Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2019

Our feature photo this month is of a particularly beautiful sunrise on January 1st, starting off the new year on a colorful note.

Our morning sky on January 1, 2019.

The waning crescent moon hung in the sky accompanied by a bright planet.

Readers may click on any image in this post to enlarge. The moon and one bright planet (to the lower left of the moon) hung amid the pink clouds and early blue. I believe the planet pictured to the lower left of the moon here is Venus.

The 2nd of January was no less delightful, making her debut in pink, peach and blue.  Dark branches of bare trees made a fine filigree set against an early sky.

Like waves reaching for the shore, the clouds this morning gave the appearance of rosy-peach colored white caps on morning blue seas.

Of Special Note to Readers

I am not someone who offers reviews of books, art or music, being neither qualified nor having the time, energy or interest to do so. I am an observer and recorder of life as it wanders through this farm, brushing against my own in some way I find meaningful to share with others once every month, sometimes two, and I am very grateful to all who have stopped by to view the reflections of it in the still waters of my words and photographs. Artists, musicians, photographers and writers are among the regular visitors here on this blog site, and I cherish all of you, not only for your individual creativity, but for whom you are as people. That said, there are times when someone’s work comes to my attention, not only for the quality of the individual work, but for something I find inexpressible, something I find of far greater value to society than the sum of its parts.

Author Cynthia Reyes, and her then 4 year old daughter Lauren, and Cabbage Patch doll Quentin.

Cynthia Reyes, a former journalist, producer-director and executive producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, turned to blogging and writing after a serious car accident derailed her career. I thoroughly enjoyed her first two books, A Good Home and An Honest House, both memoirs, but it was Myrtle the Purple Turtle, a children’s book of all things, that spoke to my heart. The story was written to comfort her four year old daughter Lauren, who had been bullied at school for bringing a black Cabbage Patch doll named Quentin. The other children told her they would not play with her if she brought the black doll along, because they thought it was dirty. Over a period of weeks, the family worked on improving the story until all were happy with it, and many years later, in 2017, it finally became a published children’s book. Myrtle the Purple Turtle tells the tale of her initial heartbreak at learning she is different, and being bullied for that, but in the end comes to respect herself for who she is, with the help of her friends. In my enthusiasm for the message behind this book, I gave a copy to our local library for the children’s section, sent a copy to Operation Respect, and also sent one to Scott Simon at NPR. I would love to hear Scott interview Cynthia and Lauren someday!

Cynthia, her daughter Lauren, and students.

I was pleased to learn that Cynthia and her daughter Lauren Reyes-Grange have jointly written a sequel to Myrtle the Purple Turtle titled Myrtle’s Game, which expands upon the lesson of acceptance to include working and playing together in spite of our differences. The illustrations by Jo Robinson in both books are beautifully done; the colors vibrant and rich, the animals expressive. My hope is that there will be a entire series of Myrtle books to encourage young people to grow up leading more tolerant, happier lives. It is unfortunate that books like Myrtle the Purple Turtle and Myrtle’s Game did not exist back in my childhood days. They should be required reading in the classroom. I believe Myrtle is a great educational tool for teaching the Golden Rule.   For all of us who share this one Earth, it is really the only one we need to remember.

News from the farm

The dark month of December has come and gone, a time of death and rebirth, the cold earth sleeping yet quietly incubating life for the coming spring.  The first shoots of January’s daffodils were emerging in December, even as our old Willow cat took her last breath, joining the ranks of the sleeping.  Come spring, her daffodils will bloom, and I will see her peering out from behind the golden cups, calling me to play.  She loved the sun and its golden warmth.

Willow in younger years.

Trees also come and go here. These old friends do not have the option of moving themselves out of harm’s way.   These stoic individuals, rooted in place, must endure weather, pests and the whims of mankind.  We lost our big black locust tree to construction equipment’s needs, but still have a smaller one which had grown from the roots of another locust lost in a windstorm back in 2006.  I will remember the fragrant, creamy blossoms, and bees attracted to the heady scent and promise of nectar.  The tree service company was requested to give the firewood to a family in need.

Creamy white locust blooms from 2017. I will miss this tree.

The black locust tree after an ice storm in 2016, covered in icy jewels and sparkled like diamonds in he sun.

Other trees and some gardens were impacted by construction projects and equipment, and will need serious repair.   A large redbud tree up front was lost as the result of a car going off the road and crashing through the tree, snapping it off at the base.  These trees are beautiful, but seem to have brittle wood.    I will not plant another one of these ornamental trees up front, although perhaps in the back if my cuttings from this fallen beauty manage to root.  I had watched it grow over the last 15 years, having planted it and its smaller partner tree back in 2004 from roughly 1 foot high starts obtained from the National Arbor Day Foundation.  The smaller partner tree also suffered some minimal damage, and we will see how it fares this summer.

I will miss this tree. We still have the smaller of the two redbuds left.

The old black tartarian cherry tree still graces the back lot, minus some limbs and a few side roots.   The garden there is intact, but has a gravel road running right past it now, and that bed will require attention and reworking very soon.

The cherry tree garden will be much closer to the cherry tree on the front side, as a gravel road runs right past it now. We avoided having to have this tree cut down. The garden will have more of a horseshoe shape to it this year.

The days are noticeably longer now, although clouds and mists hold the winter’s chill; I must keep moving to stay warm out there. Daylilies have emerged, and are already several inches high.   Some have divided beyond their original borders and will need moving to spots where I feel their summer beauty and protective nature would help some of the apple trees.   I am acutely aware of the passage of time, and nature’s gathering surge; it is time to attend the gardens, trees and vines.    She will not wait for me, and says I am already a bit late; catching up will be difficult.  I give her a nod, and tell her I will do my best.  Rick has already begun work in the vineyards.

Daylily bed from 2017.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

The Feline Correspondents Desk was closed during December in honor and remembrance of fellow correspondent Willow.   Mr. Nano , head of the Resident Feline Correspondent’s Desk, has asked correspondent Miss Blynken, to file a brief report of her observations from January, even though the farm photographer was unavailable to help her.  Miss Blynken has consulted her notes and has agreed to share some of her entries that she feels may be noteworthy to readers, and hopes her words will suffice for lack of photos.  Without further ado, correspondent Miss Blynken will present her report.

Correspondent Miss Blynken, facing the camera. She is pictured here with her sister and fellow correspondent, Miss Wynken.

January 1, 2019

Dawn arrived, colorful and cold at 24 degrees. The undersides of clouds reflected the rose colors from the longer rays from the sun, still well below the horizon. A single planet and the crescent moon hung in a Maxfield Parrish blue sky. Even a minute or two makes a difference at the bookends of the day, the colors quickly taking on the shorter, brighter wavelengths of peach, cream and finally stark white. Our sky soon populated with clouds, leaving winter grey and filtered sunlight until the herd moved on up the valley, leaving mostly ice crystal cirrus, some formed by spreading early morning contrails. Every drop still clinging to tree, shrub, rosebush and blade of grass scintillates in the angled light, a good omen for the year.

January 4, 2019

A variably partly cloudy day reaching the low 50s, clouds just as soft looking as the air felt mild and springlike. Filaments of cirrus, high level ice clouds, marbled the blue above the breaks in river of moisture headed northeast.

I can see some stars overhead, but barn lights on the distant hills reveal a growing fog at ground level as the temperature falls.

January 5, 2019

A variably cloudy day with some periods of sun, peaking in the higher 40s. A freak wind squall came through this evening. I could see stars through patches of cloud and driving rain. A few strategic plastic cross member supports gave way, destroying the small greenhouse on the porch. Most of the strawberries and the tray of garlic starts survived. There will be a lot of work tomorrow cleaning up the area, and seeing what else gave way in the night.

January 12, 2019

A frosty 26 degrees under mostly clear skies this morning, warming into the high 40s. Everywhere daffodils and more ambitious winter shoots are poking above the soil, lured by the increasing daylight and relatively mild weather. By the old garage, daffodils will bloom soon in this protected space.

A clear calm, and cold evening in progress. It is already down in the 30s. An old friend, the constellation Orion, is overhead. I can pick out a few others.

January 15, 2019

Barely 32 this morning before 7:00 AM. The sky has been mostly overcast, with a few breaks to the south-southwest which seem to be filling in. The sun is attempting to burn a hole through the cloud cover in the southeast, and appears as a bright glowing orb behind sintered glass.

January 16, 2019

Barely 32 degrees under mostly cloudy skies at dawn. The sun rose about 5 minutes ago amid a clearing sky of passing smudges of cloud, spreading contrails and bright filamentous flows of cirrus. It is still, and peaceful.

The clearing skies of early morning did not last long, and our sun soon became a bright light behind a sintered glass disc before disappearing entirely behind a thickening cloud cover and light rain. Another raw day in the lower 40s.

January 17, 2019

A balmier 43 degrees this morning under mostly cloudy skies. The air felt as soft as a fuzzy cat’s tail. There were enough breaks in the clouds to allow the longer, redder rays to catch on the undersides of clouds. Sunrise was mantled in lavender and gold, quite pleasing to behold.

PM PST: Our high was somewhere in the mid 40s, with some morning sun, soon returning to silver-grey followed by charcoal grey, heavy skies and light rain. A stiff, biting wind from the south-south west made it feel colder than it was. The sun made a brief appearance again at sundown.

January 18, 2019

A chilly 34 degrees under generally overcast skies. Any hint of clearing has vanished in the east as the thickening clouds in the southwest slowly advance up the pass. The grey has a hint of blue steel to it today, making it feel colder than it is. The sun weakly shines through the veil of thinner cover in the southeast, as if a light source behind sintered glass. The winds are absent at ground level. Everything waits.

January 20, 2019

Mists have been wandering through the farm this morning, with a very light wind from the west at ground level. The neighboring properties where vegetation has been grazed down to nothing are rutted and flooded, the sort of mild winter conditions nutria would enjoy, but I haven’t seen them, or any sign of them, in a long time.

January 26, 2019

The first glimmers of eastern light at 6:37 AM are visible. A clear sky dawn graced with stars, planets and a bright half-moon overhead, the night’s citizens retreating as the light grows and spreads, chasing them westward. Barn lights on the distant hills glow softly in shades of blue-green and pale orange. I love the transitional times of the day, the time between the dark and the light. It is a cold one out there at 29 degrees on the porch thermometer. I can smell fireplaces burning, and some burning plastic amid the woodsmoke from folks burning things they should not be burning.

The mists thicken and rise, obliterating the hills except for the dark forms of trees higher up the slope, and the barn lights in shadow further down still glowing like beacons. The white icy sheen on the grass will disappear quickly once the sun has risen and temperatures rise. Our local forecast is for clouds and mid 50s. It remains to be seen what the day will actually bring.

January 27, 2019

35 degrees and a thick ground fog out there in the morning darkness. It must be clear above it all, as I can see the veiled, waning moon overhead.

A cold, damp day in the mid 40s in spite of some good filtered sun. The morning mists never quite cleared, and a mist roller crept down from the mountains to the east by afternoon, the cold breath of the mountains on a slow moving ground breeze that was palpable in its moisture content.

We are fully encased in palpable fog this evening, and I watched it writhe in the beam of a flashlight. On nights like these, fog feels like a living thing that could ingest one, and not leave a trace. It is already down in the 30s, and will be quite cold by morning.

