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 September 2014

Our feature photo this month is the view from the farm facing the hills to the south.  The land everywhere is quite dry and withered at this time of year after a summer of record heat.

News from the farm:

September quietly arrived on dry winds that play in the tired, drooping leaves of water-stressed trees, coaxing music from these stoic giants who cannot flee from drought.  Nimble fingers of breezes, spawned from the warming land after a cool, clear night, play the wind chimes on the porch as if it were a harp.  The Wind tells a story of where it has been, and where it’s going, and will sometimes sit and talk for a while, as an old friend back east likes to say.  Nature provides a concert like no other for those who will listen!  As summer comes to a close here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills, I can feel the nip of the approaching autumn creeping in the windows at night, tapping me on the back as I write.  I know old Jack Frost and his icy paintbrush can’t be far away now.  Clear dawns often give birth to silver mists in the low areas such as ours, metamorphosing into low clouds as the sun rises, and clearing by noon.  Wandering cumulus clouds snuffle about the crystal blue dome of sky these days, and the growing moon may play hide and seek among them in the night.  Summer’s heat is not quite done with us yet though, and temperatures in the 90s are predicted for this weekend.  It is quite dry, ignition dry, out there, and fire danger is still high.  The clay soil has baked as hard as a brick, and I am waiting for the rains to come again to move plants, and plant trees and bulbs.   The table grapes and pinot noir are ripening quickly in this heat.  So far the harvest looks like it will be a good one.

Table grapes safely ripening behind bird netting.  Safe from birds, but not yellow jackets or the clever paws of raccoons!

Table grapes safely ripening behind bird netting. Safe from birds, but not yellow jackets or the clever paws of raccoons!

Pinot noir grapes ripening behind the deer fencing.  Safe from deer, but not from birds or creatures that can get through the mesh of the fence.

Pinot noir grapes ripening behind the deer fencing. Safe from deer, but not from birds or creatures that can get through the mesh of the fence.

 

Wildlife of various kinds are looking for food, and water.  Stinklesby, our resident skunk (see our August newsletter), has been about causing mischief. Although I have not seen the little fellow in a while, I have smelled his presence, often under our window at night.  The acrid perfume emanating from these cute little creatures can rouse one from a sound sleep, and wake every feline in the house as well.  He managed to fire one off under old Seabisquit the Subaru recently, making a stinky ride downtown for me one morning.  On the way to town I recall an old saying I often heard growing up, something to the effect of children are best seen and not heard, and I laugh and note to myself that skunks are best seen and not smelled.  Stinklesby’s friend and cohort, Jane Doe (a female deer) , has been grazing closer and closer to the house under cover of darkness, nipping buds from the roses along with the clover and grass in areas where I have watered various gardens. I know she is waiting out there with knife and fork for the evening one of us forgets to shut the gate on the main garden and pinot noir vineyard.  The growing moon reveals Jane and other critters coming and going at night, if one happens to be up, and looks out the window in the wee hours.

 

Abby cat having a good sunbath in the kitchen window.

Abby cat having a good sunbath in the kitchen window.

Little Hope cat lounging by the refrigerator, source of all good things to eat.

Little Hope cat lounging by the refrigerator, source of all good things to eat.

 

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

I am off doing work around the homestead until mid-winter, when Seabisquit the Subaru and I will be performing again.  The old car’s odometer has now passed 420,000 miles, and needs some work too!  Thanks to all who came to see me at the various farmers’ markets and venues over the spring and summer.  It is good to see old friends, and make new ones, one of the things I love best about playing music out and about.

In the meantime, our readers and followers in the U.K. should catch Dana and Susan Robinson while they are touring the U.K. this September through October 5th.  These two are really great musicians, as well as really good, good people.  New songs of rural America and old time mountain music!

http://www.robinsongs.com

If you are in the vicinity of Mohegan Lake, New York, another great musician and songwriter to catch is Donna Martin.  She will be at the Winery at St. George on September 24th.

http://www.donnamartin.com

And finally, one of my all time favorite musicians and songwriters, Bernice Lewis.  Her About page says it best.  Based out of Massachusetts, she does travel quite a bit.  Check her schedule for a venue near you!  My favorite quote from her website: “She has a forty-year old daily yoga practice, loves good coffee, and her religion is the Grand Canyon.”

http://www.bernicelewis.com

*******

And me? I’ve continued to expand and rearrange the sub-pages under music.  The full listing of songs on the CD, the stories behind why some were written, or chosen to cover, are now there.  Help yourself, and be sure to check out the sub pages for more information!

https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com/music/

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

Memorial garden for for a youngster who committed suicide after being bullied.  A reminder, each time I pass this barrel of reblooming daylilies, of the importance of being kind to others.  May her spirit find peace at last.

Memorial garden for for a youngster who committed suicide after being bullied. A reminder, each time I pass this barrel of reblooming daylilies, of the importance of being kind to others. May her spirit find peace at last.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for August 2014

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

News from the farm:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

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

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

Marcus and Lucio, looking quite comfy.

Marcus and Lucio, looking quite comfy.

 

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