Our feature photo this quarter is of a snail visitor, whom we think may be a Monadenia fidelis, spotted back in late April. Although we see many slugs, we don’t often see snails on the farm. Often times it is only the shiny, dried slime trail left behind, as well as damage to plants, that indicates slugs and snails have been by during the night. The State Library of Oregon has an informative snail and slug poster available for those interested in such animals. Nature’s creatures come in what seems to be an endless variety of forms, lifestyles, colors and patterns.
Of the various slugs we have seen about the farm, I find the most intriguing species to be the leopard slug, Limax maximus. They are also carnivores, and prey on other species of slugs. Although it is difficult to envision these animals as moving quickly, Limax maximus is roughly four times faster than other slugs, including our native banana slug, and easily overtake their prey.
News from the farm
The last three months have gone by more quickly than expected. I’ve watched the new crescent moon appear above the Maxfield Parrish colors of the fading western sky, and followed its waxing and waning cycle back into darkness, each time eagerly awaiting its reappearance in the west . It is an old friend I have known all my life. At times, I have seen her set upon blue sky, white marbled with grey. She is like quartz tumbled by the sea and cast upon the shore by the tides, waiting for the fingers of a wandering, small beachcomber to pick them up and admire them. My mother called these rounded quartz treasures “moonstones”, and I think of her when I see the moon amid the blue. After nightfall, she takes on gold to golden-orange hues as she rises, desaturating as she sails overhead, bathing the farm in cold, pale light. In the shadowy, colorless world of a moonlit night, many nocturnal creatures can be seen moving about, and I will wake up and spend a while at the window. It is a time to remain still and observe, watching for movement, capturing the moment in mind’s eye. I think of those who are no longer with us. The memories travel on starlight, replayed under the moon’s soft ghostly glow. Long-stilled voices are heard once again, riding on the night breeze as it prowls about the farm, rustling leaves and plucking a melody on the wind chimes on the porch.
April still presented mornings down near or below freezing, resulting in some frost damage to trees and plants heeding the call of the sun, now past the equinox position in his travels north. Our new everbearing strawberry plants, Charlotte and Eversweet, were set out under small grow tents to protect them during their vulnerable phase.
Kale from last year was still producing, and the flowering tops fresh from the garden made a good stir fry with sweet potato, chickpeas and onion for lunch, along with with our own fresh asparagus, broiled with lemon juice, oil and vinegar. Life can be simple, and good. Little to no processed food is eaten here.
The greenhouse frame from the last project back in 2016 was moved to the main garden, and the remaining cement slab had two raised beds built on it from pavers removed along the edge of the original gravel drive, put in by the old owner. They had been sinking over the years into the wet clay soil, serving no use as a border, so I began digging them up for the purpose of building raised beds for chives and oregano. Elbert’s Garden lies along the north side, Surya’s Garden along the east side, Peter’s Garden on the south. I am slowly adding perennials to all.
The annual parade of flowers begins in January with the first daffodils and snow irises that brave the cold and dark days, surviving below freezing temperatures and tolerating coverlets of snow. Crocuses soon follow, along with the one tulip that has not been eaten by gophers or voles as I planted it in gravel near a building, a note to self for the future. Cherry, plum and pear explode in a profusion of white, then apples in shades of white to pink. The droning of bees can be heard throughout the orchard. Petals soon fall like snow, drifting on the breezes that wind through the farm, settling on the green grass below.
And the parade goes on! The tall bearded and Dutch irises in many shades and moods will pass quickly, as come late May and early June, daylilies raise their blazing orange trumpets in a joyful noise. Reblooming varieties will fall in behind them.
In May, the snowball bush blooms grace the dark green leaves like a shower of bridal bouquets.
The end of May also found us blocking off part of the gravel drive containing a slight depression with a killdeer egg was found. It blended in so well that I almost stepped on it. There were numerous such scraped depressions in the drive, but apparently she settled on this one. I did not find eggs in the others. We roped off that section of drive, a bad location for the mother bird to have chosen. Although we were fairly sure she had abandoned the egg, we left it roped off for a month. There was no sign of the parents.
June brings the roses, at least what was left to us after three wandering young male deer came through nightly. Blackberry blossoms, the main honey flow in the Willamette Valley attract honeybees.
We are privileged, having what we need, living here in a tranquil bucolic bubble. Covid-19 did not affect us in the same way as it has those who live in cities and more heavily populated areas. Seasonal chores still require us to outside and working. Nature waits for no one, and we are isolated enough to work outside on our farm in relative safety. We are also privileged to not have to live under the same fear for our lives as do many of our fellow Americans and citizens in other countries. The news has been nothing short of horrific. We stand with Black Lives Matter, because all lives matter. Our species, which has given itself the arguable genus and species classification of Homo sapiens, or “Wise Man”, makes slow progress with each generation before passing the torch. The real hope of each generation for continued change for the better lies with the young. They have the opportunity, and ability, to continue to make this a better world than what the previous generation was able to achieve. They are open to change and new ideas. Many of us live in bubbles of one kind or another, oblivious or indifferent to the lives and needless suffering of others. Author Cynthia Reyes has offered 8 Specific Actions one can take to attempt to understand and bridge the gap. When all else fails, there is also the Golden Rule, simple yet complete in its message, and I still find it worth aspiring to, especially in these times.
News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms
Miss Abby sailed into her 18th year this April. Although she has retired from filing reports, she would like readers to know she is comfortable and happy, and enjoys a good nap. Although she only has two teeth left, her upper canines, she eats well, and enjoys a good meal.
Mr. Nano, head of the Feline Correspondents Desk of Salmon Brook Farms has asked correspondents Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio to present their report for this quarter. They have been quite busy observing the farm from their various window posts.
Without further ado, correspondents Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio will present their report.
It has been a prolonged, cool and wet spring here on this little farm in the Cascade foothills. The nightly enthusiastic chorus of frogs continued on into April, audible even with the windows closed. It is an annual event we look forward to after the winter’s long darkness, one of Nature’s timeless rituals that speaks of life and its cycles. Birds, as well as the chipmunk, were continuing to feed from the north side bird feeder that caught the first rays of morning sun. Cold mornings, the grass heavy with dew and temperatures near freezing marked the month of April. Some days soared into the lower 70s, with marbled skies and a promise of warmer days to come.
In mid to late April, the air between sundown and nightfall is overwhelming with a symphony of scents from the various fruit trees, their brush-like forms in blossom coloring the farm and distant hills in shades of white to pink. A lighter yellow-green amid the blossom colors begins to offset winter’s grey-green lichen covering. It is spring, a good time to be alive, and observing Nature.
By April’s end, the bird feeder was abandoned, only the occasional towhee stopped by to kick out seed, which was promptly picked up by mice that live under the thick cover of vinca on the north border. Spring continued her annual roll out of blade, leaf and flower. The season of the daffodils was at its finale as a few late plantings finished their bloom cycle. Pears, plums and cherries had already finished and were forming tiny bulbs of developing fruit at the base of older browning blooms. Apples were done blooming within the week, and forming new fruit. The vineyards were in bud break, some sections further along than others. Purple columbines began to open along with Dutch iris as German bearded irises were still forming fat buds. Petals from trees, especially apples, fell like snow. The grass seemed to grow ever faster, higher than the day before, while irises continued to unfurl. Everything was proceeding according to its own life plan on the grand Stage of Life. The play is always a bit different year to year, weather and temperature drive the script.
The month of May was the peak month of the iris with her subtle fragrances and Marilyn Monroe frills and flair. Only the gardener knew her secrets. There were still many passing storms, and rainbows, an offering of peace from the heavens. We are grateful for the rains, and that ever changing canvas of sky. We find ourselves looking more closely at things with new eyes. We are all temporary here, each with our own time in the sun.
We spotted the first goldfinches of the season on May 4th. Post sundown skies were particularly colorful, as a clearing in the west allowed the longer rays to highlight the bottoms of higher clouds and lower sitting cumulus directly. Windows started opening at night to let fresh air in, and we heard the chorus of frogs continuing on into May. The air was fragrant with hawthorn’s musky sweetness, and the white fragrant bells of blueberries.
On May 22nd we watched the tree swallows begin their evening feed around 5:00 PM, a great number of them performing an elaborate aerial ballet as they caught dinner on the wing. A pair of them stopped to rest and preen on the overhead electric wire we could see from the office window. The hummingbird finally made an appearance in the trumpet vine as well. We had wondered where they were this year.
On May 25th,we listened to a robin and another unidentified bird that evening at dusk. Visibility was good enough to see the growing crescent moon in the west. The few clouds about the horizon caught the last pink rays of sun, ever running westward, a time of peace and beauty. We noted the waxing crescent moon was higher in sky each night.
The month of June brought warmer mornings, and silver-grey mists that rose with the sun. A pair of grackles performed their courtship ritual on the overhead electrical wire early in the morning on June 8th. Careful observation found their well constructed nest in the upper profusion of new growth. They were not able to tolerate the comings and goings from the new garage, and abandoned the nest. Tree swallow continued their aerial feeding acrobatics.
We saw two bucks early in the morning on June 21st, both 4 pointers, one slightly larger than the other, who was limping slightly. He stood and looked around intently, with those deep brown eyes and serene expression, before moving off along with his companion. A third buck, another 4 pointer, was spotted on the 27th.
The days are slowly growing shorter as the year progresses, another trip around the sun. We wish our readers a pleasant day ahead, and safe travels to wherever your destination in life may lead you.
– Feline correspondents Mr. Lucio and Mr. Marcus, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms
Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
For those readers who missed previous posts or are new to this blog, I will be posting on mostly seasonal basis now. Hopefully someday, I may be able to actually catch up on the many projects, including updating the pages associated with this blog, as well as stay in touch with all of you. I will keep the performance schedule updated as venues become available to me again. Due to Covid-19, what was once a full schedule is now empty. New videos are in process, and will be posted to YouTube before long. Unfortunately they did not make the train for this quarterly post. Life has not slowed down for me at all since mid March, and somehow managed to speed up!
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 17 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.
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.
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms