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

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2017

Our feature photo is of a particularly beautiful sunset on January 3rd, and our resident black locust tree once again made a fine winter display.  The sky was on fire, and in the closer view below, appeared to be emanating from a neighbor’s conifer.  Click on any photo in these posts to enlarge.

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I almost rejected this photo for being too dark, but decided I liked the visual effect of the dark tree against the last rays of the sun on the cloud cover. Nature provides the most beautiful light shows on Earth.

News from the farm

January arrived on our little farm in the Cascade foothills, shivering under a thin covering of snow.  I have hope that this young and impressionable New Year will bring peace and reconciliation as it develops and matures.  The first chapter is already coming to a close, yet there is still hope. The rest of the story is yet to be written, the final chapter dependent on the actions of us all.  It rests in our collective hands and hearts.

Wet and rather sticky at 32 degrees, new-fallen snow created rhythmic sounds of compression underfoot as I moved about.  Birds actively scratched about for seed in the early morning light, coming and going with purpose.  The morning cloud cover was not uniform, sporting some thin areas with blue behind them.  More dark grey wanderers from the south and west soon joined the parade, filling in the voids.  Somewhere above, the sun was shining, although we never saw it that day.  Daffodils, which had grown and formed buds back in December and threatened to bloom at Christmas, had chosen to remain in stasis, defiantly waiting out Old Man Winter.

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Daybreak on January 1st. The farm in snow.

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Blueberry bush still sporting some ice under the snow on January 1st.

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Daffodils in snow on January 1st.

Between December and January, we experienced a prolonged cold, allowing snow and ice to linger for a while.  Another storm on the 7th transformed the farm into a monochrome snow globe as large, heavy flakes descended from a low, uniformly silver-grey sky.  For a short time, we lived inside yet another frozen kingdom, designed and built by the reigning monarch of the season, but not meant to endure.  The enchantment only exists now in mind’s eye and stored aural history, and to a lesser extent, in digital format.

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A monochrome snow globe. Early morning light.

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Our patient resident black locust tree posing for the photographer.

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East view of the January 7th snow globe.

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Taken through the window. The quail were quite wary of me holding anything in my hands, even though I was inside. Left to right: Towhee, California Quail and what I believe is a Junco on the right. Snowstorm on January 7th.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our brother and sister resident feline correspondents Mr. Marcus and Miss Hope agreed to file a report, with the help of the farm’s photographer and chief gopher hole inspector.  This sharp-eyed pair will be 10 years old this summer, and have come to know well the farm’s seasonal rhythms through their constant peering out of windows, accompanied by copious note-taking, over the years.  Without further ado, we present Mr. Marcus and Miss Hope, Resident Feline Correspondents of Salmon Brook Farms.

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Resident Feline Correspondents Mr. Marcus (left) and Miss Hope (right), lounging in their basket this morning.

January is normally a season of rest here on Salmon Brook Farms, a time to watch birds, sleep, read and reflect on the past year as well as the new one underway. Seed catalogs are of particular interest, and are carefully scanned for favorite old varieties as well as new ones to be tested this year in the garden.  The order was placed and arrived promptly.  With the exception of the wrong variety of corn being sent, all was in order, and the company will now send the correct corn variety known as “Top Hat”.

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Moss and lichens weathering out the winter out back near the apple tunnel.

Life quietly waited in every corner of the farm as the days grew perceptibly longer.  Lichen, moss, dandelion, daffodil, wild garlic chives, small shoots and creatures large and small grew bolder as the days passed and snow and ice retreated. 

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Winter dandelion keeping a low profile. They will bloom here and there in protected places about the farm all winter.

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Moss growing on the north side of an apple tree.

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The first daffodil bud opened January 29th.

Our photographer’s excursion to the back lot revealed evidence of creatures that regularly pass through or live somewhere in the wild areas of the farm: gophers, deer, feral cats and nutria.  Gophers have been particularly active now that the ground has thawed, and one animal has chosen to leave his own mark on top of the gopher hole.  We suspect that the resident of the gopher hole met with foul play.  Deer are always lurking about, leaving plenty of droppings of their own, a telltale sign they have been feeding out back.  Surprisingly, it appears at least one nutria has amazingly survived the prolonged cold, as evidenced by the presence of their characteristic scat.

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A typical gopher mound. Activity has increased with the lengthening days and softer ground.

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Another creature, perhaps a feral cat, has left their calling card on a gopher mound. The resident gopher was possibly the victim of foul play. Or perhaps the presence of soft, crumbled dirt was attractive to whomever left their scat.

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Evidence of surviving nutria.

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The deer have also been grazing out back, leaving evidence of their presence.

Many sunrises have come and gone here on the farm during our time.  We find each one unique, each noteworthy in it own way.

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Sunrise January 27th.

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Sunrise January 27, view a bit further south. The jagged line of conifers make an interesting silhouette against the dawn sky.

As the day closes, we wish our readers a pleasant evening, warm blankets, good food and company.

– Mr. Marcus and Miss Hope, Resident Feline Correspondents reporting from Salmon Brook Farms

Thank you Mr. Marcus and Miss Hope!

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page

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The new year is already flying by!  I am still working on projects which are long overdue.  Until I can post some of that work, The Orchard, our distributor, has placed some of our music from the Keepsake CD on YouTube.  Anyone wishing to see the entire track listing and stories behind the songs should visit my personal page under MUSIC in the menu at the top of this post.   Depending on what country you live in, the music placed on YouTube by The Orchard may be blocked.  Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site.  See https://archive.org/details/iuma-lavinia_ross

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

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

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

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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 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

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for March 2016

Our feature photo this month is of a busy, but obliging honeybee working the pear tree with her sisters on a beautiful, sunny afternoon.

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Any trees in bloom were full of hard-working pollinators today.

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The old Italian purple prune-type plum tree.

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Apple tree at “first pink”, the first blush of blooms to come.

The kaleidoscope spring skies of dark clouds, passing storms, warm golden sun and ephemeral rainbows have been providing spectacular daily shows this month on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  The day presented us with a nippy 31 degrees this morning, as reported by the thermometer on the porch, and reached the mid 70s this afternoon.  Pollinators of all sorts were enjoying the warmth and sun, and the trees currently in bloom were alive with the pleasant drone of many beating wings.  My favorite time of day is early morning under clear skies, when the molten gold of the rising sun comes streaming over the eastern ridge down onto the emerald green grass of the farm below, setting the heavy dew afire in a sudden explosion of prismatic jeweled brilliance.  It is a time to be mentally, as well as physically present to absorb the promise of a new day.  Mind’s Eye records the scene in detail to be replayed in memory, and the joy of witnessing the transition from darkness to light is written upon the pages of the soul.  No two sunrises are the same.

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Storm clouds to the south over the shed.

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Some beautiful cirrus type with a faint cloud-bow towards the bottom.

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East view of an afternoon rainbow over Salmon Brook Farms.

News from the farm

It has been a month of moving many small projects forward as well as taking time to slow down and wander about the farm.  The nutria are still about, although they cannot get into the shed since the barricade went up.  The youngsters, Gidney, Cloyd and Yosemite Sam, have been sighted at different times and places about the farm, and have left tell-tale signs of their presence.

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Nutria scat and cropped grass. Nutria at work. I stepped in plenty of it over the winter when the youngsters were up around the house.

A line of five California Redwood trees was planted up front along the south border.  These little fellows have been nurtured in pots for several years from roughly 4 inch high seedlings, and it was time to turn them loose.  They will grow tall and strong, and according to the tree farmer friends who gave us the seedlings several years ago, not uproot easily in storms.  They will provide a windbreak, shade for the front, and shelter for birds.  All were planted in the memory of someone we either knew or had heard about that passed on recently.  Sometimes a garden or planting is the one kind thing I am able to do for someone.

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This particular tree is for Michael, son of G.P Cox, Pacific Paratrooper. G.P.’s site contains a wealth of WWII history and stories. https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/

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Cherry tree garden in memory of Herman’s mother and brother, cats Glippie and Mrs. Jones. Readers encouraged to follow the adventures of Herman and world-famous cat Mr. Bowie, both of whom hail from Belgium, at https://hopedog.wordpress.com/

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An early spring view of the memorial garden for Australian friends Janet and Baz. In memory of loved ones Archie and Marion. Readers are encouraged to follow the adventures Baz, Janet and TomO in the Australian Outback at http://thelandy.com/

Although I cannot claim pouring cement was restful, it was good to see that project finally get underway. Four years ago, two old cement pads of differing heights and jagged edges from the old house were moved down by the main garden and placed together as a foundation of sorts to place a greenhouse upon.  Mixed by hand, 60 to 120 lbs at a time in the old wheel barrow, the roughly 12 x 12 foot pad finally took form recently.  Chicken wire will be laid down now for reinforcement, and another 20 bags still to be poured. Tomorrow’s task, now that better weather is here.  I am no master cement worker, though this should work well enough to set the greenhouse frame up later.

