Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick & Lavinia Ross, Salmon Brook Farms – Spring 2021

Way back when Marcus, the little orange cream tabby, was a half-grown kitty, he had crawled into Lucio’s favorite chair and was adopted and cleaned on the spot. They were friends for life. Lucio passed away on January 23, 2021. Photo credit – Lavinia Ross, March 2008

Everything is temporary.  The seasons, and the years, come and go on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  Come December this year, we will have been here 18 years, and our lives and our farm have undergone many a change during that time. We’ve grown older, the seasons seem to pass more quickly each year. The old farmhouse was rebuilt, gardens have moved or been reconstructed. Various animal friends have come and gone, and Rick’s mother came to live with us. We took care of her until she died in December of 2015.  The cycle of life, punctuated by changes. Yet it is the animals who wander through our lives, I find most intriguing. Friends for a short time, remembered for a lifetime. Wise old souls and teachers, comforters in hard times, playful little elvish creatures who help us see the lighter side of life. They teach us how to be better people. Their lives, and all the memories they leave behind after they depart, are all woven into the fabric of our own, becoming part of the legends and history of this place we call home.  The post this quarter will be dedicated to animals I have known throughout my life, and will include a final farewell to our own Lucio cat, and to M & J’s cat Lulu, from their olive farm in Sicily.   A little news from the farm will come at the end.

My pet Leghorn rooster, Mr. Pluff. I was about 5 years old here, and was teaching him how to sing. There were no children in our immediate area. Old Mr. Pluff was my best friend.

Lucio, 2005-2021

Rick named the cat for his deceased friend, Lucio Sorre, a former President of the Society of Wine Educators.  Old Lucio cat had been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism at the end of December, and put on Methimazole.   He seemed to be doing well on his medication, and was due for more blood work in only a few more days  when on the morning on January 23rd, he crawled into his current favorite cardboard box, fell asleep and never woke up.  I found him curled up and peaceful.  He was 15 years and 7 months.  Lucio was a big cat, with a personality to match.  Throughout his life with us, he enjoyed zooming around the house, and jumping up on cabinets and high places in general.  Interior decorating was one of his passions.  One of his favorite pastimes was annoying Abby, the old Abyssinian.  In turn, she never hesitated to try to get him into trouble.  He will always be remembered for his loving, independent spirit, his dedication to his friend Marcus, and larger than life presence in our house.  He left us the same way he came to us, on his own terms.

Our friend and fellow blogger Doug Thomas knows I only post four times a year now, and offered to put up a memorial to Lucio on his site right after Lucio died.   Doug lost one of his Persian cat brothers to sudden unexplained death last year, and understood the shock we were going through.  Doug’s very thoughtful memorial to Lucio can be found here.  I’ve included a few more photos below.

Marcus liked to do everything Lucio liked to do.

Sit there for too long Marcus, and you will get cleaned.

Lucio took his role seriously. He trained Marcus to hold still.

Lucio kept Marcus very clean, even if Marcus didn’t think he needed it.

Lucio always took the best seat in the window.

And wrapped a protective tail around his buddy.

Lucio loved his people, too.

Goodbye, dear Lucio. May you rest in love.

Lulu – The Olive Farm, Sicily 2015? – 2021

It was a rough start to the year on many fronts.  M. had written me on January 10th with the news that Lulu had died.  Lulu was one of our foreign feline correspondents from the Sicilian Olive Farm Cats. “Our cat Lulu just died from a sudden onset of FIP the dry kind. It might have been lurking behind his teeth problem (stomatitis) but last week in the space of three days he stopped eating, ended up at the vet and died New Years Eve. He was with us six years and a companion to Lucky and J’s cuddle kitty in the afternoon and during evening TV. He was a chirpy little cat with his unique vocalizations when asking for food . RIP Lulu.”

Lulu – always ready to travel for a good news story.

For those readers unfamiliar with FIP (feline infectious peritonitis), here is a good article from Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine:

Lulu and Lucky the blind kitty. Both are gone now.

Mount Etna, smoking away, can be seen from the Olive Farm.

M & J have taken in and cared for many stray cats and dogs over their years in rural Sicily.  Lulu was one cat who was lucky enough to find a home with them.  Readers will hear about the Olive Farm from time to time.  It is a working olive plantation in rural Sicily.

As for music, I will leave readers with this song by Dave Mallett, rural folk singer from Maine.  For all of us who miss our loved ones and hope to see them again someday.  May an old friend come to take you home, when it is time.

Unusual visitors, here and there

We have had the usual assortment of deer, skunks and the occasional rabbit or squirrel.  Every skunk that wandered through was named “Stinklesby”, and they generally lived up to their name.  The camera was set on telephoto for these fellows.

Stinklesby 2014. YOUR grapes? I thought these were MY grapes!!!!

Being from New England, I had read about Nutria, but never seen one.  New England winters were too cold for these animals, originally from South America and imported for the fur trade, to survive.   We had muskrat and beaver back in Connecticut, and at one point I lived near a large pond and was able to observe both species.  After we had been in Oregon for just about 12 years, one evening in November, 2015, I went out after dark to investigate the activities of a Black-tailed deer buck grazing on fallen fruit under an apple tree near the shed.   The buck, who was probably the same one who demolished 10 blueberry bushes in the process of scraping his antlers on them a week earlier,  trotted off as I neared the tree, but there came a pig-like grunting and snuffling from somewhere very close by.  Startled and feeling like an encounter with whatever it was could have a bad ending, I looked around, but could see nothing, and the grunting creature sounded very displeased by my presence.  A small greyish creature at ground level appeared out of nowhere, and charged at my leg. I quickly high-tailed it, and got the flashlight and camera, hoping to at least identify my would-be assailant.  Although not the best photo, it was good enough to check the mug shot online and confirm my suspicions. Our visitor appeared to be a nutria, a young one, from what I could tell.

Young nutria under the apple tree.

It turned out there were three youngsters.  The biggest and most aggressive one I named Yosemite Sam.  He would challenge me coming down the walkway, and I learned that if I stamped my feet and made noise back, he would spin around, walk a few steps and let me pass.

Yosemite Sam (front) and Gidney.

The three took up residence in the shed, and would leave as a group during the day, eating the grass and leaving my roses and other plants alone.  I didn’t have to weed the rose bed all summer.   If only the deer would think that way, we wouldn’t need deer fence.  The three mowed parts of the lawn as well, moving as a set, side by side.  Rick and I used to marvel at their machine-like efficiency.  With all that grass, they passed copious scat, which became hard to avoid.

Nutria scat.

Yosemite Sam, Gidney and Cloyd eventually became used to me coming and going, but would dive for cover in the shed if anyone else came over.  Being wild animals, I never trusted them, and kept a respectful distance.  At dusk one evening, the utility pole  light came on when Sam was grazing below.  He stopped, and slowly looked up, contemplating the sudden change in illumination.  Satisfied, he went back to eating.

Yosemite Sam

Eventually they started gnawing at the inside of the shed, and making messes in there.  It didn’t seem they were going to move along on their own. They had to go.  I blocked off the shed entrance one day while the trio was out, and a neighbor helped trap them and move them to the wooded area of the property.  The shed stayed blocked for a while, and I could see signs of them trying to get back in.  Eventually they gave up, and stayed out back. Yosemite Sam was livid when he was caught, and set up a loud fussing. Nutria seem to know more cuss words than most sailors.  A bag of apples was left for them after they were released with great caution.  I saw Gidney a few times after that, and noted scat and patches of mowed grass for a couple of years.  I found two skulls out back last year, complete with those long orange incisors.   Foxes and coyotes wander through from time to time.  I never knew what happened to the the three of them.  They do not have a long life in the wild.

The Goat – I originally posted about this fellow in 2014, and have incorporated that part of my post from 2014 here.  We encountered this very unusual animal during one of our travels up to Washington in 2005.   Looking at the photos, I am noting my hair was not yet grey, and I looked a lot younger back then.


From our April 2014 post

Saddle up a trusty vehicle and go north up the Willamette Valley to Portland, Oregon.  Turn east along the Columbia River, where  the vegetation transitions from the lush greens, and lichen dripping Ent-like trees of home into much drier grasslands and sagebrush of land in the rainshadow of the Cascades.  Sculpted by the Great Missoula Floods, the region bakes in summer and freezes hard in winter.  From Route 84 on the Oregon side, the hillsides over in Washington appear to have a strange velvety texture, and look like giant tan-colored lion paws where they come down to meet the mighty Columbia as it rolls on by.  Cross the river around Hermiston and head on up to the Tri-Cities area, or perhaps further on to Spokane and points east.

We were staying with a very gracious couple that put us up during the Tumbleweed Music Festival in Richland, Washington that particular weekend.  The four of us were sitting on the front porch in late afternoon, enjoying good company and conversation, when we heard the sound of hooves coming up the driveway from the road below.  Much to everyone’s surprise, a lone billy goat appeared.  He appeared to be familiar with the place, like he owned it, coming right up onto the porch!  Our hosts were perplexed, never having seen this goat before, and not knowing of any farms with such animals in the immediate area.  His lower jaw appeared to be deformed, or had been broken at some point and healed in a strange position.  The jaw, coupled with his wild-eyed goaty stare, gave our horned visitor a slightly demented look that was both alarming and endearing to behold.   Being an intact male, he stank, adding the dimension of ripe male goat odor to his persona.  He laid down by my feet, like a dog, joining the group as if he had stopped by for afternoon tea with friends.  Not wanting to keep referring to our strange, stinky visitor as “The Goat”, I thought he should have a proper name for the evening. “Thelonious” came to mind, and it stuck. Strangely enough, the goat responded to it as if it were his own name. Our hosts’ full-grown Airedale Terrier was not pleased, however, at the goat’s intrusion onto his property, and rushed at Thelonious, barking furiously. Undeterred, the goat calmly leveled an evil-eye at his assailant, backed up a few steps, and gave the dog a swift ramming with his horns. This sent the Airedale packing behind his owner’s chair, whimpering curses from a safe position. Goat “1”, Airedale “0”, Thelonious settled back into a comfortable position and rejoined the party.


After a bit, our hosts took us on a tour of their property, thinking the uninvited horned guest might leave of his own accord.  Instead, the goat joined us for the tour, sticking close to me.   We all went in for dinner after the tour, leaving Thelonious to his own devices on the porch for the evening.  Our mysterious visitor was gone by morning, disappearing into the night without a trace.  Why he came to visit us, and where he came from will forever remain unknown.  In mind’s eye, however, I picture his departure ending like a Twilight Zone episode:

“The day, with all it strange events, has ended.  The house is now dark, the inhabitants sleeping.  Outside, an unusual goat quietly scans the heavens, perhaps looking for a sign among the myriad stars that span the sky.  A light breeze stirs the darkness, and a thick mist slowly creeps into the lower end of the driveway, down past the gate posts through which he had arrived earlier that day.  Nostrils quivering, his ears turn in the direction of a voice.  A voice calling from somewhere beyond sight, from somewhere beyond the writhing fog.  Eager with anticipation, he rises, disappearing into the beckoning misty tendrils that await him.  He has answered a call to return home.   A call that could only have come from…the Twilight Zone.”


For those of you patient enough to have read down this far, I thank you.  I have quietly noted the progress of spring and all manner of new life.  A pair of killdeer have decided to attempt a nest in our gravel driveway again, and we have blocked it off from traffic.  They are attempting to hatch four eggs.

Killdeer parent on gravel nest.

Lichens, mushrooms and mosses are refreshed in the wet season, and my favorite patch of Cladonia on the black locust stump is doing well.

Cladonia lichens on the black locust stump.

Fungi on an old hazelnut trunk.

Delicate moss growing on a hazelnut limb.

And finally, crocus, one of those early harbingers of spring.

A beautiful sunlit day, and a patch of crocus not disturbed by voles.

And a cloudbow, digitally enhanced here to make it easier to see.

On January 8th I spotted this beauty.

I leave readers with an old Irish blessing.  Until we meet again.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.






