Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for June 2016

Our feature photo this month is of one of the many daylilies blooming about this farm at this time of year.  This delicate beauty with visiting ants was found growing amid a patch of spearmint by the corner of the old garage.  We had two thunderstorms followed by pea-sized hail in the same day a few weeks back, which left strafed and tattered vegetation everywhere.  We do get hail from time to time, but being hit twice in the same day by a heavy load of hail accompanied by high winds is unusual for our area.  Leaves, flowers, fruits and buds suffered damage.  Only a few plants suffered total annihilation, so we are fortunate.  Plantings will recover, although they will be set back a bit this season.


Daylily peering out from behind a post.

News from the farm

A clear and cool beginning to this last day of June, the thin crescent moon floating in the Maxfield Parrish colors of twilight.  Later came the warm, golden sun pleasantly beaming down from a light blue cloudless sky.  Shafts of light filter down through the apple orchard, dappling the long grass and wildflowers below.  Tree, shrub and flower sway to the song of the Wind, as she skips down the mountains to the hills and valley below.  Her fleeting footsteps can been seen in the rippling grass at it shimmers in her path.  An old friend once described Wind as an entity with various emotions they had come to know quite well over the years.  Sometimes in a hurry, sometimes lingering, but always on the move, whispering her story to those who take the time to listen.  Today our visitor is feeling playful, lingering about the gardens and gently plucking her harp out on the porch.  Along with the music from the wind chimes, a curl of breeze finds its way through the window near where I am working, tugging at my elbow to come out and join the greater world outside.

Spring’s warm start has encouraged cherries and blueberries to ripen a little earlier than we normally would see.  Cooler, wet weather in May and part of June slowed growth somewhat, and we possibly have some mummy berry occurring in the blueberries due to cooler conditions after rapid growth in earlier warm weather.  We are sorting out hail damage on top of possible mummy berry, but still have an abundance of fruit.  I will be busy picking blueberries over the next few weeks as cherries have already peaked here.  Oregon State University has a very good article on mummy berry for interested readers.  See “Mummy berry could spook your blueberries” at the link below.


Photo taken in our blueberry patch this week. The starting gun has been fired, and the race with birds and other wildlife begins.

Grapes, depending on the variety, are between flowering and the small berry stage.  Our table grapes, many of them very old vines, are always ahead of the pinot noir.


From my test block of pinot noir. Note the marine-grade polypropylene trellis rope. I am happy enough with it, so far, I will continue to use it for trellising instead of wire.


From our main block of pinot noir.


Early Muscat. We have a short test row of mixed Gewürztraminer and Early Muscat.


The table grapes (Cascade pictured here) are always well ahead of the pinot.

Hazelnuts have well-defined nuts on them, still in the green stage.  We have roughly an acre of derelict hazelnuts, which is mainly wildlife habitat now.  We may collect these at some point.


Hazelnuts! Mice collect these in the field. In the old house we nicknamed “The Mouse Hotel”, they stored them in the mud room in boots, shoes, and drawers. Anywhere they could find a spot.

Gophers are busy tunneling and leaving mounds, as gophers will do.  I collect the mounds for rooting grape vines and outdoor potting soil.  They in turn will filch my potatoes, considering it an even trade for disturbing the protective cap on their tunnel system.


Classic gopher mound. Conveniently pulverized clay soil is collected for flower pots and rooting grape cuttings. They find my potato patch convenient shopping.

News from The Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondents this month are our Three Sisters cats, Wynken, Blynken and Nod.   The girls have been quite busy keeping track of the comings and goings outside the windows, and especially love the view from their crow’s nest. The girls would like to report that there appear to be more hummingbirds this year, but fewer honeybees have been spotted.

Abundant clover-06282016

Lots of clover, very few bees this year.

The seasons pass by so quickly now, and the girls will be 3 years old in August.  They have proven to be difficult photographic subjects for the local paparazzo since they matured out of kittenhood, preferring to take control of the camera themselves!  The Flying Nod’s preferred tactics are landing on my shoulder from behind, and covering my eyes with her paws.  Fortunately, she is the lightest of the three.


Nod, wondering what her sister Blynken is up to in the crow’s nest!


Blynken, keeping a sharp lookout from above.


Blynken, at another post, watching for hummingbirds.