January 30, 2019

A silver crayon morning at 28 degrees, is what Jack Frost’s handiwork looks like, cold and glittering lines upon this first page in morning’s sketchbook. Our skies are mostly clear except for thin, high clouds and contrails in the east, which are reflecting the peach colors emanating from below the horizon at this time. Even the thickening mists at ground level are taking on color as they form and rise. All is still, and frost covered, but will thaw as the sun climbs. Sunrise, as we see it here from the view of the geologic bowl in which this farm sits, is now at 8:05 AM, and old Sol is slowly working his way north along the horizon. At Equinox, sunrise will shine directly in the east window.

 

More sunrise clouds from January 2nd.

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

– Resident Feline Correspondent Blynken, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Miss Blynken (in back) with her sister Miss Wynken (long haired cat in front), gathering news.


Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

January has been a relatively quiet month musically, with construction projects (some more difficult and time consuming than initially thought) and family matters taking precedence.

If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

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!

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos. There will be more videos when I can get back to this project.

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.

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
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

September, 2018 sundown. Nature puts on a colorful show for those who will take the time to watch. No two are alike.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

In Loving Memory – Willow

Willow, taken back in October, 2015. One can see the love between these two elder ladies, one human, one feline. Rick’s mother, holding her here in this photo, passed away in December, 2015. Willow has now joined her elderly companion.

There comes a time when the body is too worn and tired to continue, and the spirit longs for freedom from it.  Willow, by all reckoning 22 years old, had been losing ground to extreme old age and failing kidneys.   The intervals between her trips to her veterinarian had become shorter and shorter this year, and she had been placed on subcutaneous fluids for hydration these last few weeks.  There came the dreaded but expected morning when she made it known that it was time to assist her departure from this life, with all the infirmities of her age and chronic illness.  She went for her last ride to her veterinarian that afternoon.  We are extremely grateful to River’s Edge Pet Medical Center for their compassion and support.

Willow, in younger days, reading a card from her friends, Doug (human), Andy and Dougy (cats) over at Weggie Boy’s Blog, https://phainopepla95.com/ Doug has Wegener’s granulomatosis- now called GPA- that attacks the small and medium-sized blood vessels in the body, and is on dialysis due to kidney failure.

Willow was laid to rest the following morning at sunrise, on the farm she loved so well, facing the eastern light.

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, back in 2015 when Rick’s mother passed away.  We had cared for his mother in our home for over three years, until her body finally gave in to the infirmities of old age. Willow, her elderly companion cat, was there with her when she died.  This note from our friend still brings 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 does 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 whom 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.  December, 2015”

Rest in peace, little one.

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

Blynken (left) and Wynken (right), enjoying a good snuggle. Cherish the ones you love. The time passes all too quickly.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for October-November 2018

Our feature photo this month is of a particularly interesting sunset cloudscape from November 27th.  I was captivated by the sense of depth, texture and mood presented on this particular evening.

Sunset clouds on November 27th.

Each day is unique, quietly revealing ephemeral treasures to those who take the time to look for them.

Heart of blue amid stormy skies.

Sunset in pink.

The transition into night is a time for reflection as the day comes to an end; the purple veil in the east rises earlier and earlier as the season progresses. Our November moon is waning, just past last quarter, rising later each evening.  She is a beacon for all who wander about in the darkness, observing the heavens.  We will not see her tonight due to heavy cloud cover and rain.

Night draws closer as the sun drops further below the horizon.

Early morning is a beautiful, contemplative time of day; silver-grey mists form and rise, taking the sunrise colors of pink and gold, and finally stark white when the sun has climbed well above the horizon. They will quickly drift away as cloud.

Early morning mists.

Morning contrails.

News from the farm

It is the time of year when the farm may stand enshrouded in heavy fog all day, with no sign, no hint of the blue river above the soft, quiet coverlet of mist and low cloud. Occasional pockets of cold air moving at ground level brush against my face and arms as they wander across the farm, like the touch of passing ghosts, sentient and otherworldly.

A doe and her offspring grazing along the row of table grapes back in October. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

The months of October and November marched on through the farm in the yearly parade of seasonal produce, changing colors, turbulent skies, windstorms, falling leaves and deer in search of greenery.  Jack Frost, herald of Old Man Winter, has come by on clear nights with his silver brush, leaving a trail of both scintillating sunlit morning beauty and destruction in his wake. The persimmon tree, and some types of apples, welcome his return with sweeter fruit after a good frosting.

Lovage growing in a half barrel sports a light covering of frost. The lovage clump did not appreciate Jack Frost’s visit.

Our beautiful old persimmon tree, festooned with fruit and colorful leaves.

Apples on a frosty morning.

Most leaves except for the marcescent have fallen, and have been raked up and placed in garden beds to help build the soil. The last roses of the season have bloomed; I lost a dear relative to extreme old age; the eldest of our cats now lives on borrowed time, the endless cycle of life of which all of us are a part.  We all have our time. It has been a bitter-sweet season, and when darkness falls, I find myself thinking of a Maori evening prayer I learned from a friend in New Zealand.  Safe and warm inside, the Christmas cactus enters its bloom cycle again. Outside, a lone red rosebud which never opened remains tightly folded against the cold.

Ross were still vibrant and blooming in late October.

Rosé wine from our own pinot noir is still cold stabilizing on the lees; samples were taken for evaluation today.  I processed and fermented two batches of our best pinot noir grapes, selected and harvested  by Rick,  within a week of each other.   Epernay 2 yeast (Red Star Cotes des Blanc) was used for its characteristics, as was done the previous year.  Rick found both samples acceptable, they will be bottled soon.

Rick, hard at work evaluating the new rosé wine with food.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Mr. Nano contacted the Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk for this month’s report, as old Willow is seriously under the weather and receiving much attention. Her kidneys are failing, and she is currently on subcutaneous fluids. For readers familiar with the BBC/ PBS series Poldark, Mr Nano is of the opinion Willow would have made a most fitting old Aunt Agatha Poldark, as played by Caroline Blakiston. One a  geriatric feline, the other a fictional human, both are beloved to those who understand and appreciate their unique spirits.

Willow in earlier times, reading a card from her friends Doug (human), Dougy (cat) and Andy(cat). Willow is not well these days.

Without further ado, Sicilian feline correspondent Lucky and his fellow correspondents from the olive farm present their findings on life in the Sicilian countryside. Readers may note from previous posts that Lucky is blind, and although his acute hearing, exceptional navigational abilities and sense of olfaction are invaluable to his reports, his fellow correspondents have provided all the visual descriptions. Olive farmers and photographers  M. and J. have kindly provided the photos of their farm in Sicily used in Lucky’s report.

Autumn on the Olive Farm in the Sicilian Countryside

Autumn arrived, bringing more rain than is seen in a normal year for our region. Between August and October, almost a year’s worth of rain fell, making tilling the ground and harvesting olives extremely difficult. Fortunately, we did not have to harvest olives this year. The previous year, a bountiful harvest gave us enough oil to last two years, allowing one time enjoy reading and strolling through garden and olive grove.

Although Lucky is now blind, he understands the value of reading. Photo credit M.G.

While making my daily rounds, I happened upon a visitor lurking in the lavender, an Acherontia atropos, more commonly known as a subspecies of the Death’s head hawkmoth. As an adult it is commonly identified by the vaguely skull-shaped pattern adorning the thorax.

A hawk moth caterpillar. Photo credit M.G.

Due to unusual weather, a prickly pear plant with a flower, opuntus fica-indica, was found near others bearing their fall fruit. 

Prickly pear cactus in flower. Photo credit M.G.

 

Prickly pear with fruit. Photo credit M.G.

The array of autumn colors was stunning. Fiery pyracantha presented its bright orange berries while the Lantana burst with red flowers.

Pyracantha. Photo credit M.G.

Lantana. Photo credit M.G.

Fall irises and golden oxalis were nestled in along the path while wild mushrooms were discovered scattered throughout the field, much to my delight.

Iris. Photo credit M.G.

Oxalis. Photo credit M.G.

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

 –  Lucky, Sicilan Feline Correspondent, reporting for the House of Many Paws

Correspondent Lucky, at home in Sicily.

 

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I was privileged to be accepted into the Spokane Fall Folk Festival again this year. Once again, we saddled up a trusty vehicle and made the trip up over the Cascades, through eastern Oregon and on to Spokane in eastern Washington.  We stopped to eat at the Black Bear Diner, our favorite breakfast place.

The Black Bear Diner in Madras, Oregon. The bear is still driving the truck.

I was pleased to have a good set, superb sound engineers and an appreciative audience. It was all I could have asked for at the festival.

A blurry photo as the flash was unfortunately off, and the hand of the photographer unsteady as my own. Photos of all the performers can be found on the festival’s site.

If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

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!

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos. There will be more videos when I can get back to this project.

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.

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

Cherish the days. They pass all too quickly.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for September 2018

Our feature photo this month is of an orb weaver spider found inhabiting the northwest border of the farm.  Although not as large or colorful as the resident orb weaver from 2017,  I was quite taken with the intricate design on this one.

Our 2018 resident orb weaver, sporting some striking markings.

Rather camera shy, she fled into the arbor vitae and this photo was the best one I was able to take of her.  A very brief rain and wind squall took down her web.  We hope she was safely ensconced in the arbor vitae until she can rebuild.

On the other hand, our 2017 orb weaver in the garden was quite willing to be photographed from many angles, and was featured in our August 2017 post, where she is presenting her best pose.

Our orb weaver from 2017, a bit larger and more colorful.

News from the farm

The month of September has passed, along with summer’s intensive heat.  Even on an aberrant late September day in the low 90s, the sun coming in at a much lower angle is much more pleasant in mid afternoon.  Although still fairly dry, rain has come in small amounts in the form of misting rain or brief squalls.  Not enough precipitation has fallen to soak the hard, sun-baked clay soil, only just enough to wet flower, leaf and stem, with promises of more to come.

After a brief storm, roses were beaded and heavy with raindrops.

The leaves seem more intensively colorful this year, showing a bit more orange and gold among the usual paler yellows and crumpled browns.  Perhaps it is all my perception, wishing this year’s work on all fronts to be completed as soon as possible, so I may rest, dormant until spring might awaken me in all its floral abundance and sense of wonder at the annual renewal of life.  Dormancy is never an option here, though; life only slows down, temporarily.   Yet I would hold onto this transitional time of year, savor all its sights, scents and sounds.  The unique sense of clarity in autumn’s low angled light,  the touch of warm sunshine and cooler air on the skin, the colorful cloudscapes at the bookends of the day are all unique to the transitional seasons here, although autumn wields a special magic all her own in this season of falling leaves and bounty from garden, orchard and vineyard.

Developing apple in progress!

Cascade table grapes behind bird netting. They are providing good eating!

Suffolk Red table grapes behind bird netting. Ready to harvest any time now.

