Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for April 2018

Our feature photo this month is one of our more tenacious, scrappy and colorful residents, a shrub I believe is a most likely a flowering quince. Planted by the previous owner right next to the well house, Lucille soon outgrew her allotted space.  I moved her some years ago, to a location where she could grow unfettered by human gardening sensibilities. She proved difficult to extract from the hard clay soil, having firmly entrenched herself by sending many roots far underneath the cement floor of the well house. Like the original Disney movie The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, starring Mickey Mouse, the numerous rootlets cut and left behind soon regrew into many, sending up stout shoots between cracks in the floor, and all around the building. It is now a continual struggle to keep her myriad offspring at bay.

Lucille, flowering quince

News from the farm

It has been a long, slow transition from the cold, damp reign of Old Man Winter. He has lurked about longer than usual this year, taking his time moving on down the road. The exuberant growth of spring cannot be contained for long, however, each species in turn rushing to complete its flowering cycle before the next phase. Daffodils have peaked and are now waning with the moon; bud break has occurred in the vineyard; the first iris has opened by the old garage.

First iris of the spring season!

Our only surviving tulips outside any planters, planted in gravel by the garage. Too much work for gophers and voles?

The skies of spring are highly changeable, drawn from the rivers of moisture flowing over the Pacific Northwest and painted with an artist’s eye from a palette of blues, greys, golds and white. Coming down off the foothills into the valley floor below, the sky often opens a bit for the observer. From here, one can see the armada of wind driven clouds sailing up the valley, heading north, some lodging like river foam along the banks of mountains, the Coastal and Cascade ranges. Each cloud floats at a level according to its buoyant density. Dark grey flat bottoms mark the lowest level of the heavily laden cumulonimbus, carrying the lavender grey and stark white mushroom towers and canyons above like floats in a parade. The still angled sun casts its gaze upon these travelers, highlighting their forms in shadow and light, much to the delight of the viewer at the bottom of the aerial river.

Crab apple tree in full bloom. The sky is typical of this time of year.

Our first thunderstorm of the season blew through on Saturday. Some partial clearing occurred that morning, soon followed by a flotilla of heavily laden cumulonimbus clouds sailing up from the southwest, creating an ever changing scene of intense sky blue, dark charcoal to white cloud over spring green and bright gold amid the passing storms. I feel the same sense of wonder at such things as I did as a small child, when such phenomena were fresh and new. Sight evokes a sense of touch at times. One can feel the movement of clouds overhead in the shadows racing across the land, of being in warm sun one minute, then in the cold shadow speeding by the next. Eventually, all became heavy and ominous as the aerial wanderers coalesced into something bigger and more powerful than themselves. The grey ceiling became ragged. Lightning flashed, thunder pealed and rain fell as pent up energy from the day was released.

Redbud tree reaches skyward on April 28th.

Rainbows in both the east and west are many, a promise of peace to come after a long winter and dark skies. The sweet musky fragrance of fruit tree blooms fills the air, most notable towards early evening.  A growing symphony of chorus frogs ushers in the night.

An eastern rainbow created by setting sun and rain still falling as the bank of clouds moved on over the Cascades.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Mr. Nano, ever watchful

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has called upon Correspondents Miss Hope and Mr. Marcus to file their report for April. Sister and brother, they will be 11 years old this August. They have diligently been observing the farm from the window. Without further ado, Miss Hope and Mr. Marcus will present their findings.

Miss Hope (Left) and brother Mr. Marcus (right)

April came into being a wild, unruly month, not quite fitting of spring, yet no longer winter.  On April 7th, the wind was quite energetic by sunrise, ripping the cloud cover apart; the sun spilled through a break in the east, lighting the undersides of a growing mass of clouds to the west in soft shades of light peach and lavender; the waning moon in its last quarter hung pale gold in a morning blue sky. It was not long before we spotted an intense rainbow to the southwest, a sign of an approaching rainstorm coming up through the pass.

A morning rainbow in the west. Weather was moving in quickly up through the southwest pass.

The weather front moving in quickly obliterated sunrise.

Common Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale, punctuate the green fields with their bright yellow faces, adding cheer as daffodils will not last long now with the increase in temperature. Rain-swollen lichens cling to most every branch, festooning the trees in a vibrant light green-grey.  The remaining daffodils have bloomed as April bids adieu, and we greet the coming month of May.

The last of the daffodils. To the left are developing German bearded iris buds.

On many mornings, the coverlet of damp grey slowly rends under the rising sun into a patchwork of friendly cumulus, and sails away over the Cascades.   Sometimes afternoon arrives before the sun makes an appearance.

A textured afternoon sky to the south.

The sun made more frequent appearances amid dark skies and rain squalls, making promises of warmer days to come. The contrast of bright golden light against heavy blue-grey nimbus on a freshly washed, emerald green landscape is a delight to behold at this transitional time of year. On some evenings, the sky presents itself as a masterpiece in brushstrokes of light golden cream to many shades of grey cloud on a fading light blue canvas. The days grow longer; the last light faded at about 8:50 PM on April 18th as a bright silhouette of the dark side of the moon appeared with the growing crescent moon, hanging in the sky like a large eye trained out into the greater Universe. A star to the left stared back at the moon, set against the deeper Maxfield Parrish colors of last light.

Petals from plum and cherry trees are beginning their annual descent from the trees, single spent blossoms falling here and there as the apple trees begin their blooming cycle. Soon their numbers will increase until the wandering breezes are filled with them, drifting like snow and settling on the green grass below. The air is filled with their sweet, musky scent; it is a pleasant view of the orchard.

Ox-eye daisy and fallen cherry tree petals. Ox-eye daisy will bloom short and close to the ground if mowed.

The blending of pink and white in the opening buds of apple trees is a visual delight.

The pear tree. Most years it flowers too early, a hard frost or two occurs, and we get few to no pears. This year may be different.

We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

Heading towards LAX in January. View from the window.

– Resident Feline Correspondent Miss Nod, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again. April has not been any more conducive to finishing projects than March, and I will make no further excuses. Things will be done when they will be done.

For those readers who are new or catching up, do visit the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel. Our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March, 2017. I am 15 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

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

In the meantime, in your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

A solar powered frog light, a gift from a friend, watches over one of the front gardens.

 

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for March 2018

The transition from winter into spring brings forth a profusion of wildlife, blooms, and rainbows amid wild, kaleidoscopic skies. Our feature photo this month is a shy but comely daffodil residing by an apple tree near the house.

A single daffodil, tucked in near an apple tree in the previous year, presenting us with a smiling face this spring.

Over time, these individual bulbs planted here and there will continue to divide, forming colorful islands in the sea of green.

Protected from gophers, the old barrel of crocus did not disappoint us, putting on a spectacular show this year.

A half-barrel of crocus on a sunny afternoon in March.

A cluster of crocus from the same barrel, in full orange-throated song, as only such a joyous spring flower can do.

News from the farm

February passed the baton of cold weather on to March, although spring cannot readily be held back as the days lengthen and sunrise moves north along the eastern ridge towards equinox. Perhaps a blessing, cool late weather and early spring weather have kept bush, tree and vine in check from breaking bud and blooming too early.

February 26th, another light covering of short-lived snow.

Undaunted daffodils, silently waiting to open their buds.

Early March brought slightly warmer weather, and a return to green.   Stinklesby II, the first skunk of the season, came calling early on; inquisitive and hungry, he left his unmistakably scented calling card behind in many places, including the shed.  He seems to have spent some time investigating that outbuilding, unfortunately.

Stinklesby II, a handsome striped skunk, came to visit. I kept the flash off so as not to alarm him. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

Stinklesby II investigating the solar path light.

Stopping to smell the roses, although there are no roses blooming yet.

Showing us the business end. The photo shoot came to a close! It is said they can accurately spray up to 10 feet.

While the earth remained cold and wet, the first round of seeds were started indoors in preparation for warmer times.  Tomatoes are ready for transplanting into larger pots, making room for ground cherries, something I have never tried to grow, in the seed start rack.   Late winter changes continued to make themselves apparent in the local plants and animals, including myself.  Like the skunk, I feel ready to shake off winter’s torpor and wander about, soaking up the still angled but warm sun.  Everything is to be investigated, noted and logged; every ephemeral rainbow and passing cloud present a feast for the eyes to be appreciated.

Daffodils and grape hyacinths were a bit dismayed at encountering snow again on March 23rd. Hopefully this storm closed the final chapter in winter’s book.

Bright sun and a passing storm two days later produced an intense rainbow, as well as a fainter second rainbow.

Cirrus clouds quickly formed after sunrise one morning; the sun shone through the layer of ice crystal cirrostratus as if it were a light source behind a sintered glass filter.  A quick look about the sky with polarized sunglasses revealed a bright ring around the sun, and a faint cloud bow.  Nature provides a wealth of memories to those willing to take the time to look.

An evening just past sundown was noteworthy, captured in mind’s eye; sound and scent will be remembered. A sliver of growing moon hung in the fading light to the west behind the thin, long sweeping tails of cirrus clouds while the first frogs of the evening tuned up for their night-long performance; the scent of geosmin rose from the damp earth. All was as it should be.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has called upon Correspondent Miss Nod to file her report for March.  She will be 5 years old this August, and has been learning the valuable skills of observation from the crow’s nest.  Very little has escaped her sharp-eyed gaze.  Without further ado, Miss Nod will present her findings.

Feline Correspondent Miss Nod, keeping an eye on news from the crow’s nest.

In early March, I sat transfixed one morning as frost appeared to thicken into a solid white patina and sparkle as the sun rose; perhaps the mists added to it, or it was the illusion created by Old Sol’s gaze cast upon it.   The rising sun quickly dispatched Jack Frost’s handiwork; eventually the green below emerged, and all traces of the ice kingdom were gone.

Our daffodils by the old garage that bloomed in January had already begun to die back in early March, while others in less protected places were in the fat bud stage, or just emerging. Mint was slowing forming shoots and leaves from wandering rootstock, still keeping low to the ground. Crocus and other spring bulbs continued to push upward into the light, while other green shoots came out of hiding like Muchkins upon discovering Dorthy was not the Wicked Witch.

Another solitary daffodil among the daylilies.

Morning sun after a rain presents yet another view of Nature’s handiwork, spilling gold across the green winter grass and and causing the myriad water drops clinging to branch and stem to scintillate.  She sometimes sends us soft, rumply skies with patches of blue and hints of pastel color at daybreak, or dawn’s rosy glow on the underside of lavender-grey clouds.  I recall one dawn colored in Maxfield Parrish hues and a silver-gold sliver of waning moon, captured in mind’s eye.

The black locust tree at dawn on the 12th. The soft clouds in the background have captured dawn’s pink glow.

The aerial rivers of moisture that flow across the Pacific Northwest deposit a variety of cloud forms.  The light plays amid the canyons created by water-swollen cumulonimbus clouds, giving a sense of texture and depth, of places to explore.

