Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for February 2016

We will shift our attention this month from the furry (and toothy) denizens of the farm, to the rapid growth and flowering of plant life in late winter here in the Cascade foothills.   Our feature photo for the end of February is of our south-facing front garden where the daffodils are currently in full swing.  A slightly nippy but playful breeze was tossing these golden trumpets about while the sun darted in and out of the passing herd of galloping pendulous dark grey to stark white  clouds.  A perfect late winter day to see what is happening overhead and underfoot, the two theaters from which all life and the coming seasons spring.

News from the farm

February has mostly been a slow and easier month for us here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  We took a short vacation back east to visit friends and family, many of whom we had not seen since pulling up roots and moving west.  The eastern woodlands and stone wall encompassed countryside has its own unique beauty which will forever reside in our hearts, but coming home to Oregon’s emerald green, late winter grass underfoot and snow-capped mountains far above, I was reminded of why we planted ourselves here.  It is always good to review where one is from, as well as assess where one is going.  As much as we love old New England, we call Oregon home, and have set deep roots.


Daylilies are coming up around the apple trees, and help prevent weed-whacking and mower damage, as well as provide beauty and havens for beneficial insects.


One of the front garden beds in late winter. Facing south, it gets plenty of warm sun to encourage early growth.

Rick is still diligently working away at pruning the vineyards, and I have trellis wire repairs to make in my own test block of pinot noir.  The pocket gophers are happily tunneling away again, and I take the freshly pulverized soil from the top of their mounds to fill plant pots to start new cuttings.  As much as possible, we work with or around the various wild creatures that inhabit this farm with us, using exclusion methods where possible if a conflict is noted.


Rick working the table grapes in late winter.


Rick hard at work, catching up on pruning. Note the apple tree in the background that is leaning on the trellis support. High winds and rain-soaked ground caused the tree to give way earlier. It has been cut back once in an attempt to save it, but it continues to lean.


Pocket gophers hard at work among the vines. Their diggings will be collected for potting soil for cuttings. The heavy clay soil retains moisture, and is good for starting new vines and assorted cuttings.

Our visiting nutria youngsters were encouraged to vacate the tool shed, and I have barricaded it against future re-colonization efforts.  The shed looks as if the youngsters hosted a fraternity party in there during their brief stay, and I have quite the cleanup job ahead this spring.


Yosemite Sam checking out the shed. Yosemite Sam, Gidney and Cloyd colonized the shed for a brief time, but have since been encouraged to take the party elsewhere.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

We have a guest feline correspondent this month.  The Cats of Salmon Brook Farms contacted Northeast Regional Correspondent Otis for his report on the weather in New England this winter.


Otis at the dinner party, catching up on all the latest news.


Otis enjoying his warm, cozy basket by the wood stove.

Otis would like our readers to know that Connecticut is having a milder winter this year, but it is still cold enough that he prefers his padded basket bed by the wood stove, venturing out only to do business as necessary.


The lovely Izzie! Enjoys her naps on a plush bed.

Otis and his companion the lovely Izzie were in general pleased with our visit, and ordered up some mood snow (as his human office assistant described it) on our last day there, just so we could enjoy viewing their woods quietly settling in under a fresh, white blanket at dusk, and reflect upon earlier times.


Early evening in late winter in Connecticut. The hushed beauty of falling snow, and the warmth of friends and family.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am feeling more rested now, and will soon start turning my attention towards my own music again, along with this season’s plant starts for the garden.  I am still on hiatus, so in the meantime, please do check out the following musician:

Donna Martin – for those of you on the east coast, Donna is one of my favorites.  She will be performing on March 20, 2016  from 4-6pm at the Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio & Gallery, One Spring Street, Chester CT,    Please visit Donna’s site at  Her CD Big Country is available at, or at

For those of you more interested in reading, please consider purchasing a copy of our friend and fellow musician Lorraine Anderson’s latest book, Earth & Eros: A Celebration in Words and Photographs

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


Heralds of spring and new life emerging everywhere, colorful daffodil blooms trumpet the end of winter, swaying gently in the wind to the comings and goings of insect life.