The lovely Wynken in a quiet, reflective moment. All the Sisters rocky-grey stripes up top have been turning white over time. Wynken still has the most pronounced markings.

Our Northeast Regional Correspondent Otis and his companion the lovely Izzy will be returning later this summer to give readers an update on his area and the activities Mr. Shrew.


Otis, Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent will return later this summer! Photo credit C.M.


Stay tuned for the adventures of Izzy and Mr. Shrew! Photo credit C.M.

Music News (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I would like to start the news with what was a pleasant surprise for me.  I walked into the kitchen where the radio was on a few weeks back, and came across an NPR segment about the disappearance of human toll booth collectors in Florida, but not at one particular one, Card Sound Bridge.   At the end of the segment you will hear Laurie Jennings, a musician from Florida.  She had written a song called Toll Booth Romance.  This segment, recorded at a Florida PBS station, made it all the way to Oregon Public Broadcasting!  Have a listen to the segment at the link below.

Laurie Jennings and Dana Keller will be performing on the west coast these next two months, including Oregon.  Please visit their website at


For those Johnny Cash fans and readers of Science News, the late Man in Black now has a tarantula named after him, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, the Johnny Cash tarantula.  See Science New March 5, 2016 for the full story!



Teaching my pet rooster Mr. Pluff to sing. He was a gentle soul and family member.

I am making some progress, along with some setbacks, in terms of my own health.  It has been a long, slow process of recovering from caregiving, and it will have to run its course.


I loved my brother’s boy scout uniform and used to call myself a “Bird Scout”.

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.


First and only CD. Another one will be coming! The black cat is our dear departed Mr. Beaucastel, named for Chateau Beaucastel.

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.


Painting in the background was made by my late father-in-law.

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.


Reblooming daylilies. Planted in memory of a girl named Lily who committed suicide after being bullied at school.


40 thoughts on “Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for June 2016

  1. It’s lovely to red of all your varied activities. I’m going to a live orchestral concert tomorrow evening, including Elgar’s ‘Sea Pictures’, one of my very favourite works. The orchestra is technically amateur as it’s unpaid, but it consists of some of the very best music teachers around here.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Easy would love to “help” you with the gophers :o) The description of the wind is great… it’s exactly like your friend said… I love it!!!
    btw: have you noticed ants in your hazelnut trees too? our whole tree was infested with ants over and over…. is that common or just this year after the long but lame winter?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Easy, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! We can always use your help with the gophers.

      My friend also described Storm as the petulant sibling of wind. I like that one too! Especially after all the hail we took. It was like the wind threw it at us.

      I have not noticed ants in the hazelnuts so much as I have seen them in the cherry trees, particularly the Bing cherry. That tree was damaged by heavy equipment some years back when the septic system went in, and then it got canker. The bark tends to bleed in places, and I am guessing the ants are interested in the sugary sap. Your hazelnut may have an injury somewhere, and is bleeding sap. Is it an old tree with a cavity they may be nesting in?


      • it’s a young one, but it was full with ants. we had to cut it and while the branches were on the floor one night they turned into ANTlanta :o( I love the description of storm… we currently have a small one…. not really the way to welcome july :o)

        Liked by 1 person

      • My guess is the sap then. It must appear quite tasty to your local ants. I will check our hazelnuts next time I am out there.
        Wild cherries

        Photo is of our wild cherry tree, the best of the wild ones. The ants love it too, but not as much as the Bing which is not in good shape.


  3. Herman says:

    Thank you for another great post, Lavinia. I would love to check out that wonderful farm and have some delicious blueberries!
    I’m wondering if Mr. Bowie would like to meet the cats of Salmon Brook Farms… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Herman and Mr. Bowie, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! Cherry season was good too, but it is all to short.

      We would all love to meet you and Mr. Bowie sometime. If you are ever on this side of the Big Pond, give us a shout. The Cats of Salmon Brook Farms eagerly await their Belgian cousin!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so pleased you are slowly feeling better Lavinia! Full-time caring is so tiring because you can never rest or relax – no wonder you are suffering now that the pressure is off you.
    I was so interested in your link to the toll-booth article. There is very little human contact these days as everything is being mechanised or computerized. The elderly especially suffer from this.
    I was also interested in your ant discussion with Easy. When we notice ants in trees we always assume that the tree has aphids on the new leaves. Ants farm aphids for their ‘honeydew’ and will attack anything e.g. ladybirds, that might want to eat the aphids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Clare, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! Glad to hear you enjoyed the segment on the Florida toll booths. Yes, the elderly do suffer, and I think the younger ones as well, in a different way when there is so little human contact.