Our multilevel sky on March 16th.

March has presented us with two full moons, on the 1st and 31st, allowing many opportunities for observation, even on nights with intermittent cloud cover.  The moon, in its last quarter, hung pale-gold in the sky.   I had seen it over the southeast horizon around 3:30 AM that morning, not long after it had risen, flooding the room with pale golden light. I fell asleep again to the sound of chorus frogs cheerfully serenading the moon’s passage high above through the blackness of space.  We all see the same moon, no matter where we reside, a common tie that binds us all on this one Earth we share.  If only that were enough.

We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead,  and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

Correspondent Miss Nod, on duty.

– Resident Feline Correspondent Miss Nod, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again.  March has not been any more conducive to finishing projects than February, and I will make no further excuses.  Things will be done when they will be done.

For those readers who are new or catching up, do visit the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel.  Our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March, 2017. I am 15 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

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

In the meantime, in your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.
 
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com
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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News from the farm

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

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

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

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

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

Rick at work pruning the pinot noir vineyard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I believe is a hoverfly visiting a daffodil.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

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

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

Taking a break while Mr. Nano is on duty.

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

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

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

Marshy wooded area in the back lot.

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

Wild garlic chives have sprung up many places out back.

Hazelnut catkins. Tiny red female flowers will follow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

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

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

For those readers who are new or catching up, the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel now has content, and our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March. I am 14 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that the harvest season, and holiday season, has passed.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

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

In the meantime, in your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Bookings and home-grown produce:

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms

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

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

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for December 2017

Our feature photo for this month is of a colony of what I believe is Usnea
longissima, or Methuselah’s Beard Lichen, growing on an apple tree along with some Parmelia sulcata, or Hammered Shield Lichen. They are quite common here, and can be seen hanging about on many trees around the farm.  When these lichens are swollen with rain in winter, distant heavily festooned deciduous trees appear to be clothed in light grey-green leaves, riding out winter alongside their dark green coniferous cousins.

Feature photo for December 2017, Methuselah’s Beard Lichen, growing on an apple tree along with some Parmelia sulcata, or Hammered Shield Lichen. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

News from the farm

The month of December passed quickly on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  The days have been a highly variable mix of cloud, rain and sun, warm to numbingly cold days and many nights below freezing.

Land of the Long Grey Cloud, a southern view from the farm on Christmas day. Many winter mornings begin this way.

Or begin this way, dawn’s colors reflected on the underside of morning clouds.

Or perhaps in misty pastel colors.

Or rose-colored contrails.

Old Man Winter established himself here early on, but seems to be currently occupied with the eastern regions of the country as they experience extremely cold and harsh conditions.  By contrast, our weather here today in western Oregon was in the mid 50s, sunny and pleasant.  We will enjoy his forgetfulness, while we can.

Christmas morning.

Fresh late-season apples were still clinging to trees in the early part of December, including a neighboring tree that has grown branches over the fenceline and over the roof of our shed.

The last hold outs, for birds only now. They were quite tasty and crisp earlier in the month.

The larger, hungry birds have since worked their way down the tree, drilling holes and slashing fruit with their beaks.  They are welcome gleaners.  Everyone must eat.

Daffodils in warmer areas with good southern exposure have already shaken off their slumber and begun the journey back up to the world of light.  Many sport buds, which will remain tightly closed until mid to late January.

Daffodils coming up by the old garage amid purple columbine seedlings on Christmas day.

Wild garlic chives stand tall above winter’s green but slower growing grass.  Pocket gophers tunnel everywhere, mounds piled up and plugged above the entrances.  Life stirs below as well as above.  I note where the tunnels are, and will collect their leavings for the gardens and barrel planters.

Gopher mounds amid the wild garlic chives.

As the afternoon comes to a close, a gibbous moon hangs in the eastern sky, white and marbled, like quartz tumbled by the sea.  My mother called such treasures cast up by the waves moonstones, and I think of her when I see the moon, looming large over the horizon, ghostly pale against a fading blue sky.  Another year has passed;  I am another year older, acutely aware of my own time and its passage here.  Mercury vapor and high pressure sodium barn and utility pole lights will soon glow like blue-green and orange stars on the surrounding hills as the sun dips below the horizon, and last light fades.  The sky is mostly clear tonight, and will be down in the 20s by morning.  A visit from Jack Frost and his silver brush is expected to close out the year.

We are thankful for all that we have, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures at this time of year.

An important and timely message for the world from the producers of these cheery and colorful crocus bulbs.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nano, ever 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.

The winter solstice has passed, and slowly, imperceptibly, the days are lengthening.  The foxes have continued to be sighted near the border of the hazelnut grove; their nightly vocalizations are muted by windows closed against the cold.  Out in the grove itself, life stirs.  A plump squirrel has taken up residence in the old ash tree, nest visible up high.   He will need to exercise caution when foraging below; many would find him a good source of much needed calories at this time of year.  In protected areas, the Lilliputian forests of ferns, mosses and lichens abound.

Ferns growing at the base of the old feral apple tree, one of the guardians of the tunnel to the back lot.

Mosses and lichens on a hazelnut tree.

Possible signs of nutria have been sighted in the form of small tunnels coming out of the underbrush leading to areas where the grass has been clipped short.  We have noted that the last set of nutria that lived here liked to “farm” an area, keeping a patch of grass clipped short to provide tender growth for their dining pleasure.  Fresh scat has not been found, however, or an actual nutria sighted this season.  The presence of foxes about may have left them more wary.

A young blacktail doe, probably one of this year’s fawns, wandered through the orchard, casually nibbling grass.  We found it surprising that they appear to urinate by squatting like a cat.  The photographer was too slow at getting the camera to catch this in progress.

Pruning of the vineyards has commenced, as it does each December, beginning in the table grapes, and ending in the pinot noir vineyard behind the deer fencing. 

Unpruned vine in the foreground. Vines pruned back to two canes in the row behind.

A venerable old table grape vine pruned back to two canes.

Cuttings have been made of the Glenora Black Seedless table grapes, and started in pots filled with gopher mound dirt.  The pots will remain in the drainage area for now to keep them wet until bud break.

Glenora Black Seedless cuttings potted up for the winter.

December has been sunnier and drier than the previous year, leaving many days to observe clouds forming in the blue rivers of moisture above.

A view from the back lot looking west.

Multilevel cloud formations, all floating at their point of buoyant density.

Friends of the farm have sent us identification and propagation challenges.  Anyone having experience propagating wild Columbia Lily from seed is encouraged to contact me.  Columbia Lily is a native lily with a tall stalk, orange tiger lily like flowers, and seed pods similar to Columbine.

This photo was sent by a friend in Cornelius who lives in a house previously owned by an avid gardener, who may be deceased at this time and unavailable for questions.  We believe this plant is in the mallow family.   A positive ID is requested.  Readers may click on the photo to enlarge.

A kind of mallow, perhaps?

Father Time continues his slow, steady tread into the coming year, taking us with him.  We see the changes in the land, and feel the changes in ourselves.  Everything is temporary, including ourselves.  Choose wisely, plant happiness wherever possible.  We wish all our readers a peaceful and bountiful year ahead.

Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nod, decided to have an eye to eye conversation with Rick regarding the vineyard.

Correspondent Blynken (left) and retired Correspondent Willow (right), warming themselves in the winter sun.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am enjoying the winter hours of slower days, long cool nights, and more time to spend on music. I completely burned out in 2015 during the last year Rick’s mother was alive and with us, trying to work part-time, play music and provide round the clock care, resulting in my taking 2016 off entirely to recover my health. This has been a year of slowly regaining my sea legs as a performer.

For those readers who are new or catching up, the Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel now has content, and our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video was posted at the end of March. I am 14 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that the harvest season, and holiday season, has passed.

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.

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

In the meantime, in your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Bookings and home-grown produce:

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms

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

A primrose in winter, photo taken 12/30/2017. This plant was being thrown away, and found sitting out by a dumpster, sad and dehydrated. It was rescued and planted out front here at the farm. It has rewarded us with blooms for years, even in winter.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for August 2017

Readers may click on any photo in this post to enlarge.  Our feature photo this month is of what we believe is a fine specimen of the orb weaver spider clan,  Argiope aurantia, commonly found hanging about gardens throughout North America.

A most comely garden resident, on duty and ever vigilant for the next meal. Interested readers can find more information at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argiope_aurantia

With luck, someday this autumn I may catch her tending her web, freshly festooned with the night’s dew. It has been too hot and dry lately to see these arachnid silk Brigadoons.  Damp, sunlit mornings can sometimes reveal an entire dazzling city of webs, which fades into invisibility in the heat of the day.

News from the farm

August brings day after day of heat and drought; temperatures in the 90s and 100s are common, with few interludes of coolness.  Large farms, such as grass seed growers, have harvested their crops, tilled and pulverized the soil with impressively large machines.  Dust devils, heat-spawned vortices known by different names around the world and thought to be the spirits of the dead in some cultures, spin lazily across the broad, barren farmlands, carrying the fertile soil of Oregon skyward until the bright blue above is stained with a tan haze.   Smoke from forest fires around the region contributes a grey hue to the canvas; the sun and moon rise in bloody orange colors against a murky, alien sky.

Early morning on August 22nd.

And the morning of August 28th. Fortunately, most of the smoke from fires has cleared at this time.

Stratified smoke and morning mists on August 22nd.

As occurs with most things in life, beauty and goodness come packaged along with assorted trials tribulations; August was no exception.  We were fortunate to have clear conditions on the day of the eclipse, and were in the path of totality.   Witness to the changing light and temperature, the emergence of stars mid morning accompanied by the blazing wedding ring in the heavens, we count ourselves among the blessed to have attended this once in a lifetime event.

The smoky pall that periodically engulfed us, and was driven aways by the winds during the month, did serve to mitigate temperatures slightly.  The roses, which ceased blooming during the earlier summer heat, have reawakened.  A close inspection of the blooms often reveals a visitor, in this instance, a 12 Spot Cucumber Beetle.  Although we normally do not see many of these beetles here, there appear to be more of them about this year.

A rose with a visitor, a 12 Spot Cucumber Beetle. Interested readers can find more information at http://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/content/western-spotted-cucumber-beetle

A 12 Spot Cucumber Beetle visiting a Rose of Sharon bloom at sundown.

I have been observing the progress of our resident paper wasps nesting in a blueberry bush.  These fascinating and relatively docile wasps were featured on last month’s post, which can be found in the archives at   https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/rick-and-lavinia-ross-farm-music-newsletter-for-july-2017/  Click on any photo on this site to enlarge.

Our paper wasps featured in our July 2017 newsletter. Photo taken July 16th.

This photo was taken August 8th. One can see that chambers have been capped off and brood is developing. The wreath of blueberries around their nest is shriveling.

The same paper wasp nest on August 29th. Young have hatched. They have survived the worst of the summer heat and drought. The blueberry wreath continues to shrivel, and the bush itself is showing signs of late summer heat stress.

Other visitors have come through, including skunks, much more pleasant seen than smelled, to the mischievous ones, some leaving paw prints on the patio and damaged bird netting from attempted grape filching. Raccoons are the prime suspects, breaking clips and ripping holes in bird netting.  They have hit our farm before, and will again. They too, enjoy the season’s bounty of fruits and vegetables.

Muddy footprints left behind after a night of overturning flower pots and general mayhem on the porch. Raccoon or skunk? The odor of skunk was very strong in the general area when the tracks were noted.

Visitors from past years consenting to be photographed included skunks and nutria.  Stinklesby, was a resident skunk for one summer.

“YOUR grapes? I thought these were MY grapes!!!!” Stinklesby was a resident for one summer, but met an untimely demise in the road.

“Visiting” nutria from late 2015 though spring 2016. They pulled the white tags out of the pots of grape starts. Yosemite Sam posing for the camera.

Rick and I have been hard at work, tending vines and gardens. Spot watering plantings to conserve water becomes a labor-intensive undertaking at this time of year, when temperatures soar into the 90s and 100s, and little to no rain falls.  The heavy, clay soil bakes brick-hard and fissures like wounds in the earth. Even gophers do not enjoy tunneling, preferring to dig in areas that were just watered.  Once verdant fields wither under relentless heat and summer sun, turning brown, then progressing into light tan to almost white, crumpled skeletons of vegetation; the grass crunches underfoot in the annual cycle of growth, drought and dormancy.

Rick, spot watering in one of the tomato beds.

Rick working the table grapes.

Cascade table grapes behind bird netting.

A test row of Early Muscat and Gewurztraminer wine grapes under insect netting we are trying out. Hopefully this will help keep out wasps and bees, who also like the sugary, moisture laden fruit.

Rick working in the main block of pinot noir. We will be selecting two of the best rows to test out insect netting.

 

Ripening pinot noir on Salmon Brook Farms.

Several rows of of the best of our pinot noir will go under insect netting soon. We will be attempting to make a test batch of wine from our own pinot noir this season using Epernay II yeast.  Last year, the birds, bees and wasps managed to clean us out, and I was left with  Cascade table grapes for testing, with promising results.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nano, ever watchful.

Mr. Nano at the Salmon Brook Farms Feline Correspondents Desk received the sad news this month of the passing of Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent Otis.  Mr. Nano, with the help of Otis’ family, has written a eulogy.

Mr. Otis, Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent, has passed away peacefully at his home in Connecticut. He will be missed by all. Photo credit C.M.

There comes a time when the body is too worn and tired to continue, and the spirit longs for freedom from it.  Mr. Otis passed away peacefully at home on August 22, 2017 after a long battle with old age and kidney disease.  A true journalist, he worked right up until the end, investigating everything that happened on his farm.  No news escaped his keen vision and nose, and he often listened in on conversations in the garage, no matter what the weather, whenever there was a gathering of men over beer and assorted snacks.  He is survived by his companions Izzy, Rosie and Sadie, and his humans Rob & Carolyn. 

We celebrate Otis’ life and legacy.  He is now a part of the history and legends of the farm he called home, woven into the tapestry of the lives of all those who loved him.   Friends for a short time, but remembered for a lifetime.  We are all made of stardust, and to the stars we all ultimately return.  The memories of those who have left us travel on starlight, to be heard on the wind as it whispers in the pines, and seen in the moon’s soft ghostly glow.

Otis, collecting news at a gathering of family and friends in February, 2016.

Otis, basking by the wood stove.

The Northeast Regional Feline Correspondents Desk HQ, February 2016.

Otis has taken over the dog bed. Photo credit C.M.

Otis, keeping an eye out for news from the hayloft. Photo credit C.M.

Otis, after a hard day of work. Photo credit R.M.

Otis curled up in his basket by the wood stove. Photo credit C.M.

Otis relaxing his his basket.

Otis relaxing on his porch. Photo credit C.M.

Mr. Otis’ family also sent the following for the readers of this newsletter.

“For the rest of my life I will search for moments full of you.”
-Anonymous

“May you have safe travels over Rainbow’s Bridge, Otis, and may you be greeted by all the other Hope Valley loves that have crossed it before you. We will miss you dearly, but we know you are in a better place. So, until we meet again, much love and peace to you, dear friend. “

Goodbye Otis, my friend, my colleague.

– Mr. Nano, Resident Feline Correspondent, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

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 in summer.  I have no new videos this summer due to all the activity here, but do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, once 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

An April sunrise, spring being one of my favorite times to catch sunrise. The position on the hill where the sun rises over the farm, and the morning cloud conditions offer some beautifully saturated colors and skyscapes. The promise of a new day, a new page upon which to write the story of our lives.

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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 https://phainopepla95.com/2016/04/19/post-1013-passing-of-a-friend/

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 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

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for March 2017

Our  feature photo for March is of the only surviving Apple Blossom tulips planted many years ago.  Out of 100 bulbs planted, marauding gophers missed a few of them, for which we are grateful.  These are the only ones left.  Raindrops from an early morning shower still cling to recently emerged soft pink blooms, leaf and stem in this patch of semi-wild garden.  A daffodil in the background off to the right nods a pleasant good morning under grey skies.

Apple Blossom tulips. Click on any photo on this blog site to enlarge.

This morning’s rugged skies.

News from the farm

Spring has arrived on our little farm in the Cascade foothills, although she took the longer, less traveled road this year.  It seems that Old Man Winter was not quite ready to relinquish his hold in this realm; he has been taking his time moving along, even as the sun moves further north and the days rapidly grow longer.  Breezes moving about the farm still nip and claw; they have yet to realize he is leaving them behind.  Spring’s carriage found itself buffeted by cold rain and bogged down in muddy ruts; her heralds, on many days, awoke bewildered, covered in frost.  Yet as rumpled and disheveled as I have ever seen her, she has finally settled in; the land and all its creatures have been quick to respond to her gentle smile and warm caress.  Buds are swelling, and there are signs of her everywhere, from the colorful trumpets of daffodils and delicate goblets of crocuses with their bright orange stamens to the tiny red flowers of hazelnuts.  Windows open for a few hours on warmer days in March, allowing an exchange of clean, outside air.  At night, a chorus of frogs indicates all is well, at least in this corner of the world.

Bright faces of daffodils grace the farm.

Crocus, always a welcome sign of warmer days to come.

Tiny red female flowers of hazelnuts often start blooming in February. They were a bit delayed this year.

More hazelnut flowers, Lilliputian beauties.

The atmospheric rivers of moisture that flow through this region at this time of year are still swollen with heavy clouds.  The sun frantically bobs into view now and then amid stiff winds and a fractured sky, when many levels of cloud can be seen. Sometimes one can peer all the way up into the quiescent blue above the ripples and eddies, and wonder at the turbulence below.  The range of color from stark white through charcoal grey, along with the layered, textural appearance of these wandering, coalescing masses of water vapor and dust intrigue me.  These shape-shifters of the heavens often move along at a fast clip, frequently changing the lighting and the view outside my window. Each scene a snapshot in time to be cherished and remembered, solely for it is, and that I was present to witness it unfolding.

Although this photo is from January, I found it a most interesting view of our sky.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident correspondents Mr. Marcus, Mr. Lucio and Mr. Nano are off on assignment, and will file a report for April’s newsletter.  They are still debating as to which one of them will actually write it.

Resident correspondents Mr. Marcus (left), Mr. Lucio (center) and Mr. Nano (right). Mr. Nano has a nose for news, and has spotted something going on out there.

Correspondents Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio joining in on the investigation.

Correspondent Lucio is sure he will get Mr. Marcus or Mr. Nano to actually write the report, from his viewpoint, of course.

Miss. Willow, calico matriarch, is tired of winter and longs for sunnier days.

Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent Otis and the lovely Izzy will present news from the far eastern farmlands of Connecticut this month.  Without further ado, Miss Willow, our calico matriarch, would like to turn this section of the newsletter over to Mr Otis.

NORTHEAST OTIS REPORT
EARLY SPRING!!

It was March 14th when I started writing this report, and blizzard Eugene was raging outside the log cabin. Snow, sleet, rain, and wild winds was the mixed bag of weather Eugene was throwing at us.  Birds were braving the 23 mph winds to frantically consume as much birdseed as possible to keep their energy levels up.  The feeders had to be filled twice during the storm!  They certainly did not need to worry about me venturing out to intimidate them!  It is difficult for the birds to manage in these weather extremes, so I was happy to just watch them from the dining room window.

Photo credit C. M.

The month of March is such a tease!  March likes to toy with us, like a cat with a mouse (hate using this comparison!).  One breathes a sigh of relief at the end of February thinking at last spring is around the corner with the worse behind us and longer, warmer days ahead.  But, NO, that is rarely the case!!    It was just 60 degrees and sunny a week ago and then brutal cold and winds descended upon us for 3 days!  Some of the deciduous trees actually had the beginnings of buds on them and the ponies began shedding their winter coats over the last 2 weeks.  My mistress found a beautiful robin the other day…frozen.  It must have been blown into the side of the barn and stunned, never to awaken before the cold grasped it with its deadly hold.  She brought it up to UConn’s ornithology lab, so that its body might be used for science.

Since winter is not yet ready to relinquish its hold on Connecticut I find myself napping in warm places and will continue to do so until Spring finally usurps and wrestles control from Winter.  I have spent most of these winter days in my newly claimed cat bed.  The bed is really a dog bed.  It originally belonged to Rosie, but being in charge of household matters, I took it over.  It is comfortable and fits me perfectly and Rosie does not challenge me for it back.  Plus, my mistress has placed it next to the radiator so it gets very warm, which is something my old bones love.

Correspondent Otis has taken over Rosie’s bed, and has no intention of giving it up. Photo credit C. M.

We are all going stir crazy. Izzy has taken to exploring various spots in the cabin.  One of her favorite spots is sitting over the door to Master Rob’s bedroom.  She also has taken to jumping into waste paper baskets and peering out at us all.  It is kind of creepy…almost like she is planning some future attack.

The lovely Izzy engaged in espionage. Photo credit C. M.

Like me, Izzy has also found a new bed.  She has taken to napping in Sadie’s bed at the top of the stairs and refuses to give it up even when Sadie tries to push it over on her. The dogs, too, are finding this transition month challenging.  Their greatest excitement is in chasing the crows and squirrels from the feeders and barking incessantly at the turkeys that have started displaying their mating activities in the backyard.

The ponies spend their days rolling in the snow and sunbathing.  They, too, are bored and get excited when the 4-H kids come to groom them or dinnertime arrives.  Certainly the term ‘hay burners’ is an appropriate description for them in this weather since the heat generated in their hindgut during digestion is what keeps them warm in the colder temperatures.  They actually enjoy being out in cold and even though they had shelter from the blizzard, they still enjoyed playing out in the wild weather.

Snow collecting on equine residents. Photo credit C. M.

