Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for May 2016

Our feature photo this month is of one of the old rambling roses that grow on the north border of the farm.  This rose of unknown variety and its companion were planted long ago by those who have not graced this Earth in many a year.  The old wooden posts have rotted and fallen over, their rusty wires engulfed and held high in places by tall trees.  Vinca that were planted along this zone have grown into a thick mat through which a few stray daffodils struggle to emerge in late winter, and an ancient lilac bush peers in the dining room window.  The blooms are small now, but still fragrant.  Their time has come and gone already this year, and I wonder what it once looked like, this wild borderland.  Haven to birds, insects and small mammals, it will remain as is until the day finally comes when another family decides to leave their mark upon this land, and the border will be tamed once again.  I nod to our neighbor on the north side.  We are content with what is.


Wild blackberry on the border provides nectar for bees and tasty fruits for us later in the season. Non-native blackberry is an invasive species we live with but keep contained. Blackberry provides a good portion of the main honey flow for beekeepers during the summer months in the Willamette Valley.

News from the farm

April’s warmer than normal weather was met with cooler, wetter weather in May.  The vines seem to have recovered from the frost in late March, and we are looking forward to a good season.  Tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and peppers, started in trays under lights in early March, are slowly making their way into the garden.  I trust the weather a bit more these days, although Mother Nature can surprise one late in the season.


Rick working on one of his tomato beds. He is trying a new mulching fabric this year.


Opening up the slit in the mulching fabric.

The new greenhouse has been populated with grape starts, miscellaneous cuttings and potting bench. I look forward to having the front porch back, although it has steadfastly served as a plant nursery for the last 3 years.  Rick and I wouldn’t mind eating out on the porch during this season of azure blue sky days and cool nights without being hemmed in by stacks of plant pots and garden tools.


Tubular metal frame greenhouse on the cement pad Lyn and I poured. Grape cuttings now have a permanent place to develop.


Plant starts in the small porch greenhouse, hardening off and waiting to go in the garden.


Unplanned blueberry cutting experiment. These are from broken branches made by rutting male deer last fall. They look promising!


The two “Autumn Bliss” everbearing raspberry plants that survived. Barrel life seems to agree with them, and they are much easier to maintain this way.


Half-barrels used for strawberries and now being switched over to raspberries. Strawberries will be moved to a new system. This year, the barrels will house tomatoes, peppers and eggplant while other beds are being worked on.


Pinot noir in our main vineyard block. Recovered from frost damage and doing well.


The pinot vines in my test block with rope trellis has recovered from earlier frost damage and are doing well.


Early Muscat. We are sure of this one as it produced fruit last year. The vine is in a short test row consisting of a mix of Gewürztraminer and Early Muscat.


For Tim and Laurie Price at “Off Center and Not Even” Grafted rose rootstock that has taken off on its own. Rootstock variety Dr. Huey perhaps? The graft is the pinkish rose in the upper right.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

The Cats of Salmon Brook Farms are enjoying the late spring weather, and are too busy lazying about on various cushioned window sills to post a report this month.  Our Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent Otis, who hails from the distant eastern lands of Connecticut, has agreed to fill in for the crew this month, and update readers on weather and events in his area.  Otis first made an appearance with his companion the lovely Izzy back in our February 2016 post.

“It seems that after a very brief, but cold spring, Connecticut has been plunged into summer!  The temperatures by the end of May ranged from high 80’s to low 90’s!  Everything is suddenly green, which is a welcome contrast to the stark winter scenery.  Thankfully, we did not have a lot of snow this year, but what we did had just made me miserable.

The snow blower has been removed from the tractor and replaced with the belly mower, which makes me very happy since I live in fear of being sucked up by the blower and spit into a snow pile somewhere along the driveway.   The pasture has already been cut for the first time this year and the humans just put the first cutting of hay into the barn tonight.  Peas, lettuce, swiss chard, kale, tomatoes, parsley, eggplant, basil, and leeks have been planted in the vegetable garden and the strawberries and blueberries are already flowering.   I must admit that I love basking in the sun on the stone wall while my humans busy themselves with farm work.


Otis surveying his farm property and enjoying a bit of New England sunshine. Photo credit C.M.

The trees have just started to bloom starting with the beautiful magnolia tree and followed by the dogwood.  Iris flowers began opening this week soon to be replaced by the peonies come early June.  Izzy likes sitting on the stone wall behind the peony greens in hopes of capturing Mr. Shrew.


The lovely Izzy watches for Mr. Shrew. Photo credit C.M.

She has been very amenable to holding peace talks with him, but refuses to make any promises.


Peace talks do not appear to have gone well… Photo credit C.M.

Thankfully, my mistress finally put cushions back on the porch furniture so that I can spend some quality nap time on my favorite wicker couch!!  From my couch I can enjoy a feline view of my kingdom…when I am not snoozing that is!


Otis enjoying a good nap. Photo credit C.M.

Cheers for now…on to summer!!  – Otis, Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent

Thank you, Otis, for a splendid report!

Music News (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am making some progress with health issues, although it has been a long, slow process of recovering from caregiving.

I am still on hiatus from performing, but continuing to play and enjoy down time with my guitars while I continue to recuperate.   I learned how to make videos in late winter and do some rudimentary editing.  Technology continues to make leaps and bounds, allowing the small-time geek, tinkerer, and putterer like myself another means of expressing and sharing creativity.  Expect a surprise in months to come!  I won’t promise when, though.  I am savoring this time of few obligations to anyone except myself, the farm, and it inhabitants.


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

Thank you to all who have stopped by this site, offered their “likes”, comments and words of encouragement.  You are a wonderful community.


A bright blue, late spring day punctuated by wandering cumulus heading towards the Cascades.


42 thoughts on “Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for May 2016

  1. Timothy Price says:

    That is definitely Dr. Huey. The greenhouse looks great and your are making good use of it. Enjoy your porch. I love the kitty correspondents. They are having a fun filled springtime plunged into summer there in CT.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Susan says:

    Hi, Lavinia. What a wonderful, happy post. I *love* Otis. You also made me happy by recognizing and posting Dr. Huey. Some people frown on Dr. Huey, but it does well sometimes when other things don’t, and it is pretty in its own right.
    Thank you for this lovely, bright post from your part of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s such a busy time with everything you have going on in the greenhouse, gardens, and vineyard! I hope that the fabric mulch works better for Rick than it did for me. When I tried it, the weeds grew up through the fabric. When I’d try to pull the weeds, they’d break off at the point that they grew through the fabric, so the roots were still there, meaning the weeds always returned.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jerry, thanks for stopping by! Rick has had a few problems already with the fabric mulch degrading and ripping prematurely in the larger tomato bed. It might be worthwhile trying to cover and pin it down with bark mulch for the season. Grass grows here with a tenacity and life-force I did not see back east. Weeding in heavy clay soil, especially in the height of summer, is almost impossible as the ground dries so hard, like brick.

      I am enjoying reading about your camping vacation. Amazing photos, as always! I thought of you the other day as I watched a large bird, I am guessing turkey vulture, soaring high and making wide circles overhead. I figured you would be able to identify the species, even at great distance, based on wingspan, color and flying pattern.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Herman says:

    Hi Lavinia! As always, I enjoyed your post. It’s so interesting reading about all the work and activity on the farm.
    And of course, we enjoyed reading the report of Mr. Otis! Give our regards to the cat crew of Salmon Brook Farms!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Herman and Mr. Bowie, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! I will make sure the cat crew gets your message, and let our friend Carolyn know you enjoyed Mr. Otis!

      All the best to you, Herman, and our favorite British Shorthair, Mr. Bowie. The cat crew sends a big “Meow!” and encourages readers to visit Mr. Bowie, the Belgian Division of the Boys of Salmon Brook Farms, at

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful life you two lead and your happiness shows through the farm, the plants and even the animals look quite content. My mouth starts to water with all that talk of fresh tomatoes, raspberries and blueberries! I’ll have to stop for breakfast (only my berries are frozen). Have a great week and keep up the good work with those cuttings!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi GP, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! I often think of my father and mother. My father especially would have loved this farm. He always wanted a place like this up in the hills, and my mother was raised on a farm and loved that kind of life.

      I love this time of year! When fruit and vegetables are coming in, one can just walk through the orchards and gardens and snack along on fresh produce. I am also looking forward to making some blueberry-oatmeal scones this year with our own blueberries.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. it’s great to see your vines… our giant ole vine started to green some days ago too. I’m glad it survived Marks Kamikaze-cut :o) is there a reason to find out what kind of vine we have? maybe if we offer some grapes to a vintner?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Easy, thanks for stopping by and visiting! A vintner might be able to help you if it is a varietal he/she is familiar with. Many factors figure into proper identification. There is a whole area of study known as ampelography, the identification and classification of grape vines. Good luck with those vines! They are pretty tough and can outlive humans. All the best to your Mom and Dad, Easy!


  7. Hi Lavinia. Thanks for this joyous newsletter, and your guest correspondents. Izzy is a gorgeous cat. I’m happy to see that your efforts with the greenhouse paid off.
    It was a cool wet May in DC as well. But summer is overcompensating for its neglect. I do miss the cool if not the wet. Hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Teagan, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! Cool and cloudy today, but temperatures in the high 80s are forecast for next week. We don’t get the humidity here that you do back east, but I have seen it hit 112 one summer day in 2009. I did not believe the porch thermometer, but that is what it was!

      I have been enjoying following your creative energy over at

      Liked by 2 people

    • So good of you to drop by our corner of the world! We were fortunate to have only one killing spring frost this year. Most everything has recovered and sent forth new growth, even the peonies, which are new plantings.

      Our main trouble in the vineyard comes in late summer at veraison, the time of ripening. Our climate is cool and wet in winter, and typically gets little to no rain from July through early October. Available water and food are much scarcer for wildlife, including insects. Yellow jackets (genus Vespula) love grapes, a source of liquid and sugar. As the wasps chew holes in the skins, the honeybee, Apis mellifera, often joins the wasps at the table, once the flesh and juice is accessible. Honeybees are often preyed upon by these wasps making it an even stranger observation. I have photographic proof of both calling a truce and feeding side by side on grapes, plums and apples. Due to the normal drought, flower nectar is also in short supply and the bees try to survive as best they can, and therefore, go after fruit. These two species can strip a vineyard of grapes almost as fast as hungry birds, who also join in the activity. It is a yearly race to see who gets to the fruit first. I may be trying out insect netting this year on the test block.

      On another note, I am thoroughly enjoying your stories of life and travel in Scotland. Such a beautiful country! Readers, please visit Tootlepedal’s Blog at


      • Thank you for the kind reference. I almost wonder whether the perils of grape growing in your area make the trouble worth while. I suppose that it must be or you wouldn’t be growing them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We actually have a wonderful climate and soil type for growing grapes, especially pinot noir. Some people set up cannons that fire off periodically to scare off birds, use threatening-looking balloons, etc. Bees and wasps are another matter. Yellow Jacket traps sometimes help if one can put out enough of them. In the end, farming is a gamble, and sometimes Mother Nature rolls the dice and gives one snake eyes. But in the end, there is nothing like eating, or drinking, the fruits of one’s own labor.

        A few methods of bird control


  8. I am glad your health is beginning to improve. I love your idea of planting the raspberry in the barrel. I have an extremely unruly cultivated blackberry that might behave itself if put in one! I enjoyed Otis’s report and the photograph of him on the wicker couch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clare, thank you so much for stopping by and the kind comments! I think of you often and wonder how things are going over there in your part of the world.

      Blackberry and raspberry do get unruly if not contained. I found when I had the raspberries in rows, the rows kept “walking” sideways as new shoot would come up and old canes die back. The Feed & garden supply shop I originally bought “Autumn Bliss” from did not have any this year, so I will hunt down a source and use the barrels for other plants this season.

      I will let my friend Carolyn, Otis’ human Office Assistant, know that you enjoyed his report. All the best to you and your family.


  9. Wonderful post! Wish I had a greenhouse like that .. We get a bit too much wind here. And those barrels .. A super idea for plants that like to take over 😃 Otis has done a fine job of updating! Pats to those lovely kitties

    Liked by 1 person

  10. How lovely your cats, Otis and Izzy 🙂 Blessing them all, dear Lavinia. You are doing great job in your farm, seems so beautiful. And also your music! Fascinated me, I am listening now, Thank you, have a nice day and summer, Love, nia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to see you, Nia! Thanks for stopping by and the kind comments. Otis and Izzy are two cats who live with dear friends on their farm in my original home state of Connecticut. You will see them from time to time on the blog. I will let them know Nia loves them!

      Thank you for listening to the music and the stories! I hope to have my own channel up and running not too long from now. The plan is to make a series of one song videos, “Tiny Farm Concerts” once I have recovered my strength and energy, which had been seriously run down over the last 3 years of caregiving.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Looks like it’s all grow with you now! Just tried a new bio mulching fabric and it sadly ripped far too easily. Need to look for something a little more sturdy next time.

    Loving your feline reporters 😀

    We’re gearing up for our first jazz concert of the season and are very much looking forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Annie, thanks for stopping by. Yes, Otis & Izzy are so adorable! Thanks for commenting!

      Yes, we are also finding this fabric rips easily. Nighttime creatures that come through the farm have been “helping” shred it. I don’t think we will use it next year.

      Jazz concerts sound wonderful! Have a wonderful season over there, and I hope the summer does not bring drought to your region again. All the best to you and your family. Readers, please visit They have a wonderful pet travel blog to accompany their pet relocation services. These folks do it right!


  12. Hello Lavinia! I loved reading your update about the farm. I was particularly taken with the lovely old rose at the beginning. I love the history of old roses and especially in your part of the country I am sure you have some lovely examples. So many stories that go with them. What a wonderful report from Otis! He is such a character and I am glad he and Izzy are doing well. Your new greenhouse is fantastic and I am sure you are going to reap some real benefits. You even have blueberry cuttings?! How fantastic!
    Hope June is a wonderful month for you!
    – Kate x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kate, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! The old heirlooms are among the most robust and beautiful roses. I am attempting to clone those ones from cuttings, those two on the border. It also looks like I may have a few viable blueberry cuttings from the ones you saw in the photo. Keep your fingers crossed! And I am glad that greenhouse project is finally done. That’s been on my list for several years now.

