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

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

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  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.”

“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

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

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.

The Cycle of Life

In Loving Memory

Those who have been following this blog know that we have been caring for my husband’s elderly mother in our home for the last 3 years.  There comes a time when the body is too worn and tired to continue, and the spirit longs for freedom from it and life’s experiences, some quite painful.  She lost a daughter long ago, before Rick was born.  A beautiful 6 year old who ran into the road after a ball, Sharon was hit by a truck and died instantly.   The experience affected the rest of her life on many levels.


Daughter Sharon who died at age 6.

Mom was fortunate to be able to pass away at home with us instead of a hospital or facility.  Her feline companion Willow and the rest of cats were also in attendance.


Companion cat Willow, taken back in October. One can see the love between these two elder ladies, one human, one feline.

The outpouring of love and support from friends and relatives has helped us tremendously during our time of grief while we transition into a new life without her.  Special thanks goes to Samaritan Evergreen Hospice for all their assistance and compassion during the last 3 months.   We could have not done this without their support, and that of the caregivers we enlisted who have helped us during most of the 3+ years we have had her with us.

It is here I will close my own thoughts, and leave readers with an eloquent note I received from an old friend and long-time mentor.   It has brought us great comfort.

“I join you in your sorrow and joy.  I am aware that getting old is mostly a matter of letting things go, giving up many thoughts and dreams that we compile during our lives.  I have come to believe a page from the Buddhist philosophy, dependency arising.  All things are connected to all things.  Nothing happens without a ripple through the universe whether we are able to perceive it or not.

     I also believe it has been a blessing that she was surrounded by the cats and the farm, all the things that speak of life with their
cycles and acceptance of all that happens.  A few days ago I had a five minute stare down with a four point buck and several does.  He was a little curious but very separate with his little family.  He was also fearless and accepting of our sharing a space and time.  Eventually he went back to eating and I went along my way.  The doe’s weren’t concerned in the slightest.

      There’s nothing special in that five minutes except that we are all here, we all have our part to play and then we go forward to
whatever dimension is next.  The rest of us remain with our memories, selecting out the good and mostly letting the rest fade away.  While I’m in no hurry, to me Death is a friend who I’ll have plenty of time to get to know in the future.  I’m watching the seasons come and go with more intensity than ever before.

     You and Rick have come through a very difficult time that has increased the wear and tear on both you.  You are changed by it as we
all are by every difficulty that comes our way.  Now is the time to sit back quietly for a short while and cement the good while letting the bad find it’s own way down the road.  I admire your strength and fortitude tremendously, both of you.  I want you to finish out this winter and walk into spring with all of its new promise.  I hope you will find renewed happiness in the renewed season.    – K.”


Clouds and blue sky in spring over Salmon Brook Farms.