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First layer of cement – underlying pads are joined and it is now a square, more or less!

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New grape cuttings, as well as rescue blueberry cuttings have either been potted up already, or are waiting for me to collect more gopher diggings so I can pot them up.  Some are stored in Lake Roger, the drainage ditch, staying hydrated and wet, waiting for the greenhouse above to finally go up.  I have not devoted any time to grafting experiments with the old Bing cherry tree or plums yet.  I am probably running out of time for that this year.

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A mix of muscat and gewurztraminer wine grape cuttings waiting in Lake Roger.

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Blueberry cuttings. I had not intended to try to make these, but a rutting male deer made shrapnel out of many of our blueberry bushes last fall. A ready made experiment, I kept these in the garage all winter. One, at least, is showing green (far right). A few have viable looking buds.

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More blueberry cuttings that have been sitting in long grass all winter. Found them when I went to trim grass in the blueberry patch. They are waiting for pots for good clay soil that holds water. I have had good luck rooting many things this way.

Seabisquit the Subaru finally got new plugs and wires!  I waited a bit longer than originally anticipated to get this done, and upon checking my records, found that the NGK Iridium IXs had 157,664 miles on them, quite a bit longer than recommended by the manufacturer.  One can see in the photo below that the gap is quite large and the plugs well-worn.  Surprisingly the car ran quite well.  Old Seabisquit was quite pleased that I finally got around to changing them.  It is still fairly easy on this car, with only one plug requiring removal of the windshield washer tank so I could get at it.  Old Seabisquit has now passed 431,326 miles, and I have promised my trusty steed that I will give him a good cleaning once we have hauled the last 20 bags of cement tomorrow.

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Old Iridium IX spark plugs removed. Stayed in a bit longer than anticipated, but Old Seabisquit ran pretty well in spite of it. They had 157, 664 miles on them.

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Current mileage on Old Seabisquit. Can’t keep a good car down….

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The author’s cave. Functions as stall for old Seabisquit, workshop and plant start nursery, as well as warm place for over-flow house plants.

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News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Our feline correspondent this month is Mr. Marcus, enjoying his favorite perch on back of the couch.  He would like readers to know that the cat crew very much appreciates the change in the weather, and the opportunity to sit in front of an open window, as brief as it is at this time of year.

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Mr. Marcus, this month’s feline correspondent. One of the Boys of Salmon Brook Farms.

Marcus says his sister Hope is particularly fond on chewing on the Venetian blind cords, although she has not yet learned how to work them to get viewing access.  Marcus also reports that Miss Willow, the old calico matriarch, is doing much better now on the kidney tonic recommended to her by our Northeast Regional Feline Correspondent Otis (see our February 2016 post).

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Miss Hope, sister of Mr. Marcus. One of the Girls of Salmon Brook Farms.

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Old Willow, calico matriarch. A Force of Nature and one of the Girls of Salmon Brook Farms.

All the crew is doing well at this time, although Mr. Lucio will be going in for his dentistry towards the end of April.  He confided to Mr. Marcus that would prefer to send the Doc a postcard from Tahiti, but realizes he does not know where Tahiti is, let alone how to get there.

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Mr. Lucio, cleaning Mr. Marcus. He really wants the window seat, and is preparing to get Mr. Marcus to move.

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.   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.

East coast, internationally touring folk musicians Dana and Susan Robinson will have a new CD, “The Angel’s Share”, coming out before too long.  To hear either one of them alone is a real treat, but together, their voices and instruments intertwine and soar.  I have heard them at Marks Ridge Winery on a summer evening, the music drifting over the mountains.  For our  readers in the U.K., check their schedule periodically.  Not to be missed for those who love this style of music.  Their road essays are also enjoyable reading.
http://www.robinsongs.com/road-essays

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

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

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

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A natural tunnel into the back lot formed by an old feral apple tree that had fallen over but continued to grow. There will be blooms on it before too long now. The farm has many hidden places, and I am enjoying taking the time to rediscover them.

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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

SBF-LateDecemberSkies

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

SundownSBF

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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