Our feature photo this month is of a bumblebee parked in a hollyhock bloom after sundown. Like truckers on the interstate, over the years I have seen bumblebees pulled over and settled in for the night in blossoms, on grape leaves, or other plants.
News from the farm
June’s fractured skies, cold mornings, lush green and colorful flowers have given way to hot, bone dry conditions in July, and an early fire season. The frogs have long since ceased their songs of vernal pool days and are quiet, occasionally found hiding in a flower pot, or in the greenhouse; only the sound of a distant peacock rocks the night from somewhere over across the fields on another farm.
Spring was long and cool, although drier than normal for our area, her mood pensive and unresolved. She chased Jack Frost about with cloudy nights, driving him away while fruit trees blossomed and set. We will have pears again this year.
A wild rabbit inhabits the north border once again, and has become somewhat used to my presence. At times, rabbit is bolder, wandering about the rose bed on the other side of the house.
Grass, now mostly golden brown to whitish-tan and punctuated by heat tolerant coast dandelions, hypochaeris radicata , crinkles and crushes underfoot. I feel the changing of the seasons more acutely with every passing year. A lifetime of noting the temperature, the skies, vegetation and wildlife, knowing what to expect and roughly when, yet each year is unique in its presentation, sometimes oscillating wildly about the normal of my experience. Each passing year is more precious, not only for its annual abundance, but for its bright parade of memories, and for our own growth as individuals living upon this Earth. All things are connected to all things.
Watering becomes more critical to heat stressed plants that do not have deep root systems like mature grape vines, resulting in much spot watering, bucket brigades and soaker hose sessions.
In the cool of the evening, hummingbirds dart about the hollyhocks in the main garden, occasionally coming close in to observe us. The resident doe sometimes comes out to feed up near the house. Sundown does not often disappoint, coloring whorls and flows of cirrus clouds in flaming orange-rose set against a fading light blue sky.
Dust devils, those carefree vortices spawned by heat and dry soil conditions, have been sighted already since wheat and grass seed appear to have been harvested early by several weeks. They will soon turn summer’s brilliant blue skies to tan and grey, especially when soot and smoke from forest fires around the state add to the mixture of airborne particulate matter.
One evening, I found an old tattered honeybee of the field class, crawling along the ground. Young bees have a fuzzy thorax, the older ones go bald on the thorax, giving away their age. The typical life span of the field worker in season is only 6 weeks. She was found crawling at a good pace along the ground; a yellow jacket was hovering around, perhaps having caught her scent. I scooped up the old bee on a dandelion leaf, and put her in a shallow container with a few drops of water and some honey on a toothpick to help revive her. She was gone an hour later, after darkness had fallen. Most likely she crawled away, or was eaten by something.
I sit in my office, well fed and safe. Everywhere out there in nature, small dramas continually unfold. Someone is eaten, someone survives another day, someone dies or is born. The moon rises as it has for millions of years, watching the history of Man unfold, and endless cycles of life on this planet.
News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms
Resident feline correspondent and head of the local correspondents desk Mr. Nano is on vacation this month, sleeping off the summer heat. He has assigned correspondent Miss Wynken of the Three Sisters to file a report in his absence. After much thought, she has chosen a few excerpts from her daily logs for July, 2018. Without further ado, Miss Wynken will present her report.
Wednesday, July 4th: I enjoyed the post sundown sky, mostly lavender-grey and cream colored splotchy cumulus type clouds, splattered across the dome above like paint thrown at a canvas. Summer is moving along at a fast clip; I note the daily changes in the land and in myself.
Thursday, July 5th: The moon is approaching last last quarter, or waning half-moon, and rises late. She is a good companion, shining in the east window, golden and bright in the wee hours of the morning, still bright enough to illuminate the farm and its nighttime residents lurking about.
Tuesday, July 10th: A cool and breezy 49 degrees morning here under clear skies. Cheery, fair weather cumulus soon made an appearance, dotting the azure blue above with stark white cotton ball forms. From the window, I watched blueberry picking in progress in late morning, a moving meditation for the human among the curious and playful breezes, insects and birds, at times feeling the cool shadow of a passing cloud overhead.
The hummingbirds have been quite active, probing the sweet pea blooms along the north border. Occasionally one hovers in front of a window, where I am stationed. Curiosity satisfied, they return to their duties among the flowers.
Wednesday, July 11th: The land has cooled down at this time; tendrils of night air bring in the scents of grasses, various forbs and dry earth. Another day comes to a close. Darkness does not descend upon us, rather it rises in the deepening band of purple-blue on the eastern horizon as the sun continues its westward run below the horizon, and the last glow fades. Stars make themselves known, the brighter ones a few at a time until blackness overtakes the dome, and vastness of space with its stellar community is revealed again.
Wednesday, July 18th: Sundown on July 18th was memorable, not so much in terms of color but in clarity of light. A clear night in progress here; the occasional breeze off the cooling land plays amid the chimes on the porch. Summer stridulators have replaced the chorus frogs of spring, changing the mood and tempo of the Nature’s nightly performance.
Friday, July 20th: I awoke to a cool and clear 43 degrees at 6:30 this morning. A small band of clouds appeared around the south to southwest horizon not long afterward, which have now almost overtaken us. Morning light dims, but somehow still maintains the sharp, crystalline look of daybreak. A light breeze has sprung up, gently rocking the vegetation at close to ground level. Another day begins.
We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to all wherever their destination in life may lead them.
-Resident Feline Correspondent Wynken, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms
Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
I continue to enjoy playing out again, especially as a terminal musician. Juggling music, family, farm, and outside work, which pays the bills which enables us to play music and keep the farm (and cats) going, has kept me more than occupied. June and July have not been any more conducive to finishing music projects at home than May, but I did make time to attend John Doan’s 11th annual harp guitar retreat, a much needed refreshing and energizing four days at the end of June. Rick took excellent care of the cats while I was away, and he says they were very good boys and girls, mostly. It sounds like the nine of them kept him quite busy, with little time for anything else.
The harp guitar is a both a beautiful and amazing sounding instrument; I encourage readers to learn more about it, and the musicians that perform this kind of music. Readers can visit John Doan’s official website here and see videos of his concerts, presentations, and interviews. He is a master of the 20 string harp guitar, Emmy-nominated performer, composer, public speaker, historian, instrument collector and university professor.
In July we were visited by our traveling musician friends Laurie Jennings and Dana Keller. It is always a pleasure to hear them perform when they pass through our area. Please check their tour schedule. You may be able to catch them in California or Texas before they return to Florida at the end of October. They are considering a tour of the United Kingdom. Please don’t hesitate to contact them if you would like to see them in your area! You can catch their videos here.
For those readers who are new or catching up, do visit the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel. Our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March, 2017. I am 15 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!
For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos. There will be more videos when I can get back to this project.
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