57 thoughts on “Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for February 2016

  1. Timothy Price says:

    We only have had one crocus bloom so far and it just opened yesterday. I pruned the fruit trees last weekend, but I’ll wait until the end of April to prune the grapes, and we don’t prune our roses per se. We wait until after they bloom and then do heavy deadheading. I like the kitty correspondents and that’s a wonderful mood photo. Very postcard worthy. We’ve gone from high’s in the low 40’s last week to starting out the new week with highs in the 70’s. It got up to 70 yesterday, but it was 23º F when we got up this morning. Sunny and Sixty at 11:00 am.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tim, thanks for stopping by! The last crocus bloom faded here, but the daffodils are still going strong. Unfortunately the deer often prune the roses for us, so I will have to get the Deer-Off on the new growth as soon as possible. I tried to get a good picture of the new growth yesterday, but the wind was moving them around too much.

      We have had some days close to 70 degrees here lately. Today is back down in the mid 40s and raining. Glad I got photos yesterday!

      Otis and Izzy, our guest feline correspondents this month, are wonderful cats. I got the idea of a correspondent from Tootlepedal’s Blog, where he has a guest photographer from time to time, his “foreign correspondent”.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is always so nice to hear news from you and your farms dear Lavinia. Seems that Spring will be a busy time for you all. Cats are so lovely, you know I am a cat lover. Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, dear Lavinia, I will visit and listen to the musicians. Your flowers be always nice and colourful. Love, nia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nia, thanks for stopping by, and the kind comments! And thank you for taking time to visit Donna Martin’s site and our friend Lorraine’s book at The daffodils started sprouting in December, and have been blooming since late January. Late winter is a colorful start to spring here.

      I thought you might love Otis and Izzy! And many blessings and much happiness to you too. The cats all send their best to you and your family. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Herman says:

    I enjoyed this fine post, Lavinia. It’s always a pleasure reading about what’s happening on the farm and how everything is coming back to life. And of course, Mr. Bowie likes to know how the cats are doing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a hopeful springlike post Lavinia. I am glad you had a good time in Connecticut ( the mood snow photo is lovely) and it must be comforting for you both to know that home is now Oregon. Your daffodils are so cheerful and bright! I hope you both continue to regain your energy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Charlie, thanks for stopping by and the kind comment! The property has many microclimates. Those south facing gardens in protected areas start pushing up shoots in December, and always bloom first.


    • Hi Rob, thanks for stopping by and admiring the daffodils! Clever indeed they are, and fortunately seem to really like sawdust for mulch. This is the tallest and most full-looking they have ever been in that garden bed. Fortunately, deer and gophers don’t like them. Must taste pretty bad. Tulips, on the other hand, seem to be gopher candy and I have to plant those in graveled corners by buildings or in old wine half-barrels.

      Keep those posts from the Australian Outback coming!


    • Easy Weimaraner! So good to have you stop by! Much of the pruning is climate driven, and with weather all over the map these days, winter and spring sometimes get a bit confused as to who is in control of the weather dial. The main thing I look for is to make sure the vines and trees are hardened off before pruning. Fresh cuts need time to heal before cold snaps hit, so we don’t do any kind of pruning on trees until February. Rick sometimes starts the vines in late December (we have been getting cold snaps in early December the last few years), but generally doesn’t get around to it until mid January. We can get mild winters and suddenly get a snow storm in March or April. The snow never lasts long in this part of Oregon, but it can freeze buds. Worst case is when bud break occurs early, and we get a spring freeze, setting things back.

      Have a great day, Easy, and lots of treats. I love your expressive face and the stories your Mom and Dad tell about you! 🙂


      • Grapes are pretty tough fellows, and should regenerate quickly. Grafting fruit tree cuttings is something I am learning now, and hope to get some successful ones this year.

