Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for November 2016

Our feature photo this month is a of a cluster of wild blackberries that bloomed late and were attempting to ripen in the latter part of November. Any cane fruit found at this time of year has little to no flavor, and little to no hope of fully ripening.  They did provide a colorful centerpiece amid the ambient tans and browns of autumn in this photo.


The apple tunnel a week earlier in November.

The apple tunnel, that magical gateway to the wild area of the farm, still has some very tasty apples hanging from it, although a few less now since this photo was taken on November 22nd.  Formed by an old feral apple tree that fell over but did not die, this old tree is one of my favorite denizens of the back lot.

News from the farm

Another day retreats into the shadows on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  The high pressure sodium and mercury vapor lights on the barns and utility poles of neighboring farms are already glowing softly in shades of orange and greenish-yellow, colored stars on the hillsides as the light fades, and the still air of early evening has taken on a pronounced chill.  After days of rain, mists and damp, the sun’s warmth and soft, low-angled light prevailed today.  Only a few cirrus clouds are present to witness daylight’s end.  In the southwest sky, a single, bright star appears on the celestial canvas of Maxfield Parrish colors.  I stand in awe of the Universe, and in unity with all its creations.


Sunrise on November 26th. Sunrise and sunset, the bookends of the day, are my favorite times.



A different sunset I was more successful capturing on camera. The sun appeared briefly though an opening in the clouds long enough to generate a rainbow in the east in the next photo. My favorite black locust tree, the same one seen on our “About ” page, adds a lacy dimension on the backdrop of multi-layered storm clouds.



The fleeting rainbow in the east at sunset.

For those readers interested in following up on our winemaking experiments from last month, I cautiously ventured into the refrigerator where the stock pot of nascent wine had been cold stabilizing and sedimenting.  I ladled a sample into a glass, and was quite surprised to find that although light-bodied, as expected from late in the season Cascade table grapes, the wine actually had some character to it, a fruity nose reminiscent of golden apple and was perfectly healthy!  Being a resourceful and thrifty soul without standard winemaking equipment, I ladled the remaining liquid into jars and returned them to the refrigerator to finish sedimenting.  The brown goo left in the bottom of the stock pot consists of sedimented grape solids (grape lees) and sedimented dead yeast (yeast lees), which was promptly composted.  Rick was served a glass after dinner tonight, for proper evaluation purposes.  Our test wine, at roughly 10% alcohol fermented dry, was against all odds dubbed a successful “Cascade Kabinett”.


October’s Cascade table grapes were used for winemaking experiments. Quail, Inc and other avian as well as hymenopteran friends happily ate our pinot noir, which was not netted.


The clearest wine is in the half-gallon jars on the right. They will continue to sediment in the refrigerator until ready to rack off again. Jar #1 is headed for immediate consumption.


Grape and yeast sediment headed for the compost pile.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

The Three Sisters filed a report last month, and left this month’s report to our other correspondents Miss Abby (Eleanor of Aquitaine), Mr. Lucio, Mr. Marcus, Miss Hope, Mr. Nano and Willow, Calico Matriarch.  Unfortunately, all our remaining correspondents listed above were found sleeping on the job, with nothing new to contribute this month.


Correspondent Abby, who prefers the title Eleanor of Aquitaine, catching a nap. She said it must be Mr. Lucio’s turn to file a report.


Correspondent Lucio, who says he thought Mr. Marcus was filing this month.


Correspondent Marcus, blissfully asleep. Now who would want to disturb him? We turned to Miss Hope.


Correspondent Hope looking warily at the camera. Surely I must be mistaken? Ask Mr. Nano. He may have seen something out the window worth reporting.


Correspondent Nano, looking groggily at the camera. Would prefer to go back to sleep. Ask Willow, Calico Matriarch. She’s always watching the neighbors.


Correspondent Willow, not even bothering to look at the camera. Call Otis!

