Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for February, March & April 2019

Our feature photo this spring is of a lively cluster of crabapple blossoms from April 25th.

One of my favorite trees. This one was grown from a 1 foot high start obtained from the National Arbor Day Foundation in 2004.

It is said that change is the one constant in life. My responsibilities and activities have been rapidly increasing over the last year, bringing more change to my own. I will be posting the Salmon Brook Farms blog less often now, so I may be able to actually catch up on farm, music and winemaking projects, including updating the pages associated with this blog, work on the book that my dear friend, blogger and author Cynthia Reyes has been gently nudging me to write, as well as stay in touch with our readers and their own endeavors. The format will remain the same, but will now have a more seasonal focus. The feline correspondents may actually find time to compile their journal notes into real essays, at least that is what I have asked them to do. We thank all our readers who have stayed with us as the blog site enters its sixth year, and our lives evolve.  Life’s adventure here in Oregon continues.

News from the farm

After a relatively mild December and January, we experienced an unusual amount of snow for our area in late winter. The brown, dried skeletons of lemon balm stalks and seed heads caught the fine snow in small tufts, icy inflorescences that did not last the day of our first snowfall.

Dried stalks of lemon balm, February 2019.

Lured by increasing daylight and January’s relative warmth, irises and other early risers from the sleeping earth found themselves shivering in a frozen world. Green shoots, swelling buds and birdsong told of the coming spring, not far off, in spite of the cold and snow.

Green swords of iris making an entrance in February, only to find snow.

And of course, snow iris!

We found ourselves wielding snow shovels when the biggest storm hit, bringing back distant memories of life in another time back in New England. Snow has a way of softening sight and sound, lulling one into a sense of peace and tranquility. Dark forms of conifers, frosted white, loomed tall amid the mists and falling snow, giving the appearance of a scene one might typically find on a Christmas card. Little to no traffic except for snow plows passed by on the main road that day; I could hear birds singing somewhere off to the south. Shrubs and blueberry bushes were heavily bent earthward under the weight while daffodils by the old garage stood tall and perky up against the building where snow did not accumulate. There is something peaceful about watching snow fall, if one does not have to travel anywhere. Distances shrink, boundaries are softened, sounds and colors muted in a womb-like enclosure of white, a death waiting for rebirth in a state of colorless tranquility.

The farm in snow. We don’t usually see this much, if any.

Many days the surrounding hills and southwest pass were completely hidden behind the soft veil of light silver-grey, tendrils of fog curling and writhing before me, examining my presence. I could feel the water droplets that comprised it settling on my face, each drop an individual entity. Many small streams from melting snow and rain flowed toward the low areas, rippling and sparkling in the late winter sunlight.

Early March brought many cold mornings in the low 20s. Looking up into the starry blackness one such morning at 5:20 AM, I could almost feel the heat escaping from everything, including myself, radiating out into space. On mornings like this I have a much greater appreciation of our position, third planet from the sun, orbiting in a habitable zone, and just how much the sun’s warmth makes our present life here possible.

Spring arrived, as always, amid a riot of rainbows, catkins, blooms and new life in all forms. I found several osoberry bushes in the back lot, one of the first bloomers.

An intense rainbow in the east. A sign of peace.

Osoberry, also known as Indian plum.

Osoberry and lichen.

The annual symphony of chorus frogs performed magnificently in the many late winter and vernal pools on this farm we call home. Tree swallows have also returned, gracefully swooping about the farm and perching on the wires. Out in the back lot, blue camas are flowering. Cold hardy dandelions have been showing their faces about the farm for some time, and forming seed heads.

What I believe is a camas in bloom in the back lot.

A Dandelion in Winter.

Forming seeds.

Broccoli, sheltered under mini-greenhouses in the garden all winter, have been providing nutritious greens and stalks. They have started flowering, along with last year’s kale.

Overwintered broccoli. Quite tasty!

Old Man Winter and his companion Jack Frost have been slow to leave, and still send us an occasional night below freezing, even though the daytime temperature may rise into the 60s and 70s. They are headed north, climbing higher into the mountains as the sun rises further north along the eastern horizon. The air still feels crisp and cold here under the warm, golden light, their cold breath lingering in the foothills and shaded areas of the farm as April comes to a close.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

The Feline Correspondents Desk is back at work after a brief hiatus. Mr. Nano, head of the Resident Feline Correspondent’s Desk, has asked correspondent Miss Abby to file an essay about her observations from late winter through early spring, and about life in general as seen from the perspective of advanced years. Correspondent Abby has consulted her notes and has agreed to share the wisdom of her 17 years with readers. Without further ado, correspondent Miss Abby will present her essay.

Correspondent Abby, celebrating her 17th birthday this April.

I have reached a venerable age, having traveled around the sun and observed the changing of the seasons 17 times, although I still promptly greet all guests, and make them feel welcome in my home. I spend more time looking within, and dreaming, not only of what was, but where I am going in the years that are left to me.

Correspondent Abby, enjoying her shelf in the bookcase some years back.

With age comes that quiet realization one cannot jump as high, or as accurately as one did in their youth, and that to remain engaged in life, one must find other avenues of self-expression, while attempting to keep a positive demeanor as long as possible. The day will come, as it comes for all of us, when it is time to relinquish our past, with all the associated memories and emotions, and look forward into that bright abyss from which there is no return, following those before us. That is the nature of life and its cycles, as it plays out on this Earth, in this universe. There is no sadness, no regrets, only what is. Those to whom we mattered will remember, their memories of us evoked by some random sight, sound or scent, traveling on starlight, or distantly seen the moon’s soft, ghostly glow. We all walk among ghosts, including our own.

A sunset scene here from 2018.

Winter’s dark season has passed once again, barn lights on the distant hills glowing through the mists and snowfall like stars in hues of orange high pressure sodium and blue-green mercury vapor.   Lichens, swollen with winter rain, helped catch and retain the fine coating of snow; trees, especially apple and plum, stood frosted with an icing of the first snowfall of the season. Mornings often came in silver-grey, soft and quiet. Green grass in the wetter areas poked up through the covering, a juxtaposition of spring green and winter white. After sunrise, milky white mists would coalesce and rise, floating up the hills and skyward with the sun.

Winter view of the hills to the south of the farm.

Spring came slowly, stealthily to the farm, changing the face of sunrise and sunset. The white mists of dawn ran like a river of spilled milk along the base of the hills to the south; dark forms of trees rose up from the vapors, waiting for sunrise to give them color and substance. The time between first light and the first rays of emerging sun is a magical time, quickly changing its character and mood on the threshold of a new day. Crepuscular wildlife can be seen going about their business on the farm. In evening, the final rays of sun as it disappears below the horizon mark day’s end, and the transition into night.

Day’s end as last colors are caught by clouds to the east.

The sun has made good progress northward towards its position at solstice along the eastern horizon. High ice clouds and contrails catch the longer wavelengths of pink and rose; each partly cloudy morning makes a different yet equally spectacular entrance in form and hue. Once the transitional colors have passed, the blue dome above is marbled with stark white, that in itself a miracle of Nature. Down below, filtered sun streams across spring’s emerald green growth; heavily dewed grass scintillates from a myriad tiny prisms. The mornings are lighter now as old Sol moves northward along the eastern horizon. Come solstice, he will be rising behind the trees on a neighboring property and more difficult to spot peering just over the horizon.

One evening I watched as thickening contrails and filamentous cirrus clouds had not yet occluded an almost full moon in the eastern sky, a ghostly white orb marbled with grey, like quartz tumbled by the sea. A chorus of frogs was singing in the vernal pools as the sun dipped below the horizon, and night approached. Somewhere up there above the chorus of late winter frogs and cloud cover that night, the moon was sailing in the blackness of space, staring back at her companion, this marbled bright blue gem called Earth.

As always, we wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

– Resident Feline Correspondent Abby, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Miss Hope and Mr. Nano, enjoying quality time.

Sisters Blynken and Wynken enjoying quality time.

Sisters Blynken and Nod enjoying quality time.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

February, March were a relatively quiet month musically, with construction projects (some more difficult and time consuming than initially thought) and family matters taking precedence. I will be blog posting less often now, so I may be able to actually catch up on 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 regularly.

If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

Live with the Martin, Guild and Ventura.

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 16 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

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.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

Enjoy the time here on this unique, beautiful planet.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for October-November 2018

Our feature photo this month is of a particularly interesting sunset cloudscape from November 27th.  I was captivated by the sense of depth, texture and mood presented on this particular evening.

Sunset clouds on November 27th.

Each day is unique, quietly revealing ephemeral treasures to those who take the time to look for them.

Heart of blue amid stormy skies.

Sunset in pink.

The transition into night is a time for reflection as the day comes to an end; the purple veil in the east rises earlier and earlier as the season progresses. Our November moon is waning, just past last quarter, rising later each evening.  She is a beacon for all who wander about in the darkness, observing the heavens.  We will not see her tonight due to heavy cloud cover and rain.

Night draws closer as the sun drops further below the horizon.

Early morning is a beautiful, contemplative time of day; silver-grey mists form and rise, taking the sunrise colors of pink and gold, and finally stark white when the sun has climbed well above the horizon. They will quickly drift away as cloud.

Early morning mists.

Morning contrails.

News from the farm

It is the time of year when the farm may stand enshrouded in heavy fog all day, with no sign, no hint of the blue river above the soft, quiet coverlet of mist and low cloud. Occasional pockets of cold air moving at ground level brush against my face and arms as they wander across the farm, like the touch of passing ghosts, sentient and otherworldly.

A doe and her offspring grazing along the row of table grapes back in October. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

The months of October and November marched on through the farm in the yearly parade of seasonal produce, changing colors, turbulent skies, windstorms, falling leaves and deer in search of greenery.  Jack Frost, herald of Old Man Winter, has come by on clear nights with his silver brush, leaving a trail of both scintillating sunlit morning beauty and destruction in his wake. The persimmon tree, and some types of apples, welcome his return with sweeter fruit after a good frosting.

Lovage growing in a half barrel sports a light covering of frost. The lovage clump did not appreciate Jack Frost’s visit.

Our beautiful old persimmon tree, festooned with fruit and colorful leaves.

Apples on a frosty morning.

Most leaves except for the marcescent have fallen, and have been raked up and placed in garden beds to help build the soil. The last roses of the season have bloomed; I lost a dear relative to extreme old age; the eldest of our cats now lives on borrowed time, the endless cycle of life of which all of us are a part.  We all have our time. It has been a bitter-sweet season, and when darkness falls, I find myself thinking of a Maori evening prayer I learned from a friend in New Zealand.  Safe and warm inside, the Christmas cactus enters its bloom cycle again. Outside, a lone red rosebud which never opened remains tightly folded against the cold.

Ross were still vibrant and blooming in late October.

Rosé wine from our own pinot noir is still cold stabilizing on the lees; samples were taken for evaluation today.  I processed and fermented two batches of our best pinot noir grapes, selected and harvested  by Rick,  within a week of each other.   Epernay 2 yeast (Red Star Cotes des Blanc) was used for its characteristics, as was done the previous year.  Rick found both samples acceptable, they will be bottled soon.

Rick, hard at work evaluating the new rosé wine with food.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Mr. Nano contacted the Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk for this month’s report, as old Willow is seriously under the weather and receiving much attention. Her kidneys are failing, and she is currently on subcutaneous fluids. For readers familiar with the BBC/ PBS series Poldark, Mr Nano is of the opinion Willow would have made a most fitting old Aunt Agatha Poldark, as played by Caroline Blakiston. One a  geriatric feline, the other a fictional human, both are beloved to those who understand and appreciate their unique spirits.

Willow in earlier times, reading a card from her friends Doug (human), Dougy (cat) and Andy(cat). Willow is not well these days.

Without further ado, Sicilian feline correspondent Lucky and his fellow correspondents from the olive farm present their findings on life in the Sicilian countryside. Readers may note from previous posts that Lucky is blind, and although his acute hearing, exceptional navigational abilities and sense of olfaction are invaluable to his reports, his fellow correspondents have provided all the visual descriptions. Olive farmers and photographers  M. and J. have kindly provided the photos of their farm in Sicily used in Lucky’s report.

Autumn on the Olive Farm in the Sicilian Countryside

Autumn arrived, bringing more rain than is seen in a normal year for our region. Between August and October, almost a year’s worth of rain fell, making tilling the ground and harvesting olives extremely difficult. Fortunately, we did not have to harvest olives this year. The previous year, a bountiful harvest gave us enough oil to last two years, allowing one time enjoy reading and strolling through garden and olive grove.

Although Lucky is now blind, he understands the value of reading. Photo credit M.G.

While making my daily rounds, I happened upon a visitor lurking in the lavender, an Acherontia atropos, more commonly known as a subspecies of the Death’s head hawkmoth. As an adult it is commonly identified by the vaguely skull-shaped pattern adorning the thorax.

A hawk moth caterpillar. Photo credit M.G.

Due to unusual weather, a prickly pear plant with a flower, opuntus fica-indica, was found near others bearing their fall fruit. 

Prickly pear cactus in flower. Photo credit M.G.

 

Prickly pear with fruit. Photo credit M.G.

The array of autumn colors was stunning. Fiery pyracantha presented its bright orange berries while the Lantana burst with red flowers.

Pyracantha. Photo credit M.G.

Lantana. Photo credit M.G.

Fall irises and golden oxalis were nestled in along the path while wild mushrooms were discovered scattered throughout the field, much to my delight.

Iris. Photo credit M.G.

Oxalis. Photo credit M.G.

As always, we wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

 –  Lucky, Sicilan Feline Correspondent, reporting for the House of Many Paws

Correspondent Lucky, at home in Sicily.

 

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I was privileged to be accepted into the Spokane Fall Folk Festival again this year. Once again, we saddled up a trusty vehicle and made the trip up over the Cascades, through eastern Oregon and on to Spokane in eastern Washington.  We stopped to eat at the Black Bear Diner, our favorite breakfast place.

The Black Bear Diner in Madras, Oregon. The bear is still driving the truck.

I was pleased to have a good set, superb sound engineers and an appreciative audience. It was all I could have asked for at the festival.

A blurry photo as the flash was unfortunately off, and the hand of the photographer unsteady as my own. Photos of all the performers can be found on the festival’s site.

If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

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.

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.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

Cherish the days. They pass all too quickly.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for September 2018

Our feature photo this month is of an orb weaver spider found inhabiting the northwest border of the farm.  Although not as large or colorful as the resident orb weaver from 2017,  I was quite taken with the intricate design on this one.

Our 2018 resident orb weaver, sporting some striking markings.

Rather camera shy, she fled into the arbor vitae and this photo was the best one I was able to take of her.  A very brief rain and wind squall took down her web.  We hope she was safely ensconced in the arbor vitae until she can rebuild.

On the other hand, our 2017 orb weaver in the garden was quite willing to be photographed from many angles, and was featured in our August 2017 post, where she is presenting her best pose.

Our orb weaver from 2017, a bit larger and more colorful.