A good supply of plums have been dried and stashed away for the winter months. There are days when I feel much in common with some of the little fellows in the order Rodentia during the late summer and autumn months of food preservation and storage.  In the old doublewide “farmhouse” that stood on the same site as our present home, wild mice bunking in for the winter would bring in hazelnuts and store them in my boots, which were kept in the back extension. For good reasons, we nicknamed that house “The Mouse Hotel”.  At night, stray hazelnuts energetically rolled down the inner walls, sounding much like bowling balls fired down an alley, the final crash at the bottom reminiscent of a multiple pin strike.  I sometimes wondered if the mice up in the ceiling were gleefully squeaking, “Strike!”  Perhaps the old house should have been named “Murine Lanes”.  Fortunately there are no signs of mice in the new home, now 6 years old, and the youngest cats, now 5 years old, are content to be the lead investigators regarding any anomalous noises.

The Boys of Salmon Brook Farms, Mr. Lucio (left), Mr. Nano (center) and Mr. Marcus (right), keeping vigil in the old house. That house did have bigger windows, which they enjoyed very much. The only cat from that time period to ever catch a house mouse was Abby, who has been blind in one eye since before we acquired her. Nothing escaped her one good eye. She will be 17 years old next spring.

Our pinot noir grapes are almost ready to press for wine now, and other tasks will wait while grapes are harvested, crushed and the grape must (juice) inoculated with Epernay II yeast.   Our goal is to make a rosé wine as good or better than our 2017 vintage.

A small number of pinot noir grapes from our 2017 harvest, enough to squeeze juice to fill a 16 qt sock pot for inoculation.

2017 harvest and crush – all done by hand for small test batches.

Rick, our Quality Control person, personally testing two different batches at lunch last year.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident feline correspondent and head of the local correspondents desk Mr. Nano has agreed to let correspondent Miss Nod present September’s report.   She has been gathering news from the various window stations, and keeping a journal, from which she would like to share a few selected entries, which she feels would give readers the sense of wonder she experiences here.  The farm photographer agreed to assist her.  Without further ado, Miss Nod will present her report.

Feline correspondent Miss Nod, conducting an eye to eye interview.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

 It was a beautiful late summer evening, passing all too quickly, as they all do. It was a bit warmer today, which enlivened the stridulators’ evening symphony. A light veil of thin clouds gathered in the west, catching the last glimmer of deepening rose on their undersides, was noted past sundown. The last bit of light disappeared from view around 8:30 PM, the sun headed ever westward. Somewhere in the world, dawn is always breaking.

Sunrise on the farm, September 17, 2018.

Friday, September 7, 2018

In the predawn hours, I noted the constellation Orion near the horizon in east. Towards sunrise, the silhouette of the waning crescent moon hung low in the eastern sky, as the first rays from below the horizon lit up the underside of morning clouds, a beautiful scene to hold in mind’s eye.

A variety of cloud forms noted today, from long, sweeping cirrus mares’ tails to cirrocumulus and altocumulus along with a lower trail of smoky, dusty pall that crept in on September 6th.

A beautiful sundown tonight.   One must be quick with the camera at the bookends of the day, when lighting changes rapidly. Nature waits for no one.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

56 degrees and mostly overcast at daybreak, with a narrow blue rift in the bank of clouds to the south. I watched the doe and fawn for a while this morning, grazing out at the edge of the hazelnut grove. The fawn was running high speed circles and figure 8s for the sheer joy of it, the strong legs and spirited heart of youth at work on a cool morning. The doe would join her offspring now and then, but only racing a few strides before returning to foraging. Mother had her own priorities.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Clouds crept in overnight, allowing a warmer morning today at 55 degrees. A light misting rain fell at daybreak. Not enough to soak the ground, just enough to caress the earth and tired vegetation with promises of more to come later. The ceiling soon fractured into heavy cumulus clouds. The cumulus grew fat and woolly during the day, feeding on the aerial river of moisture coming up the Willamette Valley. Stark white to pendulous and grey, these wanderers headed north, sometimes straying over the Cascade foothills to the east.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A cool, relatively cloudless evening in progress, with a growing, thin crescent moon above, a clear silhouette of the dark side present forming the illusion of an eye trained out into the greater Universe. The temperature is already in the low 50s and dropping. It will be cold in the morning unless a new blanket of clouds buffers the fields and garden from the night’s chill.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

41 degrees before sunrise under mostly clear skies, which are now filling in quickly. The rapidly changing cloud forms are fascinating to watch, especially at the bookends of the day when light levels change rapidly. A few cirrus here and there become long rows of cirrocumulus, looking like corduroy patterns in the sky.

Sundown on the 17th of September. The photographer missed the sunrise clouds on September 15th.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Down in the low 40s this morning at sunrise under mostly clear skies. The season of thick morning mists that stratify, curl and wind among the hills is here. Eventually they rise along with the climbing sun, and drift away over the mountains.

The mists of dawn on September 17th. Soon they will rise and drift away as cloud.

A mostly clear evening in progress, with a waxing gibbous moon overhead shining down upon the nightly stridulators still singing out the end of summer.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I watched a most beautiful end of day present itself, complete with the rising purple veil of night in the east, a golden gibbous moon overhead, and the fading glow of the sun to the west, which had just gone below the horizon. The summer stridulators are still performing nightly in this fine transitional weather.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

It is 58 degrees at 9:19 PM under a fractured night sky, and a gibbous golden moon peering out from behind the galleons sailing by.

Shadows and light from earlier in the day on September 22nd.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Young ladybugs were found in the greenhouse, under a strawberry leaf, sitting among the remnants of the egg cases. The nymphs had metamorphosed into tiny adults. They had been feeding off of aphids, some still visible on the underside of the leaf along the mid rib.

Click on photo to enlarge. The photographer returned the ladybugs to the greenhouse after documentation.