189 thoughts on “Rick & Lavinia Ross, Salmon Brook Farms – Spring 2021

    • It is always a pleasure to see you, Lucy! Thank you for stopping by and sharing in the lives of these animals! Sad news from the nest though, it was raided. Two eggs were missing, and two had been kicked away from the nest and had been pecked. I suspect jays or crows, but many creatures will go after ground nesting birds and their eggs. No sign of mother bird, no struggle or feathers.


  1. So sorry to hear about Lucio & Lulu – my heartfelt condolences for your loss.

    You have so many beautiful animals sharing space with you. I was particularly fascinated by the killdeer (I had to look them up as I thought they were a variety of deer and was most confused by the image – now I know better!).

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is always a pleasure to see you, Ju-Lyn! Thank you for stopping by and sharing in the lives of these animals. Lucio and Lulu were beautiful souls. Lucio was our kitty, and Lulu belonged to our friends in Sicily, M & J. It was hard to lose them so unexpectedly.

      The killdeer nest sadly failed. It was raided by something. Two eggs were missing, two had been rolled aside and pecked. I suspect crows or blue jays. We see a lot of killdeer here, They are very beautiful birds.


    • Welcome to Salmon Brook Farms, Markus and Micah. Thank you for stopping by and sharing in the lives of these animals. Nutria are also known as “coypu” in other parts of the world, and have wide distribution due to the fur trade. Ironically, they have almost been exterminated in their own home range in South America. Yes, they are cute but serious, and can inflict a nasty bite.


    • It is always a pleasure to see you, Teri! Thanks for stopping by, and I am pleased you enjoyed this post! Old Mr. Pluff arrived at our home via a crate that had fallen off of a truck. Crate was broken open, bewildered rooster standing by. He became the family pet. Dad made a house for him in a galvanized steel garbage can up in the apple tree with straw in it. He would roost up there at night. He flew up into a tall pine once at dusk. There was a pine forest that came down to our back yard. Dad went up on a ladder to get him. We had him for about 2 years before the dog got him.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. On this time I was interested by the chapter about the unusual visitors. i was afraid to think you “investigate ” alone at night in the wood to identify a deer ( beautiful but you thought of your poor blueberries! And this wild pig ? Could be dangerous !
    The Nutria are amazing and I confess I do not know this specie. Your love of the nature leads you to name those animals and even, shelter them ( for a time ! )
    You made me dream, Lavinia.Thank you.
    Lovee ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is always a pleasure to have you visit, Michel! The nutria you may know by the name “ragondin” in France, or “coypu”, which is another name what they are called in some parts of the world. If you ever met one, you would never forget them. 🙂 I am glad we could make you dream!

      Much love to you, Janine and the family, ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes ragondins are present in France but I had never seen them .
        I red especially this night, the Lulu death . So short life .
        I admired also the vulcano Etna far behind the sicilian farm. This is impressing .
        Love ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Our animals companions lives are so short compared to our own. Lulu was a dear kitty to M. and J. ❤

        I agree, Mount Etna is quite impressive.

        Much love to you, Janine and the family, ❤


  3. Lavinia, what a heartwarming treasure of an update. I am so very sorry about the loss of your handsome Mr. Personality Lucio. RIP to Lucio and to Lulu. Your stories about all the animals are wonderful. Finding the skulls is very poignant. Very pretty song, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A mysterious goat came and disappeared during your stay in 2005 at friends’ in Oregon. This looks like in the Bible .
    I would want to see a photo of you, Lavinia, in 2005.
    2005 was a time where I was A valiant gardener (at reading my garden notes ) and the climate was also more better for seedlings and plant ;
    Love ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. GP says:

    Don’t ask me how this popped into my mind, but… have ever thought about singing Frank Ifield’s “I remember you”? For some unfathomable reason, I could hear the song in my head and when I looked it up, I felt like you and he would make a terrific duet. (Please don’t commit me after reading this comment)!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is always a pleasure to see you, Lakshmi! I enjoy reading about your life there in India as well. You live in such a beautiful place. How I wish I had a coconut tree! My father used to buy them, drain the milk and crack them open for us when we were children. I am sure what was available over here in the store was no where near as tasty as the ones growing in your yard, eaten fresh!