Fortunately our Northeast Regional Correspondent had a report ready and waiting, so without further delay, we present Otis, Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent, and his report on late autumn in Connecticut.

The dreariness of November has settled upon us here in Connecticut. It is a transition month along with March where Mother Nature is caught between trying to decide if she should bestow upon us rain or snow, sun or clouds, warm temperatures or cold ones. It is a fickle month and one that I am not too fond of! December is closing in quickly and will hopefully be more consistent weather-wise, although last year it reached over 60 degrees on Christmas Day!


A November snow in Connecticut. Photo credit C. M.

I spend much of my time now settled happily in my basket by the woodstove or snuggled into the sheepskin throw on the window seat.


Mr. Otis, Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent. Photo credit C. M.

On days where the temperatures are mild I will leave my creature comforts and venture outside to the “man cave” to watch golf with my master or up to the barn to lurk between the hay bales for rodent activity, of which, sadly, there is little due to the “Reign of Izzy”.


Mr. Otis in his loft. Nothing escapes his attention! Photo credit C.M.

The ponies now look like woolly mammoths with their winter coats. They are arctic animals, so they love it when temperatures drop! They frolic and play, leaping in the air and rearing up, spinning and galloping through the pastures. They are bug-free and the heat of summer is long gone and so they are the happiest in these cooler months! I make sure to stay clear of their flying hooves, so I never enter their playground!

The vegetable garden has been put to bed with the picking of the last of the kale and the trimming back of the blackberry canes. The flower gardens are awaiting frozen ground before their perennials can be cut back and mulched. All the fragile houseplants have been brought inside to the sun room where they will spend the cold months basking in the weak winter sun. Speaking of sun, I am now looking forward to the Winter Solstice. It is my favorite winter event since I know the days will become longer and longer once we are past December 21st. Come February I will relocate my naps to the sun room couch and happily soak in the sun’s warmth there. I am definitely a solar kitty!!

My master has yet to put the snow blower on the tractor. I think he is afraid that if he does we will not have any snow this winter. I wish he would just put it on! No matter whether it snows or not, humans and animals all agree that the best place is by the woodstove. Sadie and Rosie always insist on front row seats


Sadie and Rosie enjoying some heat from the woodstove. Photo credit C.M.

and Izzy stretches herself out on her back to capture as much heat from the stove as possible.


The lovely Izzy! Photo credit C. M.

Even my master will stretch out in front of the stove with us making it quite a challenge for my mistress to get by without stepping on body parts!

Well, I hear my master making the fire now, so I think I will curl up in my fireside basket and warm my old bones. Stay warm all and may your winter months be peaceful and restful.  All my best to each and every one of you.


Mr. Otis, wishing all readers a pleasant evening. Photo credit C. M.

– Otis, Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

We have come through our surgery that was scheduled for this month, and I look forward to December to focus on moving forward with my projects.  It has been a difficult year health-wise, but I can say things are looking up now.


Album cover photo credit Sharon Mayock.


Photo credit Mike and Liz Santone of Meadowlake Studios and McMinnville Community Media TV.


Photo credit Rick Ross.

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.


I believe these might be Turkey Tail mushrooms I found growing amid moss on a hazelnut limb. Beauty is everywhere, from the shaggy carpets of mosses and lichens to the vast blackness of the heavens above. It is there for those who seek it with an open heart and open mind.

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


69 thoughts on “Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for November 2016

    • Maureen, thanks for stopping by from New Zealand! Glad you enjoy the stories!

      Your summers are so beautiful, and I love the poetry and images on your site, no matter what the season. Poor dear little Bert! I am sure he missed seeing all his friends along his walking route.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Herman says:

    Thanks for keeping us informed. I got flashbacks from early childhood when I used to go pick wild blackberries with my sister and brother.
    I enjoyed the in-depth report of Mr. Otis, the Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent. It seems that the remaining correspondents listed above have something in common with Mr. Bowie: sleeping on the job!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Herman, thanks for stopping by! Berry picking was one of my favorite things as a child. There was a big patch of wild red raspberries at the top of the hill a few miles from our house. They were the best wild berries I had ever eaten.