      I will let my friend Carolyn know how much you enjoyed Otis. Yes, He and the lovely Izzy are characters. 🙂 Readers, please visit Kate at Grey Tabby Gardens,

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hello, hello Salmon Brook friends et all. Happy June to you! I enjoyed meandering around the vintage garden with you so much. Old farm yards hold so much treasure. Sometimes old country cemeteries too. Long forgotten varieties that thrive without much attention at all. Do you know much about the history of the place?
    I’ve been scrambling to put our little patch of Earth in order too and have found it’s taken much more time than anticipated. I, like Rick have been working with mulch fabric. I took to revitalizing the boulevard in front of our house. The previous owners had planted a few ground covers and layered with black cedar mulch. Most of the plants were struggling or dead and I didn’t care for the black mulch. Fast forward several days of work on my knees and it’s coming along. I sure admire all the work the two of you accomplish on the farm. I’m afraid to take a day off for fear I will cease up completely, LOL Stiffness and aches have become routine. But the parts I’ve finished are encouragement to get it done. You must have a great sense of accomplishment looking out from your, now vacant, porch at all that transpires from your hard work.
    I really enjoyed the update from Otis too. His sense of humour cracked me up. “my mistress” teehee. I once had a cat very similar to Izzy. Orange and white and long hair. Ginger was her name. I named her for the movie star on Gilligan’s Island. She was so pretty. Also happy to hear you’re recovering too, take good care xo K

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Boomdee, thanks for stopping by all the way from Canada and the kind comments! What we learned abot this farm is that it was originally part of a 10 acre Weyerhaeuser land grant. It was subdivided at some point into 4 lots, the outer two being about 4.25 acres. We have one of the outer lots. The former owner’s parents actively farmed this place, which is why it came with all the table grapes, fruit and hazelnut trees. We have not had the time or energy to reclaim the hazelnuts, but we are working the trees and table grapes, and added a pinot noir vineyard. I have been adding more fruit trees here and there. We mainly produce for ourselves, selling or bartering what is in excess, if we can. Much is just given to friends and neighbors. We all help each other out.

      I will let our friend Carolyn know how much you enjoy Otis! 🙂 All the best to you from cats & crew here at Salmon Brook Farms.

      Readers please visit Boomdeeadda for superb crafting and general upbeat news at

      Liked by 1 person

  14. First, best wishes for your recovery, dear Lavinia. Caregiving certainly takes a lot out of a person, even when it doesn’t seem that way at first. Be kind to yourself. Secondly, thanks for the interesting photos of each cat. They are so interesting, especially that one of Izzy watching for Mr. Shrew.
    And I shall share your barrel-farming methods with my husband as he has been talking about container growing of his veggies this year. Thanks for the great ideas. Congrats on the blueberry sprouts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cynthia, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! I will let my friend Carolyn know how much you enjoyed Otis & Izzy’s spring report, and the photos she sent along to go with it. Otis had a sibling named Milo, who passed away recently. Izzy is his companion now.

      Half-barrels are wonderful planters. I drilled 5 x 1/4″ holes in the bottom of each for drainage. The soil does compact over a year or two, and needs to be topped up, but it does help prevent grass from invading, and keeps cane fruits like raspberries in check from “walking” their way via roots sending up neighboring shoots. One can also easily move barrels around using a hand truck, or just tipping barrels on their sides and rolling them elsewhere, which is what I usually do. Strawberries I think I actually prefer in neat rows, but plan on making special raised beds for those. For now they are in temporary planters, with 4 more barrels of them to move to make way for raspberries.

      Blueberries – we will see how many of those actually go on to grow good root systems.

      Readers, please visit Cynthia Reyes at Her newest memoir, “An Honest House” just came out in May. I have read both her memoirs, “A Good Home” and “An Honest House”. I have laughed, cried and felt as though I have traveled with her through her early years in Jamaica, the rise of her career as a journalist and executive producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the very serious auto accident which derailed and changed her world, and on into her new life working through PTSD and chronic pain.


  15. Lynda Kleimann Kessel says:

    Lavinia, your post is just as beautiful as you were in high school and, I see from your picture , as you are now. Saw a Facebook post from Bruce Douglass about you living in Oregon on a farm. I don’t know if you remember me or not but you’ve popped into my memories every once in awhile and your exactly how I pictured you. Much happiness and love to you and yours

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lynda, of course I remember you! Rick and I just got back from a memorial service for a friend up in Spokane, so sorry for the delay in posting your comment and replying to you. I have looked for you now and then over the years, and come up empty handed. Nice of Bruce to let the old crew know via Facebook (I am not on Facebook myself). Thank you for the blog follow and the kind comments, and I will be in touch. – All the best, Lavinia


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