      Thanks for the link on the honeydew. I took some photos of the cherry tree, and went out back to have a closer look. Also checked a large hazelnut which is growing right next to the Bing cherry. I don’t see or feel any sticky leaves or grass under the tree, but do see sap where the tree is damaged from canker and much earlier heavy equipment damage. Aphids usually attack us here in late August, and I usually see them in the kale beds. The plants are heat stressed, and the aphids get the better of them and then we get an infestation. I do see what could be nibbles on leaves and some sort of leaf curl going on regarding the Bing cherry. I found some webbing in the leaf curl, but do not know if it is related.The neighboring hazelnut looks in good shape. I would be interested in what you can tell from the photos.

      The ants were all quiet everywhere at the noon hour here. In the cherry tree, they are often on the fruit, especially if there is any damage.

      Sap bleeding from Bing - canker damage?
      Bing bark

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not at all Clare! Always glad to have people weigh in on what they think might be going on. That poor tree got hit by a bulldozer when the septic system went in back in 2004. It looked like it was on its way out last year, so I tried some fertilizer with beneficial mycorrhizal fungi. This year the tree produced many, many quarts of fruit. It is working hard trying to grow over the mechanical damage, but the canker is still there. I planted another Bing this year, some distance away.

        The ants are a real pest when they are in the “wrong” place, but I do admire them greatly. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Lavinia! I enjoy your newsletters so much. It’s a moment away from this dratted city, for me to visit such a lovely place. Your words about the wind were pure magic. I enjoy all the photos, but the one of the blueberries was especially pretty. And of course the kitties. Mega hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Teagan, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! I am enjoying your Guitar Mancer series and all the characters as well!

      My old friend also described Storm as the petulant sibling of Wind. I liked that one too. The world around us provides so much imagery, and speaks to us in many ways. A photo for you, from when my mother-in-law was alive and used to sit under the apple tree in her chaise lounge chair. I kept the wind chimes there for her to listen to. A place of one’s own to listen to the wind…

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Sorry to hear about the Mummy berries. Your vines are looking good though. Our youngsters are doing relatively well but with our almost drought conditions, the harvest will be even smaller than we’d hoped.

    Wynken, Blynken and Nod are in delightful form and we of course want to hear of the adventures of Mr Shrew…

    So glad you’re taking time for yourself and healing. The suggestion of a second CD is very exciting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Annie, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! Rick and I are looking forward to grape harvest season this year. Hopefully all goes well over the rest of the summer and the annual dry season is not too bad. We have had a relatively pleasant and cool start to July here, fair weather in the 70s, but the heat is yet to come. The grass is just starting to brown out here on the farm, and the hills are turning the color of ripe wheat. Wishing you all the best on your own harvest, and hope your dry season will not be as severe as in previous years.

      The cats all send a big “Meow” to the Animal Couriers team, and we all look forward to hearing more stories of your passengers and the beautiful countries through which you travel.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the updates on the Three sisters cats, the progress of the grapes, the gophers, and so on. I am particularly moved by the fact that the Lilies were planted in memory of Lily who committed suicide after being bullied. How very sad to learn this. But how kind of you to plant flowers in her memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cynthia, thanks for stopping by. I did not know the family, but had learned of Lily from her aunt who come by after a market and told the story to our supervisor a few years back. I happened to be right there at the time, also heard the story and was moved by it. I told the aunt I would plant something for the girl here. Sometimes it is the only kind thing I can think of to do for someone, and often helps ease the pain a little. Perennials are a gift of life, a small offering of beauty and remembrance.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I hope that the storms did no lasting damage, plants are usually pretty tough unless the damage occurs at exactly the wrong time.

