The usual autumn leaf colors here tend towards a dull yellow which quickly fades to crinkled brown and quietly slips away with the daylight hours. Blueberry and snowball bush add a darker, almost maroon color to autumn’s palette, though in a good year, the grapes can dress the vineyard in vibrant gold. A sizeable vineyard can be rather striking in autumn. An early light frost and a long drought this year have diminished the chances of that happening here.
I did find some unusually festive color while wandering about the back lot on October 1st. Our feature photo is of a colorful sprig of what looks to be hawthorn berries, also known as haws, a more unusual orange-gold color than most of what we see for hawthorn fruit around the old farm. Members of the genus Crataegus , hawthorn leaf shape varies, and as well as fruit color can vary from yellow through red to blue-black depending on the species, estimated to be roughly 200 in number. There are a few small bushes of this yellow haw kind growing along the north border.
Lichens are beginning to recover from the heat and drought, including my favorite patch of Cladonia I have been watching. The old defunct hazelnut grove is a particularly good place to observe lichens and mosses which grow copiously along the branches, forming multi-species communities up the trunks and along the branches.
News from the farm
Summer in our region has been one of extreme heat and drought this year, requiring hours of spot watering and rotating which plantings got water so as to conserve well water, and well pump of unknown age. We will have been here 18 years come December. Most plants that tolerated the heat came through the season, though fruit set was often limited, and quite small in the case of our blueberries. Trees with relatively shallow root systems were particularly hard hit, and we may yet lose some of our older fruit trees. Unlike birds and animals that can migrate and search for water, trees and fellow plants are rooted in place and must make do with what they have. Mycorrhizal networks can assist in water and nutrient transport, and general soil health is of particular importance.
Grapes throw roots that can reach 5 to 6 feet down. Our pinot noir did well in spite of the heat, and ripened early. The harvest came in at 22 brix, and two separate fermentations of rosé wine using Premier Blanc yeast finished up on September 25th and 27th. I leave them to settle out on the lees under refrigeration until December, when they will be bottled. Hand crushed, strained, inoculated and fermented in stainless steel stock pots by me, it is enough to keep Rick in lunch wine for a good part of the year. I have reused some old photos of the process here.
Most readers are aware of the fires out here in the West, along with the resulting smoke and poor air quality, even in areas the fires did not reach. We have been lucky here, and are now entering the rainy season. Each year is a bit different, though the overall trend is becoming hotter, and drier. We note what does well, and what does not, and will adapt what we attempt to grow to conditions as they change.
The constants in life I hold dear are the rising and setting of the sun, the cycles of the moon, familiar constellations in the night sky. Night’s dark veil rising in the east after sundown and rolling away to the west come morning, the color changes at the bookends of the day. I wake up during the night, and watch out the window. I see and hear a lot on moonlit nights. Tree frogs chorusing in late winter and spring, raccoon tries to get through bird netting to eat our grapes in fall. I listen to the coyotes sing up in the hills, the piercing cry of the hawk, the pleasant peeting of the chickadee. I know when the neighbor’s chicken has laid an egg. We all have our time and place. Time is a precious thing, as is a sense of place. There is less road ahead than there is behind me, and choices have more meaning.
News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms
It has been a hard year for the crew with the loss of three of the old guard. The remaining five have been adjusting, and establishing new routines, and alliances. They will return to news gathering and writing their observations come December.
Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
I have been able to play music out on a limited basis this year. If you are in the area and wish to stop by and see me, do check out the Performance Schedule page.
For those readers who missed previous posts or are new to this blog, I will be posting on mostly seasonal basis now. Hopefully someday, I may be able to actually catch up on the many projects, including updating the pages associated with this blog, as well as stay in touch with all of you. I will keep the performance schedule updated regularly. New videos will follow as soon as I can get to it. 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.
Those who know me well also know I am a big fan of the late Kate Wolf, recorded a few of her songs on my last CD, and I will be recording some more of her music in the future as well. The Minstrel is one of her songs I learned last year. Here it is adapted and arranged for the 12 string guitar tuned to Open G.
Full Circle, one of my own songs, was written in the aftermath of 9/11/2001 and is a song about love and enjoying life while one can. I’ve played it out all the intervening years, and recorded here recently with the lights down, much like a typical evening here I’d be practicing. It is a bit dark, but I make no apologies. There are no flashy graphics, just one woman, one voice, and a guitar. The guitar featured here is my old Ventura 12 string. I bought this old friend at a kiosk in a mall for $100 back in 1977. For those interested in lutherie, this guitar is a bit different in that it has a zero fret up by the nut. To my knowledge, this brand of guitars, which were made in Japan, are not made anymore, and I have only come across one other, not nearly constructed as well. I keep the Ventura tuned to DGDGBD or DGDGA#D. Flat the 3rd and you get G minor. Alternate tunings are easier for small hands and present a bigger box of acoustical paint from which to draw upon. I use Martin Acoustic SP extra light phosphor bronze strings on the Ventura, Martin Acoustic SP light gauge phosphor bronze strings on the Martin guitar, And D’Addario light gauge coated phosphor bronze on the Guild.
I am 18 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! The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on Spotify and 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 due to digital rights content. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site.
Rick retired from playing music some years ago, but he still practices, and plays a few tunes at some of my shows. Here is is at St. Innocent Winery back in August.
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
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.