Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for April, May and June 2020

Our feature photo this quarter is of a snail visitor, whom we think may be a Monadenia fidelis, spotted back in late April.  Although we see many slugs, we don’t often see snails on the farm.  Often times it is only the shiny, dried slime trail left behind, as well as damage to plants, that indicates slugs and snails have been by during the night.  The State Library of Oregon has an informative snail and slug poster available for those interested in such animals.  Nature’s creatures come in what seems to be an endless variety of forms, lifestyles, colors and patterns.

A visiting snail whom we think may be a Monadenia fidelis, seen making his way along the garage wall.

 

Of the various slugs we have seen about the farm, I find the most intriguing species to be the leopard slug, Limax maximus.  They are also carnivores, and prey on other species of slugs.  Although it is difficult to envision these animals as moving quickly, Limax maximus is roughly four times faster than other slugs, including our native banana slug, and easily overtake their prey.

News from the farm

The last three months have gone by more quickly than expected.  I’ve watched the new crescent moon appear above the Maxfield Parrish colors of the fading western sky, and followed its waxing and waning cycle back into darkness, each time eagerly awaiting its reappearance in the west .  It is an old friend I have known all my life.  At times, I have seen her set upon blue sky, white marbled with grey. She is like quartz tumbled by the sea and cast upon the shore by the tides, waiting for the fingers of a wandering, small beachcomber to pick them up and admire them.  My mother called these rounded quartz treasures “moonstones”, and I think of her when I see the moon amid the blue.  After nightfall, she takes on gold to golden-orange hues as she rises, desaturating as she sails overhead, bathing the farm in cold, pale light.  In the shadowy, colorless world of a moonlit night, many nocturnal creatures can be seen moving about, and I will wake up and spend a while at the window.  It is a time to remain still and observe, watching for movement, capturing the moment in mind’s eye.  I think of those who are no longer with us. The memories travel on starlight, replayed under the moon’s soft ghostly glow. Long-stilled voices are heard once again, riding on the night breeze as it prowls about the farm, rustling leaves and plucking a melody on the wind chimes on the porch.

Sunset on May 5th.

April still presented mornings down near or below freezing, resulting in some frost damage to trees and plants heeding the call of the sun, now past the equinox position in his travels north.  Our new everbearing strawberry plants, Charlotte and Eversweet, were set out under small grow tents to protect them during their vulnerable phase.

By early May, we had flowers on the strawberries!

Kale from last year was still producing, and the flowering tops fresh from the garden made a good stir fry with sweet potato, chickpeas and onion for lunch, along with with our own fresh asparagus, broiled with lemon juice, oil and vinegar.  Life can be simple, and good.  Little to no processed food is eaten here.

The greenhouse frame from the last project back in 2016 was moved to the main garden, and the remaining cement slab had two raised beds built on it from pavers removed along the edge of the original gravel drive, put in by the old owner.   They had been sinking over the years into the wet clay soil, serving no use as a border, so I began digging them up for the purpose of building raised beds for chives and oregano.    Elbert’s Garden lies along the north side, Surya’s Garden along the east side, Peter’s Garden on the south.  I am slowly adding perennials to all.

The new herb beds and flowers planted for friends and fellow bloggers in memory of their loved ones.

May irises in Elbert’s Garden.

The annual parade of flowers begins in January with the first daffodils and snow irises that brave the cold and dark days, surviving below freezing temperatures and tolerating coverlets of snow.  Crocuses soon follow, along with the one tulip that has not been eaten by gophers or voles as I planted it in gravel near a building, a note to self for the future.  Cherry, plum and pear explode in a profusion of white, then apples in shades of white to pink.  The droning of bees can be heard throughout the orchard.   Petals soon fall like snow, drifting on the breezes that wind through the farm, settling on the green grass below.

A crab apple in early May, a blue sky, warm day.

And the parade goes on!  The tall bearded and Dutch irises in many shades and moods will pass quickly, as come late May and early June, daylilies raise their blazing orange trumpets in a joyful noise.  Reblooming varieties will fall in behind them.

A sunny yellow flag iris, simple and elegant.

A reblooming iris, bending low out of her barrel to catch the sun.

A shy beauty. These will be moved as the crab apples shading them have grown. She needs more sun.

A cheerful bloom!

Trumpets held high, nothing says early summer like a daylily.

One of our rebloomers, planted in a barrel in memory of a girl who was bullied to death some years ago. She took her own life.

In May, the snowball bush blooms grace the dark green leaves like a shower of bridal bouquets.

The snowball bush on May 11th

A bridal bouquet of flowers!

This rhododendron bloomed profusely even after it was severely damaged by rutting deer last autumn.

The end of May also found us blocking off part of the gravel drive containing a slight depression with a killdeer egg was found.  It blended in so well that I almost stepped on it.  There were numerous such scraped depressions in the drive, but apparently she settled on this one.  I did not find eggs in the others.  We roped off that section of drive, a  bad location for the mother bird to have chosen.   Although we were fairly sure she had abandoned the egg, we left it roped off for a month.  There was no sign of the parents.

Lone killdeer egg in the gravel drive.

Roped off area.

June brings the roses, at least what was left to us after three wandering young male deer came through nightly.  Blackberry blossoms, the main honey flow in the Willamette Valley attract honeybees.

A hardworking bee collecting nectar and pollen from invasive blackberry. Oregon does have a native trailing blackberry, but the invasive varieties are everywhere. At best, we keep them at bay and collect the fruit for ourselves.

Finally flowering! The deer have chewed them repeatedly.

Young buck, one of three I’ve seen.

We are privileged, having what we need, living here in a tranquil bucolic bubble.  Covid-19 did not affect us in the same way as it has those who live in cities and more heavily populated areas.  Seasonal chores still require us to outside and working.  Nature waits for no one, and we are isolated enough to work outside on our farm in relative safety.  We are also privileged to not have to live under the same fear for our lives as do many of our fellow Americans and citizens in other countries.  The news has been nothing short of horrific.  We stand with Black Lives Matter, because all lives matter.  Our species, which has given itself the  arguable genus and species classification of Homo sapiens, or “Wise Man”, makes slow progress with each generation before passing the torch.  The real hope of each generation for continued change for the better lies with the young.  They have the opportunity, and ability, to continue to make this a better world than what the previous generation was able to achieve.   They are open to change and new ideas.  Many of us live in bubbles of one kind or another, oblivious or indifferent to the lives and needless suffering of others.  Author Cynthia Reyes has offered 8 Specific Actions one can take to attempt to understand and bridge the gap.  When all else fails, there is also the Golden Rule, simple yet complete in its message, and I still find it worth aspiring to, especially in these times.

The western sky on June 15th. We all share one planet, and all see the same moon.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Miss Abby sailed into her 18th year this April.  Although she has retired from filing reports, she would like readers to know she is comfortable and happy, and enjoys a good nap.  Although she only has two teeth left, her upper canines, she eats well, and enjoys a good meal.

Abby was sleeping in her padded chair when she was awakened by the photographer.

Mr. Nano, head of the Feline Correspondents Desk of Salmon Brook Farms, always watchful.

Mr. Nano, head of the Feline Correspondents Desk of Salmon Brook Farms has asked correspondents Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio to present their report for this quarter.  They have been quite busy observing the farm from their various window posts.

Marcus (left) and Lucio (right) leisurely collecting news.

Without further ado, correspondents Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio will present their report.

It has been a prolonged, cool and wet spring here on this little farm in the Cascade foothills.  The nightly enthusiastic chorus of frogs continued on into April, audible even with the windows closed.  It is an annual event we look forward to after the winter’s long darkness, one of Nature’s timeless rituals that speaks of life and its cycles.  Birds, as well as the chipmunk, were continuing to feed from the north side bird feeder that caught the first rays of morning sun.  Cold mornings, the grass heavy with dew and temperatures near freezing marked the month of April.  Some days soared into the lower 70s, with marbled skies and a promise of warmer days to come. 

In mid to late April, the air between sundown and nightfall is overwhelming with a symphony of scents from the various fruit trees, their brush-like forms in blossom coloring the farm and distant hills in shades of white to pink. A lighter yellow-green amid the blossom colors begins to offset winter’s grey-green lichen covering. It is spring, a good time to be alive, and observing Nature.

By April’s end, the bird feeder was abandoned, only the occasional towhee stopped by to kick out seed, which was promptly picked up by mice that live under the thick cover of vinca on the north border.   Spring continued her annual roll out of blade, leaf and flower. The season of the daffodils was at its finale as a few late plantings finished their bloom cycle. Pears, plums and cherries had already finished and were forming tiny bulbs of developing fruit at the base of older browning blooms. Apples were done blooming within the week, and forming new fruit. The vineyards were in bud break, some sections further along than others. Purple columbines began to open along with Dutch iris as German bearded irises were still forming fat buds.    Petals from trees, especially apples, fell like snow.  The grass seemed to grow ever faster, higher than the day before, while irises continued to unfurl. Everything was proceeding according to its own life plan on the grand Stage of Life. The play is always a bit different year to year, weather and temperature drive the script.

Rainbow in the east after a storm on May 2nd.

The month of May was the peak month of the iris with her subtle fragrances and Marilyn Monroe frills and flair. Only the gardener knew her secrets.   There were still many passing storms, and rainbows, an offering of peace from the heavens.   We are grateful for the rains, and that ever changing canvas of sky.   We find ourselves looking more closely at things with new eyes.  We are all temporary here, each with our own time in the sun.

Sunset clouds on May 5th

We spotted the first goldfinches of the season on May 4th.   Post sundown skies were particularly colorful, as a clearing in the west allowed the longer rays to highlight the bottoms of higher clouds and lower sitting cumulus directly.  Windows started opening at night to let fresh air in, and we heard the chorus of frogs continuing on into May.  The air was fragrant with hawthorn’s musky sweetness, and the white fragrant bells of blueberries.

On May 22nd we watched the tree swallows begin their evening feed around 5:00 PM, a great number of them performing an elaborate aerial ballet as they caught dinner on the wing. A pair of them stopped to rest and preen on the overhead electric wire we could see from the office window. The hummingbird finally made an appearance in the trumpet vine as well.  We had wondered where they were this year.

On May 25th,we listened to a robin and another unidentified bird that evening at dusk. Visibility was good enough to see the growing crescent moon in the west. The few clouds about the horizon caught the last pink rays of sun, ever running westward, a time of peace and beauty.   We noted the waxing crescent moon was higher in sky each night.

The month of June brought warmer mornings, and silver-grey mists that rose with the sun.  A pair of grackles performed their courtship ritual on the overhead electrical wire early in the morning on June 8th.   Careful observation found their well constructed nest in the upper profusion of new growth. They were not able to tolerate the comings and goings from the new garage, and abandoned the nest.  Tree swallow continued their aerial feeding acrobatics.

We saw two bucks early in the morning on June 21st, both 4 pointers, one slightly larger than the other, who was limping slightly.  He stood and looked around intently, with those deep brown eyes and serene expression, before moving off along with his companion.  A third buck, another 4 pointer, was spotted on the 27th.

The days are slowly growing shorter as the year progresses, another trip around the sun.  We wish our readers a pleasant day ahead, and safe travels to wherever your destination in life may lead you.

Taken from the plane coming into LAX in 2018.

– Feline correspondents Mr. Lucio and Mr. Marcus, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

For those readers who missed previous posts or are new to this blog, I will be posting on mostly seasonal basis now. Hopefully someday, I may be able to actually catch up on the many projects, including updating the pages associated with this blog, as well as stay in touch with all of you.  I will keep the performance schedule updated as venues become available to me again.  Due to Covid-19, what was once a full schedule is now empty.  New videos are in process, and will be posted to YouTube before long.   Unfortunately they did not make the train for this quarterly post.    Life has not slowed down for me at all since mid March, and somehow managed to speed up!

For those readers who are new or catching up, do visit the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel. Our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March, 2017.   I am 17 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come!   For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

 

The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube. Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post. Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site.

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

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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 May 2018

Our feature photo this month is Marilyn, one of our reblooming irises.  The Marilyn Monroes of the flower world, irises dominate the gardens during the month of May with their eye-catching blooms.  Tucked in here and there about the farm, year after year they add grace and beauty to whatever spot they find themselves in. Readers may click on any photo to enlarge.

“Marilyn”, our featured iris for May 2018. In full display, she is reaching for the afternoon sun, her ruffles crisp, clean and elegant.

The appearance of iris blooms signals the month of May is on schedule and in progress.

Looking down the throat of one of our original irises given to us by friends long ago.

And more irises. I believe these were from a discount box of Dutch iris bulbs planted many years ago.

A small patch of wild yellow flag iris.

News from the farm

May has been a tentative month, still feeling the presence of Old Man Winter with cooler, although drier, weather patterns.  Many a morning has been cool and grey, dissolving into a patchwork of assorted clouds forms against the stark blue of late morning or afternoon.  The aerial  rivers of moisture that flow across the Pacific Northwest have yielded little precipitation this month in our area though, and some plants here are prematurely showing signs of water stress.

The wild and everchanging skies of late spring.

Deer have already begun to make themselves known, sampling the roses in the garden.  Rick noted deer damage in the back of the rows of table grapes, mostly in the Niagara and Delaware varieties; fresh green shoots were eaten back to the main cane in many places. They will regrow from other dormant buds, but this will set back fruit production in those ones that were eaten. At this time of year we spray deer repellent on the new growth, often initiated by the first attacks on the vines.  Our pinot vineyard is safely behind deer fencing.

There were two of them that evening. This one headed for the woods.

Peering out from the apple tree tunnel into the back lot, this deer was waiting for me to leave.

The back meadow, beyond the apple tunnel.

The progression of spring continues into its last phase as more irises enter their bloom time; the gardens have shifted from the golden yellows and whites of daffodils to the predominant late spring and summer shades of blue and purple. Dark purple columbines have been increasing their representation in the gardens every year since a few hitchhiking seeds arrived in a bag of rabbit manure a number of years ago, and settled in by the old garage.

Purple columbine by the old garage.

Cherry, plum and pear blossoms have fallen like snow, replaced by small, hard, green growing fruit.

Pears in progress!

Our vineyards are at the flowering stage, and we hope for an uneventful summer and a good grape harvest.   To grow and tend the grapes, and taste one’s own wine made from them, is to truly appreciate what goes into a bottle of wine.  It is no longer just a drink, but now a living thing.  It is the alchemy of air, sunlight and rain, the soil with all its minerals, nutrients and microbial life,  guided by caring and hardworking hands from vine to bottle.

One of our table grapes in flower. When this photo was taken, they were slightly ahead of the pinot in development.

Our head grape tender, also quite happy about the pepper plant starts I grew for him.

Rick enjoys cooking what we grow.

A clear and chilly 36 degrees greeted me at daybreak this morning before I headed across the valley to Corvallis.  Down by the waterfront, I was greeted by cold and windy conditions which were mitigated by an unusual and fascinatingly beautiful milky sky.  Clouds seem much more impressive when seen through polarized sunglasses;  there is an increased sense of depth and distinct boundaries not available to the normal eye. A thin light grey film of high ice crystal clouds covered the sky, providing the backdrop for lower level amoeboid altocumulus and cirrocumulus wandering though the double halo, created by refraction of light through ice crystal prisms. These wanderers passing through the inner circular of the halo took on a faint opalescence of their own.  Many bystanders took pictures.

The first daylily bloomed today; the only peony to bloom this year is opening its buds; the north border heirloom rose is beginning its short bloom cycle. The air is thick with the heavy, musk of the black locust tree in bloom.  As frenetic as this time of year can be, it is a good time to be alive and feel a part of all things.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has called upon the Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk for Correspondent Lucky’s report on the olive farm at The House of 40 Paws in May.  Without further ado, Mr. Lucky will present his findings.

Correspondent Lucky, from the Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk. Lucky is blind, but navigates the upper and lower bounds of his world on the olive farm with ease. He is an inspiration to all.

Spring on the olive farm has brought longer days and warmer weather which led to the Sicilian Olive Farm cats changing their napping accommodations. The preferred arrangement now is boxes and crates which give enough protection and ample space for piling as many cats as possible into one place.  The sunny terrace provides a good vantage point for observation. The mulberry tree, which so kindly gives morning shade, currently shelters a nest of magpies,  who are always scolding any cat that approaches too closely.

How many cats can fit in a box? Photo credit M.G.

More cats. Photo credit M.G.

There are two kinds of lavender currently blooming, Stokes or Italian Lavender followed by French Lavender. These plants are a haven for the bees and good hiding places for felines in need of a good surprise ambush to raise adrenaline levels.

Lavender and a view of the spectacular Sicilian countryside. Photo credit M.G.

Early in spring there was a bumper crop of Spinacciola or wild radish. One might consider it a weed but here it is appreciated both for its fragrance and the edible leaves. “Cooked saltate” means boiled first then drained and sautéed in olive oil with hot pepper and garlic; it is delicious!

As winter wheat, vetch and fave beans planted in nearby fields mature, the countryside changes from shades of green to  yellow and gold. The wild red poppies that sprout amid the crops visually set the fields on fire.

View of the countryside overlooking the olive trees. Photo credit M.G.

Photo credit M.G.

Poppies abound! Photo credit M.G.

Among the olive trees in our field is a nitrogen fixing plant called Sulla which looks very similar to a red lupine.  The resident human farmers have tilled up our field to aerate the soil for the olive trees.  We feel fortunate to have a two acre sand box, quite suitable for a blind feline to take care of his personal needs, chase fellow correspondents and hide from human caregivers.  I am the primary inspector on this farm, periodically climbing the olive trees to check for buds.  I am pleased to report they are ready to bloom. We are hopeful that the rain will hold off until the bees can complete their work pollinating the entire grove.

Olive flowers. Photo credit M.G.

And more olive flowers. Photo credit M.G.

Correspondent Lucky, on the job. Photo credit M.G.

The other correspondents are not quite as adventurous. They express a preference for playing with laundry or having serious philosophical discussions on the terrace. 

Many a serious discussion has taken place here. Photo credit M.G.

The Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk wishes all our readers a bountiful and beautiful summer season.

 – Sicilian Feline Correspondent Lucky, reporting from the olive farm at the House of 40 Paws

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again, especially as a terminal musician.  Juggling music, 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.  May has not been any more conducive to finishing projects at home than April, and I will make no excuses. Things will be done when they will be done. 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! 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

Our roses by the house are now beginning to bloom. This particular one is hosting a spider enjoying a sunny afternoon in May.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2018

Our feature photo this month is of the first snow iris to emerge in the garden on January 28th, from within the clump of a volunteer lemon balm. Another snow iris has appeared this morning, along with the first snowdrops of the season.

The first snow iris to emerge. This iris is part of Archie and Marion’s memorial garden. Please visit https://thelandy.com/2013/11/04/the-pain-of-the-loss-of-a-loved-one-menieres-disease/ and https://thelandy.com/2013/05/21/life-death-and-grief-well-miss-you-mate/

Daffodils started their journey towards the sun back in December, forming buds but remaining in a sort of stasis during the colder part of the season, which often went down into the 20s at night. Our first daffodil of the season bloomed on January 16th.

A golden daffodil trumpet out by the old garage, herald of spring yet to come. I think of Wordworth’s poem when I see these beauties. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45521/i-wandered-lonely-as-a-cloud

Elbert’s memorial garden over by the cement pad greenhouse is continuing to send up new growth, and will soon be bustling with blooms.  Gophers have presented their challenges!

Elbert’s Garden continues along the north side of the greenhouse. More bulbs get added every fall as this garden continues to expand and develop. See https://phainopepla95.com/2016/04/19/

From Elbert’s Garden in late summer 2017, a sun-drenched golden gladiola.

Other memorial gardens will also make an appearance from time to time.  Watch for them in spring.

News from the farm

It is mid winter here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. Yet amid the fallen leaves and skeletal remains of the previous year, green shoots continue to push their way up out of the cold, wet soil, their own internal clocks driving the annual reach for sunlight.

All that is left of the deer that expired in our yard back in October 2016. More soil will be added and a new perennial flower garden planted here. See https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/rick-and-lavinia-ross-farm-music-newsletter-for-october-2016/

It is our winter rainy season in western Oregon, punctuated with days of sun and even some days reaching 70 degrees. Low areas are channeled with runoff, and there is much standing water about. In heavy rains, even gopher holes will spout water like mini artesian wells; I wonder about the inhabitants and their evacuation strategies. Barn lights still glow on the distant hills on heavily overcast mornings; the night’s darkness is reluctant to leave under such heavy atmospheric conditions.

Some of these low areas do not dry out until some time in June.

Pruning work in the vineyard continues, trimming vines down to two lateral canes.  Our lives are intertwined with the farm, orchard and vineyard.  It is a part of us; like the plum tree whose branches have fused, separation is unthinkable.

Rick at work pruning the pinot noir vineyard.

The old, twisted purple plum tree, we think is an Emperor plum. Two of the branches have twisted around and grown into each other.

On last rounds one evening I noted the resident spider by the porch thermometer, bravely tending her web in the 45 degree wind and rain. She shelters when needed behind the thermometer, which is fastened to the post; there is just enough clearance for her to slip in behind. She is not the first spider to set up housekeeping in this convenient location, prime real estate for catching insects attracted to the porch lights, and for shelter from the elements.

We have a had some days in the mid 60s and even 70 degrees. To the right of the thermometer, a spider web can be seen on close inspection. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

On clearer evenings, the moon is a pleasant companion when she is in the visible part of her journey. A few nights ago, a gibbous moon shone down through a mostly clear sky, which appeared to be rapidly filling in with clouds as the evening progressed. Only the most prominent stars were visible, and I was able to find Orion, a familiar landmark in the sky. Pacific Chorus frogs, enlivened by the day’s warm winter sun, provided the music for the nightly dance of the moon and stars across the heavens. An owl softly hooted in the distance.

A chorus frog from 2016, found hiding under the roll-up window on the porch greenhouse.

I continue to marvel at life springing from the ground in winter, the sound of chorus frogs, the nip in the wind, and the perfection in all these things. The smallest details of life are the most important to me, to be held in the moment, studied, and released to go about their business.

The small winged insect in the center I believe is a species of hoverfly. They were out visiting daffodils.

What I believe is a hoverfly visiting a daffodil.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has observed much from his window this month, and has also enlisted fellow Feline Correspondent Miss Hope to record her observations from the crow’s nest basket perch next to her window. They have once again sent the photographer out to investigate. Without further ado, Mr. Nano and Miss Hope will present their findings.

Resident Feline Correspondent Miss Hope, reporting from the Crow’s Nest.

Taking a break while Mr. Nano is on duty.

The days are discernibly longer now that we are almost 6 weeks past solstice, especially notable on clear days when one can observe sundown through last light, unobstructed by cloud cover. Of particular beauty is the banding of colors along the eastern horizon, night’s rising purple veil transitioning into rose-pink. Contrail and cloud pick up the last long rays of sun below the horizon, briefly flaming the sky before fading to lavender and finally grey. The guard changes at the boundaries of day and night; the realm of stars becomes visible; creatures of the night begin to stir.

This is a sundown image from 2016 I particularly love for its colors and depth. It was on my wish list to get a good photo of the color transitions on the eastern horizon at sundown this month. Colors change quickly at the bookends of the day, and one has to be prepared to catch them.

Earlier in the lunar cycle, the bright sliver of growing moon bobbed in and out view on night’s partially cloudy sea one evening. A few stars peered down through portholes while a light breeze played in the wind chimes; Pacific chorus frogs struck up a symphony in the low marshy areas.  All seemed as it should be; the sense of peace was as encompassing as the mists at ground level.

Marshy wooded area in the back lot.

A walk in the back lot in late afternoon reveals signs of other lives at work. Small green shoots are everywhere, from wild garlic chives and catkins dangling hazelnut trees – the tiny red female flowers will follow in February – to fattening buds on blueberry and tree alike. A blueberry bush near the house was recently damaged by a male deer scraping his antlers, and many cuttings were made from the broken branches. This sort of destruction by roving cervids is usually not seen here past the end of December.  Hastily stuck into a pot of good clay gopher mound soil until they can be separated and individually potted, some of these cuttings may survive and root.

Wild garlic chives have sprung up many places out back.

Hazelnut catkins. Tiny red female flowers will follow.

Digger at work. Many such holes were found out back.

Blueberry bush battered by deer scraping antlers. This usually results in new shoot growth from the roots. I am attempting to root cuttings from broken branches.

A pot full of blueberry cuttings, waiting to be separated into pots of their own. Gopher mound dirt, mostly clay soil, makes good medium.

Many small tunnels lead out of the swampy area, including one that leads into the garden. The wire fence mesh would be big enough for a small fox, cat or nutria to get through. A rotten apple had been pulled out of the compost pile and dragged outside the fence; a hungry nutria tired of grass is suspected.

A well-worn path and grassy tunnel into the garden. Gopher mound in the foreground.

Another year is underway as Father Time continues his travels, taking us along with him.  We will change along with the land and the seasons, growing older, and hopefully, wiser.  Everything here is temporary, including ourselves.  Choose wisely, plant happiness wherever possible.  Live in the moment, cherish the memories.  They too will pass into the great abyss of time.  We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

View from the plane heading from Phoenix into LAX earlier this month.

Resident Feline Correspondents Nano and Hope, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

We are continuing to enjoy the slower winter months, and a return to music.  An appreciative listener in an airport recently asked me what I wanted most in 2018.  I told him I would like the year to work for everyone, that World Peace would be a nice change from current events.  He smiled and said, “Music is a part of that, and so are you.”  I am humbled by those whose lives I have touched with my music, and who have touched mine in return.

I am also please to report Kate Wolf’s family has included the Keepsake CD on her Tributes page, a listing of those who have covered Kate’s songs.  Kate passed from this world all too soon and left a legacy of beautiful, soulful music.  Please visit her site to learn about this amazing singer-songwriter from California at  https://www.katewolf.com

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

Morning mists to the south of the farm accentuate the dark forms of conifers and winter-bare trees.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for October 2017

Our feature photo this month is of a colorful cluster of hawthorn berries sporting a tiny visitor, a 12 spotted cucumber beetle.  In past years, we rarely encountered any.  This year, we have seen quite a few of these little fellows, although we do not seem to have sustained any damage from their presence other than occasional photobombing.   One can click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

Our feature photo. The 12 spotted cucumber beetle, the yellow fellow with black spots on the right edge of this cluster of hawthorn berries, has been found in larger numbers on the farm this year.

News from the library – a special book by Cynthia Reyes for children of all ages

I do not consider myself to be a reviewer of books or music, feeling neither qualified nor inclined to critique someone else’s work.   I find enough technical problems with my own endeavors to keep me sufficiently occupied pursuing a lifetime of improvement.  A very special book, however, has caught my attention, not only because it is well-written and beautifully illustrated, but because it sends a simple yet powerful message of the need for tolerance.  That book is Myrtle the Purple Turtle, a children’s book written by Cynthia Reyes, blogger, author, and former journalist and executive producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The story of Myrtle was originally written as a bedtime story for Cynthia’s daughter Lauren, who had been bullied at school for bringing her favorite doll, a black Cabbage Patch doll named Quentin. Some of the children thought Quentin was “dirty” because of his color, and wouldn’t play with her if she brought him along. As a consequence, the four year old stopped bringing him to school, hoping to fit in better, although it hurt her very, very much. Eventually, her parents caught on, and Cynthia developed the story of Myrtle, a different sort of turtle, to help Lauren feel less alone. Myrtle attempts to change her appearance to make her more acceptable, but learns in the end that is our differences that make us special, and that we must love ourselves. A book for children of all ages, and dedicated to the child in all of us, I encourage readers to help spread the word about this very special turtle.   Donate a copy to your local library; give one to a child in need.  We are all Myrtle the Purple Turtle.

Myrtle is available on Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0620773421/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_t2_E4R1zbYDKVZ27

Cynthia Reyes
Myrtle the Purple Turtle
About

Lauren Reyes-Grange
Myrtle the Purple Turtle

When a little girl decided she wanted a black doll for Christmas
https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2015/12/19/when-a-little-girl-decided-she-wanted-a-black-doll-for-christmas.html

The Love Your Shell campaign
#LoveYourShell

A very moving review of Myrtle the Purple Turtle book by Andrea Stephenson
We are all Myrtle the Purple Turtle

News from the farm

October’s weather was relatively mild, with sufficient rain to return the grass to its winter seasonal lush emerald green.  Our chives have revived in the cooler, wetter conditions, while dandelions once again stand tall, proudly present their sunshine-yellow blooms to late season visiting bees.  Tiny leaflets of clover have started to appear everywhere, adding to the carpet of green below as the leaves of tree and shrub above turn shades of yellow and brown, quietly slipping away with the daylight hours.  Blueberry bushes are among the exceptions to the muted colors of autumn in this region, celebrating the end of their season in a blaze of scarlet, orange and gold.

A fiery blueberry bush against the green carpet of grass and clover below.

A blueberry bush on the lighter hued side.

The annual rutting season has arrived along with October’s bright blue skies and falling leaves.  Once again, roving male deer have started looking for small trees and shrubbery upon which to scrape the velvet from their antlers.  It is the one aspect of autumn which I dread, but I am also thankful that we have only had deer,  not elk, wander through this farm.  Our larger blueberry bushes suffered some damage a few nights ago.  Not having fencing up yet, I resorted to taking the old wire basket tomato cages and put them upside down, points up, near targeted bushes, in the hope of discouraging them.   Broken branches, lying like matchwood on the ground, were collected to make cuttings for rooting.  Our visitors also tested the line of young redwoods up front, requiring installation of emergency, makeshift barricades.  Nature’s children are always hungry, or creating mischief.

A sunflower in the main garden, early October. This particular one somehow started to grow with roots in the air as it emerged from its shell. I turned it around in its pot, coddled it, and transplanted it to the main garden when it was ready. This sunflower has rewarded us with a beautiful bloom and has attracted many bees.

The garden has worked hard and done well this season, resting now except for a few cool weather crops such as broccoli, celery and cabbage.  It is difficult to bid goodbye to each year’s plantings when autumn returns;  all have been nurtured from seed to garden bed, and are now returning to the earth which sustained them, as they sustained us.  All things are connected to all things.

Broccoli, variety “Green Goliath”, lived up to its name.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano, always 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, including the state of the current vintage and wine experiments.

The nights have continued to grow longer since the equinox, allowing more viewing time from the windows under clear skies when the moon is in the brightest part of its phase.  The foxes have continued to leave scat around the farm, although they have been quieter about their comings and goings.  Our visiting pack of coyotes has not been heard again since last month, their lyrical chorus eerily beautiful yet frightening to felines.  Sunrise brings all the beauty and promise of a new day.

Sunrise on October 15th. The dark, lacy silhouettes of trees, mists and fleeting colors set upon morning’s early blue canvas of sky are always worth getting up early to see. Sunrise arrives late enough at this time of year that these scenes are much easier to catch.

A few interesting shoots were found growing out of a  hawthorn stump.  The young tree broke off in a windstorm last year, effectively becoming a coppice stool.  Some of these new shoots had leaves with no pigment.   Development will be followed.

Hawthorn stump sporting some shoots with no leaf pigment.

Our wasps in the blueberry bush remained with us for a while in early October, but have since disappeared.

The wasps remained at the site of their old nest long after the paper nest mysteriously disappeared.

The good weather held early in the month, and the onslaught of grape-eating birds and wasps had not descended yet.  A decision was made to run another crush from the pinot vineyard with grapes that were now up to 22 brix.    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 in the previous run.   Fewer earwigs, and no stinkbugs or ladybugs were encountered in this run. 

Hand-crushing pinot noir grapes, and checking for earwigs and other non-grape entities . Primitive methods, but the results were worth the effort. Photo credit Rick Ross.

Another light pinot rosé was created from this fermentation, coming in at 12% alcohol with riper grapes.  The wine is still cold stabilizing on the lees at this time.

The first fermentation experiment has since been racked off into bottles, and stored in the refrigerator.  There has been no fining, filtering or sulfiting of this wine, so it is being stored cold. 

The lees, or sludge comprised of dead yeast cells and other solids that settled to the bottom during cold stabilization. Finished wine was ladled off into jars. Any remaining lees will settle there over time, and wine decanted.

Finished wine from left to right. The wines in bottle at the right were taken near the bottom of the pot, and the lees will have to settle again before decanting off the wine.

Rick, our Quality Control man, comparing the results of the second fermentation (left glass) with the first fermentation (right glass) as he has lunch. Both have passed inspection.

The rest of the fruit from under the insect netting was harvested yesterday, and is being held for a third experiment.

It is hard to smile while searching for earwigs. Photo credit Rick Ross.

Like all the residents and wild creatures of this farm, I hear the approaching winter in the wind as it rustles the dying leaves, and in the gentle staccato  of rain on the metal roof.  One can feel it in the nip in the air on a sunny day, especially when the sun slips behind a wandering cumulus.  Another year is soon ending, and I and my fellow correspondents are a year older.  We hear the slow, steady tread of  Father Time, and feel the changes.

Correspondent Willow has retired from filing reports, and prefers to spend her days napping on her bed by the kitchen window. We are not quite sure of her age, but think she is over 20 years old now. She was found in our yard, almost dead, a little over 5 years ago. She recovered, and has been with us ever since.

We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead.  May everyone have a warm place to sleep, and plenty of good food.

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 all the seasonal outside work.   I have no new videos yet due to all the activity here, but do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that 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

The rapidly changing colors and sky of sunrise and sunset offer a spectacular show to those willing to take the time. Admission is free.

 

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2017

Our feature photo is of a particularly beautiful sunset on January 3rd, and our resident black locust tree once again made a fine winter display.  The sky was on fire, and in the closer view below, appeared to be emanating from a neighbor’s conifer.  Click on any photo in these posts to enlarge.

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I almost rejected this photo for being too dark, but decided I liked the visual effect of the dark tree against the last rays of the sun on the cloud cover. Nature provides the most beautiful light shows on Earth.

News from the farm

January arrived on our little farm in the Cascade foothills, shivering under a thin covering of snow.  I have hope that this young and impressionable New Year will bring peace and reconciliation as it develops and matures.  The first chapter is already coming to a close, yet there is still hope. The rest of the story is yet to be written, the final chapter dependent on the actions of us all.  It rests in our collective hands and hearts.

Wet and rather sticky at 32 degrees, new-fallen snow created rhythmic sounds of compression underfoot as I moved about.  Birds actively scratched about for seed in the early morning light, coming and going with purpose.  The morning cloud cover was not uniform, sporting some thin areas with blue behind them.  More dark grey wanderers from the south and west soon joined the parade, filling in the voids.  Somewhere above, the sun was shining, although we never saw it that day.  Daffodils, which had grown and formed buds back in December and threatened to bloom at Christmas, had chosen to remain in stasis, defiantly waiting out Old Man Winter.

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Daybreak on January 1st. The farm in snow.

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Blueberry bush still sporting some ice under the snow on January 1st.

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Daffodils in snow on January 1st.

Between December and January, we experienced a prolonged cold, allowing snow and ice to linger for a while.  Another storm on the 7th transformed the farm into a monochrome snow globe as large, heavy flakes descended from a low, uniformly silver-grey sky.  For a short time, we lived inside yet another frozen kingdom, designed and built by the reigning monarch of the season, but not meant to endure.  The enchantment only exists now in mind’s eye and stored aural history, and to a lesser extent, in digital format.

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A monochrome snow globe. Early morning light.

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Our patient resident black locust tree posing for the photographer.

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East view of the January 7th snow globe.

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Taken through the window. The quail were quite wary of me holding anything in my hands, even though I was inside. Left to right: Towhee, California Quail and what I believe is a Junco on the right. Snowstorm on January 7th.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our brother and sister resident feline correspondents Mr. Marcus and Miss Hope agreed to file a report, with the help of the farm’s photographer and chief gopher hole inspector.  This sharp-eyed pair will be 10 years old this summer, and have come to know well the farm’s seasonal rhythms through their constant peering out of windows, accompanied by copious note-taking, over the years.  Without further ado, we present Mr. Marcus and Miss Hope, Resident Feline Correspondents of Salmon Brook Farms.

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Resident Feline Correspondents Mr. Marcus (left) and Miss Hope (right), lounging in their basket this morning.

January is normally a season of rest here on Salmon Brook Farms, a time to watch birds, sleep, read and reflect on the past year as well as the new one underway. Seed catalogs are of particular interest, and are carefully scanned for favorite old varieties as well as new ones to be tested this year in the garden.  The order was placed and arrived promptly.  With the exception of the wrong variety of corn being sent, all was in order, and the company will now send the correct corn variety known as “Top Hat”.

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Moss and lichens weathering out the winter out back near the apple tunnel.

Life quietly waited in every corner of the farm as the days grew perceptibly longer.  Lichen, moss, dandelion, daffodil, wild garlic chives, small shoots and creatures large and small grew bolder as the days passed and snow and ice retreated. 

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Winter dandelion keeping a low profile. They will bloom here and there in protected places about the farm all winter.

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Moss growing on the north side of an apple tree.

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The first daffodil bud opened January 29th.

Our photographer’s excursion to the back lot revealed evidence of creatures that regularly pass through or live somewhere in the wild areas of the farm: gophers, deer, feral cats and nutria.  Gophers have been particularly active now that the ground has thawed, and one animal has chosen to leave his own mark on top of the gopher hole.  We suspect that the resident of the gopher hole met with foul play.  Deer are always lurking about, leaving plenty of droppings of their own, a telltale sign they have been feeding out back.  Surprisingly, it appears at least one nutria has amazingly survived the prolonged cold, as evidenced by the presence of their characteristic scat.

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A typical gopher mound. Activity has increased with the lengthening days and softer ground.

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Another creature, perhaps a feral cat, has left their calling card on a gopher mound. The resident gopher was possibly the victim of foul play. Or perhaps the presence of soft, crumbled dirt was attractive to whomever left their scat.

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Evidence of surviving nutria.

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The deer have also been grazing out back, leaving evidence of their presence.

Many sunrises have come and gone here on the farm during our time.  We find each one unique, each noteworthy in it own way.

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Sunrise January 27th.

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Sunrise January 27, view a bit further south. The jagged line of conifers make an interesting silhouette against the dawn sky.

As the day closes, we wish our readers a pleasant evening, warm blankets, good food and company.

– Mr. Marcus and Miss Hope, Resident Feline Correspondents reporting from Salmon Brook Farms

Thank you Mr. Marcus and Miss Hope!

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page

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The new year is already flying by!  I am still working on projects which are long overdue.  Until I can post some of that work, 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

locustsunrise-01272017

I would like to mention fellow musician, author and editor Lorraine Anderson, who posts twice a year at the solstices. Please visit Lorraine at https://earth-and-eros.blogspot.com/

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for October 2016

Our feature photo this month is a colorful autumn view through the south row of table grapes.  The grass in the background has turned a lovely emerald green, as it always does at this time of year when the rains begin again.  Although we do not experience the vibrant colors of New England here except for where ornamentals and other non-native species are planted, our grapes, blueberries and hawthorns provide some red and orange hues to the predominantly green, yellow and browns of the season.

News from the farm

The days have grown noticeably shorter on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  As Autumn wearily trudges on towards Winter, her traveling companion Wind has grown restless.  Sometimes playful, sometimes angry, but always on the move now, driving the herds of wandering dark clouds before her, leaving a cold, fragmented sky in their wake.  She shakes tree, shrub and vine, demanding them to release spent leaves and overripe fruit.  Come January, she will call like a Banshee in the night, and I will wake and listen for a while, the sound of her wailing striking some momentary primordial feeling of dread.  Her siblings Storm and Mist visit much more frequently.  Mist is a shadowy figure, stealthily creeping in at times when the afternoon sun is warm and the air is still.  The breath of the mountains slides down into the bowl in which this farm sits, and I feel the cold dampness on my neck.  I turn to face this amorphous stark white entity, who soon envelopes me and all my surroundings.  I find myself ingested.  At night, her fingers curl and probe under the lights, attempting to find a way into the warmth beyond the door which shuts her out.  Waiting for me to leave the safety of the house, she knows I will eventually have to come outside for various reasons.  She will meet me on her own terms in this dark time of year.

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October sunrise in progress over Salmon Brook Farms.

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These intrepid little dandelions still bloom at this time of year.

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A nasturtium plant snuggled up against the garage provides color as well.

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The persimmon tree lost many leaves during the last storm.

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Falling rain at sunset, Nature’s fine filigree of black locust tree against the sky.

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And a rainbow to the east at sunset. Storm leaves a present for those who take time to observe.

Rick was busy rolling up netting today where all the grapes have been harvested.  We had a good year in the vineyards except for where quail and other birds robbed us clean in sections that were not netted.

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Rick, busy collecting netting this morning. Those are pruning shears at his side, for those who might be wondering.

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We still have table grapes!

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And a fine patch of kale, liking the cooler wet weather.

Earlier this month I had Rick collect four trays of Cascade table grapes for me to experiment with, as out Pinot Noir vineyard had been stripped clean by Quail, Inc.  Sorted and crushed by hand, I decided they might at least make a good vinegar, as I had done back in 2014 when the vineyard was also stripped clean.   Feeling adventurous, I decided to add a packet of Red Star Epernay II yeast that had been in the back of the refrigerator since last fall.  I wasn’t sure if the yeast would still function, so I decided to find out!  The stock pot was happily bubbling away within a couple of days, and the juice fermented dry to about 10% alcohol, based on the starting sugar content measured in the initial grape must (freshly pressed juice) and post fermentation juice.  Cascade grapes on their own don’t make great wine, but they are sometimes used for blending.  The “wine” is sitting sur lie in the refrigerator, before I rack it off and decide what to do with this experiment.

For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lees_(fermentation)

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4 trays of Cascade grapes ready for crushing!

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First load in the “press”.

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A makeshift press. Any good colander will do!

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Grape pomace – skins, stems and seeds ready for composting.

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Grape must, or juice ready for fermenting. The wild yeasts present 2 years ago were not sufficient to go the distance, and so we had great pinot noir vinegar that year when acetobacter took over.

And then there are those unpleasant events that occur.  We woke to find a large buck had expired out in the back yard.  The ODFW was called, and they indicated there was nothing to be done unless the animal had died of gunshot wounds, in which case they notify the State Police.  Rick and I rolled the buck over and could not find any signs of bullet wounds, so we dragged the poor fellow out of the way.  A shallow pit was dug, and I covered him with dirt and sod as best I could.  He will return to the earth from whence he came.

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John Doe, a handsome buck, expired out back from unknown causes. Not what one wants to find in their yard. Most likely cause according to ODFW was internal injuries from and encounter with other males during the rutting season. It is possible he was hit by a car, showed no external damage, and managed to wander back this far before falling.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Miss Wynken of The Three Sisters wanted to file a report this month for the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms, as she had plenty to say.

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Miss Wynken files her report.

Miss Wynken would like readers to know she is well again, having stopped eating on us.   She was treated for a possible urinary tract infection, but we suspect the real culprit or at least an additional problem was her catching a front claw in something and ripping it out.  She received antibiotics, special food and lots of TLC.  The nail is growing back in nicely, she is eating and playing with toys again.

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The lovely Wynken, all recovered.

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Miss Nod, also known as “Sister Bertrille” or “The Flying Nod”. She is the most talkative and most adventurous of the Three Sisters.

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Miss Blynken, the Quiet Intellectual. Studies people.

Miss Wynken would also like readers to know old Willow, the Calico Matriarch is doing well, and is still enjoying her window seat.  She is up there in age, although we are not sure exactly how old she is.

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Miss Willow, Calico Matriarch. She is somewhere in the vicinity of 20 years old, we think. Only she knows for sure.

Music News (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am looking forward to the dark time of winter as a time of creativity, and getting fully back on my feet.  Stay tuned!  A few more tests and some surgery to get out of the way now.

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Photo credit Mike and Liz Santone of Meadowlake Studios and McMinnville Community Media TV.

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Album photo credit Sharon Mayock

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Photo credit Rick 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.

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One of the last roses of autumn to survive all the recent rain. A sweet reminder of summer, and a promise of good things to come.

Bookings and home-grown produce:
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms

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

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for July 2016

Our feature photo this month is of a little Pacific Chorus Frog visitor we had at the end of May.  The fellow had found a nice place to hide during the night behind the roll up windows on the porch greenhouse.  One can see in the following photo he is bent on tucking himself back up into his hiding place again.  At night, I have occasionally unrolled an unsuspecting frog.

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Pacific Chorus Frogs, also known as Pacific Tree frogs, are common visitors to the farm, sometimes hiding out in watering cans, plant trays, or hanging baskets. I recently had one of these frogs land on my head when I was watering a hanging basket of petunias. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_tree_frog for more information.

A special word of thanks

Cynthia Reyes, author of A Good Home and An Honest House, recently interviewed us for a blog post on her site.  Her questions were insightful, and I thoroughly enjoyed this interview.  I encourage readers to visit her site, not only to learn more about the residents of Salmon Brook Farms in her post, but especially to learn more about Cynthia Reyes herself, her life and her work.  I own and have read both of her books, and look forward to more from this fine author and very remarkable person.

Readers, please visit  https://cynthiasreyes.com/

About Cynthia: https://cynthiasreyes.com/about/

Cynthia Reyes on Amazon.com:  https://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Reyes/e/B00F1HTQQ6

I feel deeply privileged to be a part of this very diverse online community of bloggers and blog readers.  Thank you all for your likes, comments, views and general support and kindness.  You are all greatly appreciated.

The Salmon Brook Farms interview post:  https://cynthiasreyes.com/2016/07/20/at-home-at-salmon-brook-farms/

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White rose, variety John Paul. This is our only white rose, planted in memory of my own mother.

News from the farm

Summer, with all her bounty, has fully settled in on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  July proved to be pleasantly cool and mild for the most part.  We have experienced days with unusually clear and crisp light, the kind that makes colors seem more intense, and the surroundings radiate a vibrancy not normally seen at this time of year.  Rainfall in our area has ceased now, and the grass underfoot slowly browns and curls as it enters its summer dormancy.  It is the time of Queen Anne’s Lace, with her myriad, snowy fractal-like umbrels dancing in the breezes that stir the farm as the land warms in the morning sun.  Coast Dandelions (hypochaeris radicata) and Common Dandelions (taraxacum officinale) wave a colorful hello from the orchard, and mints of several varieties attract what honeybees are out and about this year.  Wind is in one of her playful moods today, occasionally rustling the leaves in the apples trees and ringing the chimes on the porch to get my attention.

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Queen Anne’s Lace in our front garden. Thrives at this time of year.

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If you look carefully, you can see a couple of the visiting bees. They moved to the undersides of the flower spikes just before I took the photo. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

We are also coming into the time of Dust Devils, those carefree vortices that slowly spin their way across large tracts of farmland, sending the dust of Oregon’s fertile valley skyward until the crisp blue above takes on a tan hue.  I close the windows of my car, and turn the ventilation selector to recirculate.  After wheat and grass seed crops are harvested around the Willamette Valley, the soil will be tilled and then finally pulverized by impressively large machines that at a distance, are reminiscent of the giant Sandworms of Dune.  Warm, sunny conditions spawn these children of the Wind, rotating columns of air and dust that go by various names in different countries.  Thought to be the spirits of the deceased in many cultures around the world, Dust Devils visit the valley each year, reminding us of what was, and whispering to those who will listen what will be.

For more information on Dust Devils, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_devil

The original owners were quite thoughtful in planting a variety of bushes, trees and vines.  As one type of fruit is winding down its production, one or more others are coming into ripeness.  Cherries are followed by blueberries, followed by blackberries and raspberries, plums, apples, pears, grapes and finally, persimmons in late October, early November.

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Developing purple plums will provide tasty fruit for us soon!

We are pleased that what we thought might be the beginnings of mummy berry in our blueberry patch has turned out not to be the case, and we collected a good 56 quarts of delicious fruit.  This is far more than I thought we might get after the deer destroyed 10 bushes last fall during rutting season.  Most have sent new shoots up from the roots, and if I can keep these protected, will produce fruit next year.  Mother Nature has her own way of enforcing any pruning I cannot get to, so it would seem.  Sometimes pruning is done by neighboring livestock.  This young pear tree I planted 2 years ago was half-eaten by a horse leaning over the fence and pushing aside the 3 layers of hog fencing around tree.  Needless to say, I moved the pear tree to a safer location.

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Pear tree with serve pruning by equine arborist.

The warm, dry start followed by cool, wet weather conditions this spring and early summer were conducive to some anomalies showing up later.  We noted what we think may be some crown gall in the main pinot noir vineyard, the first year we have seen any.

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Main pinot noir vineyard

Rick also noted a strange phenomenon in the table grapes this year.  He brought some partially grown table grape berries to me, with what at first look appeared to be some sort of insect damage or gall on the fruit.  After cutting the berries in half, it was apparent that some of the seeds had pushed their way through the skin of the developing fruit, and were developing in a thin sack partially outside of the berry.  We have never seen this phenomenon in the 12 going on 13 years we have been here on this farm.  Photographs were sent to the Extension Service, and we are waiting for an explanation.

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Our table grapes. This vine is the variety Cascade, deep purple when ripe, and is a seeded variety. Always well ahead of the pinot noir at bud break and veraison, the time of ripening.

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News from The Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is our own little Miss Hope, sister of Mr. Marcus and one of the Girls of Salmon Brook Farms.  Miss Hope would like readers to know that she and her brother turn 9 years old this August. She says the weather has been quite pleasant, and she enjoys the breezes coming in the window.

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Miss Hope, sister of Mr. Marcus

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The twins – Miss Hope (left) and Mr. Marcus (right)

Feral kittens born under the old house, the two have had many adventures with the rest of the cat crew over the years.   Miss Hope is also a good wrestler, and can pin down any of the boys in a match except Mr. Lucio.  Most of the time she prefers a good snooze in the guest room, and has been keeping close company with Mr. Nano.

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Mr. Lucio (left) and Mr. Marcus (right). Mr. Marcus wants to do everything his buddy is doing!

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Mr. Nano. Has been spending more time with Miss. Hope these days.

Music News (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

We enjoyed seeing our friends Laurie Jennings and Dana Keller up at the Silverton Library in July!  They will be performing in Oregon again in August.  Please visit their website at

http://www.jenningsandkeller.com/

****

And as for me?

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I am making some progress, along with some setbacks, in terms of my own health.  It has been a long, slow process of recovering from caregiving, and it will have to run its course.I am still on hiatus from performing, but continuing to play and enjoy down time with my guitars while I continue to recuperate.   I learned how to make videos in late winter and do some rudimentary editing.  Technology continues to make leaps and bounds, allowing the small-time geek, tinkerer, and putterer like myself another means of expressing and sharing creativity.  Expect a surprise in months to come!  I won’t promise when, though.  I am savoring this time of few obligations to anyone except myself, the farm, and it inhabitants.

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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

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A cardinal flower in one of the front gardens, enjoying a bit of morning sun. Purchased from the local nursery, it brings back memories of the wild ones I would encounter in my youth.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for November 2015

Our feature photo this month is of recent nighttime visitor to the farm.  On Sunday the 15th,  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 appears to be a nutria, a young one, from what I can tell.  In the almost 12 years we have been here, we have only seen one other come through the farm, a large adult traveling through during daylight hours. Nutria are known to intimidate small dogs, and can pack quite a serious bite if cornered.  These beaver-like rodents are not native to the United States, but have become naturalized in many areas, and can be very destructive.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website has more information for those who are interested.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/nutria.asp

News from the farm

Water, water everywhere now, while the Pacific Northwest is getting pummeled with heavy rain and strong winds.  Jaws and fellow gophers have curtailed activities, and perhaps moved to higher ground as their burrows flood and sometimes spout water like mini artesian wells.  The weather can, and does, change frequently during the day, a kaleidoscope of cloud and sun, shadows and light. A fast running river of clouds passed overhead on Tuesday, a turbulent grey on grey I could see through the depths of to higher, brighter clouds and occasional blue.   I watched the tall, massive ash trees in the wooded corner bend and sway in the wind, marveling at the strength and flexibility of these rooted giants, and the force of the wind moving them in wild dance.  My thoughts drifted to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents, and I wondered if these thrashing venerable trees would somehow walk out of their section of woods.  Higher elevations have already seen some snow, and the forecast is for temperatures in the 20s here by the end of next week.  I will need to finish closing down the gardens for the season, and insulating exposed water lines.

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Storm’s edge – an earlier set of storms blowing through the area.

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A break in the storm towards sundown.

Night settles in.  At roughly 800 feet, the farm lies in a bowl of sorts in the Cascade foothills.  Cold air ponds in this depression, and thickening mists slowly obliterate the surrounding hills until all that is visible are the cold, dripping tendrils that writhe and curl under the lights.  Somewhere up above the clouds the moon is growing again.  It can be very difficult to observe the lunar cycles and night sky during the winter months here.  Old Man Winter is on the way now, and all in his path will bend to his will.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Willow, the old Calico matriarch, came through her recent dentistry with flying colors, and wants readers to know she is still a force to be reckoned with in the house, and is back to keeping Rick’s mother company.

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Willow – also a Force of Nature.

The crew does not have much to report this month, and has decided napping is a much better plan than battling gophers and nutria.  Mr. Lucio is a master at looking like he is working hard at being comfortable.

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Mr. Lucio, hard at work.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

We are taking a brief hiatus until next year, working on personal projects and elder care, which consumes much time and energy.  Keep checking the schedule.  We will surface again in 2016!  Old Seabisquit the Subaru , my faithful gigging traveling companion, got a much needed oil change and air filter from me, and is patiently waiting for me to pop in a new gas filter, spark plugs and wires.  Not to mention a good cleaning….

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

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The sun sets more to the southwest these days, and beamed a pleasant goodnight over the neighbor’s roof on that particular evening after a day of many passing storms.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for July 2015

Our feature photo this month is the Return of the Jedi Deer. I spied them under the apple trees in late June, in the dim light of early dawn. One turned to look at me just before I pressed the shutter button, and the surprised doe’s eyes caught the camera’s flash, giving her a laser-eyed Jedi look. The pressure from these roving cervids, who are looking for water and anything green, has started early with this year’s drought. Click on any photo to enlarge.

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Visiting deer, early morning late June.

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Deer fencing up in the background, protecting the pinot noir. They would love to get inside the gate…

News from the farm

The long days of summer are passing all too quickly on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. Blueberry season is upon us, and we are in a race with hungry birds for the dark blue treasure! Cherry season was early and short due to early hot weather, and Robins, cedar waxwings, bluejays and flickers are among the feathered ones who have now turned their attention to the berry patch. There is much wastage as the birds often stick their beaks in fruit without actually eating it. I pull off and toss those on the ground, hoping to deflect attention away from good berries still on the bush.

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Fresh mound. Gophers still hard at work. They never take time off…

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Blueberry patch.

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South view. The surrounding hills are looking a bit brown and dry.

August weather patterns and high temperatures arrived in June, and the landscape looks more like early August out there as opposed to early July. We had a small amount of rain last week coupled with some passing thunderstorms. For a short time, the mineral scent of wet earth and pungent vegetation permeated the air and revived the senses while the staccato sound of rain on the metal roof played in the background. Old Man Thunder and his herd rode though quickly that evening, leaving us with a rainbow to the east in the fading light, and the promise of a clear evening and open skies for cooling off the land to the west. Although still dry, we are down in the 70s and low 80s for the time being, and the evening’s breeze sends cool tendrils in the windows. I take a long look across this bowl we live in to the hills beyond, and drink up the elixir of the coming darkness. Deer and small creatures of the night emerge. This is their realm.

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Rainbow in the eastern sky at sundown.

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Clearing skies to the west.

The Egg Fairy has started coming around again, now that his chickens are recovering from the heat. He stealthily rides in on his BMW 1150 motorcycle, or red truck, depending on where else he is going and what he is delivering. I don’t know quite how he does that, as I often don’t hear him come down the driveway with his daughter, who actually maintains the flock. They magically leave fresh local eggs in a special location, and our empty egg cartons disappear. We still struggle with elder care, which consumes more and more of our time. It is wonderful to have good friends and fairies of various types who help us and makes deliveries!

For Mandy, at Rocky Springs Rambles in Australia ( https://rockysprings.wordpress.com/ ) , here are the promised photos of the old horse Brimstone, and pony Spring Frost. That is me back in my teenage days riding Brimstone bareback in that photo, heading out for a trail ride, photographed by my mother. He was a handsome Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred cross. Known as “The Pickle” to the horseshoer. He would lean on Jerry, slowly pushing him down as the farrier worked diligently on a front hoof. Jerry, who was slowly sinking down under the weight of a tilting horse, would eventually figure out what was happening, and wap him one. Slowly the horse tilted back up, removing the weight off of Jerry’s back, and shoeing continued once again. This show repeated itself several times during the process of shoeing. Tilt down.  Wap.  Tilt up.  Wait.  Tilt down.  Wap.  Tilt up. Wait.  Repeat…..  Brimstone was also branded “daemon” by my mother for sneaking up behind her one day and pushing her into the manure pile. Occasionally chased children who cut through his field, in spite of being warned about him. “DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE FIELD!!!! HE WILL GET YOU!!!!!” Standing alert by the barn with ears forward, he would spy a potential victim crossing the back pasture. Starting off at a happy trot towards the unsuspecting “intruder”, the ears would go back in a threatening position once he was sure he had been seen by the victim, and the happy trot became a determined lope. He would stay just behind the children who were running for their lives (in one case, an adult), stretch out his neck, snapping his teeth just behind their heads. He liked the “fear factor” in his shows. He never hurt anyone, but liked to have “fun” with people. People who were warned….  All I remember being told about him back then was that his father was a Quarter Horse named Little A&M, and his mother was a Thoroughbred named Agnes. I was also told he was 8 years old. The vet said more like 16….but he was beautiful, strong and was in great shape. And he could jump. He came to live down at the barn with Frosty the pony.

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Brimstone and Lavinia, way back when. Heading out for a trail ride.

This photo is of me on Spring Frost, my pony, and school chum Tracy who borrowed Brimstone for one of the local fair horse shows. Frosty won a first-place blue ribbon and trophy, and Brimstone came in third with a yellow ribbon in whatever respective classes we were registered for that morning. Brimstone also had a habit of taking an occasional pot shot with a rear hoof at nearby horse in the ring, which the judge understandably would frown upon. Dear old Mom was not an exceptional photographer, but she was a good documenter of the occasion. She captured the most important part of this scene, our mounts sporting their hard-won ribbons. Somewhere I have a photo of Brimstone with his Reserve Champion ribbon he and I won one year. That is the missing photo I am looking for! And I still do have the ribbons and trophies.

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Brimstone and school chum Tracy in the back. I’m on Spring Frost the pony. Horse show at a local fair.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is little Nod, a.k.a “Sister Bertrille, The Flying Nod”, for her ability to take a flying leap from 6 feet away and land on my shoulder. Fortunately for me, she is the smallest of the Sisters, and lightest weight. As well as being an accomplished acrobat, she is never short of comments, on any topic. Nod would like to reminisce this month and show photos from the old days when The Three Sisters first arrived at Salmon Brook Farms as little homeless waifs with brother Tio Pepe and Mama Silvie. Tio and Silvie went to live with a friend, and are doing quite well as one can see! The Three Sisters never found placement, as I did not want to break up this close-knit cat family any further. No one wanted, or could afford, three cats. Being a rural area, everyone around here seems to have six or more of their own, and not by choice. Comes with the territory. The girls are now almost 2 years old, and this is the only loving home they have ever known. So the Three Sisters will remain with us, and have become a part of the legends and stories of this place we call home.

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The Gang of Four kittens. Little brother Tio Pepe looks comfy in the company of his sisters.

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Nod in her kittenhood days. Plenty to say about everything! Her unusual eye color was becoming apparent.

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Nod all grown up. Still a kitten at heart.

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Mama Silvie when she first came to visit. We knew she was nursing kittens…somewhere….

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Mam Silvie and son Tio Pepe in their new home, some time later. Tio has grown up but still loves his mother. Photo courtesy of J.B.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

The farmers markets here are in full swing, with music of all kinds to heard and enjoyed. I am one among many out there performing at these local markets, as well as book music for a couple of them. Most of us will never have been heard of outside of our respective areas, and will only have been heard in passing.   I will be taking a break at the end of September for a short while, unless something comes up I can’t refuse, so I can get back to working in my studio again. Between farm, performing and caregiving, I had to put something aside for now. Everything in its place and season. Fall and winter will be here before too long, and I will have a bit more time to play in the studio and get the Tiny Farm Concerts channel up and running on You Tube.   Stay tuned.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAjYb_euiUZ5CFOjzWmiZWQ

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Lily’s Memorial “Don’t Bully Me” Garden. For a teenage girl who committed suicide a few years ago after being bullied. Kindness, patience and respect for others is often the hardest thing to achieve in life, but one we must all strive for. May her spirit find peace.

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

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2015

Our feature photo this month is Rick hard at work in the table grapes.  The annual pruning of the vines is already underway here, beginning in the long rows of tables grapes on the north side, and will end in the pinot noir vineyard behind the deer fencing to the south.  Vines are trimmed back to the two healthiest looking canes, which will be trained horizontally along the trellis wire.  These two chosen horizontal canes contain buds which will produce this years shoots and fruiting canes.  Some cuttings will be taken in the pinot noir vineyard to start new replacement vines for those killed by gophers, drought or cold snap. Grapes vines will root readily on their own when stuck directly into the ground, or into pots of native soil.

After bud break, when the shoots (deer candy) start to grow, vines outside the deer fencing will be ripe for attack by roving cervids (mammals in the deer family) after dark.  In the early stages of growth, deer will eat new shoots right back to the trunk.  When the shoots start to grow, Rick will treat the them with Deer-Off, a commercial repellent mix, until the canes are old enough the deer lose interest in snacking on them.  See http://www.havahart.com/about-deer-off

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This vine is ready for spring and waiting for bud break.

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Rick working his way down the row, pruning and attaching canes along the trellis wire.

News from the farm

Winter Solstice has come and gone, and the sun is finally making the long journey back north.  We’ve experienced more than one cold snap so far, and January has only just begun on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  It is the season of thick, white mists that have writhe and curl under the porch lights at night, the cold, heavy breath of the mountains.  Yet the daffodils have already started their annual climb from the cold, wet clay soil towards the growing light.  Intrepid gold-maned dandelions have been braving the elements all winter long, keeping their blooms low, close to the protection of their leafy rosettes.

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Dandelion in Winter – keeping a bright but low profile amid the budding daffodils.

My garden bed preparations have taken a back seat to unplanned repairs to outbuildings and water drainage projects.  While the pocket gophers have been busy tunneling away in various locations, I have been busy tunneling out by the old garage.  I thought I might be able to go under the sidewalk, but was soundly defeated by the hard-packed and heavy, wet clay soil.  A kindly neighbor brought over a saw and chopped through a section of sidewalk to make way for the drain pipe.  I have new respect for those heavily muscled little rodents.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife describes the local Camas Pocket Gopher as being one of the most vicious animals known for its size.

See http://www.dfw.state.or.us/species/mammals/gopher.asp

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Sure sign of a Gopher at Work. Mounds dot the back of the property like a small city.

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Sure sign of a Human at Work. Does not have the built in functionality of the resident rodent population and must use saw, pickaxe and shovel.

Along with giving thanks to good friends and neighbors who have helped us out here on Salmon Brook Farms over the years, I would like to express our appreciation to all who have stopped by this website and given their positive comments, likes, follows and even just passing page views.   You will see their comments (click on comments on the left hand side of any page) as well as their avatars at the bottom of various pages on this blog site.  Some of the most beautiful photographs, poetry and prose I have ever seen and read are posted by WordPress bloggers.  Please do have a look at their sites!

A very special thank you goes to Tom  at Cats at the Bar and Doug at Weggie Boy’s Blog for putting together a joint list of the top 23 blogs they follow, and giving us a mention along with those other awesome folks!  It was totally unexpected, and a pleasant surprise.

http://catsatthebar.org/2015/01/01/the-weggie-list/

http://phainopepla95.com/2015/01/01/the-weggie-list/

A few members of our cat crew….

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Abby “Abba Dabba Doo” Abyssinian. Her 13th birthday coming up this year! She is blind in her right eye, but does not let this stop her from enjoying life.

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Hope (top) and brother Marcus (bottom). Usually found together or with third twin Nano.

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And the “third twin” Nano…

 History of this site – this section was posted in our April 2014 newsletter

If you have ever seen any episodes of Ray Bradbury Theater, you may recall the intro where Bradbury is seated at his typewriter in his office, surrounded by all kinds of interesting objects collected during his life.  He scans the room, looking for something to catch his eye, and his imagination, and then begins to type.   Here on Salmon Brook Farm, between the all too numerous gopher mounds, assorted critters wandering through, family, friends and travels, I can find plenty of material to get a newsletter started.  The newsletter itself has changed radically over the years.  Its roots started in Connecticut, beginning with just a brief list of gigs, and later grew into to sporadic reports on the list of upcoming gigs, and what was in season on our farm here in Oregon.  I took over writing them in 2007 when Rick tired of the task.  The content and scope continued to change as I worked at finding a way to verbally paint in email what we saw, and what life out here was like to people back east.  It finally became a blog in 2013 when Rick retired from playing music, and I tired of keeping an email list.  With some encouraging feedback on content from readers of the email newsletters, I dove into the murky, unknown realm of blogging, figuring this might be a good place to archive the writings, and readers beyond the realm of the old mailing list could help themselves.  A few photos would augment the archives, filling in the cracks.  Old Klaatu had passed away in May of 2013, and I wanted to tell the story of this unusual feline that wandered into our lives, a memorial of sorts to that wild, elusive spirit of his.  Thus was born salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com in June of 2013.  It is still evolving, a work in progress.  Learning as I go!  Writing, or even playing music, for me is like working with a unruly or skittish horse – sometimes rears, bucks or outright throws me, sometimes stops dead in front of a gate and I go sailing head over heels, reins still in hand, crashing on the other side – but it is always an interesting ride of discovery.  When the two finally do manage to work together, the ride is smooth and synchronous.  Horse and rider both feel the rhythmic connectivity, understand each other, and move as one over the terrain.  I feel nothing but joy.

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Note – to read about an unusual goat encountered on our travels, please visit the April 2014 newsletter.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I’ll be kicking off my winter season at the Corvallis Indoor Winter Market in January on the 17th, followed by my favorite coffee house Cornerstone Coffee up in McMinnville on January 31st.  Always glad to see you!

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

GuildJumbo

Rick and I share this guitar, shown from three views. It was built at the old Guild factory in Westerly, Rhode Island. Fender bought Guild and eventually moved operations to the west coast. Rick calls this guitar “The Hammer”. “Rings like silver and shines like gold”.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for October 2014

Our feature photo this month is of two Black-tailed deer fawns which were born out back earlier this year, and have made themselves comfortable here on the farm.  I had to take the photo out the east window in order to catch them lounging.  Their mama Jane Doe (see our September 2014 posting) unfortunately taught them to eat the roses and unprotected plants up by the house.  I put up netting, to which the deer mounted a counterinsurgency against the rebel farmers, ripping the netting and attacking peppers, tomatoes and eggplants.  So much for keeping a few plants near the house within easy reach!  I was then reminded of why we switched from the easy-to-install 7ft high net fencing, to the much more expensive 8ft metal fencing that is not so easy to install, for the main garden/pinot vineyard.

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News from the farm:
Old Jack Frost has not arrived, just yet, on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. We have had a little rain now, not enough to green field and hillside, but welcome all the same.  Wandering clouds that come through at this time of year have put on weight, like bears that have fattened up at stream and river on salmon for the winter.  The fluffy, white fair-weather cumulus and cirrus mares’ tails we saw all summer have been replaced by dark, blue-grey muscle-bound behemoths that sometimes drop rain in patches, or melt across the sky and drizzle for a day or two.  The steady, heavy rains will come later, and the hard-packed clay soil will soften enough to dig again.

I normally look forward to our yearly visit from golden-haired Summer, and her gracious bounty of fruits and vegetables.  She scorched us this past season, however, bringing record heat and drought, priming conditions for intense fires.  She seems to have softened her view lately, sending us mornings that have not dropped below 40, and daytime temperatures mostly in the 70s or low 80s.  The sun is at an angle from the south these days, and the warmth feels good, appreciated my plant and animal alike.  Old Jack is waiting though, and if I am not quick enough installing our low-tech season-extending technology in the garden (plastic sheeting over PVC pipe hoops), I will awake some morning to find the garden frozen in a silvery death-mask, which will wilt and darken in the heat of day. At roughly 800 feet in the Cascade foothills, we are also in a bowl, and we are subject to ponding of cold air. I beg Summer to stay with us, for just a little while longer.  Fortunately, grapes and apples are capable of withstanding a light frost, and I am grateful for as much hang-time on vine and tree as possible.  They are our last real crops of the season, and we are fortunate enough to have a steady customer for table grapes this year.

Our pinot vineyard, which was not under bird netting, did not fare as well as our table grapes, which were protected.  We lost much of the crop to birds and bees within what seemed like just a few days.  I threw netting up over a few remaining sections of intact grapes in Rick’s vineyard in addition to my own two “test” rows, and will press these soon. I had been hoping for a little more hang-time, and I am not sure I will get it.  This year will be a low-tech, low-budget experiment, a “getting the feet wet”, in winemaking.  I am not expecting miracles….

Pinot vines - grapes stripped mostly by birds

Pinot vines – grapes stripped mostly by birds

Pinot noir grapes.  Honeybees as well as yellow jackets love the sugary juice.  Like cattle, honeybees need forage and water.  Both in short supply this time of year.

Pinot noir grapes. Honeybees as well as yellow jackets love the sugary juice. Like cattle, honeybees need forage and water. Both in short supply this time of year.

On the feline front, our cats continue to grow older along with us.  Furry friends and teachers, little elvish creatures, they are all part of the legends and stories of this place we call home.  See the Cats of Salmon Brook Farm page for the whole cast of characters.

The Three Sisters, left to right - Nod, Blynken and Wynken, investigating fresh catnip from the garden.

The Three Sisters, left to right – Nod, Blynken and Wynken, investigating fresh catnip from the garden.

 

Way back when Marcus was a kitten...

Way back when Marcus was a kitten…

And now...7 years later.  Marcus all grown up and washing his old friend Lucio.

And now…7 years later. Marcus all grown up and washing his old friend Lucio.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page):

My taking a break from performing this fall turned out to be somewhat fortuitous.  The vitreous detachment I experienced in August progressed into a torn retina in September, and I underwent laser surgery a couple of weeks ago.  It’s hard not to lift, or carry much weight while this eye heals, living on a place like this, and I’ve had to learn to work smarter, not harder.  Some projects involving digging or pouring cement will have to postponed. Since Rick retired from music, I am a one-woman show these days, traveling with two 12-strings, a 6-string, and a full sound system, which is old, meaning heavy.  I hope to be back in the saddle with old Seabisquit by mid-winter.  In the meantime, I’m working on getting the recording studio moved over to Linux, working some new recordings, and I may just stick them up on the net for all to enjoy.  The sub-pages under music are always a work in progress.  The full listing of songs on the old CD, the stories behind why some were written, or chosen to cover, are now there.  Help yourself!

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

Don't wait for the sun to set to tell those you love how much you love them.  Consider every day with those you love a gift.

Don’t wait for the sun to set to tell those you love how much you love them. Consider every day with those you love a gift.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for September 2014

Our feature photo this month is the view from the farm facing the hills to the south.  The land everywhere is quite dry and withered at this time of year after a summer of record heat.

News from the farm:

September quietly arrived on dry winds that play in the tired, drooping leaves of water-stressed trees, coaxing music from these stoic giants who cannot flee from drought.  Nimble fingers of breezes, spawned from the warming land after a cool, clear night, play the wind chimes on the porch as if it were a harp.  The Wind tells a story of where it has been, and where it’s going, and will sometimes sit and talk for a while, as an old friend back east likes to say.  Nature provides a concert like no other for those who will listen!  As summer comes to a close here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills, I can feel the nip of the approaching autumn creeping in the windows at night, tapping me on the back as I write.  I know old Jack Frost and his icy paintbrush can’t be far away now.  Clear dawns often give birth to silver mists in the low areas such as ours, metamorphosing into low clouds as the sun rises, and clearing by noon.  Wandering cumulus clouds snuffle about the crystal blue dome of sky these days, and the growing moon may play hide and seek among them in the night.  Summer’s heat is not quite done with us yet though, and temperatures in the 90s are predicted for this weekend.  It is quite dry, ignition dry, out there, and fire danger is still high.  The clay soil has baked as hard as a brick, and I am waiting for the rains to come again to move plants, and plant trees and bulbs.   The table grapes and pinot noir are ripening quickly in this heat.  So far the harvest looks like it will be a good one.

Table grapes safely ripening behind bird netting.  Safe from birds, but not yellow jackets or the clever paws of raccoons!

Table grapes safely ripening behind bird netting. Safe from birds, but not yellow jackets or the clever paws of raccoons!

Pinot noir grapes ripening behind the deer fencing.  Safe from deer, but not from birds or creatures that can get through the mesh of the fence.

Pinot noir grapes ripening behind the deer fencing. Safe from deer, but not from birds or creatures that can get through the mesh of the fence.

 

Wildlife of various kinds are looking for food, and water.  Stinklesby, our resident skunk (see our August newsletter), has been about causing mischief. Although I have not seen the little fellow in a while, I have smelled his presence, often under our window at night.  The acrid perfume emanating from these cute little creatures can rouse one from a sound sleep, and wake every feline in the house as well.  He managed to fire one off under old Seabisquit the Subaru recently, making a stinky ride downtown for me one morning.  On the way to town I recall an old saying I often heard growing up, something to the effect of children are best seen and not heard, and I laugh and note to myself that skunks are best seen and not smelled.  Stinklesby’s friend and cohort, Jane Doe (a female deer) , has been grazing closer and closer to the house under cover of darkness, nipping buds from the roses along with the clover and grass in areas where I have watered various gardens. I know she is waiting out there with knife and fork for the evening one of us forgets to shut the gate on the main garden and pinot noir vineyard.  The growing moon reveals Jane and other critters coming and going at night, if one happens to be up, and looks out the window in the wee hours.

 

Abby cat having a good sunbath in the kitchen window.

Abby cat having a good sunbath in the kitchen window.

Little Hope cat lounging by the refrigerator, source of all good things to eat.

Little Hope cat lounging by the refrigerator, source of all good things to eat.

 

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page):

I am off doing work around the homestead until mid-winter, when Seabisquit the Subaru and I will be performing again.  The old car’s odometer has now passed 420,000 miles, and needs some work too!  Thanks to all who came to see me at the various farmers’ markets and venues over the spring and summer.  It is good to see old friends, and make new ones, one of the things I love best about playing music out and about.

In the meantime, our readers and followers in the U.K. should catch Dana and Susan Robinson while they are touring the U.K. this September through October 5th.  These two are really great musicians, as well as really good, good people.  New songs of rural America and old time mountain music!

http://www.robinsongs.com

If you are in the vicinity of Mohegan Lake, New York, another great musician and songwriter to catch is Donna Martin.  She will be at the Winery at St. George on September 24th.

http://www.donnamartin.com

And finally, one of my all time favorite musicians and songwriters, Bernice Lewis.  Her About page says it best.  Based out of Massachusetts, she does travel quite a bit.  Check her schedule for a venue near you!  My favorite quote from her website: “She has a forty-year old daily yoga practice, loves good coffee, and her religion is the Grand Canyon.”

http://www.bernicelewis.com

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And me? I’ve continued to expand and rearrange the sub-pages under music.  The full listing of songs on the CD, the stories behind why some were written, or chosen to cover, are now there.  Help yourself, and be sure to check out the sub pages for more information!

https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com/music/

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

Memorial garden for for a youngster who committed suicide after being bullied.  A reminder, each time I pass this barrel of reblooming daylilies, of the importance of being kind to others.  May her spirit find peace at last.

Memorial garden for for a youngster who committed suicide after being bullied. A reminder, each time I pass this barrel of reblooming daylilies, of the importance of being kind to others. May her spirit find peace at last.

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