News from the farm

The month of September has passed, along with summer’s intensive heat.  Even on an aberrant late September day in the low 90s, the sun coming in at a much lower angle is much more pleasant in mid afternoon.  Although still fairly dry, rain has come in small amounts in the form of misting rain or brief squalls.  Not enough precipitation has fallen to soak the hard, sun-baked clay soil, only just enough to wet flower, leaf and stem, with promises of more to come.

After a brief storm, roses were beaded and heavy with raindrops.

The leaves seem more intensively colorful this year, showing a bit more orange and gold among the usual paler yellows and crumpled browns.  Perhaps it is all my perception, wishing this year’s work on all fronts to be completed as soon as possible, so I may rest, dormant until spring might awaken me in all its floral abundance and sense of wonder at the annual renewal of life.  Dormancy is never an option here, though; life only slows down, temporarily.   Yet I would hold onto this transitional time of year, savor all its sights, scents and sounds.  The unique sense of clarity in autumn’s low angled light,  the touch of warm sunshine and cooler air on the skin, the colorful cloudscapes at the bookends of the day are all unique to the transitional seasons here, although autumn wields a special magic all her own in this season of falling leaves and bounty from garden, orchard and vineyard.

Developing apple in progress!

Cascade table grapes behind bird netting. They are providing good eating!

Suffolk Red table grapes behind bird netting. Ready to harvest any time now.

A good supply of plums have been dried and stashed away for the winter months. There are days when I feel much in common with some of the little fellows in the order Rodentia during the late summer and autumn months of food preservation and storage.  In the old doublewide “farmhouse” that stood on the same site as our present home, wild mice bunking in for the winter would bring in hazelnuts and store them in my boots, which were kept in the back extension. For good reasons, we nicknamed that house “The Mouse Hotel”.  At night, stray hazelnuts energetically rolled down the inner walls, sounding much like bowling balls fired down an alley, the final crash at the bottom reminiscent of a multiple pin strike.  I sometimes wondered if the mice up in the ceiling were gleefully squeaking, “Strike!”  Perhaps the old house should have been named “Murine Lanes”.  Fortunately there are no signs of mice in the new home, now 6 years old, and the youngest cats, now 5 years old, are content to be the lead investigators regarding any anomalous noises.

The Boys of Salmon Brook Farms, Mr. Lucio (left), Mr. Nano (center) and Mr. Marcus (right), keeping vigil in the old house. That house did have bigger windows, which they enjoyed very much. The only cat from that time period to ever catch a house mouse was Abby, who has been blind in one eye since before we acquired her. Nothing escaped her one good eye. She will be 17 years old next spring.

Our pinot noir grapes are almost ready to press for wine now, and other tasks will wait while grapes are harvested, crushed and the grape must (juice) inoculated with Epernay II yeast.   Our goal is to make a rosé wine as good or better than our 2017 vintage.

A small number of pinot noir grapes from our 2017 harvest, enough to squeeze juice to fill a 16 qt sock pot for inoculation.

2017 harvest and crush – all done by hand for small test batches.

Rick, our Quality Control person, personally testing two different batches at lunch last year.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident feline correspondent and head of the local correspondents desk Mr. Nano has agreed to let correspondent Miss Nod present September’s report.   She has been gathering news from the various window stations, and keeping a journal, from which she would like to share a few selected entries, which she feels would give readers the sense of wonder she experiences here.  The farm photographer agreed to assist her.  Without further ado, Miss Nod will present her report.

Feline correspondent Miss Nod, conducting an eye to eye interview.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

 It was a beautiful late summer evening, passing all too quickly, as they all do. It was a bit warmer today, which enlivened the stridulators’ evening symphony. A light veil of thin clouds gathered in the west, catching the last glimmer of deepening rose on their undersides, was noted past sundown. The last bit of light disappeared from view around 8:30 PM, the sun headed ever westward. Somewhere in the world, dawn is always breaking.

Sunrise on the farm, September 17, 2018.

Friday, September 7, 2018

In the predawn hours, I noted the constellation Orion near the horizon in east. Towards sunrise, the silhouette of the waning crescent moon hung low in the eastern sky, as the first rays from below the horizon lit up the underside of morning clouds, a beautiful scene to hold in mind’s eye.

A variety of cloud forms noted today, from long, sweeping cirrus mares’ tails to cirrocumulus and altocumulus along with a lower trail of smoky, dusty pall that crept in on September 6th.