Waiting out the late winter weather. Photo credit C M.

Let’s hope that the next time I write it will be SUNNY and WARM in this part of the world!  Let’s hope I will be able to send you some pictures of Spring in full swing!  In the meantime, back to my napping and other relaxing activities!

Correspondent Otis, off-duty and warming up. Photo credit C. M.

– Otis, Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

The Salmon Brook Farms YouTube channel finally has content, and our first Tiny Farm Concerts one song music video is posted!  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!

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

For Baz, Janet and TomO. Daffodils in Archie, Marion and Merle’s memorial garden.

Herman and Mr. Bowie’s cherry tree garden in memory of Herman’s mother, brother, sister, and cats Glippie and Mrs. Jones. Readers will see various memorial gardens throughout the year.

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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.

fierytree-01032017

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

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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

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for June 2016

Our feature photo this month is of one of the many daylilies blooming about this farm at this time of year.  This delicate beauty with visiting ants was found growing amid a patch of spearmint by the corner of the old garage.  We had two thunderstorms followed by pea-sized hail in the same day a few weeks back, which left strafed and tattered vegetation everywhere.  We do get hail from time to time, but being hit twice in the same day by a heavy load of hail accompanied by high winds is unusual for our area.  Leaves, flowers, fruits and buds suffered damage.  Only a few plants suffered total annihilation, so we are fortunate.  Plantings will recover, although they will be set back a bit this season.

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Daylily peering out from behind a post.

News from the farm

A clear and cool beginning to this last day of June, the thin crescent moon floating in the Maxfield Parrish colors of twilight.  Later came the warm, golden sun pleasantly beaming down from a light blue cloudless sky.  Shafts of light filter down through the apple orchard, dappling the long grass and wildflowers below.  Tree, shrub and flower sway to the song of the Wind, as she skips down the mountains to the hills and valley below.  Her fleeting footsteps can been seen in the rippling grass at it shimmers in her path.  An old friend once described Wind as an entity with various emotions they had come to know quite well over the years.  Sometimes in a hurry, sometimes lingering, but always on the move, whispering her story to those who take the time to listen.  Today our visitor is feeling playful, lingering about the gardens and gently plucking her harp out on the porch.  Along with the music from the wind chimes, a curl of breeze finds its way through the window near where I am working, tugging at my elbow to come out and join the greater world outside.

Spring’s warm start has encouraged cherries and blueberries to ripen a little earlier than we normally would see.  Cooler, wet weather in May and part of June slowed growth somewhat, and we possibly have some mummy berry occurring in the blueberries due to cooler conditions after rapid growth in earlier warm weather.  We are sorting out hail damage on top of possible mummy berry, but still have an abundance of fruit.  I will be busy picking blueberries over the next few weeks as cherries have already peaked here.  Oregon State University has a very good article on mummy berry for interested readers.  See “Mummy berry could spook your blueberries” at the link below.

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/mummy-berry-could-spook-your-blueberries

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Photo taken in our blueberry patch this week. The starting gun has been fired, and the race with birds and other wildlife begins.

Grapes, depending on the variety, are between flowering and the small berry stage.  Our table grapes, many of them very old vines, are always ahead of the pinot noir.

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From my test block of pinot noir. Note the marine-grade polypropylene trellis rope. I am happy enough with it, so far, I will continue to use it for trellising instead of wire.

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From our main block of pinot noir.

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Early Muscat. We have a short test row of mixed Gewürztraminer and Early Muscat.

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The table grapes (Cascade pictured here) are always well ahead of the pinot.

Hazelnuts have well-defined nuts on them, still in the green stage.  We have roughly an acre of derelict hazelnuts, which is mainly wildlife habitat now.  We may collect these at some point.

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Hazelnuts! Mice collect these in the field. In the old house we nicknamed “The Mouse Hotel”, they stored them in the mud room in boots, shoes, and drawers. Anywhere they could find a spot.

Gophers are busy tunneling and leaving mounds, as gophers will do.  I collect the mounds for rooting grape vines and outdoor potting soil.  They in turn will filch my potatoes, considering it an even trade for disturbing the protective cap on their tunnel system.

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Classic gopher mound. Conveniently pulverized clay soil is collected for flower pots and rooting grape cuttings. They find my potato patch convenient shopping.

News from The Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondents this month are our Three Sisters cats, Wynken, Blynken and Nod.   The girls have been quite busy keeping track of the comings and goings outside the windows, and especially love the view from their crow’s nest. The girls would like to report that there appear to be more hummingbirds this year, but fewer honeybees have been spotted.

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Lots of clover, very few bees this year.

The seasons pass by so quickly now, and the girls will be 3 years old in August.  They have proven to be difficult photographic subjects for the local paparazzo since they matured out of kittenhood, preferring to take control of the camera themselves!  The Flying Nod’s preferred tactics are landing on my shoulder from behind, and covering my eyes with her paws.  Fortunately, she is the lightest of the three.

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Nod, wondering what her sister Blynken is up to in the crow’s nest!

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Blynken, keeping a sharp lookout from above.

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Blynken, at another post, watching for hummingbirds.

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The lovely Wynken in a quiet, reflective moment. All the Sisters rocky-grey stripes up top have been turning white over time. Wynken still has the most pronounced markings.

Our Northeast Regional Correspondent Otis and his companion the lovely Izzy will be returning later this summer to give readers an update on his area and the activities Mr. Shrew.

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Otis, Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent will return later this summer! Photo credit C.M.

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Stay tuned for the adventures of Izzy and Mr. Shrew! Photo credit C.M.

Music News (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I would like to start the news with what was a pleasant surprise for me.  I walked into the kitchen where the radio was on a few weeks back, and came across an NPR segment about the disappearance of human toll booth collectors in Florida, but not at one particular one, Card Sound Bridge.   At the end of the segment you will hear Laurie Jennings, a musician from Florida.  She had written a song called Toll Booth Romance.  This segment, recorded at a Florida PBS station, made it all the way to Oregon Public Broadcasting!  Have a listen to the segment at the link below.

http://wlrn.org/post/taking-toll-human-collectors-vanishing-not-card-sound-bridge

Laurie Jennings and Dana Keller will be performing on the west coast these next two months, including Oregon.  Please visit their website at

http://www.jenningsandkeller.com/

****

For those Johnny Cash fans and readers of Science News, the late Man in Black now has a tarantula named after him, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, the Johnny Cash tarantula.  See Science New March 5, 2016 for the full story!

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/meet-tarantula-black

****

Mr.Pluff

Teaching my pet rooster Mr. Pluff to sing. He was a gentle soul and family member.

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.

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I loved my brother’s boy scout uniform and used to call myself a “Bird Scout”.

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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First and only CD. Another one will be coming! The black cat is our dear departed Mr. Beaucastel, named for Chateau Beaucastel. http://www.beaucastel.com

In the meantime, in your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

Lavinia-1R-12212014

Painting in the background was made by my late father-in-law.

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

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

Thank you to all who have stopped by this site, offered their “likes”, comments and words of encouragement.  You are a wonderful community.

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Reblooming daylilies. Planted in memory of a girl named Lily who committed suicide after being bullied at school.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for April 2016

Our feature photo this month is a view of one of our crab apple trees exhibiting a profusion of white blooms against a marbled spring sky.  Planted as small rooted sticks obtained from the Arbor Day Foundation back in 2004, this tree and its companion have grown tall over the years.  Different varieties with different growth habits, one is pink and one is white, and bloom at different times.

News from the Farm

We continue to see signs of the nutria youngsters (see our January 2016 post) out back, but not near the house now.  They appear to have moved on as more spring forage has become available and the temperature has risen, but we continue to keep the shed barricaded just in case one of them misses the good old days of occupying the outbuilding.  Although I do miss observing the little fellows and was thankful for that time, I am quite pleased to have the shed back again, and to not be continually stepping in nutria scat.

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Nutria youngsters. Feature photo from our January 2016 post.

Various creatures have passed through this farm, or have stayed a while before moving on.  Some, like gophers, never leave.  There will always be gophers.  Many a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow has been filched by gophers, happily counting the coins down in their burrows along with my potatoes.

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Rainbow over the farm from earlier this year. Beautiful intense colors. I’ve never found a pot of gold, not once. I can hear the gophers laughing down in their burrows.

The days are steadily growing longer on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  Spring arrived a bit early this year, sending forth shoot and bloom during the time Old Man Winter was still lurking in the shadows with his companion Jack Frost.  Old Jack waits for a clear night sky to paint the canvas of green landscape in silver. Ice crystals brushed across the land under the cover of darkness and low temperatures will deliquesce in the morning’s golden warmth.  I stand in awe of the brief moment of jeweled fire ignited by the sun.  Jack’s work is both beautiful and deadly.  The destruction of tender new life makes itself quite apparent by noon.  We will be set back somewhat, but barring another such visit, the plants will recover.

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My test pinot vineyard. Most everything behind the deer fence was frost damaged to a degree, including all the pinot noir. For Annie at Animal Couriers – the marine-grade polypropylene rope in place of trellis wire. Test in progress!

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Another view of the pinot vines and test trellis rope. Note leaf curl from frost.

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Jack Frost nipped the potatoes as well.

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The onions did not seem to mind!

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The table grapes near the first line of orchard, outside the fence, had some protection from the trees and did not exhibit damage.

With the help of our friend Lyn, a total of 51 x 60 lbs bags of cement was mixed and poured by hand for the new greenhouse which will house grape cuttings and larger starts.

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Cement work done and frame is up! Tied down to cinder blocks to keep the wind from taking it away for now.

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Another view of the cement work and footings.

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Temporary greenhouse on the porch for tomato and tender plant starts. I cover it with a second tarp at night for now.

Everywhere around the farm there are signs of spring.   A natural tunnel formed by an apple tree, fallen over but still living, provides a path from one area of the farm to another.  One of two old giant feral apples between the front and back lots.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

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Apple tunnel, looking east into the back lot.

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Same apple tunnel looking west out towards the vineyard. Best blossoms were on this side.

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Old apple trees leaning towards each other like old friends conversing over the fence. Planted by the original owner, long passed away now. What stories they could tell!

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The other fallen apple giant. Still living and producing fruit, as well as shelter for birds and wildlife.

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Redbud tree, another small tree purchased from the Arbor Day Foundation in 2004. It has grown tall!

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These irises fill the air with sweet musky perfume. See our previous post for more on this garden, and others.

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Dutch iris and purple columbines. The columbine seeds came in one year with a load of rabbit manure.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is little Miss Nod, also known as Sister Bertrille, or The Flying Nod, as she likes to take a flying leap and land on my shoulder, which she says is a much better vantage point for viewing.  Needless to say, I wear heavy vest when she wants to go for a ride.  Miss Nod is the smallest of our Three Sisters cats, and one of the Girls of Salmon Brook Farms.

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Miss Nod, preparing her report.

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Miss Nod, wondering if she can jump over the camera and land on my shoulder.

Her sisters Miss Wynken and Miss Blynken declined to be photographed this month, but indicated they will be taking turns sending in the feline news report later this year.  Photos of the trio can be seen on the Cats of Salmon Brook Farm page, and throughout the archives starting with our February 2014 post, although Nod has requested an early family portrait including her mother Silvie and brother Tio Pepe for this post.  I have also included a few others, with Miss Nod’s approval.

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Last full family portrait in 2014 with Mrs. Silvie and all four of her children. There are several suspects in the neighborhood for Mr. Silvie… Mrs. Silvie and her kittens arrived on our farm in 2013. We suspect there is a hidden sign out there directing homeless felines, as well as nutria, to our doors.

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Miss Blynken would like brother Mr. Tio Pepe to hold still for the photo.

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Mrs. Silvie and her son Mr. Tio Pepe have gone to live with a friend.

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The early days. These youngsters will be three years old in August.

Miss Nod would like our readers to know that Mr. Lucio was unsuccessful at booking a flight to Tahiti, and has come through his dentistry with flying colors, although he is now missing one premolar.  Mr. Lucio declined to comment for this post, and grudgingly provided a couple of photos for today.

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Mr. Lucio, still a bit sleepy this morning…

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Mr. Lucio, starting his day with a good cleaning. He has some pretty furry feet, which he is displaying in this photo.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am still on hiatus from performing, but continuing to play and enjoy down time with my guitars while I continue to work through some health issues and rest up.   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

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

Thank you to all who have stopped by this site, offered their “likes”, comments and words of encouragement.  I will leave you with an old Irish blessing.  I do not know the origin of these words, but they are beautiful.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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One of the many rainbows over Salmon Brook Farms.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for February 2016

We will shift our attention this month from the furry (and toothy) denizens of the farm, to the rapid growth and flowering of plant life in late winter here in the Cascade foothills.   Our feature photo for the end of February is of our south-facing front garden where the daffodils are currently in full swing.  A slightly nippy but playful breeze was tossing these golden trumpets about while the sun darted in and out of the passing herd of galloping pendulous dark grey to stark white  clouds.  A perfect late winter day to see what is happening overhead and underfoot, the two theaters from which all life and the coming seasons spring.

News from the farm

February has mostly been a slow and easier month for us here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  We took a short vacation back east to visit friends and family, many of whom we had not seen since pulling up roots and moving west.  The eastern woodlands and stone wall encompassed countryside has its own unique beauty which will forever reside in our hearts, but coming home to Oregon’s emerald green, late winter grass underfoot and snow-capped mountains far above, I was reminded of why we planted ourselves here.  It is always good to review where one is from, as well as assess where one is going.  As much as we love old New England, we call Oregon home, and have set deep roots.

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Daylilies are coming up around the apple trees, and help prevent weed-whacking and mower damage, as well as provide beauty and havens for beneficial insects.

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One of the front garden beds in late winter. Facing south, it gets plenty of warm sun to encourage early growth.

Rick is still diligently working away at pruning the vineyards, and I have trellis wire repairs to make in my own test block of pinot noir.  The pocket gophers are happily tunneling away again, and I take the freshly pulverized soil from the top of their mounds to fill plant pots to start new cuttings.  As much as possible, we work with or around the various wild creatures that inhabit this farm with us, using exclusion methods where possible if a conflict is noted.

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Rick working the table grapes in late winter.

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Rick hard at work, catching up on pruning. Note the apple tree in the background that is leaning on the trellis support. High winds and rain-soaked ground caused the tree to give way earlier. It has been cut back once in an attempt to save it, but it continues to lean.

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Pocket gophers hard at work among the vines. Their diggings will be collected for potting soil for cuttings. The heavy clay soil retains moisture, and is good for starting new vines and assorted cuttings.

Our visiting nutria youngsters were encouraged to vacate the tool shed, and I have barricaded it against future re-colonization efforts.  The shed looks as if the youngsters hosted a fraternity party in there during their brief stay, and I have quite the cleanup job ahead this spring.

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Yosemite Sam checking out the shed. Yosemite Sam, Gidney and Cloyd colonized the shed for a brief time, but have since been encouraged to take the party elsewhere.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

We have a guest feline correspondent this month.  The Cats of Salmon Brook Farms contacted Northeast Regional Correspondent Otis for his report on the weather in New England this winter.

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Otis at the dinner party, catching up on all the latest news.

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Otis enjoying his warm, cozy basket by the wood stove.

Otis would like our readers to know that Connecticut is having a milder winter this year, but it is still cold enough that he prefers his padded basket bed by the wood stove, venturing out only to do business as necessary.

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The lovely Izzie! Enjoys her naps on a plush bed.

Otis and his companion the lovely Izzie were in general pleased with our visit, and ordered up some mood snow (as his human office assistant described it) on our last day there, just so we could enjoy viewing their woods quietly settling in under a fresh, white blanket at dusk, and reflect upon earlier times.

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Early evening in late winter in Connecticut. The hushed beauty of falling snow, and the warmth of friends and family.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am feeling more rested now, and will soon start turning my attention towards my own music again, along with this season’s plant starts for the garden.  I am still on hiatus, so in the meantime, please do check out the following musician:

Donna Martin – for those of you on the east coast, Donna is one of my favorites.  She will be performing on March 20, 2016  from 4-6pm at the Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio & Gallery, One Spring Street, Chester CT, http://www.Nilssonstudio.com    Please visit Donna’s site at http://donnamartin.com  Her CD Big Country is available at cdbaby.com, Amazon.com or at http://www.donnamartin.com

For those of you more interested in reading, please consider purchasing a copy of our friend and fellow musician Lorraine Anderson’s latest book, Earth & Eros: A Celebration in Words and Photographs
http://www.amazon.com/Earth-Eros-Celebration-Words-Photographs/dp/1940468280

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

Daffodil-fly-02272016

Heralds of spring and new life emerging everywhere, colorful daffodil blooms trumpet the end of winter, swaying gently in the wind to the comings and goings of insect life.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2016

Our feature photo this month is of a local trio of nutria.  I caught some good pictures of the nutria youngsters bathing and wrestling in a drainage ditch we call Lake Roger, after the workman who installed the drain pipes back in 2004.  The ditch is dry in summer, but the nutria are having a good time in it now that it is in full flow with the winter rains.

The sticks in pots are cuttings of some Glenora Black Seedless table grape vines, taken from one of our own vines planted long ago.  All of them were labeled, but it looks as if the nutria have removed a few labels.  They probably took a bite to see if they were edible, and tossed them aside when the discovered they were not.

News from the farm
It has been a relatively quiet and wet winter here, with more than enough rain to pull at least western Oregon out of drought status.  We have so much water now, the gophers, including Jaws, have abandoned their holes on the downward slope of the farm, and fresh diggings are visible up along the north fence.  Old gopher holes can spout water like mini artesian wells.  In fact it has been so wet, nutria have moved in from somewhere.  Our nighttime visitor I stumbled across back in November apparently has friends and relatives, which have provided some interesting observations of these non-native but now naturalized rodents from South America that enjoy almost worldwide distribution.  Australia and Antarctica have managed to escape the invasion, according to the USGS map.

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Nutria grazing out by Lake Roger, the drainage ditch.

A few links to government websites are listed below for the interested reader.
http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?speciesid=1089
http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/special/nutria/namerica.htm

Worldwide distribution:
http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/special/nutria/

The Nutria Chronicles: The well-mustachioed, biggest and boldest of the nutria youngsters, now named “Yosemite Sam”, left the bath to challenge me, but backed down and ran for the shed, soon followed by another one.

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Nutria high-tailing it from the bath….

A relative suggested they look a bit like the moon-men from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, so the names Gidney and Cloyd were given to the other two, and seem to suit them well.  Viewer discretion is advised due to the political content of this children’s cartoon I found on YouTube, but those unfamiliar with the characters will see where the names come from.

One can see where they have dragged an old fallen apple into the shed on some other occasion.  Snacking in a safe place!

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Yosemite Sam strikes a pose for the camera in the storage shed.

On another day, the nutria youngsters managed to pull ALL the plastic label tags out of the grape vine cuttings.  I managed to find all the tags, and get them back into the pots.  I decided to move the pots up onto the porch on top of a barrel, as the nutria appeared to be staging some sort of protest to the presence of potted cuttings in their personal swimming hole, “Lake Roger”.  I saw Yosemite Sam and crew members Gidney and Cloyd later this afternoon, grazing and frolicking by the shed.  They have a strange custom of what looks like “kissing”, at least that what it looks like from the human perspective.  They greet each other by standing on hind legs, and like two people, “kiss” each other on each cheek, and then engage in some sort of muzzle to muzzle activity before resuming feeding.  They also wrestle,  and engage in something that looks like a form of Klignon head-butting.  Sometimes Yosemite Sam just sits and stares at the house from the shed.  We do wonder what on earth is he thinking about.

These youngsters and their insatiable appetites will probably move on (we hope) and return to their riverbank homes once we start moving into the dry season and Lake Roger and the low areas dry up to hard clay.  Prior to last November, we had only seen one large adult nutria in the last 12 years here on the farm.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is Mr. Nano, the Great White Hunter, who says nutria, also known as coypus, are wild creatures that cats with any sense should leave alone.  He much prefers monitoring these fellows through the window, and napping is preferable to that.

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Mr. Nano, the Great White Hunter

Nano also reports that Abby cat, who will be 14 this coming April, had her dentistry this past week and done quite well.  Her blood work is good and she is holding her weight. She still thinks she is the Alpha cat, and quite in control.  Eleanor of Aquitaine might have been a better name for this one.

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Abby (Eleanor of Aquitaine) Abyssinian

Old Willow still misses Rick’s mother, her elderly human companion who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge last month, and is adapting to life without her as best she can. She is very quiet these days and prefers to keep to her bed, although she still eats well.  We hope the arrival of spring and more sunny days will instill new energy in this old Calico matriarch.

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Old Willow still misses her elder human companion. She is learning to purr again.

Lucio, Marcus, Hope, Wynken, Blynken and Nod kitties are also doing well, and remind readers of their own page listed in the menu on blog site.  Cats and humans are aging right along with the royal port in the wine cellar, and are collectively pleased when morning comes and all have awakened on the correct side of the ground.  Clouds and rain and welcomed along with sunshine, and somewhere around the world, a rainbow graces the sky.  Often here!  Another day begins.

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Rainbow over the east end of Salmon Brook Farms. It was still raining lightly when I snapped the photo, and I think I also caught a raindrop on the right, forgetting to turn off the flash in my haste to catch the ephemeral beauty gracing the late afternoon sky.

Music News (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
I am still on hiatus, and will return when I feel sufficiently rested and renewed.   This may take a while….

Old Seabisquit the Subaru, my trusty gigging companion, has passed 430,00 miles!

In the meantime, please – wherever you are – help keep your own local music scene alive by going out to see live performers, of any genre you prefer.

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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Cloud canyons in late December, southwest view over the neighbor’s house. A day of heavy rains, and beautiful fractured cloudscapes towards evening. With the winter rains come the promise of spring, and new life.

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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 October 2015

Our feature photo this month is of our only white rose, which was planted in memory of my own mother some years ago.  White flowers were always her favorite, although the white peony planted by side door of the house where my earliest memories go back to was her real treasure.  In the absence of a white peony to be found at the time, a white rose down at the local feed store and garden center caught my attention, and begged to be taken home to fill this role.  This particular rose struggled in several different locations, but has finally decided to thrive in the current placement in the rose bed near the house.  My mother would be pleased.  The rose rewarded us for our patience with many fine blooms this year.

News from the farm

The blazing heat of summer has finally left our little farm in the Cascade foot hills, and we have even had a little rain, as well as a light frost one morning.  Our days have mostly been warm, ranging from the 60s into the low 80s.  Herds of heavy blue-grey to stark white clouds wander through October’s blue skies on their way up and over the Cascade Range, drinking along route from the rivers of rising morning mists.  The silvery-grey mists of dawn transform to pink and gold, and finally to day-white, and float away as the temperature rises and the morning unfolds. The air has a slight nip, which can be felt as these behemoths pass overhead, temporarily blocking the golden warmth of the afternoon.  The moon is in the growing phase again, and I have been noting its familiar crescent form in the western sky in the evenings.  The combined silhouette of the dark zone and the bright crescent give the impression of a large eye, focused on and observing the greater universe.  I look forward to seeing this moon-eye at the beginning and end of every lunar cycle.

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The old female persimmon tree, festooned with many small fruits that are slowly turning orange. The make tree companion is almost bare of leaves at this time, and just visible in the right of the photograph.

Bees and birds got to the entire pinot vineyard before I was able to harvest, so this year’s experiments making wine and vinegar were a total failure.  The drought was hard on all creatures, and with little forage or water to be found, attention turned to any unprotected crops of interest, and sugary grapes were no exception.  Honeybees, and yellow jackets can get through bird netting, although I also found some enterprising youngster raccoons slipping in under netting at night!

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Most of the pinot vines have already dropped their leaves. The table grape leaves are still ranging in color from green though gold.

At this time, dandelions are mainly what the area honeybees bees can be found feeding upon, as well as any fallen apples with exposed flesh.

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Honeybee feeding on a Coast Dandelion, Hypochaeris radicata

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California poppies are still blooming, now that they have recovered from the summer heat.

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The same California poppy, photobombed by a passing honeybee, Apis mellifera.

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Honeybee feeding on a different type of dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, the Common Dandelion. Both kinds provide vital pollen and nectar for bees.

Rick has been busy converting this year’s tomato harvest, fortunately not coveted by birds and bees, into sauce which I am busy canning.  Hot peppers will be dried into long strings, and will heat up many a winter dish.  A mystery squash plant which came up from a volunteer turned out to be quite good, and many of its numerous golden hard-shell torpedo-shaped fruits are stored in racks for the winter.  It takes a meat cleaver and a mallet to cut open the shell of these golden delicacies, but baked at 350 with salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil, they are quite good, and make their own baking dish/soup bowl for other ingredients which can be added to the cavity once the seeds are removed.

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The bounty of the garden.

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Rick preparing crushed tomatoes for canning. We will put away close to 70 quarts this season.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is Mr. Marcus, at 8 years old, the youngest of the Boys of Salmon Brook Farms.

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Mr. Marcus, enjoying time in the leather chair.

News of Jaws, the newest rough and tough gopher in town, has reached the boys, and they are not sure what to do about him!  Mr. Nano told Marcus he will keep watch out the back window, while Lucio said napping is a much better idea, and anyway, isn’t it someone else’s job? Marcus is not sure he is up for such a daunting task, catching a gopher who can tunnel down through hard-packed gravel!

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Lucio – getting comfortable is such hard work!

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Lucio – prefers to curl cup in his cushion rather than chase gophers.

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Nano the Great White Hunter – remembers the days when he used to live outside and would catch, and eat, 5 or 6 gophers in a day when he was a wild feral cat. Been injured on the job. Came inside to be my guardian. Thinks we should call Mr. Bowie, The Great Grey Hunter to take care of Jaws. Mr. Bowie can be found at :https://hopedog.wordpress.com/

This is an area of driveway where I previously had to use a pickaxe  to dig a drainage trench, a testament to the power of these rodents.  A good nap in the old leather chair sounds much safer. Old Jaws has been tunneling around the old well house, making quite a mess of things.  Rick thought perhaps Odd Job might have been a better name for this particular rodent.  I have watched various cats hunt these pocket gophers, and have noted the successful captures occurred when the cat patiently watched the hole for hours.  One would eventually see the cat initiate a sudden vertical liftoff several feet off the ground, quickly coming down directly on the gopher which had just emerged from the hole.  The feline hunter must be careful not to miss the quarry upon landing.  A failed attempt can result in bodily injury when the gopher strikes back with sharp teeth that can easily cut through roots.  Gophers are a Force of Nature.

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It Came from The Gopher Hole – hideout of Jaws-Odd Job the Gopher. He means business!

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View of gopher hole from further away. Why this fellow tunneled through thick gravel when he wasn’t far from dirt is a mystery. Intimidation, perhaps?

Old Seabisquit the Subaru is waiting for some autumn maintenance from me, and may have something to say next month.  This Wednesday morning, Seabisquit and I take Willow, the Calico matriarch, down to the vet for a dentistry.

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Willow, Calico matriarch. Does not like the idea of an upcoming tooth extraction, although she understands it is necessary. She will have something to say about that!

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
I have now finished up playing out for the season so I can rest up, refresh, recharge and get a few things done here on the farm that will take up a considerable amount of my time and energy.  Thank you to all who came to see me perform or took a minute to listen in 2015.  I will be resuming playing out again in January or February of 2016, and look forward to seeing you all again!  In the meantime, please – wherever you are – help keep your own local music scene alive by going out to see live performers, of any genre you prefer.
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 beautiful sunrise over Salmon Brook Farms, a reminder every new day is a gift to cherish. Each day is unique, a new opportunity. Choose wisely.

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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 May 2015

Our feature photo this month is of a blossoming forest of chives, beloved by human and bee alike.

News from the farm

Our unusually warm March weather turned cool again in April, although no surprise snowstorms troubled us here in our part of the Cascade foothills. Fruit trees and blueberry bushes bloomed and set fruit early, and it looks like we may have another season when blueberries, cherries, plums, pears and apples come in closely on the heels of one another.

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Developing blueberries in progress as well as blossoms.

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Developing cherries.

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Most of the blooms have finished, and tiny developing apples are in progress.

It is 80 degrees and sunny today on our little farm in the Cascade foothills, with a light breeze playing the windchimes. The stark white mares’ tails of cirrus clouds have started forming in a bright blue sky this afternoon, signaling an incoming front and the return of rain on Monday. We had some beautiful wandering cloud woolies a few days ago, contentedly grazing on pastures of moist air on their way up and over the Cascades, while the neighbors’ cows contentedly grazed on fresh spring grass below.

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Cows are laying down and enjoying fresh grass while woolly wanderers head out over the Cascades to the east.

The tables grapes were slightly less reticent during bud break than the pinot noir, but all are sending forth new canes now and we have not lost that many over the winter to cold and tunneling gophers. We keep extra vines on hand, started from our own cuttings, to replace any damaged plants in spring. The little devils have eaten all but two tulips (also known as “gopher candy”) planted about. Those were rescued and placed in a barrel planter. They seem to find daffodils, lilies and irises distasteful, so the garden beds are full of these types of flowers.

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Pinot noir – woke up a bit later than the table grapes, but sporting new shoots.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our cat crew of 9 is doing well, and aging well right along with the rest of us here. Although I have quietly asked the Universe please not to send me any more waifs needing my care and attention for at least 10 years, I don’t know what I would do without these furry fellow travelers and mischief makers. Our animals give us more than we can possibly give them back, and I am grateful for the opportunity to leave this corner of the world better than I found it.

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Little Hope cat, sister of Marcus cat. Becoming a real ham as she ages. The “twins” will be 8 this year.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I was pleasantly surprised earlier this year to be asked by artists Mike and Liz Santone of Meadowlake Studios if I would be willing to tape a segment for McMinnville Community Media television on my music. With the exception of the occasional folk festival, I am normally background music in what is often a noisy setting of something else going on, so this was a real treat for me, and a chance to tell the stories behind some of the songs. On May 2nd, Old Seabisqut the Subaru and I made the trip to McMinnville with my three trusty road guitars. Mike, Liz and the staff at MCM taped the show, and it aired this past Tuesday May 5th. They did a fantastic job of creating this segment, and I am very grateful to them. Mike and Liz do many such art projects, and have a great sense of community spirit. Please visit their website at www.meadowlakestudios.blogspot.com and be sure to visit McMinnville Community Media at http://www.mcm11.org/

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May 5th show. Photos taken from the video with the Linux VLC snapshot function. All photo credits Mike and Liz Santone of Meadowlake Studios and McMinnville Community Media TV.

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May 5th show. Photos taken from the video with the Linux VLC snapshot function. All photo credits Mike and Liz Santone of Meadowlake Studios and McMinnville Community Media TV.

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May 5th show. Photos taken from the video with the Linux VLC snapshot function. All photo credits Mike and Liz Santone of Meadowlake Studio and McMinnville Community Media TV.

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May 5th show. Photos taken from the video with the Linux VLC snapshot function. All photo credits Mike and Liz Santone of Meadowlake Studios and McMinnville Community Media TV.

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May 5th show. Photos taken from the video with the Linux VLC snapshot function. All photo credits Mike and Liz Santone of Meadowlake Studios and McMinnville Community Media TV.

Music is an important part of my life here on the farm, and I have set up a YouTube channel for future “Tiny Farm Concerts” that will showcase original and traditional songs and stories. It is a new form of media for me, so please bear with me while I learn it.

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

Music is both a release and a spiritual lifter, having sustained me during hardship as well as easier times. It provided a focus for recovering from cancer 5 years ago, and sustains my spirit while I continue to care for a soon-to-be 94 year old, here in our home. Love is not always easy, and caring for one’s elders is a full time job. The years march on with a slow, steady tread, and the effects upon body and mind are not always kind. She has organic brain syndrome, and the road has been long, and hard on all. As her daughter-in-law and primary caregiver, I will journey with her to the Gate, making sure this one is safe, well-cared for, and as peaceful, happy and healthy as I can manage. When we arrive, Mom will look back one last time, and we will hug and say goodbye to each other. I will return to my own life, my own journey, and she will cross over, fading from sight, but never from mind. One of my favorite lines is from the movie “Broken Trail”. “From the sweet grass to the packing house, we are all just travelers between the two eternities.”