      Glad you enjoyed the report from Mr. Otis! So Mr. Bowie is sleeping on the job along with our crew? All of us here at Salmon Brook Farms send you and Mr. Bowie a big “Meow”, and wishing you a beautiful Holiday Season filled with cat treats, dark chocolate and espresso! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m happy to hear that health-wise, things are looking up – the new year just might be the best one yet!
    I think Nature is getting even with me for bragging to everyone what a fantastic autumn we were having – the latest weather report is predicting we’ll be heating up again real soon! So much for autumn.
    With winter coming, I suppose we can’t expect the correspondents to be on the ball – sleep appears to be their prime goal.
    Take care you two – and an early wish for a Terrific Holiday Season!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi GP, thanks for stopping by and the best wishes for a great year ahead! We are having a lot of rain here this autumn, although no frost yet and it will be December tomorrow! Rick is still picking pablano peppers from the garden, although they have slowed down a good bit. The plants seem to tolerate cold as long as it does not frost.

      Our correspondents send you a sleepy “Hello”, and all of us at Salmon Brook Farms wish you and your family a wonderful Holiday Season!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The cats’ reluctance to do anything other than sleep is very understandable at this time of year, though if Abby aspires to her dignified other name, I would have thought she would have made the effort to be a little more that great lady. I totally agree with Mt Otis about 21st December.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Musiewild, thanks for stopping by! Our Queen will be 15 years old in the spring, and is less inclined to be dignified performing royal duties these days. She still greets and inspects visitors arriving at her palace, and lets her displeasure be known, loudly, when one of the royal boys disturbs her sleep. She has threatened to send them to age along with the royal port in the cellar.

      Although I am in no hurry at the moment to see the days lengthen – I am enjoying my sleep as well – I do look forward to spring.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Lavinia, I am so very happy to read “things are looking up now” health wise. ❤
    I'm fascinated by your adventures in wine making. That was a fun segment. All the cats, sleepily passing the buck was a delight, so was the report from Mr. Otis. Mega hugs, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Teagan, thanks for stopping by! I am very happy to have the surgery done with, and looking forward to the new year.

      The wine experiment was fun. Since these were table grapes and the yeast was a year old sitting in the refrigerator, I wasn’t expecting it to turn out as well as it did.

      The cast of cats always adds an interesting dimension to life in general. At this time of year, cats are found fast asleep all over the house. The solstices seem to be their hibernation periods, with the most activity in spring and fall as the weather changes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Annie, thanks for stopping by! 10% isn’t bad considering the frost in spring, hail and critters, and they were table grapes, and really the last usable ones of the season. It came out far better than I hoped for, and didn’t go down the drain! Now only if we can get some good pinot noir next year before the birds and bees do. I think in a good year we can get the pinot to about 22 brix. We are in a bowl, and cold air ponds here. The start of the autumn rainy season also factors in.

      Yes, these grey rainy days find every cat sound asleep somewhere in the house. Thank goodness for Mr. Otis! Next month we have some cats living on an olive farm who will be reporting in from Sicily. I’ve had their olive oil. It was very, very good! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I think you will love that crew of cats, and dogs. Our friends, who used to have a farm over here not far from us, have a beautiful olive farm there now.

        I was saddened to hear we lost Easy Weimaraner over in France. It was an unexpected shock to lose that wonderful canine member of our community.


  5. Your feature photo of the blackberries in November is another sign of just how crazy our seasons have become…lovely description by Otis of those ponies frolicking in the cooler autumn – they sure do love this weather! Good luck with your continued wine making experiments.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Carol, thank you for stopping by from Canada! Yes, our seasons are absolutely crazy. I have daffodils coming up already, about 2 inches as of today. Rick says the forecast is for temperatures in the 20s next week. Nothing will have properly hardened off, so it will be rough on tree, shrub and vine.