A beautiful sundown tonight.   One must be quick with the camera at the bookends of the day, when lighting changes rapidly. Nature waits for no one.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

56 degrees and mostly overcast at daybreak, with a narrow blue rift in the bank of clouds to the south. I watched the doe and fawn for a while this morning, grazing out at the edge of the hazelnut grove. The fawn was running high speed circles and figure 8s for the sheer joy of it, the strong legs and spirited heart of youth at work on a cool morning. The doe would join her offspring now and then, but only racing a few strides before returning to foraging. Mother had her own priorities.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Clouds crept in overnight, allowing a warmer morning today at 55 degrees. A light misting rain fell at daybreak. Not enough to soak the ground, just enough to caress the earth and tired vegetation with promises of more to come later. The ceiling soon fractured into heavy cumulus clouds. The cumulus grew fat and woolly during the day, feeding on the aerial river of moisture coming up the Willamette Valley. Stark white to pendulous and grey, these wanderers headed north, sometimes straying over the Cascade foothills to the east.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A cool, relatively cloudless evening in progress, with a growing, thin crescent moon above, a clear silhouette of the dark side present forming the illusion of an eye trained out into the greater Universe. The temperature is already in the low 50s and dropping. It will be cold in the morning unless a new blanket of clouds buffers the fields and garden from the night’s chill.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

41 degrees before sunrise under mostly clear skies, which are now filling in quickly. The rapidly changing cloud forms are fascinating to watch, especially at the bookends of the day when light levels change rapidly. A few cirrus here and there become long rows of cirrocumulus, looking like corduroy patterns in the sky.

Sundown on the 17th of September. The photographer missed the sunrise clouds on September 15th.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Down in the low 40s this morning at sunrise under mostly clear skies. The season of thick morning mists that stratify, curl and wind among the hills is here. Eventually they rise along with the climbing sun, and drift away over the mountains.

The mists of dawn on September 17th. Soon they will rise and drift away as cloud.

A mostly clear evening in progress, with a waxing gibbous moon overhead shining down upon the nightly stridulators still singing out the end of summer.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I watched a most beautiful end of day present itself, complete with the rising purple veil of night in the east, a golden gibbous moon overhead, and the fading glow of the sun to the west, which had just gone below the horizon. The summer stridulators are still performing nightly in this fine transitional weather.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

It is 58 degrees at 9:19 PM under a fractured night sky, and a gibbous golden moon peering out from behind the galleons sailing by.

Shadows and light from earlier in the day on September 22nd.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Young ladybugs were found in the greenhouse, under a strawberry leaf, sitting among the remnants of the egg cases. The nymphs had metamorphosed into tiny adults. They had been feeding off of aphids, some still visible on the underside of the leaf along the mid rib.

Click on photo to enlarge. The photographer returned the ladybugs to the greenhouse after documentation.

Sunday, September 23, 2018 – Autumnal Equinox

45 degrees and mostly cloudy at daybreak, the official first day of the fall season. A daily pattern can be seen now of mists that stratify and rise with the sun, coalescing into ragged clouds that wander away to the north or east over the Cascades. We soon had an autumnal blue sky with patches of cloud, and light breezes stirring about the farm.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A chilly 37 degrees under clear skies before sunrise. The purple veil of night rolled away to the west, accompanied by the bright, full moon majestically set upon it. Mists stratify and wind around the hills, thick in the low areas, but soon rising and drifting away. I particularly enjoy these times when night is caught running westward while the brightening new day draws near the eastern horizon. One leaving, one arriving, different colors and moods.

A closer view of sundown on September 17th.

A warmer, summer-like day, rising into the low 80, with a few scant cirrus clouds. The sun is still quite warm, although not so intense. I have been watching its progress south along the eastern ridge at sunrise, and south along the far hills at sunset. A mostly clear night in progress. A deer took off down the driveway after dark.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

It was not quite 44 degrees under clear skies just before sunrise. A waning gibbous moon hangs higher and higher in the western sky each morning, an apparent retrograde movement of the orbiting body to the observer. Mostly clear skies and as warm as a summer day at 87 today, although the sun was not as intense, being at a lower angle at this time of year. The air has a slight nip to it by sundown, even after a warm day. A time to observe pink contrails forming in the western sky, and the rapidly changing colors of any clouds present as the sun continues to sink below the horizon. They eventually fade to lavender, then grey, as night overtakes them.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A brief thunderstorm dropped 5 minutes of rain, cooling things off and making creating one of the most beautiful and colorful cloudscapes towards sundown.

We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to all wherever their destination in life may lead them.

-Resident Feline Correspondent Nod, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Wishing our readers safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

 

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

A couple of musicians I know from the Corvallis Folklore Society, Kurt Smith and Dick Thies, performing at the Corvallis Wednesday Market on September 26th.

Kurt Smith and Dick Thies at the Corvallis Wednesday Farmers Market on September 26, 2018. A thoroughly enjoyable show, and great sign on Kurt’s wagon.

September was a relatively quiet one musically, as most of my time was involved in projects here and working extra time.  I am looking forward to October!

If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

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.

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.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

Our butterfly bush revived and went through a second bloom after the weather became cooler.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for June-July 2018

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.

Let sleeping bees lie. This little bumblebee tucked into a hollyhock bloom for the night.

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.

Early June’s rain-drenched roses.

And a daylily bloom, beaded with raindrops.

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.

The multilevel skies of early June.

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.

Our north border resident, just below center. Click on any photo to enlarge.

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.

Early June – old heirloom roses on the north border, with myrtle growing below, wild and carefree.

Early June – the first peony to bloom.

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.

A view up the row of table grapes from this afternoon.

And up a couple of rows in the pinot noir vineyard. Rick has been hard at work trimming and tying up canes. We had good fruit set this year.

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.

Sunset on July 24th, clouds over the hill to the south.