      The last few weeks has been particularly busy here between farm and other work, making it harder for me to keep up with everyone. It will settle down shortly. I apologize to everyone I have not been able to get to. I have not forgotten, there just isn’t enough of me to go around right now. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is always a pleasure to see you Inese! Bear with me, I am a little slower at getting around to people these days. I’ll be by soon. I have a few too many things going on at the moment, but the important ones always get done. I’m making a lot of mental notes on what needs my attention next. For my own well-being, I need to stop and look at those sunrises and sunsets, and what is going on in Nature. I love to share them with readers.

      It is too dry here this spring, which concerns me going into the summer season. I hope we do not have another year like last year.


  6. This was a thoughtful post about life that has come and gone, and life that is still going on around us. Sorry to hear about Lucio and Lulu. You wrote very touchingly about them. I agree with Ju-Lyn in the comments that you have many beautiful animals sharing space with you. Yosemite Sam and gang sounded like they needed a home and it sounded like your place wasn’t right for them. Hopefully they find their way. Take care, Lavinia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is always a pleasure to see you Mabel, and we thank you for stopping by and honoring the lives of these animals. It is hard to lose any of them. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

      Yosemite Sam and his siblings were wild nutria that were born on a neighboring property and decided they liked our place better, especially the shed, as it afforded dependable cover. I saw a big one that I assumed was the mother only once, from a distance. She was quite wary, but the youngsters hadn’t learned fear of humans yet. They are wild creatures though, and need to stay wild for their own sake. Those big orange incisor teeth can do quite a bit of damage if they bite, too. But it was a gift to be able to observe them for a while, and learn more about them.


      • Losing an animal or something close to you is never easy. You are very strong to share their lives with us and cherish their memories with us.

        It is considerate of you to think about the well-being of Yosemite Sam and his siblings even though they caused you a bit of grief. They are probably wild creatures trying to find their way. Hopefully they don’t cause too much damage wherever they head next.

        I read that you are posting a few times a year at the end. Please take care of yourself and stay safe.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. In the UK we have exterminated all the coypu because of the damage they do to the waterways. I would have liked to have seen one but as a non-native species with a bad attitude they had to go. Yours seem to have been great characters.

    Goats, even non-mysterious ones, are clearly part of another dimension in my opinion. – the eyes are the clue. Square pupils are not natural.

    I hope the remaining cats are healthy. They leave such a big hole when they go, don’t they.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is always a pleasure to see you, Quercus. Thanks for stopping by and reading about all these animals. The coypu are interesting characters, for sure. As the winters get milder, we may see more of them about.

      As you know, we also lost Hope towards the end of May. She had some intestinal problems which turned out to be cancer. It is a problem when one has a large number of cats and the majority were seniors and elderly. The problems start cropping up, some fixable, some not. Only two of the old guard left now, Nano and Marcus, and the three 8 year old sisters, Wynken, Blynken and Nod. All are good. Nano gets a dentistry soon for some problem teeth.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. GP says:

    Lavinia, I just heard this morning that Oregon is in a very serious drought situation. I hope this won’t affect your crops or any other workings on the farm!!
    Shoot me a quick ‘Hi’ to let me know you, Rick and the animals are alright, Please.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi GP, so far OK, though we are going into summer with insufficient rainfall. This does not bode well for fire season this year. We’ve had some cool, cloudy days with intermittent rain, no where near enough.

      We have had more than our share of cat troubles this winter and spring. See Doug’s May 22nd post . Nano had a dentistry this week and has some post operative complications we are working through as well. I am slow at getting around to people, but you are all in my thoughts and prayers, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know, GP, I know you better than that, but I figured I would visit while I was here. I know you are genuine. No worries, old friend! I have postponed, or plain ignored a lot of people, just because I can’t keep up with them right now.

        Nano will be OK, he’s coming out the other side. It’s tough getting old, though. 🙂

        We had some soft rain last night, not the soaking kind we need, but anything helps.

        Liked by 1 person

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