Sunday, September 23, 2018 – Autumnal Equinox

45 degrees and mostly cloudy at daybreak, the official first day of the fall season. A daily pattern can be seen now of mists that stratify and rise with the sun, coalescing into ragged clouds that wander away to the north or east over the Cascades. We soon had an autumnal blue sky with patches of cloud, and light breezes stirring about the farm.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A chilly 37 degrees under clear skies before sunrise. The purple veil of night rolled away to the west, accompanied by the bright, full moon majestically set upon it. Mists stratify and wind around the hills, thick in the low areas, but soon rising and drifting away. I particularly enjoy these times when night is caught running westward while the brightening new day draws near the eastern horizon. One leaving, one arriving, different colors and moods.

A closer view of sundown on September 17th.

A warmer, summer-like day, rising into the low 80, with a few scant cirrus clouds. The sun is still quite warm, although not so intense. I have been watching its progress south along the eastern ridge at sunrise, and south along the far hills at sunset. A mostly clear night in progress. A deer took off down the driveway after dark.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

It was not quite 44 degrees under clear skies just before sunrise. A waning gibbous moon hangs higher and higher in the western sky each morning, an apparent retrograde movement of the orbiting body to the observer. Mostly clear skies and as warm as a summer day at 87 today, although the sun was not as intense, being at a lower angle at this time of year. The air has a slight nip to it by sundown, even after a warm day. A time to observe pink contrails forming in the western sky, and the rapidly changing colors of any clouds present as the sun continues to sink below the horizon. They eventually fade to lavender, then grey, as night overtakes them.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A brief thunderstorm dropped 5 minutes of rain, cooling things off and making creating one of the most beautiful and colorful cloudscapes towards sundown.

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

-Resident Feline Correspondent Nod, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Wishing our readers safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

 

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

A couple of musicians I know from the Corvallis Folklore Society, Kurt Smith and Dick Thies, performing at the Corvallis Wednesday Market on September 26th.

Kurt Smith and Dick Thies at the Corvallis Wednesday Farmers Market on September 26, 2018. A thoroughly enjoyable show, and great sign on Kurt’s wagon.

September was a relatively quiet one musically, as most of my time was involved in projects here and working extra time.  I am looking forward to October!

If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

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!

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.  There will be more videos when I can get back to this project.

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.

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

Our butterfly bush revived and went through a second bloom after the weather became cooler.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for June-July 2018

Our feature photo this month is of a bumblebee parked in a hollyhock bloom after sundown.   Like truckers on the interstate,  over the years I have seen bumblebees pulled over and settled in for the night in blossoms, on grape leaves, or other plants.

Let sleeping bees lie. This little bumblebee tucked into a hollyhock bloom for the night.

News from the farm

June’s fractured skies, cold mornings, lush green and colorful flowers have given way to hot, bone dry conditions in July, and an early fire season.  The frogs have long since ceased their songs of vernal pool days and are quiet, occasionally found hiding in a flower pot, or in the greenhouse; only the sound of a distant peacock rocks the night from somewhere over across the fields on another farm.

Early June’s rain-drenched roses.

And a daylily bloom, beaded with raindrops.

Spring was long and cool, although drier than normal for our area, her mood pensive and unresolved.  She chased Jack Frost about with cloudy nights, driving him away while fruit trees blossomed and set.  We will have pears again this year.

The multilevel skies of early June.

A wild rabbit inhabits the north border once again, and has become somewhat used to my presence.  At times, rabbit is bolder, wandering about the rose bed on the other side of the house.

Our north border resident, just below center. Click on any photo to enlarge.

Grass, now mostly golden brown to whitish-tan and punctuated by heat tolerant coast dandelions, hypochaeris radicata , crinkles and crushes underfoot.  I feel the changing of the seasons more acutely with every passing year.  A lifetime of noting the temperature, the skies, vegetation and wildlife, knowing what to expect and roughly when, yet each year is unique in its presentation, sometimes oscillating wildly about the normal of my experience.  Each passing year is more precious, not only for its annual abundance, but for its bright parade of memories, and for our own growth as individuals living upon this Earth.  All things are connected to all things.

Early June – old heirloom roses on the north border, with myrtle growing below, wild and carefree.

Early June – the first peony to bloom.

Watering becomes more critical to heat stressed plants that do not have deep root systems like mature grape vines, resulting in much spot watering, bucket brigades and soaker hose sessions.

A view up the row of table grapes from this afternoon.

And up a couple of rows in the pinot noir vineyard. Rick has been hard at work trimming and tying up canes. We had good fruit set this year.

In the cool of the evening, hummingbirds dart about the hollyhocks in the main garden, occasionally coming close in to observe us. The resident doe sometimes comes out to feed up near the house.  Sundown does not often disappoint, coloring whorls and flows of cirrus clouds in flaming orange-rose set against a fading light blue sky.

Dust devils, those carefree vortices spawned by heat and dry soil conditions, have been sighted already since wheat and grass seed appear to have been harvested early by several weeks.  They will soon turn summer’s brilliant blue skies to tan and grey, especially when soot and smoke from forest fires around the state add to the mixture of airborne particulate matter.

One evening, I found an old tattered honeybee of the field class, crawling along the ground. Young bees have a fuzzy thorax, the older ones go bald on the thorax, giving away their age. The typical life span of the field worker in season is only 6 weeks. She was found crawling at a good pace along the ground; a yellow jacket was hovering around, perhaps having caught her scent. I scooped up the old bee on a dandelion leaf, and put her in a shallow container with a few drops of water and some honey on a toothpick to help revive her.  She was gone an hour later, after darkness had fallen.  Most likely she crawled away, or was eaten by something.

I sit in my office, well fed and safe. Everywhere out there in nature, small dramas continually unfold. Someone is eaten, someone survives another day, someone dies or is born. The moon rises as it has for millions of years, watching the history of Man unfold, and endless cycles of life on this planet.

Sunset on July 24th, clouds over the hill to the south.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident feline correspondent and head of the local correspondents desk Mr. Nano is on vacation this month, sleeping off the summer heat.  He has assigned correspondent Miss Wynken of the Three Sisters to file a report in his absence.  After much thought, she has chosen a few excerpts from her daily logs for July, 2018.  Without further ado, Miss Wynken will present her report.

Correspondent Miss Wynken gathering news from one of her many window stations.

Correspondent Miss Wynken contemplating her report. “What do I tell our readers?”

Wednesday, July 4th:  I enjoyed the post sundown sky, mostly lavender-grey and cream colored splotchy cumulus type clouds, splattered across the dome above like paint thrown at a canvas. Summer is moving along at a fast clip; I note the daily changes in the land and in myself.

Thursday, July 5th:  The moon is approaching last last quarter, or waning half-moon, and rises late. She is a good companion, shining in the east window, golden and bright in the wee hours of the morning, still bright enough to illuminate the farm and its nighttime residents lurking about.

Tuesday, July 10th:  A cool and breezy 49 degrees morning here under clear skies. Cheery, fair weather cumulus soon made an appearance, dotting the azure blue above with stark white cotton ball forms.  From the window, I watched blueberry picking in progress in late morning, a moving meditation for the human among the curious and playful breezes, insects and birds, at times feeling the cool shadow of a passing cloud overhead.

The hummingbirds have been quite active, probing the sweet pea blooms along the north border. Occasionally one hovers in front of a window, where I am stationed. Curiosity satisfied, they return to their duties among the flowers.

Wednesday, July 11th:  The land has cooled down at this time; tendrils of night air bring in the scents of grasses, various forbs and dry earth. Another day comes to a close. Darkness does not descend upon us, rather it rises in the deepening band of purple-blue on the eastern horizon as the sun continues its westward run below the horizon, and the last glow fades. Stars make themselves known, the brighter ones a few at a time until blackness overtakes the dome, and vastness of space with its stellar community is revealed again.

Wednesday, July 18th: Sundown on July 18th was memorable, not so much in terms of color but in clarity of light. A clear night in progress here; the occasional breeze off the cooling land plays amid the chimes on the porch. Summer stridulators have replaced the chorus frogs of spring, changing the mood and tempo of the Nature’s nightly performance.

Friday, July 20th:  I awoke to a cool and clear 43 degrees at 6:30 this morning. A small band of clouds appeared around the south to southwest horizon not long afterward, which have now almost overtaken us. Morning light dims, but somehow still maintains the sharp, crystalline look of daybreak. A light breeze has sprung up, gently rocking the vegetation at close to ground level.  Another day begins.

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

-Resident Feline Correspondent Wynken, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Crossing contrails that have spread, and captured the last colors of the day in pink. Another day ends.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again, especially as a terminal musician. Juggling music, family, farm, and outside work, which pays the bills which enables us to play music and keep the farm (and cats) going, has kept me more than occupied. June and July have not been any more conducive to finishing music projects at home than May, but I did make time to attend John Doan’s 11th annual harp guitar retreat, a much needed refreshing and energizing four days at the end of June.   Rick took excellent care of the cats while I was away, and he says they were very good boys and girls, mostly.  It sounds like the nine of them kept him quite busy, with little time for anything else.

The harp guitar is a both a beautiful and amazing sounding instrument;  I encourage readers to learn more about it, and the musicians that perform this kind of music.  Readers can visit John Doan’s official website here and see  videos of his concerts, presentations, and interviews.  He is a master of the 20 string harp guitar, Emmy-nominated performer, composer, public speaker, historian, instrument collector and university professor.

In July we were visited by our traveling musician friends Laurie Jennings and Dana Keller.  It is always a pleasure to hear them perform when they pass through our area.  Please check their tour schedule.  You may be able to catch them in California or Texas before they return to Florida at the end of October.   They are considering a tour of the United Kingdom.  Please don’t hesitate to contact them if you would like to see them in your area!  You can catch their videos here.

If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

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!

For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.  There will be more videos when I can get back to this project.

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

For Nia, my Turkish friend and fellow cat lover. These flowers are part of a living memorial for her cat Surya who passed away earlier.

We received news of a small, curly-haired black dog named Mowglee, a dear companion to a friend (she does spell his name this way, not like R.K.’s Jungle Book character Mowgli), has passed away unexpectedly. He was 14, and suffered a seizure or stroke. Somewhere in the greater Universe, he is running, pain-free and unencumbered by the infirmities of advanced age. He will be missed by all who loved him.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for May 2018

Our feature photo this month is Marilyn, one of our reblooming irises.  The Marilyn Monroes of the flower world, irises dominate the gardens during the month of May with their eye-catching blooms.  Tucked in here and there about the farm, year after year they add grace and beauty to whatever spot they find themselves in. Readers may click on any photo to enlarge.

“Marilyn”, our featured iris for May 2018. In full display, she is reaching for the afternoon sun, her ruffles crisp, clean and elegant.

The appearance of iris blooms signals the month of May is on schedule and in progress.

Looking down the throat of one of our original irises given to us by friends long ago.

And more irises. I believe these were from a discount box of Dutch iris bulbs planted many years ago.

A small patch of wild yellow flag iris.

News from the farm

May has been a tentative month, still feeling the presence of Old Man Winter with cooler, although drier, weather patterns.  Many a morning has been cool and grey, dissolving into a patchwork of assorted clouds forms against the stark blue of late morning or afternoon.  The aerial  rivers of moisture that flow across the Pacific Northwest have yielded little precipitation this month in our area though, and some plants here are prematurely showing signs of water stress.

The wild and everchanging skies of late spring.

Deer have already begun to make themselves known, sampling the roses in the garden.  Rick noted deer damage in the back of the rows of table grapes, mostly in the Niagara and Delaware varieties; fresh green shoots were eaten back to the main cane in many places. They will regrow from other dormant buds, but this will set back fruit production in those ones that were eaten. At this time of year we spray deer repellent on the new growth, often initiated by the first attacks on the vines.  Our pinot vineyard is safely behind deer fencing.

There were two of them that evening. This one headed for the woods.

Peering out from the apple tree tunnel into the back lot, this deer was waiting for me to leave.

The back meadow, beyond the apple tunnel.

The progression of spring continues into its last phase as more irises enter their bloom time; the gardens have shifted from the golden yellows and whites of daffodils to the predominant late spring and summer shades of blue and purple. Dark purple columbines have been increasing their representation in the gardens every year since a few hitchhiking seeds arrived in a bag of rabbit manure a number of years ago, and settled in by the old garage.

Purple columbine by the old garage.

Cherry, plum and pear blossoms have fallen like snow, replaced by small, hard, green growing fruit.

Pears in progress!

Our vineyards are at the flowering stage, and we hope for an uneventful summer and a good grape harvest.   To grow and tend the grapes, and taste one’s own wine made from them, is to truly appreciate what goes into a bottle of wine.  It is no longer just a drink, but now a living thing.  It is the alchemy of air, sunlight and rain, the soil with all its minerals, nutrients and microbial life,  guided by caring and hardworking hands from vine to bottle.

One of our table grapes in flower. When this photo was taken, they were slightly ahead of the pinot in development.

Our head grape tender, also quite happy about the pepper plant starts I grew for him.

Rick enjoys cooking what we grow.

A clear and chilly 36 degrees greeted me at daybreak this morning before I headed across the valley to Corvallis.  Down by the waterfront, I was greeted by cold and windy conditions which were mitigated by an unusual and fascinatingly beautiful milky sky.  Clouds seem much more impressive when seen through polarized sunglasses;  there is an increased sense of depth and distinct boundaries not available to the normal eye. A thin light grey film of high ice crystal clouds covered the sky, providing the backdrop for lower level amoeboid altocumulus and cirrocumulus wandering though the double halo, created by refraction of light through ice crystal prisms. These wanderers passing through the inner circular of the halo took on a faint opalescence of their own.  Many bystanders took pictures.

The first daylily bloomed today; the only peony to bloom this year is opening its buds; the north border heirloom rose is beginning its short bloom cycle. The air is thick with the heavy, musk of the black locust tree in bloom.  As frenetic as this time of year can be, it is a good time to be alive and feel a part of all things.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has called upon the Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk for Correspondent Lucky’s report on the olive farm at The House of 40 Paws in May.  Without further ado, Mr. Lucky will present his findings.

Correspondent Lucky, from the Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk. Lucky is blind, but navigates the upper and lower bounds of his world on the olive farm with ease. He is an inspiration to all.

Spring on the olive farm has brought longer days and warmer weather which led to the Sicilian Olive Farm cats changing their napping accommodations. The preferred arrangement now is boxes and crates which give enough protection and ample space for piling as many cats as possible into one place.  The sunny terrace provides a good vantage point for observation. The mulberry tree, which so kindly gives morning shade, currently shelters a nest of magpies,  who are always scolding any cat that approaches too closely.

How many cats can fit in a box? Photo credit M.G.

More cats. Photo credit M.G.

There are two kinds of lavender currently blooming, Stokes or Italian Lavender followed by French Lavender. These plants are a haven for the bees and good hiding places for felines in need of a good surprise ambush to raise adrenaline levels.

Lavender and a view of the spectacular Sicilian countryside. Photo credit M.G.

Early in spring there was a bumper crop of Spinacciola or wild radish. One might consider it a weed but here it is appreciated both for its fragrance and the edible leaves. “Cooked saltate” means boiled first then drained and sautéed in olive oil with hot pepper and garlic; it is delicious!

As winter wheat, vetch and fave beans planted in nearby fields mature, the countryside changes from shades of green to  yellow and gold. The wild red poppies that sprout amid the crops visually set the fields on fire.

View of the countryside overlooking the olive trees. Photo credit M.G.

Photo credit M.G.

Poppies abound! Photo credit M.G.

Among the olive trees in our field is a nitrogen fixing plant called Sulla which looks very similar to a red lupine.  The resident human farmers have tilled up our field to aerate the soil for the olive trees.  We feel fortunate to have a two acre sand box, quite suitable for a blind feline to take care of his personal needs, chase fellow correspondents and hide from human caregivers.  I am the primary inspector on this farm, periodically climbing the olive trees to check for buds.  I am pleased to report they are ready to bloom. We are hopeful that the rain will hold off until the bees can complete their work pollinating the entire grove.

Olive flowers. Photo credit M.G.

And more olive flowers. Photo credit M.G.

Correspondent Lucky, on the job. Photo credit M.G.

The other correspondents are not quite as adventurous. They express a preference for playing with laundry or having serious philosophical discussions on the terrace. 

Many a serious discussion has taken place here. Photo credit M.G.

The Sicilian Feline Correspondents Desk wishes all our readers a bountiful and beautiful summer season.

 – Sicilian Feline Correspondent Lucky, reporting from the olive farm at the House of 40 Paws

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I continue to enjoy playing out again, especially as a terminal musician.  Juggling music, farm and outside work which pays the bills which enables us to play music and keep the farm (and cats) going has kept me more than occupied.  May has not been any more conducive to finishing projects at home than April, and I will make no excuses. Things will be done when they will be done. If you are in the area and wish to see me play live, please visit the Performance Schedule page in the ring menu at the top of this post.

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

Our roses by the house are now beginning to bloom. This particular one is hosting a spider enjoying a sunny afternoon in May.

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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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