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It has been said by many that gardens link us from the physical to the spiritual. These new plantings are dedicated to the memory of Archie and Marion, beloved relatives of Australian bloggers Baz and Janet (www.thelandy.com) I love their motto – “…there are no ordinary moments; no ordinary people; no ordinary lives…”

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 April 2015

Our feature photo this month is a close-up of one of our crabapple trees, in bloom early!  We have had an unusually dry and warm end to winter this year, with many days in the mid 70s.  The weather has returned to a more seasonal mood in the last few days, with mornings in the 30s and daytime temperatures in the 50s and ominous-looking dark grey clouds against a light blue spring sky.  Honeybees are out in force today, as cherries, plums, pear, some of the apples are in bloom about 3 weeks early.  The heavy, heady scent of such a profusion of blooms coupled with the droning of large numbers of bees is an experience like no other.  Sight, sound and scent form an indelible memory of place and time.

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A defiant wand of crabapple blooms against a grey sky.

News from the farm

We have bud break in the vineyard and even the blueberries are beginning to flower.   A spring frost or April snowstorm at this point could set us back, and we are hoping for a cooler, but more even ride into the growing season.  With the end of winter comes a change in mood of the sky, land and soil.  Warm sun feels good in contrast to the mountain air’s cold bite, and we dress in layers that will come off and on with the drifting armada of clouds.  Dark-grey galleons obscure the sun and dapple the hillsides with shadows and light, and I have already smelled the presence of the first visiting skunk of the year.  It is spring in the Cascades.

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Bud break in the vineyard!

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Gopher break in the vineyard! The little devils are coming up everywhere!

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

The crew, like us, is getting older.  The Three Sisters, the newest members, have been with us almost 2 years now.  Abby Abyssinian turns 13 this month!  Although not a new picture, it is an Abby classic of her checking out what’s on the table.  She is way too curious about the camera resulting in too many close-ups of her nose.  Good photos of her are hard won!  Please visit the Cats of Salmon Brook Farm page for more on the crew.

Abby at Lunch

Abby just in time for supper!

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Lucio (left) and Marcus (right). Marcus like to do everything his big Uncle Lucio is doing.

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Willow – companion to Rick’s mother, and very protective of her. Age unknown. We think she is “around” 18 years old. Beautiful Calico found here almost 3 years ago, almost dead. She is thriving now.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

The Corvallis Indoor Winter Market has only two weeks left, and I have finished playing there for the season.  If you are in the area, please stop in on Saturdays between 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM and continue to support our farmers and artisans who provide our community fresh meats, eggs, cheeses, mushrooms, winter vegetables, baked goods, honey, crafts, etc. every week!   Both the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market and Albany Saturday Farmers’ Market open on April 18th, and I will be playing one day at both Saturday markets this season.  Check the performance schedule page for dates and times.  The Corvallis Wednesday Farmers’ Market (opens 4/22) will also have music, but I will be working at the Market booth there and have a front row seat to listen to some great music while I work! Please visit http://www.locallygrown.org

I will be at Ankeny Vineyard in Salem this month. Please check the performance schedule page for the date and time.  Any changes and updates are posted there!

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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For fellow blogger Herman in Belgium – a cherry tree garden to remember your mother, and feline friends Glippie and Mrs. Jones.

Our lives, like rocks in a stream bed, are etched and shaped by the waters of time, circumstance and experience. People and animals flow in and out of our lives, sometimes remaining for a while in an eddy, or mossy pool. Eventually, they too, will move on, leaving evidence of their former presence written upon the stones. – Lavinia Ross

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A particularly beautiful sunrise over Salmon Brook Farms in mid February 2015.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for February 2015

Our feature photo this month is of the daffodils that started blooming along the south garage wall in January!  A few leaves are sporting a little white paint from my working on the building.  This is the first year they have not been bent over with snow.  We usually get something in early January, but may be surprised yet by an March or April storm!  There is something peaceful about watching snow fall and collect, especially in the quiet of a woodland area.  When I was young and had my horse, I would go down to the stable while it was still dark in the morning, just to watch the snow fall in the wooded area in the back pasture as dawn unfolded.  Eventually the noise and bustle of the daytime world would take over, and I would return home.  But for a while, the magic of snowfall on a winter morning, quiet and solitude….

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Salmon Brook Farms in winter, when we have snow. So far none this season!

News from the farm

The last few days have been more typical of western Oregon winter weather, meaning rain, fog, and uniformly grey skies.  The sun attempts to burn through the ground fog and low cloud cover from time to time, revealing a kaleidoscope show of greys, silver, to blinding white and pale gold punctuated by patches of light blue sky.  If the sun succeeds, the rising mists will coalesce into opalescent rivers that wind around the foothills, sometimes appearing smooth as a frozen lake if one is up high enough.  The landscape has received sufficient water now to have greened up the grass nicely, and wild onion chives are poking up everywhere out back, shooting up above the grass in a race for the growing light of the approaching spring.  They are quite strong and flavorful in a meaty sort of way, and I will collect what I can.  The grass will eventually win, as it does every year.  Grass will grow, overtake, and dominate the earth until the intense, dry heat of summer subdues it into dormancy, entombed by hard-packed clay that will bake brick-hard, and fissure under a relentless sun.  Even gophers will choose to tunnel more frequently in areas where we spot water, and therefore the ground is softer, wreaking havoc around plantings.  We are also in a race of our own, finishing up building repairs, pruning and garden beds before spring.  There is no shortage of work here, no matter what the season.

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Hope (left) and Marcus (right). Siblings, usually found in each other’s arms. Not in the least concerned with building maintenance, races or time, except for food o’clock.

 

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

It may be winter, but the Corvallis Indoor Winter Market is in full swing now, and I will be there again in February and March (check the Performance Schedule page of this blog).  If you are in the area, please stop in on Saturdays between 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM and support our farmers and artisans who provide our community fresh meats, eggs, cheeses, mushrooms, winter vegetables, baked goods, honey, crafts, etc. every week!

We had a great time playing at Cornerstone Coffee in McMinnvile last Saturday.  Many old friends and some new ones came out for the evening.  I’ll be back there again on July 25th, IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration) weekend.  In the meantime, I’ve been invited to tape a show for McMinnville Public Access TV this spring.  Stay tuned!

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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Sunset over Salmon Brook Farms

If we all do some small part to making the world a better place, it surely will be.  We all owe this world something for the good things we experience in life.  As the character Paul Edgecombe said in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Green Mile, “In the end, we all owe a death.  No exceptions.”  Our actions up until that time are the legacy we leave, and how we will be remembered by those whose lives we touch.  Kindness, humility and grace are no small feats in life, and are a constant striving towards a perfection we may never achieve.

Mr.Pluff

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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.

*********

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

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

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

In your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.

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

http://home.earthlink.net/~redwine5

https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

GuildJumbo

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

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for November 2014

News from the farm

Our feature photo this month is an eastern view of the farm the reader can compare to the last two posts which show what the farm looked like under drought conditions.  The grass has revived to an vibrant emerald green with the rain, and will need mowing soon.  The mixture of brilliant reds, oranges and golds that our native New England is famous for in autumn are muted in this area, except for places one might see non-native Acer saccharum (sugar maple,) or other ornamental maple planted.  No leaf-peepers come here to view the foliage at this time of year! Our blueberry bushes turn a lovely scarlet and rows of grape vines turn to gold, but the trees slowly fade to shades of yellow and brown, and quietly slip away with the daylight hours, wind, and rain.

The harvest is over, and most its associated activities completed.  The rains have settled in, and the sky is once again filled with armadas of storm cloud galleons on their way over the Cascade Range. The moon is hard to find these nights unless there are breaks in the clouds, spilling light through cracks of dark sky-river like molten gold.  Another year is passing, and like the clouds driven by Wind, we are obliged to come along, another year older.  If you listen carefully, Wind will not only tell you where you’ve been, but where you are going.

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The Boys of Salmon Brook Farm in the middle of an important conference on the topic of “napping”. Left to right – Marcus, Lucio and Nano.

Our first “crush”

Pinot noir, what was left of it, was harvested in late afternoon on 10/11/14.  4 trays were obtained of mixed quality fruit, which was all the birds and bees left us out of the 120 vines in Rick’s vineyard and 16 in my test block! The best fruit was from my test block, which had no canopy management (and therefore slightly more cover from birds), compost feeding and a mycorrhizal fungi-fertilizer mix.  I had netted way too late and was left with very little, but I decided to not pass up a learning experience!  None of the conditions were ideal.  No equipment to speak of, no experience, and only Google for help.  What I had might make a few gallons, and I decided to see what the native yeasts might be capable of instead of inoculating with some strain of commercial wine yeast.

All that the birds and bees left us from 136 vines.

All that the birds and bees left us from 136 vines.

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Pinot noir grapes waiting for processing.

Much hand sorting of individual berries went into this process, due to bird and bee damage, some mold and insects. It took a good 4 hours to do all the pressing, literally by hand.  On the positive side, the fresh juice did measure about 22 brix, a respectable starting value for what I was after, a rose´ pinot noir I would name “Eye of the Gopher”.

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In the “crusher”!

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Pomace – left over grape skins, seeds and stems – will go back in the garden and vineyard. Grapes were processed a colander load at a time, crushed by hand.

Notes from 10/19:
“The native yeastie boys have something going after all…the hydrometer reads roughly 7% now, so 12 -7 = %5 alcohol.  It is tasting somewhere between muscat and brachetto.  Not bad!  I smell a touch of volatile acidity, but the flavor is good.  Nothing bad there.  So I will let it continue a while yet!  The stockpot is gently crackling, with a good foam cap, and there is activity.  Note: I had originally checked it after 2 days fermentation, and not much change in alcohol content, although we could see the cap forming.”

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Checking the grape must for sugar and potential alcohol with a beer & wine triple scale hydrometer.

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Fermenter – a 16 qt stock pot! Coolest room in the house, and the tub in use for growing plants at the moment. Eventually the old garage will be redone as workshop & micro-winery.

Notes from 10/27:
“Stopped the fermentation experiment this evening.  About 6% of the sugar was digested, but mainly Acetobacter at work now instead of yeast, and we had some good red wine vinegar.  Racked off the bulk to a clean glass carboy and transferred to the refrigerator in the pump house.  Rick sent me a good link to a Wine Spectator article on prions initiated by bacteria and their effect on yeast, basically stalling fermentation. http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/50763″

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The Best of the Yeastie Boys in 2014. Produced about 6% alcohol and was taken over by bacteria in the genus Acetobactor, which converted the alcohol to acetic acid – vinegar. It made a wonderful fruity wine vinegar! Settling out in the cool until I can rack it off into a clean carboy.

Prions in yeast?  One typically associates prions, disease inducing forms of normal proteins,  with diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and some forms of dementia. Yeast have prions?  Apparently some strains of bacteria appear to be able to chemically induce yeast to produce prions in their cell membranes, resulting in “glucose repression”, and a stuck fermentation.

