Our feature photo is a view of sunrise back on November 3rd. The colors change rapidly at the bookends of the day when conditions are right for viewing, and one must be both patient and quick to catch these ephemeral beauties.
There has been many I time I have looked up from whatever I was working on, noted a particularly glorious sky, run out with camera in hand, only to discover I was a minute too late. Fortunately the sun rises and sets every day, so far, and I am lucky enough to catch one of them now and then in full glory. Each one is unique, and I never tire of seeing them.
News from the farm
Covid-19 and the western wildfires, some of them very close to us, have received more than enough coverage elsewhere on the Internet, and in the interest of moving on with life and the coming new year, I will not mention them here other than we were fortunate enough not to have to evacuate, and have been relatively healthy. We are grateful for all that we have, and silently thank all those who have helped us along the way in this life.
Although we lost roughly a month of ripening in the vineyard to to adverse fire weather, suffered a “volemic” of tunneling voles in garden and vineyard (which inspired one poet to write a limerick), as well as attacks on fruit from wasps, bees and birds, Rick was able to harvest enough reasonably ripe pinot noir to make two small batches of rosé wine. For us, that equates to roughly two 16 quart stock pots worth, hand crushed and strained in a colander, inoculated with yeast, and fermented at room temperature in a cat-proof room which varied from 68 to 72 degrees. We used Red Star Premier Blanc yeast, having been told by the supplier that Premier Blanc was the current replacement for Cotes de Blancs (Epernay II) we have used before. This was apparently not correct information, but our small batch winemaking here, like our life here, is a bit of an experiment, what is done is done, and we happily grumble onward, learning along the way. The new wine was deemed reasonable considering we were only able to ripen the grapes to about ~ 20 brix (Vat 1) and a few days later, 21 brix (Vat 2).
Rick’s tasting notes from 2020:
Vat 1 very delicate, but balanced if very slightly oxidized (possibly due to the low alcohol). May be just fine with some time to develop.
Vat 2 very promising, delicate but with more concentration and less oxidation. Can hardly wait to try again in 2 or 3 months.
It is both sadness and relief I feel every year when the harvest is in and the gardens wind down for the year. The energy can be redirected to where it is needed, repairs made, maintenance performed. I remind myself it will not be long before seeds for 2021 need to be ordered, and then started indoors again, kicking off another yearly cycle.
On November 1st, the clocks changed. Cat stomach clocks do not recognize the vernal and autumnal spring ahead and fall back changes, and expect food at the accustomed time, regardless. They do not seem to have as much of a problem with the spring ahead clock change though, merely expressing pleasant surprise at an early breakfast and dinner.
On clear mornings, I watch the growing light in the east as night rolls away to the west, stars and planets fading from view as a new day begins, each one full of promise. It is up to me to fulfill that promise. Even grey wet mornings have their place, offering peace in the gentle staccato of rain on the metal roof, the call of the tree frog and the scent of damp earth. Sometimes a low grey ceiling settles in like a brooding hen, trapping smoke from neighboring fireplaces and distant burn piles. This is home in the dark season, when night falls early, and barn lights and colorful Christmas lights around the area mark the closing of another year. Sunrise will continue to come slightly later for a while even as the sun begins its slow but steady tread north after solstice, and I will chart the progress along the eastern rim, as I do every year. Even in this dark time, green shoots of daffodils and dutch irises are poking their heads out of the cold, damp earth, answering a call far older than mankind. Lichens, swollen with rain water, festoon trees in a greenish-grey, covering branches, logs and stumps. It is winter in the Pacific Northwest.
News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms
Mr. Nano, head of the Feline Correspondents Desk of Salmon Brook Farms has contacted Sicilian Olive Farm Cats Correspondent Desk to provide this month’s report on this year’s olive harvest. The Sicilian Correspondents are also known as the Fratelli Mandorle (Almond Brothers). Correspondents NewDude, YouTube and Spanky have collaborated on this month’s report from their homeland. Without further ado, they will present their report.
