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 and

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.