It is hard to tell what all may have happened in this experiment, but I am quite pleased at diving in under less than ideal conditions and at least coming out with good vinegar!  I have received one suggestion that it may not be available yeast nutrients, which was another possibility, but that the native yeasts themselves weren’t up to the job.  Epernay-II was suggested, as it is known for imparting fruity aromatics, working well in long cool fermentation conditions and will reach a max of about 11-12%.  I may try a dual run next year with the native yeast again vs the Epernay-II strain.  At some point, with commercial yeast in the environment in the building, grape pomace going back into the vineyard/garden area, the “native” yeast will probably contain some percentage of the commercial strain, and no longer be reflective of what was originally here.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

Harvest, crush and my eye issues are out of the way now, and we have some extra help looking after Rick’s mother,  giving me a breather to focus more on music for a while.   Seabisquit the Subaru and I are back in McMinnville at the end of next January!  Cornerstone Coffee does a lot to support music. If you are in the area, please drop by and support them with your patronage.  I’ve just started booking for the coming year, so be sure to check the Performance Schedule page periodically.

And, if you don’t mind virtually traveling to North Dakota, do give a listen to Jessie Veeder’s music video “Boomtown” at veederranch.com.  I came across this musician rancher some months ago.  Great song, great performance and the video tells the story of her town in song and pictures.  Well done, Jessie!

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

Sunrise over the farm in October.   Every new day is a gift, a clean slate on which to write one's story.  Lives are like books in progress, the ending still unfolding.

Sunrise over the farm in October.
Every new day is a gift, another page on which to write one’s story. Lives are like books in progress, the ending still unfolding.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for August 2014

Our feature photo this month is of our resident skunk.  As the summer heat has transformed the surrounding hills to golden brown and dried up watering holes and forage, the local wildlife, including a grey fox, has come in closer in search of food and water, sometimes watching us spot-water the main garden from the other side of the deer fence.   I noted one evening, after watering the plants on the porch, that this skunk was licking water from the leaves of flowers.  I put out a dish of water, well away from the porch, hoping it keeps this thirsty little one away from the house where he/she may be surprised by accident.   I took this photo, hiding in the first row of blueberries, as our striped visitor took a leisurely stroll down the row of table grapes.

News from the farm:

The days are growing perceptibly shorter now on our little farm in the Cascade foothills as we head towards autumn, which is really not that far off now.  It is the season of dry heat and parched land, where they clay soil bakes as hard as a brick in the August sun.  Even the  gophers prefer to dig their tunnels where watering has occurred, leading to some unfortunate uprooting of plants in the vicinity.  Seed crops are being harvested around the Willamette Valley, and the soil is being turned under and pulverized to fine dirt by impressively large machines that look like giant caterpillars crawling across the larger farms.  It is the season of dust devils, and tan to orange skies.  Smoke from distant forest fires, as well as dust and fine soil sent skyward from the agricultural sector, creates an alien world effect, and the sun bathes the farm in an strange orange glow at midday, and the growing moon in the evening.  Time, wind, and the rains, which will come later on, will clean the air.  It is a yearly cycle, and I have seen 10 of them now on this farm.  Like our vines, I have rooted here, and feel a deep connection with this place,  its seasons, and moods.

Afternoon alien orange glow, the result of smoke and dust on this particular day.

Afternoon alien orange glow, the result of smoke and dust on this particular day.

Unlike the grass, I cannot pass the time by going dormant in the heat.  We harvested 62 quarts of blueberries from our patch before birds and heat took over, with plums, grapes and apples yet to come in.    Rick noted that veraison, the first signs of ripening, have already occurred in some of the Cascade table grapes, but he has not seen it in our pinot noir wine grapes, not just yet.   Grape harvest will be most likely be earlier than usual this year, although one never knows what Mother Nature may throw one’s way!

YOUR grapes????  I thought these were MY grapes!!!!

YOUR grapes???? I thought these were MY grapes!!!!

Pollinators of all sorts have been active on the flowers and herbs we have planted all around.  Spearmint seems to be the most attractive, by far, to a wide variety of bees, moths, butterflies and flies.  On a hot day, brushing against these plants releases a cloud of minty perfume, as well as a cloud of assorted insects.

Spearmint in bloom.  Note the honeybee in the bottom right, and a larger moth-like insect on the center bloom.

Spearmint in bloom. Note the honeybee in the bottom right, and a larger moth-like insect on the center bloom.

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

I am all done for the season, and will be taking a break from performing for the harvest season, as well as work on the new CD which has been in progress for some time, with no time to work on it.  Old Seabisquit the Subaru also needs some attention from me in the way of new plugs and wires, air and gas filters.  We’ll be back in the saddle later on this winter.  Check back now and then to see where we will be!

Just a reminder, the local Farmers’ Markets are still in full swing, and most feature a variety of music and dance along with  fresh produce, meats, cheeses and home-made goods.  Support your local growers and artisans.  Many wineries also feature music during the summer season.  Check your area listing for details!

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

Blynken, the Quiet Intellectual.  Wonders what I'm up to with that camera!

Blynken, the Quiet Intellectual. Wonders what I’m up to with that camera!

Marcus and Lucio, looking quite comfy.

Marcus and Lucio, looking quite comfy.

 

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for June 2014

I’ve added a couple of new pages to the blog for those who are interested – The Cats of Salmon Brook Farm, and  Seabisqut the Subaru, my old Impreza hatchback with over 418,000 miles and still has the original engine and transmission.  The old Seabisquit and  I have traveled many a mile together.

News from the farm:
Summer will soon officially be here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills, but is already in full swing for us.  Roses and daylilies are in full bloom, adding splashes of bright color to the emerald green everywhere.  The honeybees have moved on from the fruit trees and blueberry bushes, and are now working the clover and blackberry.  On warm days, the carpet of white clover blooms is a wall of sound, and can appear to be moving.

A bee's clover field of dreams.

A bee’s clover field of dreams.

Like a bee, Rick has frantically been buzzing about and working the vineyard, keeping exuberant grape vines under control and focused on their purpose.  The fruit looks like small clusters of green berries at this time.  Veraison, or the first blush of ripening, is yet to come.  The farm originally came with two long rows of table grapes, mainly Cascade, with some Concord, Delaware and Niagra.  These provide good eating for us, as well as grapes for the local market.  Unfortunately, birds, raccoons, yellow jackets and honeybees also love the succulent fruit of the vine.  Yellow jackets are able to get through the bird netting, and puncture holes in the grapes to imbibe the sweet juice.  Honeybees will also feed at these puncture sites, especially when conditions are very dry and the only flowering plants in any quantity are the Coast Dandelion (Hypochaeris radicata) and the Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).   Although yellow jackets will prey on honeybees, the two species will feed side by side on fruit in an apparent truce at the watering hole.

Developing table grapes

Developing table grapes

Rick and I planted our 120 vine pinot noir vineyard together, comprised of mainly Pommard, 777 and Wadenswill on a mix of Riparia Gloire, 44-53 and 3309 rootstock.  As our subterranean friends the Gophers have chomped through and taken out individual vines, we have replaced them with cheaper own-rooted cuttings we grew ourselves.  Hopefully we will not experience an infestation of the aphid-like Phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae) which almost destroyed the great vineyards of France (and most of the Vitus vinifera vineyards of the world) before the introduction of resistant rootstock.  Being in relative isolation here, we have been lucky, so far.

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r302300811.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_French_Wine_Blight

Rick working the pinot noir vineyard within the deer fencing.

Rick working the pinot noir vineyard within the deer fencing.

Our geographic location also plays a hand in how the year’s fruit production fares.  At roughly 800 feet, our farm is nestled in a bowl, and experiences a “ponding” of cold air which affects not only the vineyard, but also our fruit trees.   During the seasonal transitions, Old Jack Frost can smite both flower in spring, and ripening fruit in early fall with his icy paintbrush.

At some point, we hope this vineyard will  produce good fruit that we will turn into our own wine.  For the interim, we grow and learn how to work with our environment and its cast of characters.

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

I’m continuing to expand and rearrange the sub-pages under music.  The full listing of songs on the CD, the stories behind why some were written, or chosen to cover, are now there.  Help yourself!

The local Farmers’ Markets are in full swing now, and most feature a variety of music and dance along with  fresh produce, meats, cheeses and home-made goods.  Support your local growers and artisans.  Many wineries also feature music during the summer season.  Check your area listing for details!

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

Both beautiful and functional, daylilies planted around the base of our fruit trees help protect trunks from mower and weedwacker damage.

Both beautiful and functional, daylilies planted around the base of our fruit trees help protect trunks from mower and weedwacker damage.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for May 2014

News from the farm:

We are in late spring here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. Bees and other pollinators trysted earlier in April with the intoxicatingly fragrant blossoms of plum, cherry, pear and apple.  A walk through the orchard during bloom time is an amazing experience of scent, color, and sound like no other I know.  Trees filled with foraging bees can be heard from some distance when there are enough of them out collecting nectar and pollen.  Having fulfilled their purpose now, the spent petals have drifted down like pink and white snow, collecting in the emerald green grass. They quietly curl and brown in their final resting places below, leaving their legacy of small green fruits above to grow, ripen and change color over the summer.

Blueberries are still blooming, the fragrant white bell-shaped blossoms enjoyed by bee and hummingbird alike.  Bumblebees seem to be especially fond of them, and are thought to be better pollinators of blueberries as they sonicate the blooms.

Our feisty little friends the pocket gophers are tunneling furiously in the wet soil, and I am right behind them, filching their numerous dirt piles for transplanting seedlings that are outgrowing their trays.  Entirely in keeping with the old saying if one has lemons, make lemonade!  Once the plant starts are big enough and sufficiently hardened off, they will go in the garden.  At least a few will be filched by a Leprechuan-like gopher in the end.  If I listen carefully, I may hear  chuckling somewhere down in the tunnels…

The weather is in transition, with many fronts and storms coming through now.  Rainbow season is here, and the wind takes on a different sound moving through trees in leaf.  Rain speaks in many tongues to those who listen, often in conversation with Wind and Cloud.  An angry wind from a dark, brooding sky can throw hail, feared by farmer and all tender growing things that can be pummeled or torn to shreds by such violence of Nature.  And then there is the sun which follows the storm.  Golden, warm healer goes about setting all to right while the receding darkness offers the rainbow flag of truce.  For a short while, all wars everywhere have ended, and magic rules this unique kingdom of shadows and light.  The gophers have discovered the pot of gold, stored it down in their hole, and are busy counting the loot!  No two storms are alike.  I capture this moment in memory, to hold onto like a locket.
Rainbow over Salmon Brook Farm

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

The schedule has changed since the last posting.  I will be in McMinnville at Cornerstone Coffee  in July on IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration) weekend instead of May as previously scheduled.

I’ve continued to expand and rearrange the sub-pages under music.  The full listing of songs on the CD, the stories behind why some were written, or chosen to cover, are now there.  Help yourself!

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

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