Our feature photo for September, 2017 is of a gladiola that came up in the cherry tree garden planted for our Belgian friend Herman to remember his mother, brother, sister and cats Glippe and Mrs. Jones. The old cherry tree, a black tartarian, produced buckets of delicious soft, dark fruit in early summer. This garden was full of cheery daffodils this spring, and irises and daylilies later on before the real heat was upon us. I particularly loved this late season swath of color against the grey, lenticeled bark of the tree. The green swords provided visual relief to the dormant grasses beyond, burned and dried under summer’s relentless sun to a tan-white, crunching underfoot.
With many days in the 90s and 100s and little to no rain, this summer has been a particularly brutal one for keeping plantings alive while conserving water, and our well pump, as much as possible. Rooted in place, trees and garden residents wait patiently during the dry season for the return of rain in autumn.
News from the farm
Early September found us still engulfed in heat and drought amid the dragon’s breath of heavy smoke from forest fires around the region, with no rain in sight. Late summer is a difficult seasonal period to work through; air quality tends to be poor; eyes itch and burn and the lungs feel congested. Endless spot-watering and resuscitation of plantings wear one down as much as the heat and smoke.
As the nights grow longer, Autumn finally arrives, cloaked in morning mists which form, settle in, then rise with the sun, eventually becoming part of the wandering herds of clouds passing through during the day. Dawn’s quickly changing colors and veiled scenes are among Nature’s finest displays of her art. In the geologic bowl where this farm resides, silver-grey mists condense and stratify as the light grows, showing only the jagged peaks of conifers on the surrounding hills. The first rays of sunlight are an alchemist’s dream, turning silver into gold; I quietly observe the transformation in awe. As the sun continues to climb, colors fade; the now bright white veil thins and rises, revealing the land below. Another day begins.
The season continues to unfold. Heavier, brooding clouds are seen more frequently; the first rain brings the welcome odor of petrichor. It is only enough precipitation to settle the dust and clear residual smoke, but not enough to quench the thirst of the land for water. Clouds, each floating at their point of buoyant density, give a textural feeling of depth to the wild sky, revealing dark caverns, canyons and sinkholes.
Sunrises show promise of saturated dawn colors and colorful cloud formations as equinox approaches. A few fractures in the cloud cover after sundown glow like rose-colored embers of the dying day.
The days come and go along with the moon and the equinox. The pleasant staccato of rain on the metal roof signals a more significant storm in progress. Multiple passing storms drench the farm with life-giving moisture and warm sun, followed by rainbows. An EF0 tornado touched down early one morning in a town not far from here, severely damaging one dairy. Fortunately, none of the cows were harmed, not being in the barn at the time. The pleasant staccato took on the sound of machine gun fire as the winds and rain from this storm reached us. We suffered no damage here, but were reminded we are continually at the mercy of Nature. There will be good years, and bad.
The cycle continues. The moon returns, a beautiful half moon up there hanging pale gold above the trees on clearer nights. In the west, clouds form like curds out of the moisture laden air. Food from our own garden is on the table, and it is warm inside.
News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms
Correspondent Nano has observed much from his window this month, and has sent the photographer out to investigate. Without further ado, Mr. Nano will present his findings, including the state of the current vintage.
As the days grow shorter, the sounds, scents and scenes of late summer and early autumn catch my attention. The symphony of late season stridulators perform as the afternoon fades, the temperature drops and the night comes into its own. In the distance, the unusual growly barking of the grey foxes can be heard. The foxes, of which there were five at last count, have been observed eating grapes from the vineyard, and leaving scat filled with grape pips about the farm.
A chorus of coyotes began to crescendo under the window in the early hours one morning. Eerie yet beautiful, these songs also strike fear into the heart of any sensible feline.
California quail with their musical liquid calls have returned to the farm, but curiously, we have seen very few larger birds such as jays, starlings, robins and flickers. These species usually begin the raids on the vineyard and orchard.
The changing weather affected two other species we have been watching. The paper wasps that built their nest in the blueberry bush lost their nest after a wind and rainstorm. Survivors have continued to remain at the old nest site, huddling and possibly feeding on shriveling blueberries. Readers may review their story on our previous posts for July and August.
The garden spider continued to remain in her hunting hideout amid the cornstalks for some time, taking shelter under corn leaves during storms. She was not found this morning.
The garden is still producing; some plants winding down, some in full swing.
On September 23rd, the decision was made to start a 4 gallon test batch of wine, as the non-netted grapes were showing signs of predation. Four trays of the ripest pinot noir were selected and harvested, crushed by hand, and fermentation with Epernay II started in a 16 qt stainless steel stockpot, as was done the previous year. The brix level was roughly 18% as they were not fully ripe. The vintners hope for a light pinot rosé from this run, which was named “Wigadoon” for all the resident earwigs that were evicted before and during processing. Numerous ladybugs and stink bugs were also removed. These are normal residents found in grapes, and another reason why the vintner likes to hand process. Another test will take place in early October, when the grapes should be a bit riper, weather permitting.
Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms
Thank you, Mr. Nano!
Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
I will be returning to the Spokane Fall Folk Festival this November after being away for a number of years due to elder care duties. See our post In Loving Memory, December 2015. I took 2016 off from performing to recover my health and recharge, and I am looking forward to seeing friends old and new.
For those readers who are new or catching up, the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel now has content, and our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March. I am 14 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! I have received a request for a video of “Believe in Tomorrow” from the Keepsake CD, so that task is still in my work queue, which gets longer and harder to keep up with in summer. I have no new videos this summer due to all the activity here, but do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, once the harvest season has passed.
For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.
The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube. Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post. Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site. See https://archive.org/details/iuma-lavinia_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.
Bookings and home-grown produce:
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms