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/

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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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