Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2016

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

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

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


Nutria grazing out by Lake Roger, the drainage ditch.

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

Worldwide distribution:

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


Nutria high-tailing it from the bath….

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

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


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

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

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

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

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


Mr. Nano, the Great White Hunter

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


Abby (Eleanor of Aquitaine) Abyssinian

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


50 thoughts on “Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2016

  1. Timothy Price says:

    The Nutria look like pesky fun. I’m sure they’ll head for the river when things start drying up. I hadn’t thought about or seen a Rocky and Bullwinkle in years and years. Fitting names for the Yosemite Sam’s companions. All the photos are really great, and I especially like the last photo of the clouds. Really nice half rainbow as well. Seabisquit is quite amazing to still be going with so many miles. You seem to be getting back to your won way of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tim, thanks for stopping by and for the kind comments! I also had not seen Rocky & Bullwinkle in many a year, and did not remember the Gidney and Cloyd characters at all. The nutria are relatively unafraid of me, and used to challenge me when I would go out for a last round of checking the grounds at night. I learned that if I grunt like a pig or growl and stamp my feet, they move aside and let me pass. One of them was not expecting that from me, and initiated a vertical liftoff about a foot in the air, spun around with hind feet flailing, landed a short distance away, and resumed feeding. Now that should have been caught on video! Their teeth are bright orange, which really stand out. I have a healthy respect for those chompers, and restrict myself to talking to them and observing their behavior. A friend of mine remembers a time she took her dog, a big Golden Retriever, down to a pond to go swimming. Soon she heard the dog yelping for help. She and her husband went out into the pond to help the dog, and found a nutria attached to the dog’s throat by its teeth. They got the dog to shore and had to whack the nutria a few times to make it let go.

      The rainbow was a lucky catch. I ran back in for the camera, and it did not last long. I forgot to turn the flash off, and I think that is what the bright spot probably is, a raindrop caught in the flash.

      Life is slowly returning to a new normal here. Adjustment will take time. Old Seabisquit also needs attention as soon as I can give it. Always things to do, but I have to slow down for a bit. I was so tired earlier this month I found I could fall asleep standing up. No good.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I would like to watch the nutria crew in windows-tv with you, Nano :o) I’m glad Abby got good news from the vet :o) Hugs to you and Old Willow…I hope with you that the first sunrays of spring bring some happy purrs and a smile on her face…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Easy, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! The cat crew says the window viewing is good here, and Easy would like the parade of wildlife going by. Plenty out there to keep that handsome Weimaraner busy!

      Abby is doing well, but Old Willow I worry about. She has to be carried to sun spot (when we have them during the winter), and encouraged to come out of her bed. Her little heart is heavy. We try to give her as many hugs and lovings as we can.

      Much love to you and your family, Easy. I enjoy reading about your adventures!


  3. Herman says:

    Great and informative post, Lavinia. Thank you!
    Regarding the nutria, as always Mr. Nano, the Great White Hunter, proves he’s a wise cat. Wishing Old Willow all the best! Mr. Bowie says “Meow!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Herman, thanks for stopping by! Yes, a cat is no match for a bold even half-grown nutria. The reports I have read indicate they can hit around 20 lbs when full grown, and some bigger ones have been seen. In Roger Deakin’s book “Waterlog – A Swimmers Journey Through Britain”, he mentions a 35 lb nutria that was taken by a gamekeeper.

      All the best to from Salmon Brook Farms to Mr. Bowie, the Great Grey Hunter, and our friend Herman! Cat treats for Mr. Bowie, and dark chocolate and espresso for Herman! Maybe that is whey Yosemite Sam is staring at the house. He wants an espresso and some chocolate?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi GP, thanks for stopping by! All our cats are strictly indoor at this point, and have been for some years. In our area, we have foxes, raccoons, possums, coyotes, cougar, and sadly to say, some humans who would harm cats and dogs. Being on a state road presents some challenges with traffic as well.

      I have read that nutria are known for intimidating small dogs, or in the case of my friend and her Golden Retriever, attacking even big dogs in water while swimming. I am bigger than a small dog, but can feel intimidated by these bold critters myself! I carry a flashlight out at night now, even with full moonlight, so I can watch for them lurking in the shadows. I think they will move on when things dry up, I hope….


  4. Look at those guys! You’re smart to carry a flashlight, Da-hang they’re pretty big. I read your message about the poor Golden out for a swim and filled with relief that he was rescued. They remind me of the Canadian beaver, but without the tails. They’re thought to be a nuisance too, changing water tributaries with the dams they build. They’re on our nickel though and they’re our national animal, LOL. Canadian Parliament has a good sense of humour I guess. Put some whiskers on this guy and he could be a relative of Yosemite Sam (loved that you named them all, ha)

    I’ve been up close and personal with one at the lake. On night I went to see why a neighbours dog was barking till he was horse. He had a beaver cornered in his yard. I managed to drag the dog off with a lease after I doused him with a bucket of water. He was just fixated to the point of madness. I would say the beaver was a little more scared than the dog, but kept wapping his tail on the driveway really loud. Poor thing was probably happy to be on his way.

    Rainy days are good days for naps or reading or both. We’ve not had any rain while we’re here on Maui but I’m hoping spring might be more normal this year. It didn’t rain until mid July last year in Edmonton. It was far too dry.

    Aloha and take care Lavinia and crew! BTW, you property is heavenly under that rainbow! Awesome! x K

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Boomdee! I love that photo of Canada’s national animal the beaver! That dog you rescued after cornering one was lucky he wasn’t bitten.

      Got to love those rainy days for napping and reading! I am hoping you have a more normal spring up in Edmonton, and get plenty of rain. May many spring rainbows come your way, and portend good things to come. 🙂

      Safe travels back from Maui, Boomdee, and thanks for stopping by! Always a pleasure to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am glad life is a little easier now. I am sorry poor Willow is so unhappy. Many people think that cats don’t miss companions when they leave but that isn’t so. I used to have three cats and two of them were so close – they loved each other very much and were inseparable. Until one of them developed a terrible lung condition and died. The cat left behind was never the same again – he became old and grumpy very quickly.
    I remember reading the part about the enormous nutria in Roger Deakin’s book – such an enormous animal! Coypu/nutria were such a pest here in East Anglia that it was decided to eradicate them completely and this has been done. We now have to see whether we ought to get rid of the troublesome mink!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So glad you’ve had some rains to help with the drought – a bumper crop year ahead maybe? Those nutria really do look like big rats I’m sorry to say – you have some great photos of them – especially the header, 1st one. Don’t they eat them down in South America? I know that you couldn’t now that they’ve got names:-) The Bullwinkle cartoon was lots of fun and quite current in terms of even todays politics. Your cats continue to charm and here’s hoping that old Willow soon finds peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carol, good to hear from you! I think they do eat them down in their native range in South America, and one report, if I am remembering correctly, said their numbers there have been severely reduced due to hunting and trapping. Some people eat them here too. We try to coexist with wildlife as much as possible, and generally work on a policy of exclusion from sensitive crops with netting, fencing, etc. So far, deer have been much more of a serious problem for us, and required 8 ft deer fencing around the main garden and pinot vineyard. Nutria, if they stick around, would require smaller mesh and some additional underground barrier. In general, during the wet season we have fast growing grass that needs a whip and chair to keep it under control, and these guys are keeping the area around the house mowed for us. Given their aggressive nature, they may be fending off human trespassers as well. I would hate to be the burglar that accidentally steps on one of them in the night! Look for the guy in the E.R with the nutria attached to his leg… 🙂 We’ll see what happens when the dry season comes around. I am guessing they will move on back to their river bank homes to be near water.

      The Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon was funny, and yes, unfortunately still relevant to today’s political climate. 2016 is going to be a nail-biter of a year down here. Can’t wait until the election is over.

      Old Willow is a such a good cat. Her little heart is broken right now. Peace will come in time. We try to love her as much as we can.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The nutria are kind of cute, but I bet that most people wish that they had stayed in their hoe range and not moved north. I hope that they do move on come spring. It’s also good to hear that the drought is about over, hopefully you’ll have a good growing season for a change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jerry, thanks for stopping by! Yes, it is good the drought is over, and we are looking forward to spring here.

      Nutria: The site indicates they were almost driven to extinction in their local range due to overharvesting, leading to introduction of fur farms there which were not successful. Nutria were actually exported from their host range to various points around the world for the fur trade. When the fur trade collapsed, many escaped or were released. shows the following under Oregon:
      “Oregon: Imported for fur farming in 1937; some escaped and feral nutria were officially recorded as early as 1941 (Larrison, 1943). Currently a viable wild population exists (Deems and Pursley, 1978). ”

      I am enjoying your photos and tales from the wildlife refuge in your area. Keep them coming!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am glad that at least the nutria are giving you some photo opportunities as well as grief. We had coypu round here for a time when they escaped from fur farms. They were so destructive to the angling interests that they were diligently pursued and I haven’t heard of one locally in recent years.

    I am deeply impressed by the over 400,000 miles on the Subaru. Does it have any original parts left?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good morning, Mr. Tootlepedal! I think the USGS website lists the nutria’s status as “eradicated” in the UK. They were almost exterminated in their own home range in South America due to overharvesting, but due to the monetary interests and short-sightedness of the fur industry, have managed to leave thriving populations elsewhere in the world through escapes or releases.

      Seabisquit the Subaru still has the original engine, transmission and differential. The AC system was retrofitted to be compliant with todays AC coolant standards, and a few minor transplants or new parts have happened over the years. All in all, a sturdy vehicle, and has been most most reliable.


  9. I don’t know which to respond to first. The vehicle that has done 430,000 miles? The update on the cats, and thinking it totally logical that Willow would be very quiet these days? Or your being so …. calm…. about the creatures called the nutria. They look fearsome and I’d probably run if I saw one instead of standing my ground as you did. As for Yosemite Sam: what a face! What a name!
    You do come up with the most creative names for your cats and other animals. Such fun. All my best to you and Rick.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cynthia, thank you for stopping by! Rick came up with the name Yosemite Sam, the biggest of the three youngsters, because of the long, copious whiskers, and he always was first and foremost in observing or challenging the humans. I did run the first time one came at me in the dark, but I got the camera and flashlight, hoping to at least identify the little devil. Nutria have also been reported in four Canadian provinces according to the USGS worldwide map. Yes, Ontario is one of them, and they are listed as feral in the Ottowa River drainage area. You may see one yet!

      Old Willow will take some time to heal. We are hoping the warmth and increasing daylight in spring will help her feel better.

      Old Seabisquit the Subaru – still going strong. There is a Subaru high mileage club I found online. 500,000 miles or more is possible on these well-made vehicles.

      All our best to you and Hamlin. I am looking forward to your next book!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The Nutria’s photographs fascinated me. I would have been watching them from the window too 🙂 Spring coming soon and I can imagine the change, I think I love spring more. Your cats are so lovely and so adorable, people mostly think that, only dogs are bound to their owner, but cats too. Dear Lavinia, this was a wonderful post from your farm days, Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Nia, thank you for stopping by! The nutria are animals we don’t ordinarily see on the farm, as we are not that close to water, and it is so dry in summer. They can move fairly quickly, though, and what we think happened is that because of the drought, they built their dens too close to the water line and found themselves flooded out in the rainy season. They probably wandered through and found us. We are in somewhat of a bowl shaped area up in the foothills, and water drains down into here in winter, making a marshy are in the lowest regions. The nutria do not like cold, so in a bad winter, they probably would not survive here. We have only seen one other cone through in the 12 years we have been here.

      Old Willow will probably feel better in spring, when there are more sunny days to sit in front of the window. For now, I carry her to a sun spot on nice days.

      Thank you for all your wonderful posts, Nia. I enjoy seeing your world through your lens!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Nope, no nutria over here in Australia; nor gophers. Though I do wonder what the fox terribles would make of them. Bonnie is perplexed enough at the moment because of a robotic vacuum cleaner in the house. Clyde is still outside looking for a fight 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mandy, thanks for stopping by! I am having a good laugh picturing Bonnie with the robotic vacuum cleaner. Has she started riding it yet?

      Nutria might be on the order of one of your feral pigs over there, and a bit more grumpy. Nutria even make pig like grunts, so Bonnie and Clyde might feel right at home there! Nutria will attack a dog in water. A friend took her Golden Retriever to a pond to go swimming. The dog, who had been happily paddling around, suddenly started yelping for help. My friend and her husband went out to rescue the dog, and found a nutria attached to the dog’s throat by its teeth. They managed to get the dog to shore, and had to whack the nutria several times to get it to let go. Clyde might not be too happy after tangling with one of these critters, but I am guessing feral pigs can pack quite a wallop too.


    • Hi Charlie, thanks for stopping by. Welcome to Salmon Brook Farms! Yes, a lot of standing water, but at least we are well out of drought in this area now. Many signs of spring are coming up already, and our daffodils are blooming in the warmer, southern exposure area.

      You have a pretty interesting and informative site of your own! I have bookmarked it.


    • Hi Lyle, thanks for stopping in to have a look at them. They are quite unusual fellows in appearance and mannerisms. I watched them play yesterday. Yosemite Sam snuck up on Gidney and nipped the end of his tail, causing a bout of wrestling. Each went his own way, and then Sam started it again by sneaking up on Gidney and nipping his tail. Cloyd stayed out of the fray…


    • Good to hear from you, Baz! They sort of look like a cross between a beaver, guinea pig and rat. They make pig-like noises, and don’t like prolonged weather below 32 degrees. This winter has been milder than normal, and with plenty of rain, making them happy campers for the time being. We have only seen one other in the 12 years we have been here, a large adult passing through. Naturalist Roger Deakin reported one 35 lb nutria in his book “Waterlog”. That’s a hefty Beagle-sized nutria, and I wouldn’t want to trip over that one in the dark! I think these characters are around 8 to 10 lbs at this point.

      Rocky and Bullwinkle – I had not seen an episode in years, and completely forgot about the moon men. It was a great show.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Fingers crossed the nutria move out as soon as things start drying out – they can do so much damage! Pleased to hear all the cats are doing well.

    Sorry to get to your post so late. We had a fire in the kitchen which has left us without a kitchen, smoke damage throughout the house and put two of our cats in the vet hospital. The great news is they cats are both home! Old Ed was touch and go for a while but he’s now eating fit to burst. Redecorating will start soon and then we’ll have a new kitchen. You have to look at the positives. Pruning and weeding the vines has ground to a halt so we’ll have to commission the cave to come finish it off. Not the best start to the year but things should get better soon, especially when the warmth returns. A good distraction has been planning this year’s jazz concerts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Annie, thanks for stopping by! I am so sorry to hear about the kitchen fire and damage, and kitties in the hospital. Glad to hear they recovered and are both home now, and the appetites have recovered!

      I had to encourage the nutria to move on out to the woods, as they had taken over the shed and were starting to nest in there. I have a major cleanup job ahead. The shed is barricaded now so they can’t get back in, and they are in an area of the property more suited to wild animals of their type. Winters here can be borderline for their survival, which is why we don’t see them normally, but this winter has been unusually mild. We are also surrounded by foxes, coyotes, possums, raccoons and cougar, all predator species. I read most of the nutria don’t make it beyond their third year. It is so sad they were almost exterminated in their native range, and transported all over the world for the fur industry, much to the detriment of the environment everywhere else. The human species is always on the move, taking with us what is familiar and useful, for better, or for worse. Now if only I could encourage the deer to move on instead of destroying my blueberries and table grapes! We operate in the mode of co-existence and exclusion methods wherever possible. The pinot noir is behind deer fencing, but we will have to invest in fencing off the blueberries this year. The non-native European slugs are another matter…slugs and deer will mostly likely be my main problem this year.

      I am slow at catching up with various blogs right now myself, so I apologize in advance. Vine pruning here is still underway, interrupted by an upcoming brief visit with relatives 🙂


      • Humans have an awful lot to answer for on so many fronts. The more we travel the more we ruin. Good luck with the nutria, sounds like you have all the wild life you can cope with and more! Here’s to you getting your share of the blueberries this year too…

        Liked by 1 person

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