        Tell your Mom and Dad to be careful up in those trees, Easy. Rick broke ribs one year when he fell off the orchard ladder into the apple tree. I’m still not quite sure how he did that, but I told him no tree climbing by either of us unless both of us are home.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Annie, thanks for stopping by! Yes, it was wonderful to see so many friends and relatives we have not seen in over a decade. The daffodils are doing particularly well this year, the tallest and most full of blooms as I have ever seen! Only 3 weeks now until Equinox, and the official start to spring. Unless the weather does something strange, I think we will have an early bud break in our vineyard this year. Rick mentioned he read that bud break has already occurred down in California in Napa Valley.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rick is watching it daily. He’s trying to get through the rest of the pruning now as fast as he can. That is the hard part of vacation – we lose a week of work here, as well as a few days before prepping things for the farm & cat sitter, and a few days after we get back to recover from the packed-like-sardines red-eye flight home. This year, however, we really needed the vacation back east.


  5. So looking forward to seeing some green around here again but it will be a while so thanks for sharing yours. What a wonderful photo of your friends house with the snow falling. Getting ready for another grape growing season must hold so much hope for the year ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carol, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! That last eastern snowfall was beautiful to see. I had gone out walking earlier that day, and got back just before the temperature started falling and the snowflakes started. Our friends’ log house looked like a postcard, picture-perfect in the falling snow, so I snapped a few of it. The snowflakes caught in the flash, which I had forgotten to turn off, added an almost magical quality to the scene.

      Getting ready for a new growing season is always a time of renewal and hope, a time of lengthening days and earlier sunrises.

      Give that old Romy horse a hug for me! Glad he is happy back in his old place with his friends. More work for you there, but you are a wonderful person to take his feelings and needs into account. There is a special place in heaven for people like you, and horses like Romy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mandy, thanks for stopping by! Memories of falling snow are some of the best ones from way back when in my youth. I remember going down to the barn at 4:00 AM to stand in the wooded corner of the pasture with my horse Brimstone, watching the snow fall in the early morning darkness. Horse and human stood there for quite a while taking it all in. Eventually it was time to get out the feed pail and hay. But for a short while, it was sacred, magical time. I did not want to break the spell.


  6. Hello & good morning Salmon Brook. My gosh, spring is in full swing for you. I adore all those sunny daffodils. I really should get some planted in our tiny yard. We’re enjoying mild weather but are not into garden season yet. Typically, the ‘big’ garden weekend here is the May long weekend. I generally start the weekend before to miss the crush of shoppers.
    I thought the opening paragraph of your post sublime. You are a wordsmith extraordinaire Lavinia. It was a joy to read over again too. Imagining two theatres, overhead and underfoot, such harmony in those words.
    I laughed at comfy Ottis assuming an entire chair all to himself, like HE was the special guest. Ha, well aren’t they always? In their minds anyways. Izzie is a look-a-like to a cat I had years ago. Ginger lived to be 13 years old. She loved me and my dad but not really anyone else. If anyone else tried to pick her up, she’d snarl. She was so pretty, but most who knew her, gave her a wide berth, ha.
    Thanks for sharing your spring views of your farm, makes me giddy anticipating our own spring. I’m hosting Alys here this summer and want everything to be perfect. Of course it won’t be, but I will be putting in an extra effort anyways. Cheers from the north. x K

    Liked by 1 person

    • Boomdee! So good to hear from you up there in Canada! Yes, spring is well underway here, and I am waiting for the cherry, pear and plum trees to bloom next. Bud break in the vineyard will be early this year. Looking forward to your photos of spring in Canada!

      Thank you for the kind comments on the writing. I enjoy sharing what I see, and attempting to paint a picture with words. Pure enjoyment for me, a different way to paint.

      Otis and Izzy are two special cats. Both of them are quite friendly, and would take naps with us. Otis is getting up there in age, and really loves his warm basket bed. Glad he sparked your recollection of another beautiful cat, your Ginger. Our animal companions are special people!

      All the best to you,

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved seeing the flowers in bloom, even though it’s been a mild winter here, I think that flowers are still several weeks away. I also like how you let the gophers loosen the soil for you, if the little buggers are going to hang out there, put them to work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jerry, thanks for stopping by! The winters here are relatively mild, so I start seeing daffodils pushing up the soil in mid December. Growth is slow until early January when the days start becoming noticeably longer. By late January, the first blooms emerge.

