Our feature photo this month is a colorful autumn view through the south row of table grapes. The grass in the background has turned a lovely emerald green, as it always does at this time of year when the rains begin again. Although we do not experience the vibrant colors of New England here except for where ornamentals and other non-native species are planted, our grapes, blueberries and hawthorns provide some red and orange hues to the predominantly green, yellow and browns of the season.
News from the farm
The days have grown noticeably shorter on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. As Autumn wearily trudges on towards Winter, her traveling companion Wind has grown restless. Sometimes playful, sometimes angry, but always on the move now, driving the herds of wandering dark clouds before her, leaving a cold, fragmented sky in their wake. She shakes tree, shrub and vine, demanding them to release spent leaves and overripe fruit. Come January, she will call like a Banshee in the night, and I will wake and listen for a while, the sound of her wailing striking some momentary primordial feeling of dread. Her siblings Storm and Mist visit much more frequently. Mist is a shadowy figure, stealthily creeping in at times when the afternoon sun is warm and the air is still. The breath of the mountains slides down into the bowl in which this farm sits, and I feel the cold dampness on my neck. I turn to face this amorphous stark white entity, who soon envelopes me and all my surroundings. I find myself ingested. At night, her fingers curl and probe under the lights, attempting to find a way into the warmth beyond the door which shuts her out. Waiting for me to leave the safety of the house, she knows I will eventually have to come outside for various reasons. She will meet me on her own terms in this dark time of year.
Rick was busy rolling up netting today where all the grapes have been harvested. We had a good year in the vineyards except for where quail and other birds robbed us clean in sections that were not netted.
Earlier this month I had Rick collect four trays of Cascade table grapes for me to experiment with, as out Pinot Noir vineyard had been stripped clean by Quail, Inc. Sorted and crushed by hand, I decided they might at least make a good vinegar, as I had done back in 2014 when the vineyard was also stripped clean. Feeling adventurous, I decided to add a packet of Red Star Epernay II yeast that had been in the back of the refrigerator since last fall. I wasn’t sure if the yeast would still function, so I decided to find out! The stock pot was happily bubbling away within a couple of days, and the juice fermented dry to about 10% alcohol, based on the starting sugar content measured in the initial grape must (freshly pressed juice) and post fermentation juice. Cascade grapes on their own don’t make great wine, but they are sometimes used for blending. The “wine” is sitting sur lie in the refrigerator, before I rack it off and decide what to do with this experiment.
For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lees_(fermentation)
And then there are those unpleasant events that occur. We woke to find a large buck had expired out in the back yard. The ODFW was called, and they indicated there was nothing to be done unless the animal had died of gunshot wounds, in which case they notify the State Police. Rick and I rolled the buck over and could not find any signs of bullet wounds, so we dragged the poor fellow out of the way. A shallow pit was dug, and I covered him with dirt and sod as best I could. He will return to the earth from whence he came.
News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms
Miss Wynken of The Three Sisters wanted to file a report this month for the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms, as she had plenty to say.
Miss Wynken would like readers to know she is well again, having stopped eating on us. She was treated for a possible urinary tract infection, but we suspect the real culprit or at least an additional problem was her catching a front claw in something and ripping it out. She received antibiotics, special food and lots of TLC. The nail is growing back in nicely, she is eating and playing with toys again.
Miss Wynken would also like readers to know old Willow, the Calico Matriarch is doing well, and is still enjoying her window seat. She is up there in age, although we are not sure exactly how old she is.
Music News (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
I am looking forward to the dark time of winter as a time of creativity, and getting fully back on my feet. Stay tuned! A few more tests and some surgery to get out of the way now.
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