderful newsletter and well worth waiting for. (Though my computer was down so don’t know when exactly you posted.) You got me at the tale of the white rose which finally found its spot and stands in tribute to your mom. Well done, rose and you too for your patient efforts.
    Sorry about the pinot noir being taken by the birds and bees before you got to them, but it sounds like you have your hands full, as always. And thanks for the tale of the cat and gopher adventure. We have had many experiences with gophers — should have enlisted the help of a cat.
    Best to you and Rick and your menage aux chats.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, Cynthia! Always so good to hear from you! This year has been a bit challenging in terms of getting things done here, and the local wildlife has kept us busy on top of that. Jaws the Gopher and his relatives are still creating havoc out there, and managed to topple Mom’s bird feeder. I spent part of today “gopher-proofing” the base, if there is such a thing.

      Readers, please visit award-winning writer Cynthia Reyes at She is one of my favorite Canadian “neighbors”, and always a good read.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Mandy, thanks for stopping by! Would gladly trade you gophers for a nut-stashing bowerbird. One of our neighbors over the hill had a gopher chomp down on his boot and not let go without persuasion. Feisty little devils, and would probably keep the Fox Terribles more than occupied when they are not chasing feral pigs.

      Readers, please visit freelance writer Mandy McKeesick at Rocky Springs Rambles for a view into life on a cattle ranch in Coolatai, NSW, Australia. Always a great read! One of my favorite Australians.


  8. What an impressive tomato harvest. Such a pity about the grapes though. My little Jack would gladly chase gophers for you, I am sure. He’s very keen to get a hold of the hedgehogs in our garden but so far I have managed to prevent him from doing so. A confrontation would not end well for either hedgehogs or Jack! The rose is beautiful; as with my peony, patience was rewarded. And I am so glad your mother in law is receiving more assistance.

    Liked by 1 person

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