      Gophers – we prefer to work with wildlife, and are of the opinion there is room for all of us here. That heavy clay soil is much easier to use for gardening once it has been pulverized by those industrious little fellows. I remember going to a music festival in California once, and one morning when I went down to the concession area for a hot cup of tea, saw one at hard at work, in the middle of the concession area! A group of us stood around in the chilly morning air, holding our hot drinks, watching this one gopher periodically emerge from his tunnel with dirt to add to the growing mound around it. The exhibition went on for quite a while until a woman from one of the booths came running through with a pot of hot water she was taking back to her stand. She ran right over the gopher’s work site, unintentionally compacting dirt down in and over his hole. We all waited in suspense to see what the gopher would do next! After about 5 minutes, we could see the dirt that had been squashed into the hole start moving upward. He pushed it up a couple of times, as if testing, and finally gave up and went on down below and stayed there. Our gopher must have decided he emerged in a rough neighborhood and it was not safe, and abandoned efforts. Show over, the humans dispersed. They were interesting camping buddies, the gophers. I would wake up in the morning to find a city of fresh mounds outside my tent.


    • Hi Lyle, thanks for stopping by! Yes, it remains to be seen what happens with the parties now. There were signs of digging by the barricade, but they may have given up for now. The shed needed a good cleaning to begin with , but their activities have ensured it gets done this spring. I am waiting for slightly drier weather to pull everything out of there and don a dust mask and gloves… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Welcome to the daffodils and to Otis, the weather correspondent, and goodbye to the nutria! Welcome back, Lavinia and Rick, with another newsletter – which I missed after checking several times! So good to hear about the doings at the farm. Wishing you and Rick much stamina as you work on the vines.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cynthia, thanks for stopping by! Old Otis the weather correspondent may be back by popular demand later this year. 🙂

      Now that we have the time to devote to working more outside this year, we hope to get some major projects done, if not at least started. Strength and stamina will be required for sure, and I am making some headway there, finally.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello Lavinia! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog the other day. I have loved looking through your site and I am amazed by all the natural beauty all around you. What a truly beautiful place to live! I love your approach of embracing and living with the wildlife that you have and I am fascinated by the pictures of the Nutria! I have never even seen one before but I have to admit they look adorable! Loved to read about Otis and Izzy too. I shall really enjoy following you as I love to read about peoples gardening adventures in different parts of the USA and the world. We all have our gardening challenges no matter where we are but we all share a common love of the outside and our unique environments!
    Lovely to meet you!

    – Kate xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kate, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! Lovely to meet you as well! I am enjoying reading about your bit of heaven in central Florida. I am a little familiar with the east and west coasts of Florida, but not so much the interior. Your gardens are beautiful! I know the gardening challenge of coming from one climate to another. Western Oregon is milder than my Connecticut homeland, with much more rain in winter, and practically no rain and dry heat from July through early October.

      Florida has nutria, but seems the populations seem to be in flux according the the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission website. They come and go here. Some of our winters can get down in the 20s for short spells, which keep them in check along with predators.


  10. Louisiana has nutria also. We have actually had to put a bounty on them because they were eating the roots of the marsh grass and saltwater was creeping in and destroying the coast line.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peyton, thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately, nutria were exported all over the world for the fur trade, and unfortunately, almost exterminated in their own South American home range due to over-harvesting. They thrive in your warm, southern climate. Here, up in the foothills, the winters are borderline for their survival, and in years where we get an extended period of temperatures in the low to mid 20s, they perish. I have only seen one other nutria in the 12 going on 13 years we have been here, a large adult. I had never seen anything like it before, and had to look it up. Large ones are often mistaken for beaver until the tail can be viewed, youngsters get mistaken for muskrats. Muskrats have a vertically flattened tail while nutria have a round tail, a distinctive face and bright orange teeth. We have many predators here, including cougar, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, etc. which mainly go after the young. I read most nutria don’t make it beyond their 3rd year. The big adults can be very aggressive. Our own species is a highly mobile one, always on the move, looking for new opportunities. We tend to take what we find useful, or profitable, with us when we colonize new areas, often to the detriment of all.


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