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.

Correspondent Miss Wynken gathering news from one of her many window stations.

Correspondent Miss Wynken contemplating her report. “What do I tell our readers?”

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

Crossing contrails that have spread, and captured the last colors of the day in pink. Another day ends.

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.

If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

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

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.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

For Nia, my Turkish friend and fellow cat lover. These flowers are part of a living memorial for her cat Surya who passed away earlier.

We received news of a small, curly-haired black dog named Mowglee, a dear companion to a friend (she does spell his name this way, not like R.K.’s Jungle Book character Mowgli), has passed away unexpectedly. He was 14, and suffered a seizure or stroke. Somewhere in the greater Universe, he is running, pain-free and unencumbered by the infirmities of advanced age. He will be missed by all who loved him.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for April 2018

Our feature photo this month is one of our more tenacious, scrappy and colorful residents, a shrub I believe is a most likely a flowering quince. Planted by the previous owner right next to the well house, Lucille soon outgrew her allotted space.  I moved her some years ago, to a location where she could grow unfettered by human gardening sensibilities. She proved difficult to extract from the hard clay soil, having firmly entrenched herself by sending many roots far underneath the cement floor of the well house. Like the original Disney movie The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, starring Mickey Mouse, the numerous rootlets cut and left behind soon regrew into many, sending up stout shoots between cracks in the floor, and all around the building. It is now a continual struggle to keep her myriad offspring at bay.

Lucille, flowering quince

News from the farm

It has been a long, slow transition from the cold, damp reign of Old Man Winter. He has lurked about longer than usual this year, taking his time moving on down the road. The exuberant growth of spring cannot be contained for long, however, each species in turn rushing to complete its flowering cycle before the next phase. Daffodils have peaked and are now waning with the moon; bud break has occurred in the vineyard; the first iris has opened by the old garage.

First iris of the spring season!

Our only surviving tulips outside any planters, planted in gravel by the garage. Too much work for gophers and voles?

The skies of spring are highly changeable, drawn from the rivers of moisture flowing over the Pacific Northwest and painted with an artist’s eye from a palette of blues, greys, golds and white. Coming down off the foothills into the valley floor below, the sky often opens a bit for the observer. From here, one can see the armada of wind driven clouds sailing up the valley, heading north, some lodging like river foam along the banks of mountains, the Coastal and Cascade ranges. Each cloud floats at a level according to its buoyant density. Dark grey flat bottoms mark the lowest level of the heavily laden cumulonimbus, carrying the lavender grey and stark white mushroom towers and canyons above like floats in a parade. The still angled sun casts its gaze upon these travelers, highlighting their forms in shadow and light, much to the delight of the viewer at the bottom of the aerial river.

Crab apple tree in full bloom. The sky is typical of this time of year.

Our first thunderstorm of the season blew through on Saturday. Some partial clearing occurred that morning, soon followed by a flotilla of heavily laden cumulonimbus clouds sailing up from the southwest, creating an ever changing scene of intense sky blue, dark charcoal to white cloud over spring green and bright gold amid the passing storms. I feel the same sense of wonder at such things as I did as a small child, when such phenomena were fresh and new. Sight evokes a sense of touch at times. One can feel the movement of clouds overhead in the shadows racing across the land, of being in warm sun one minute, then in the cold shadow speeding by the next. Eventually, all became heavy and ominous as the aerial wanderers coalesced into something bigger and more powerful than themselves. The grey ceiling became ragged. Lightning flashed, thunder pealed and rain fell as pent up energy from the day was released.

Redbud tree reaches skyward on April 28th.

Rainbows in both the east and west are many, a promise of peace to come after a long winter and dark skies. The sweet musky fragrance of fruit tree blooms fills the air, most notable towards early evening.  A growing symphony of chorus frogs ushers in the night.

An eastern rainbow created by setting sun and rain still falling as the bank of clouds moved on over the Cascades.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Mr. Nano, ever watchful

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has called upon Correspondents Miss Hope and Mr. Marcus to file their report for April. Sister and brother, they will be 11 years old this August. They have diligently been observing the farm from the window. Without further ado, Miss Hope and Mr. Marcus will present their findings.

Miss Hope (Left) and brother Mr. Marcus (right)

April came into being a wild, unruly month, not quite fitting of spring, yet no longer winter.  On April 7th, the wind was quite energetic by sunrise, ripping the cloud cover apart; the sun spilled through a break in the east, lighting the undersides of a growing mass of clouds to the west in soft shades of light peach and lavender; the waning moon in its last quarter hung pale gold in a morning blue sky. It was not long before we spotted an intense rainbow to the southwest, a sign of an approaching rainstorm coming up through the pass.

A morning rainbow in the west. Weather was moving in quickly up through the southwest pass.

The weather front moving in quickly obliterated sunrise.

Common Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale, punctuate the green fields with their bright yellow faces, adding cheer as daffodils will not last long now with the increase in temperature. Rain-swollen lichens cling to most every branch, festooning the trees in a vibrant light green-grey.  The remaining daffodils have bloomed as April bids adieu, and we greet the coming month of May.

