Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for July 2017

Readers may click on any photo in this post to enlarge.  Our feature photo for July is of some resident paper wasps found nesting in one of the blueberry bushes this month. We are not sure if they are native paper wasps, or European paper wasps in the genus Polistes. The legs tend to dangle below them in flight.  Both types prey on insects.

Paper nest building wasps have built a home in a blueberry bush.

I almost put my hand in their nest by accident while berry picking.  Fortunately for me, these paper nest building wasps were relatively non-aggressive, only flying out to investigate who was disturbing them, returning to nest sitting once they were satisfied I was no serious threat.  Satisfied in turn that they were no serious threat to me, I have been picking that bush right up to the immediate vicinity of their nest since then, and have enjoyed observing them.  The paper nest, being situated where it is at the top of the blueberry bush, has no real protection from relentless sun, or the autumn rains when they come.   In this case, they have selected a doomed building site.  I will not disturb these industrious wasps that feed on other insects, and continue to work around them this season.  Unfortunately, their ground nesting relatives the yellow jackets in the genus Vespula or Dolichovespula, tend to be highly aggressive, swarming and stinging without what we humans feel is sufficient provocation; we usually have to eradicate at least one nest, generally found by accident during the season, only because they present a real physical danger.

News from the farm

Among the many visitors to the farm this month were the gray foxes.  Rick came out with binoculars early one evening, indicating he had seen four of them cavorting on a pile of grass clippings out back.  There were only two by the time I had a look, and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of quick photos before they disappeared. According to ODFW, there are three species of foxes in Oregon: the Common Gray Fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus, the Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, and the Kit Fox, Vulpes velox.  Our visitors, as best as I can tell, were gray foxes.

A curious fellow wanting to know why I was interested in him. 3x telephoto is the maximum this old Sony camera can do.

He proceeded towards the woods, but stopped to have a look.

Same fox, doubled back for another look. Click on any photo in this blog to enlarge.

Having been spared continual excessive heat earlier this season, we have now entered the time of heat and seasonal drought here in western Oregon. As the chapter for this July comes to a close with temperatures in the mid 90s, August will make her debut with 100+ degree temperatures for several days.  The hillsides have appropriately transitioned from emerald green to a more seasonal dress of toasted gold as grass withers and goes dormant.  Deer will grow bolder, coming closer to the house, looking for any green shoots they can nip.  Every creature will be looking for shelter from the relentless heat, adequate food, and whatever source of water or moisture they can find.  I find myself becoming more of a crepuscular creature at this time of year, preferring to be active in early morning and late evening.  Tree, shrub, vine and plant life in general are not so fortunate.  Stoic beings rooted in place, they bear the sun’s searing heat in silence, waiting for rain, or a kindly drink from a watering can or soaker hose.

A golden gladiola in Elbert’s Garden at the end of the day. The garden bed this gladiola graces along the side of the greenhouse was planted for Elbert. It has grown to include others now as well. It is the gift of the living to those left behind, sometimes the only meaningful kind thing I can do. See

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

There was some confusion among the correspondents this month as to whose report for July was being filed for publication, and was complicated by the photographer forgetting to pack a camera along on a recent trip to the northern California coast.  Mr. Nano has decided to file a quick report on an unusual skull found in a garden bed next to the garage.

Correspondent Nano

A small white object lying in the mulch amid withered daffodil leaves drew attention to itself.  It could not have been there long, yet did not seem to be too recent.  Mostly clean and still bone white, no other bones were found along beside it to aid in identification.  The cavity where the brain once resided and directed the body’s activities seemed relatively large, the upper jaw long and narrow with many sharp teeth.  Any information leading to the identification of the specimen would be greatly appreciated.

Alas poor Yorick, although I did not know him at all. Young possum, perhaps?

Yorick skull bottom view, showing teeth.

Top view of skull.

We wish our readers a pleasant day and evening ahead, wherever you may be.

– Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

For those readers who are new or catching up, the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel now has content, and our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March. I am 14 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! I have received a request for a video of “Believe in Tomorrow” from the Keepsake CD, so that task is still in my work queue, which gets longer and harder to keep up with in summer.  The days disappear all too quickly, and Rick and I managed to get in a three day vacation to go down to Arcata, California to see Jennings & Keller in concert, with the help of Lyn, who took care of the cats and the farm while we were away.  I have no new videos for July as promised due to all the activity here, but 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

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

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.


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 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

About Cynthia:

Cynthia Reyes on

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:


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.


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


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Miss Hope, sister of Mr. Marcus


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.


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


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


And as for me?


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.


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


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.