    Your cats are beautiful, and from your descriptions of their behavior, they can entertain a person for hours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • H Jerry, thanks for stopping by and the kind comments! What I thought was the beginnings of mummy berry in the blueberries has turned out to be hail damage from what I can tell, so for that I am grateful. We are getting plenty of good berries now. On many of the bushes, especially ones not in the “wind shadow” of the house, the leaves are shot full of holes from hail, and turning red around the damaged areas. The day of the storm we had a hard-driving wind with the hail from the west-southwest. Everything else has recovered or is regrowing. It has been an amazingly cool start to July here, in the 60s and low 70s for the most part. The last reprieve before the blast furnace summer.

      The cats are unique little people, more like eccentric roommates. Friends for a short time, remembered for a lifetime. Wise old souls and teachers, comforters in hard times, playful little elvish creatures who help us see the lighter side of life. They teach us how to be better people. Their lives, and all the memories they leave behind after they depart, are all woven into the fabric of our own, becoming part of the legends and history of this place we call home.


  9. Hello, hello Lavinia! While I’m not the wind you so eloquently wrote about, I’m a small, warm breeze come to blow through your lovely words and life’s joys. I always enjoy your ‘News From The Farm’. Your beautiful writing is like opening up a window to be greeted by a perfect day. I especially enjoyed hearing how the breeze blowing through your window was tugging at your elbow to come out. My gosh, that evokes such a gentle picture in my minds eye. Lovely, just lovely.
    Sorry to hear you had some hail damage. Mother Nature is a pill at times hey? I guess it could always be worse but the clean-up probably takes time out of your day to do other (fun) things. Hey?! When you harvest your grapes, how will you process them? On your own? Send them out? I’m sure its a time consuming venture to go from sunshine on a vine to “Cheers”.
    As always, glad to hear about your fur family. They’re all so angelic looking. Must be the white fur and pink nose. I’m so happy you have good company while you recover. I popped over to Laurie and Dana’s website. I gravitate to the songs with both singing harmonies the best. Like the easy ‘Someplace Else’. I always enjoy a song with a bridge where they give the listener a chance to pretend to be a singer and go a verse alone (only in my car!). But I also loved the picking on ‘Hold Fast the Wheel’. I like to think there’s something greater than me steering this wonderful life. In my heart I know it’s my dad. I really enjoyed that song. Thanks for sharing their site Lavinia. Good bye for now, take good care. xo K

    Liked by 1 person

    • Boomdee! How good to see your comment in my box and it made my day today. Thank you so much for the kind words. I enjoying painting mental images with words, and so glad you enjoyed them in this post. Yes, Mother Nature and her offspring can be real pills at times for sure. My old friend also described Storm as the petulant sibling of Wind. Right on the mark!

      Grapes – assuming we get a good crop and Mother Nature and her offspring are kind to us, it will be divided into the following:
      1) table grapes for sale
      2) table grapes we eat (they are good!)
      3) pinot noir for making vinegar (my job)
      4) pinot noir for making wine (my job)

      Harvest time will sneak up on us quickly this year with so much going on.

      So glad you stopped by to visit Laurie and Dana’s website. We got to know them some years back, and look forward to their return to Oregon every year. I am glad that song made you think of your father. I will let Laurie and Dana know.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: At Home at Salmon Brook Farms | Cynthia Reyes

      • It’s been brutal here for a couple of weeks. I’ve started sleeping in the basement room. I’m not sure which part of me is more unhappy with that situation — my asthma or mo back/neck (from the cot). But the bedroom upstairs is too hot. The air conditioner just isn’t up to the task. I’m glad to have an option, but tonight it’s hard to choose which “evil” is worse. LOL.
        Your newsletter sincerely is very well done, Lavinia — it is my pleasure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Teagan!

        We are fortunate to have mostly “dry heat” in this part of Oregon (Cascade foothills) during the summer, and the temperature can swing as much as 40 to 50 degrees over the course of 24 hrs. It’s great for camping. It is 85 right now, but dry, and will drop into the low 50s overnight. Great for sleeping! The coldest I have seen it get in summer was one morning some years back when I woke up to 38 degrees in July. The thermometer read over 80 later that day. I probably have the high recorded somewhere in my notes.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by and for the kind comment, Suzanne! People love photos, and sometimes they help illustrate a point, so I have included more of them over the years. I do strive to paint a picture in words, too, for those who appreciate that medium.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are welcome, but all are moderated. I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Looking forward to hearing from you! In order to avoid problems with the default SPAM blocker Askimet, please do not post two comments in a row. Let me approve and respond to them one at a time.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.