      I hope we actually get some actual pinot noir to work with next year, although the Cascade table grapes were a pleasant surprise. In a good year, we can get the grapes ripened to about 22 brix.

      I will let Mr. Otis know his readers look forward to his updates. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s so good to hear of your wine, which had me wondering about trying it myself–and then those blackberries were lovely looking. What lazy cat correspondents. I sympathize with their lethargy. Otis, however, seems quite active. Glad too, to hear your health is looking up. I hope the new year brings health and energy!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Arlingwoman, thank you for stopping by and the good wishes! From what people have told me, making wine is easier than making beer. Apparently it does not take much for equipment! This lighter style of wine I made suits the crude methods I used. It has not been treated with sulfites, or filtered, so I am keeping it cold. So far so good.

      Today was another cool rainy day here, and I took a long nap with the cats myself, strictly for medicinal purposes. 🙂

      Old Mr. Otis is a character, and is quite active except when the woodstove is going. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Tootlepedal, thank you for stopping by from Scotland! The wine turned out far better than expected considering the weather setback in early summer, type of grapes, time of harvest and year old yeast. Perhaps next year Quail Inc will leave us some pinot noir to work with. In a good year, we can probably get the pinot ripened to about 22 brix.

      It is a good feeling to be done with all the testing and surgery. On to other projects!


  7. I am so pleased your surgery is over with and you are recovering well. What a nice surprise you had with the wine!
    My mother’s cat, Fred, is spending more time indoors now that the days are so short and the nights cold. He appreciates the fire Mum lights in the afternoon and tries to appropriate the chair nearest to the warmth.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Clare, thank you for stopping by! Yes, I am quite pleased to be done with the surgery and testing, and happy to be moving on to my own projects.

      Dear little Fred sounds like he would fit right in with our house! I am also enjoying sleeping more, good for body and soul.

      Wishing you and your family all the best this Holiday Season!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love all the cat photos. Indeed, who wants to be a correspondent when they can stretch in front of a cozy fire? Happily, Otis stepped up and did a splendid job. Love all the photos and enjoyed the apple tree which will not give up and lay down and those turkey tail mushrooms. Health issues can be a challenge, I know; hang in there, Lavinia.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jeanne, thanks for stopping by from the east coast! Old Otis did a splendid job for us this month. Our cats here are still busy snoozing the grey weather away.

      It’s been a long year for me and things are looking up now. Looking forward to 2017!


    • Hi Kerry, thanks for stopping by from beautiful upper New York state! Glad you and your kitties enjoyed the post. It is 33 degrees here this morning, the coldest it has been so far this season. Every cat was sleeping in. The forecast says we are headed for the 20s next week, so my next task is to insulate the field water taps and well house spigot today. December has been lowering the boom in recent years, even though our daffodils are up a couple of inches already. Strange weather is the new normal.


    • Hi Jason, thanks for stopping by! I’ve been told making wine is easier than making beer. The hardest part was hand crushing all those grapes!

      The apples on that tree in the tunnel ripen very late, but they are worth waiting for if the weather holds and they don’t rot first. Crisp and not too sweet. The quail and other creatures like to hide in the brush border there. It is a magical place to see wildlife.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Otis is such a good journal-ist! Congrats to Otis for the update. And I am glad to see my question about the current stage of wine-making was answered in this newsletter. Thank you.
    Now: did you ever think of taking a blow-dryer or sun lamp to the berries to make them sweeter? (smile…)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Cynthia, thanks for stopping by! Mr. Otis is indeed a wonderful little furry journalist, and we are always happy to have him fill in from time to time. 🙂

      There were some naturally shriveled grape berries in the bunches I crushed, and I included the “healthy” ones as they are concentrated little packets of flavor. A lot of hand sorting went into that batch! Rick is still enjoying it as “lunch wine”. Next year we hope to have some real pinot noir to work with instead of end-of-season table grapes. I am amazed the stuff I made this year was potable at all. Hope for the new year!

      Readers, please visit Cynthia Reyes, author of “A Good Home” and “An Honest House”. Her memoirs will capture your heart and mind as you travel along with her through these tales of her early life in Jamaica, her career as an award-winning journalist, the accident that changed her life, living with chronic pain, PTSD, and her continuing struggle to regain her life in new ways. During the course of reading these memoirs, her Jamaican and Canadian homelands became my own, her family became my own. I laughed and cried with her. She is my hero.


  10. Pingback: 1920s Party — Three Things Serial Story | Teagan's Books

    • A wonderful party you have going on over there at Teagan’s Books! Not only are you an accomplished writer yourself, you are also a wonderful supporter of other bloggers, authors and musicians. Thank you for your support, and your friendship. You are the bees knees!


  11. It’s cold, I have man flu and I’m not sure I’ll ever be warm again. After reading this post I want to be a cat. 🙂

    In the UK we have a tradition of not picking blackberries after “old” MIchaelmas Day (10th October). On this day the devil was expelled from Heaven, landed in a blackberry bush and cursed it by spitting on it. There are many other reasons not to eat them, including them being watery, higher in tannins, containing fly eggs, and growing more mould.

    The list goes on…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good to see you, QuercusCommunity! Thanks for stopping by! Sorry for the wait. We just got back from a short vacation down to California, and I am catching up now with everyone.

      Yes, I think cats have always had the right idea. Plenty of sleep in a warm place and three square meals. I hope you feel better soon. Flu is no fun!

      That is a wise tradition of not picking blackberries (or raspberries) after October 10th due to all the reasons you mention. The Devil’s hand in all of this is an interesting note! 🙂

      Readers, please visit for some wonderful stories about Life on a Care Farm in Nottinghamshire.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Dear Lavinia, I can’t open the youtube, so I can’t listen to you 🙂 How I wish… Maybe it is a technical problem, anyway, Thank you dear, for being there and for sharing with us your beautiful posts/days, you are one of my special blogger friend. Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday, Love, nia

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nia, so good to see you! You are a special blogger friend as well. I am sorry the YouTube doesn’t work. I have problems accessing videos that people post on WordPress from time to time myself. It isn’t consistent, and I haven’t figured it out yet. The old IUMA site may work.

      We were down in California earlier this week and I am still catching up with you all. Here’s a sneak peak at some photos to come.

      And a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ok, don’t worry, I will listen one day be sure, if I can’t, I would fly there 🙂 By the way IUMA doesn’t work in here too. In a few days ago in here our internet goes very slowly and youtube sometimes is being closed. You can guess. Anyway, have a nice weekend, Love and hugs and many kisses for your little furry friends 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Wonderful post… starting with the wild blackberries, apple tunnel in order to bring on the special “Cascade Kabinett”. I´d love to taste it… I am quite sure it would be a good wine also for cooking (have you tried that option?: very italian! 😉 ) I also enjoyed the news from the Cats. And a beautiful surprise to read about your music projects and schedule… Best of luck with everything in your lovely land 😀 Happy new year!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Aquileana, thank you for stopping by and the kind comments! Rick has been working his way through the “Cascade Kabinett” for “lunch wine”, and also has been cooking with it. The cats and crew wish of Salmon Brook Farms wish you all the best this Holiday Season and coming year!

      Readers, please visit Aquileana at her site, There is always something new to learn there!


  14. Michel Fauquet suggested I peek in on your blog. Most delightful. Sounds like a busy time at your farm all the time and so very interesting. I live in East Wenatchee, grew up in Cashmere (Home of Aplets and Cotlets). Grew up on a pear and apple ranch and can relate to the beauty of apple blossoms in the spring. I’m fairly new to WordPress and still trying to find my way around and how to post things and add new friends.

    Liked by 2 people

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