The last of the daffodils. To the left are developing German bearded iris buds.

On many mornings, the coverlet of damp grey slowly rends under the rising sun into a patchwork of friendly cumulus, and sails away over the Cascades.   Sometimes afternoon arrives before the sun makes an appearance.

A textured afternoon sky to the south.

The sun made more frequent appearances amid dark skies and rain squalls, making promises of warmer days to come. The contrast of bright golden light against heavy blue-grey nimbus on a freshly washed, emerald green landscape is a delight to behold at this transitional time of year. On some evenings, the sky presents itself as a masterpiece in brushstrokes of light golden cream to many shades of grey cloud on a fading light blue canvas. The days grow longer; the last light faded at about 8:50 PM on April 18th as a bright silhouette of the dark side of the moon appeared with the growing crescent moon, hanging in the sky like a large eye trained out into the greater Universe. A star to the left stared back at the moon, set against the deeper Maxfield Parrish colors of last light.

Petals from plum and cherry trees are beginning their annual descent from the trees, single spent blossoms falling here and there as the apple trees begin their blooming cycle. Soon their numbers will increase until the wandering breezes are filled with them, drifting like snow and settling on the green grass below. The air is filled with their sweet, musky scent; it is a pleasant view of the orchard.

Ox-eye daisy and fallen cherry tree petals. Ox-eye daisy will bloom short and close to the ground if mowed.

The blending of pink and white in the opening buds of apple trees is a visual delight.

The pear tree. Most years it flowers too early, a hard frost or two occurs, and we get few to no pears. This year may be different.

We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

Heading towards LAX in January. View from the window.

– Resident Feline Correspondent Miss Nod, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again. April has not been any more conducive to finishing projects than March, and I will make no further excuses. Things will be done when they will be done.

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! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time.

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.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

A solar powered frog light, a gift from a friend, watches over one of the front gardens.

 

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for December 2017

Our feature photo for this month is of a colony of what I believe is Usnea
longissima, or Methuselah’s Beard Lichen, growing on an apple tree along with some Parmelia sulcata, or Hammered Shield Lichen. They are quite common here, and can be seen hanging about on many trees around the farm.  When these lichens are swollen with rain in winter, distant heavily festooned deciduous trees appear to be clothed in light grey-green leaves, riding out winter alongside their dark green coniferous cousins.

Feature photo for December 2017, Methuselah’s Beard Lichen, growing on an apple tree along with some Parmelia sulcata, or Hammered Shield Lichen. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

News from the farm

The month of December passed quickly on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  The days have been a highly variable mix of cloud, rain and sun, warm to numbingly cold days and many nights below freezing.

Land of the Long Grey Cloud, a southern view from the farm on Christmas day. Many winter mornings begin this way.

Or begin this way, dawn’s colors reflected on the underside of morning clouds.

Or perhaps in misty pastel colors.

Or rose-colored contrails.

Old Man Winter established himself here early on, but seems to be currently occupied with the eastern regions of the country as they experience extremely cold and harsh conditions.  By contrast, our weather here today in western Oregon was in the mid 50s, sunny and pleasant.  We will enjoy his forgetfulness, while we can.

Christmas morning.

Fresh late-season apples were still clinging to trees in the early part of December, including a neighboring tree that has grown branches over the fenceline and over the roof of our shed.

The last hold outs, for birds only now. They were quite tasty and crisp earlier in the month.

The larger, hungry birds have since worked their way down the tree, drilling holes and slashing fruit with their beaks.  They are welcome gleaners.  Everyone must eat.

Daffodils in warmer areas with good southern exposure have already shaken off their slumber and begun the journey back up to the world of light.  Many sport buds, which will remain tightly closed until mid to late January.

Daffodils coming up by the old garage amid purple columbine seedlings on Christmas day.

Wild garlic chives stand tall above winter’s green but slower growing grass.  Pocket gophers tunnel everywhere, mounds piled up and plugged above the entrances.  Life stirs below as well as above.  I note where the tunnels are, and will collect their leavings for the gardens and barrel planters.

Gopher mounds amid the wild garlic chives.

As the afternoon comes to a close, a gibbous moon hangs in the eastern sky, white and marbled, like quartz tumbled by the sea.  My mother called such treasures cast up by the waves moonstones, and I think of her when I see the moon, looming large over the horizon, ghostly pale against a fading blue sky.  Another year has passed;  I am another year older, acutely aware of my own time and its passage here.  Mercury vapor and high pressure sodium barn and utility pole lights will soon glow like blue-green and orange stars on the surrounding hills as the sun dips below the horizon, and last light fades.  The sky is mostly clear tonight, and will be down in the 20s by morning.  A visit from Jack Frost and his silver brush is expected to close out the year.

We are thankful for all that we have, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures at this time of year.

An important and timely message for the world from the producers of these cheery and colorful crocus bulbs.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has observed much from his window this month, and has once again sent the photographer out to investigate. Without further ado, Mr. Nano will present his findings.

The winter solstice has passed, and slowly, imperceptibly, the days are lengthening.  The foxes have continued to be sighted near the border of the hazelnut grove; their nightly vocalizations are muted by windows closed against the cold.  Out in the grove itself, life stirs.  A plump squirrel has taken up residence in the old ash tree, nest visible up high.   He will need to exercise caution when foraging below; many would find him a good source of much needed calories at this time of year.  In protected areas, the Lilliputian forests of ferns, mosses and lichens abound.

Ferns growing at the base of the old feral apple tree, one of the guardians of the tunnel to the back lot.

Mosses and lichens on a hazelnut tree.

Possible signs of nutria have been sighted in the form of small tunnels coming out of the underbrush leading to areas where the grass has been clipped short.  We have noted that the last set of nutria that lived here liked to “farm” an area, keeping a patch of grass clipped short to provide tender growth for their dining pleasure.  Fresh scat has not been found, however, or an actual nutria sighted this season.  The presence of foxes about may have left them more wary.

A young blacktail doe, probably one of this year’s fawns, wandered through the orchard, casually nibbling grass.  We found it surprising that they appear to urinate by squatting like a cat.  The photographer was too slow at getting the camera to catch this in progress.

Pruning of the vineyards has commenced, as it does each December, beginning in the table grapes, and ending in the pinot noir vineyard behind the deer fencing. 

Unpruned vine in the foreground. Vines pruned back to two canes in the row behind.

A venerable old table grape vine pruned back to two canes.

Cuttings have been made of the Glenora Black Seedless table grapes, and started in pots filled with gopher mound dirt.  The pots will remain in the drainage area for now to keep them wet until bud break.

Glenora Black Seedless cuttings potted up for the winter.

December has been sunnier and drier than the previous year, leaving many days to observe clouds forming in the blue rivers of moisture above.

A view from the back lot looking west.

Multilevel cloud formations, all floating at their point of buoyant density.

Friends of the farm have sent us identification and propagation challenges.  Anyone having experience propagating wild Columbia Lily from seed is encouraged to contact me.  Columbia Lily is a native lily with a tall stalk, orange tiger lily like flowers, and seed pods similar to Columbine.

This photo was sent by a friend in Cornelius who lives in a house previously owned by an avid gardener, who may be deceased at this time and unavailable for questions.  We believe this plant is in the mallow family.   A positive ID is requested.  Readers may click on the photo to enlarge.

A kind of mallow, perhaps?

Father Time continues his slow, steady tread into the coming year, taking us with him.  We see the changes in the land, and feel the changes in ourselves.  Everything is temporary, including ourselves.  Choose wisely, plant happiness wherever possible.  We wish all our readers a peaceful and bountiful year ahead.

Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nod, decided to have an eye to eye conversation with Rick regarding the vineyard.

Correspondent Blynken (left) and retired Correspondent Willow (right), warming themselves in the winter sun.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am enjoying the winter hours of slower days, long cool nights, and more time to spend on music. I completely burned out in 2015 during the last year Rick’s mother was alive and with us, trying to work part-time, play music and provide round the clock care, resulting in my taking 2016 off entirely to recover my health. This has been a year of slowly regaining my sea legs as a performer.

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! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that the harvest season, and holiday 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

http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

A primrose in winter, photo taken 12/30/2017. This plant was being thrown away, and found sitting out by a dumpster, sad and dehydrated. It was rescued and planted out front here at the farm. It has rewarded us with blooms for years, even in winter.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for September 2017

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.

Herman’s cherry tree garden. Herman and my favorite British Shorthair cat, Mr. Bowie, can be found at https://hopedog.wordpress.com/

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.

The evening of September 3, 2017, southeastern view. We heard much of our smoke this year was from the Sisters, Brookings and Cascade Locks fires, which sent considerable smoke down the valley.

The morning of September 4, 2017, eastern view.

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.

This particular scene is from November 2013, but shows a lovely golden mist in progress.

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.

The eastern sky on September18th.

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.

Sunset, eastern view, on September 17th. The last long rays of sun reflected off of clouds to the east. I don’t take many sundown photos from a western view until winter, when the sun sets far enough south that I can avoid power lines and utility poles in the photos.

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, ever watchful.

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.

Non-netted table grapes showing fox, bird, wasp and bee damage. Stripped clean!

Resident grey fox, photo taken earlier this summer. They are now eating grapes along with wasps, bees and birds, although few larger birds have been seen this year except for quail.

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 wasps as of this morning. There has been no nest for some weeks now,although they remain at the site.

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.

Our resident Argiope aurantia, on September 18th. A tiny fly was caught in her web, left and above her leg.

The garden is still producing;  some plants winding down, some in full swing.

Last of the summer beans. This variety of stringbean is called Black Creaseback. The mature beans inside the pods are black. The seeds were kindly sent to us by a friend back east. The plants are shutting down now, although there are still some flowers and some developing beans.

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.

Pinot noir, reading for crushing.

Four trays hand processes enough juice for about 4 gallons.

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

http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

A cheerful sunflower growing in front of the well house, wishing readers a pleasant evening. Deer had initially bitten off the center bud. This flower grew from a side shoot which formed after the terminal bud was ingested. Perseverance in the face of roaming cervids is an admirable trait.

 

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