The rhythm of nature has brought us to another olive harvest. The yellow of the withering grape leaves, red bark of the leafless peach trees, and the fiery red of the ornamental grape vine, color the autumn palette. The shimmering green leaves of the olive trees form the backdrop for the green, purple and black olives.
Hilda (resident canine) took charge of inspecting the olives for ripeness while the Almond Brothers checked the nets to make sure they were in working order. There are three types of olives on our farm. The small ones are called Frantoio are an early variety and turn from green to black in what seems to be the blink of an eye. The green varieties, which ripen later, are both medium and large sized olives that slowly change from green to purple to black. In September we pick the larges green olives put them in a salt water brine solution for a month to cure.
Mother Nature was generous this year. A hot summer killed most of the olive fly larvae, and the absence of extreme heat wind and rain during pollination set the stage for a bountiful harvest.
Two workers arrived on November 2nd, and in just short of two days, harvested forty trees. Spanky was the only Almond Brother courageous enough to help. Correspondents New Dude and YouTube decided napping was a much better idea, and of course, slept in the almonds.
Four trips to Olio Arke, the olive milling plant, or oleficio, delivered over nine quintali of olives, or a little over 2000 lbs! A quintale is 100 kilos or 220lbs. The olives are emptied into a hopper where they are washed and leaves and twigs are separated. A conveyor belt brings them to the frangitore where they are crushed to form a paste. The paste is then transferred to the granola or kneading machine which facilitates the separating of the oil from the paste. This process takes roughly 45 minutes, and during this time, the social aspect of the process take over. Invariably, neighbors or acquaintances are there as well, and there is lively chatter about this year’s harvest and yield.
In the final step of the process the paste is immersed in the centrifuge separating the oil, water and solids. As the new oil flows, neighborly hands appear to help decant the oil into the waiting containers.
As we settle into winter, we wish you peace and good health in the coming new year.
– The Fratelli Mandorle reporting from Sicilian Olive Farm Cats Correspondent Desk
Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
For those readers who missed previous posts or are new to this blog, I will be posting on mostly seasonal basis now, four times a year, and the end of the solstice and equinox months, while I try to catch up on the many projects, including updating the pages associated with this blog, as well as stay in touch with all of you. I will keep the performance schedule updated as venues become available to me again. Due to Covid-19, what was once a full schedule is now empty.
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. It’s been a while, but I put up two more recently. Full Circle was written in the aftermath of 9/11/2001 and is a song about love and enjoying life while one can. I’ve played it out all the intervening years, and recorded here recently with the lights down, much like a typical evening here I’d be practicing. It is a bit dark, but I make no apologies. There are no flashy graphics, just one woman, one voice, and a guitar. The guitar featured here is my old Ventura 12 string. I bought this old friend at a kiosk in a mall for $100 back in 1977. For those interested in lutherie, this guitar is a bit different in that it has a zero fret up by the nut. To my knowledge, this brand of guitars, which were made in Japan, are not made anymore, and I have only come across one other, not nearly constructed as well. I keep the Ventura tuned to DGDGBD or DGDGA#D. Flat the 3rd and you get G minor. Alternate tunings are easier for small hands and present a bigger box of acoustical paint from which to draw upon. I use Martin Acoustic SP extra light phosphor bronze strings on the Ventura, Martin Acoustic SP light gauge phosphor bronze strings on the Martin guitar, And D’Addario light gauge coated phosphor bronze on the Guild.
Those who know me well also know I am a big fan of the late Kate Wolf, recorded a few of her songs on my last CD, and I will be recording some more of her music in the future as well. The Minstrel is one of her songs I learned this past year. Here it is adapted and arranged for the 12 string guitar tuned to Open G.
I am 17 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 Spotify and 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 due to digital rights content. Readers can also access some songs from the CD via the old IUMA archive site.
Rick retired from playing music some years ago, but he still practices, and played a few tunes at some of my shows before the Covid-19 lockdown, and was my roadie and sound man. His music is also distributed by The Orchard, and you can find him on Spotify and YouTube. Readers will need to search on the album or song name or you will come up with one or more other musicians named Rick Ross.
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms