Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for April, May and June 2020

Our feature photo this quarter is of a snail visitor, whom we think may be a Monadenia fidelis, spotted back in late April.  Although we see many slugs, we don’t often see snails on the farm.  Often times it is only the shiny, dried slime trail left behind, as well as damage to plants, that indicates slugs and snails have been by during the night.  The State Library of Oregon has an informative snail and slug poster available for those interested in such animals.  Nature’s creatures come in what seems to be an endless variety of forms, lifestyles, colors and patterns.

A visiting snail whom we think may be a Monadenia fidelis, seen making his way along the garage wall.

 

Of the various slugs we have seen about the farm, I find the most intriguing species to be the leopard slug, Limax maximus.  They are also carnivores, and prey on other species of slugs.  Although it is difficult to envision these animals as moving quickly, Limax maximus is roughly four times faster than other slugs, including our native banana slug, and easily overtake their prey.

News from the farm

The last three months have gone by more quickly than expected.  I’ve watched the new crescent moon appear above the Maxfield Parrish colors of the fading western sky, and followed its waxing and waning cycle back into darkness, each time eagerly awaiting its reappearance in the west .  It is an old friend I have known all my life.  At times, I have seen her set upon blue sky, white marbled with grey. She is like quartz tumbled by the sea and cast upon the shore by the tides, waiting for the fingers of a wandering, small beachcomber to pick them up and admire them.  My mother called these rounded quartz treasures “moonstones”, and I think of her when I see the moon amid the blue.  After nightfall, she takes on gold to golden-orange hues as she rises, desaturating as she sails overhead, bathing the farm in cold, pale light.  In the shadowy, colorless world of a moonlit night, many nocturnal creatures can be seen moving about, and I will wake up and spend a while at the window.  It is a time to remain still and observe, watching for movement, capturing the moment in mind’s eye.  I think of those who are no longer with us. The memories travel on starlight, replayed under the moon’s soft ghostly glow. Long-stilled voices are heard once again, riding on the night breeze as it prowls about the farm, rustling leaves and plucking a melody on the wind chimes on the porch.

Sunset on May 5th.

April still presented mornings down near or below freezing, resulting in some frost damage to trees and plants heeding the call of the sun, now past the equinox position in his travels north.  Our new everbearing strawberry plants, Charlotte and Eversweet, were set out under small grow tents to protect them during their vulnerable phase.

By early May, we had flowers on the strawberries!

Kale from last year was still producing, and the flowering tops fresh from the garden made a good stir fry with sweet potato, chickpeas and onion for lunch, along with with our own fresh asparagus, broiled with lemon juice, oil and vinegar.  Life can be simple, and good.  Little to no processed food is eaten here.

The greenhouse frame from the last project back in 2016 was moved to the main garden, and the remaining cement slab had two raised beds built on it from pavers removed along the edge of the original gravel drive, put in by the old owner.   They had been sinking over the years into the wet clay soil, serving no use as a border, so I began digging them up for the purpose of building raised beds for chives and oregano.    Elbert’s Garden lies along the north side, Surya’s Garden along the east side, Peter’s Garden on the south.  I am slowly adding perennials to all.

The new herb beds and flowers planted for friends and fellow bloggers in memory of their loved ones.

May irises in Elbert’s Garden.

The annual parade of flowers begins in January with the first daffodils and snow irises that brave the cold and dark days, surviving below freezing temperatures and tolerating coverlets of snow.  Crocuses soon follow, along with the one tulip that has not been eaten by gophers or voles as I planted it in gravel near a building, a note to self for the future.  Cherry, plum and pear explode in a profusion of white, then apples in shades of white to pink.  The droning of bees can be heard throughout the orchard.   Petals soon fall like snow, drifting on the breezes that wind through the farm, settling on the green grass below.

A crab apple in early May, a blue sky, warm day.

And the parade goes on!  The tall bearded and Dutch irises in many shades and moods will pass quickly, as come late May and early June, daylilies raise their blazing orange trumpets in a joyful noise.  Reblooming varieties will fall in behind them.

A sunny yellow flag iris, simple and elegant.

A reblooming iris, bending low out of her barrel to catch the sun.

A shy beauty. These will be moved as the crab apples shading them have grown. She needs more sun.

A cheerful bloom!

Trumpets held high, nothing says early summer like a daylily.

One of our rebloomers, planted in a barrel in memory of a girl who was bullied to death some years ago. She took her own life.

In May, the snowball bush blooms grace the dark green leaves like a shower of bridal bouquets.

The snowball bush on May 11th

A bridal bouquet of flowers!

This rhododendron bloomed profusely even after it was severely damaged by rutting deer last autumn.

The end of May also found us blocking off part of the gravel drive containing a slight depression with a killdeer egg was found.  It blended in so well that I almost stepped on it.  There were numerous such scraped depressions in the drive, but apparently she settled on this one.  I did not find eggs in the others.  We roped off that section of drive, a  bad location for the mother bird to have chosen.   Although we were fairly sure she had abandoned the egg, we left it roped off for a month.  There was no sign of the parents.

Lone killdeer egg in the gravel drive.

Roped off area.

June brings the roses, at least what was left to us after three wandering young male deer came through nightly.  Blackberry blossoms, the main honey flow in the Willamette Valley attract honeybees.

A hardworking bee collecting nectar and pollen from invasive blackberry. Oregon does have a native trailing blackberry, but the invasive varieties are everywhere. At best, we keep them at bay and collect the fruit for ourselves.

Finally flowering! The deer have chewed them repeatedly.

Young buck, one of three I’ve seen.

We are privileged, having what we need, living here in a tranquil bucolic bubble.  Covid-19 did not affect us in the same way as it has those who live in cities and more heavily populated areas.  Seasonal chores still require us to outside and working.  Nature waits for no one, and we are isolated enough to work outside on our farm in relative safety.  We are also privileged to not have to live under the same fear for our lives as do many of our fellow Americans and citizens in other countries.  The news has been nothing short of horrific.  We stand with Black Lives Matter, because all lives matter.  Our species, which has given itself the  arguable genus and species classification of Homo sapiens, or “Wise Man”, makes slow progress with each generation before passing the torch.  The real hope of each generation for continued change for the better lies with the young.  They have the opportunity, and ability, to continue to make this a better world than what the previous generation was able to achieve.   They are open to change and new ideas.  Many of us live in bubbles of one kind or another, oblivious or indifferent to the lives and needless suffering of others.  Author Cynthia Reyes has offered 8 Specific Actions one can take to attempt to understand and bridge the gap.  When all else fails, there is also the Golden Rule, simple yet complete in its message, and I still find it worth aspiring to, especially in these times.

The western sky on June 15th. We all share one planet, and all see the same moon.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Miss Abby sailed into her 18th year this April.  Although she has retired from filing reports, she would like readers to know she is comfortable and happy, and enjoys a good nap.  Although she only has two teeth left, her upper canines, she eats well, and enjoys a good meal.

Abby was sleeping in her padded chair when she was awakened by the photographer.

Mr. Nano, head of the Feline Correspondents Desk of Salmon Brook Farms, always watchful.

Mr. Nano, head of the Feline Correspondents Desk of Salmon Brook Farms has asked correspondents Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio to present their report for this quarter.  They have been quite busy observing the farm from their various window posts.

Marcus (left) and Lucio (right) leisurely collecting news.

Without further ado, correspondents Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio will present their report.

It has been a prolonged, cool and wet spring here on this little farm in the Cascade foothills.  The nightly enthusiastic chorus of frogs continued on into April, audible even with the windows closed.  It is an annual event we look forward to after the winter’s long darkness, one of Nature’s timeless rituals that speaks of life and its cycles.  Birds, as well as the chipmunk, were continuing to feed from the north side bird feeder that caught the first rays of morning sun.  Cold mornings, the grass heavy with dew and temperatures near freezing marked the month of April.  Some days soared into the lower 70s, with marbled skies and a promise of warmer days to come. 

In mid to late April, the air between sundown and nightfall is overwhelming with a symphony of scents from the various fruit trees, their brush-like forms in blossom coloring the farm and distant hills in shades of white to pink. A lighter yellow-green amid the blossom colors begins to offset winter’s grey-green lichen covering. It is spring, a good time to be alive, and observing Nature.

By April’s end, the bird feeder was abandoned, only the occasional towhee stopped by to kick out seed, which was promptly picked up by mice that live under the thick cover of vinca on the north border.   Spring continued her annual roll out of blade, leaf and flower. The season of the daffodils was at its finale as a few late plantings finished their bloom cycle. Pears, plums and cherries had already finished and were forming tiny bulbs of developing fruit at the base of older browning blooms. Apples were done blooming within the week, and forming new fruit. The vineyards were in bud break, some sections further along than others. Purple columbines began to open along with Dutch iris as German bearded irises were still forming fat buds.    Petals from trees, especially apples, fell like snow.  The grass seemed to grow ever faster, higher than the day before, while irises continued to unfurl. Everything was proceeding according to its own life plan on the grand Stage of Life. The play is always a bit different year to year, weather and temperature drive the script.

Rainbow in the east after a storm on May 2nd.

The month of May was the peak month of the iris with her subtle fragrances and Marilyn Monroe frills and flair. Only the gardener knew her secrets.   There were still many passing storms, and rainbows, an offering of peace from the heavens.   We are grateful for the rains, and that ever changing canvas of sky.   We find ourselves looking more closely at things with new eyes.  We are all temporary here, each with our own time in the sun.

Sunset clouds on May 5th

We spotted the first goldfinches of the season on May 4th.   Post sundown skies were particularly colorful, as a clearing in the west allowed the longer rays to highlight the bottoms of higher clouds and lower sitting cumulus directly.  Windows started opening at night to let fresh air in, and we heard the chorus of frogs continuing on into May.  The air was fragrant with hawthorn’s musky sweetness, and the white fragrant bells of blueberries.

On May 22nd we watched the tree swallows begin their evening feed around 5:00 PM, a great number of them performing an elaborate aerial ballet as they caught dinner on the wing. A pair of them stopped to rest and preen on the overhead electric wire we could see from the office window. The hummingbird finally made an appearance in the trumpet vine as well.  We had wondered where they were this year.

On May 25th,we listened to a robin and another unidentified bird that evening at dusk. Visibility was good enough to see the growing crescent moon in the west. The few clouds about the horizon caught the last pink rays of sun, ever running westward, a time of peace and beauty.   We noted the waxing crescent moon was higher in sky each night.

The month of June brought warmer mornings, and silver-grey mists that rose with the sun.  A pair of grackles performed their courtship ritual on the overhead electrical wire early in the morning on June 8th.   Careful observation found their well constructed nest in the upper profusion of new growth. They were not able to tolerate the comings and goings from the new garage, and abandoned the nest.  Tree swallow continued their aerial feeding acrobatics.

We saw two bucks early in the morning on June 21st, both 4 pointers, one slightly larger than the other, who was limping slightly.  He stood and looked around intently, with those deep brown eyes and serene expression, before moving off along with his companion.  A third buck, another 4 pointer, was spotted on the 27th.

The days are slowly growing shorter as the year progresses, another trip around the sun.  We wish our readers a pleasant day ahead, and safe travels to wherever your destination in life may lead you.

Taken from the plane coming into LAX in 2018.

– Feline correspondents Mr. Lucio and Mr. Marcus, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

For those readers who missed previous posts or are new to this blog, I will be posting on mostly seasonal basis now. Hopefully someday, I may be able to actually catch up on the many projects, including updating the pages associated with this blog, as well as stay in touch with all of you.  I will keep the performance schedule updated as venues become available to me again.  Due to Covid-19, what was once a full schedule is now empty.  New videos are in process, and will be posted to YouTube before long.   Unfortunately they did not make the train for this quarterly post.    Life has not slowed down for me at all since mid March, and somehow managed to speed up!

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 17 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come!   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.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January, February and March 2020

Our feature photo this quarter is of the Oregon coast as seen from Route 101 on our way to Yachats back on January 14th, a view which we will not be able to see again for a while due to the current pandemic.

Sundown on the Pacific, from Route 101 on the Oregon coast on January 14th, 2020.

The Pacific is a beautiful and powerful entity, from steady and serene on a calm day to a deadly force to be reckoned with at her worst.  I find myself thinking back to much younger days, when our 9th grade English class read The Odyssey during our study of Greek mythology; its description of the sea-grey eyed goddess Athena struck me at the time for the poetic beauty of it.  Goddess of wisdom and war, I can see her eyes in the restless grey of the Pacific.

The late President John F. Kennedy expressed his appreciation of the sea in his remarks at the America’s Cup Dinner Given by the Australian Ambassador, September 14, 1962.  His famous quote came from that speech, from which I have included the excerpt below.  One can listen to the entire speech at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum site.  His words often come to mind when I  look out to sea, and finding tranquility in the tang of salty air, cry of shore birds, and the sound of waves breaking on the shore.

“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.”  – President John F. Kennedy, Newport, Rhode Island , September 14, 1962

News from the farm

Mr. Chipmunk has discovered the feeder. His motto seems to be “Come early, come often.”

The last three months have passed quickly, with spring arriving shivering, wet and cold.   There has been little snow this year at our elevation, about 800 ft, for which we are grateful.  This farm is nestled in a geologic bowl of sorts, with cold air ponding, and uphill water collecting down in the bowl.

With January comes the slow, but steady increase in light. Our daffodils, which began emerging from the soil in December in the more sheltered south facing locations, commenced their bloom cycle in mid January, the first golden trumpets lifted their heads to herald warmer days to come.

The cherry tree garden on March 25th

Dandelions bloomed throughout the mild winter, keeping leafy rosettes and sunny faces close to the ground.  Rain pools formed in the low areas, soon followed by the nightly calls of chorus frogs.  The grey foxes were still about, their unusual call and response growly barks and whiny screams could be heard back in the wooded area.   One year, a fox came up to the big fenced-in garden where Rick was working on the other side and held a conversation with Rick for a while before moving off and returning to his haunts back in the woods.

The increase in daylight comes faster during February and March as the sun rises ever earlier and makes his way northward along the horizon.  The transitional days bring a kaleidoscopic selection of weather and cloud forms as the aerial river of moisture travels up the Willamette Valley, condensing and congealing into some of Nature’s most beautiful displays.

A section of sky on March 25th, full of towering clouds with silver linings.

Some days, the grey fractures, and one can appreciate the multilevel,  textured sky, canyons and caverns of cloud given depth and character by angled sunlight finding its way through.   Above it all, the riverbottom of blue sky.  From sunrise to sunset, the sky is a work of art, a study in shades of blue, grey and gold, painted in the swirling, heartfelt brushstrokes of a keen-eyed master.

Sunrise on February 4, 2020.

Sunrise on January 15th.

There is an old saying that if one sees enough blue to make a pair of Dutchman’s breeches, the sky will clear.   Often there is only enough blue to make breeches for the Dutchman’s cat, but it may or may not clear anyway.  Clouds pay no attention to human proverbs.

Another dramatic section of sky on March 25th.

It is still the bookends of the day I find most intriguing, a time to see crepuscular wildlife wander though, and enjoy the quiet and Maxfield Parrish colors sometimes graced by a waxing or waning moon.  On February 17th I recorded the following:

“I heard the heat come on frequently during the night, so I knew it would be on the colder side this morning. It was 34 degrees when I awoke around 6:30 AM, in time to see the waning crescent moon, still golden and bright against the deep blue tinted with first light from the east. Morning clouds had not yet obscured my view of her. Our sky has been filling in rapidly since then – these fleeting glimpses of the edge of night and day are lost to those not actively seeking such things. My last view of of the disappearing orb was 6:55 AM, peering out from a thinner area of cloud, soon vanishing behind the thickening mass. I will not see her again until tomorrow. Mists and chimney smoke stratifies and rises as the last barn lights on the southeast hill still send their beacons across the bowl. All is still as the light grows and sky congeals, soon area lights will be off for the day.”

Sometimes it is night’s deepening purple veil rising in the east as the last of the gold fades in the west that catches my eye.   In the waxing part of the lunar cycle, a thin crescent moon can be seen in the west, at times with a bright planet, and the first bright stars in the deepening sky overhead.

I enjoy my time working quietly among the gardens and vines, and feel at peace and a part of things as only one can outdoors.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Mr. Nano, from the Feline Correspondents Desk of Salmon Brook Farms has asked for a brief update from the Northeast Regional Farm Cats Desk in Connecticut, given by  Rosie, the sole remaining dog on the horse farm, who has been accepted into the feline correspondents circle.  They have not had a report from the Northeast since head feline correspondent Otis passed away.

Rosie, enjoying the snow in New England this winter.

Without further ado, Corresoondent Rosie will present her report.

It has been a while now since my canine companion Sadie passed away, leaving me as the remaining dog on this horse farm in rural Connecticut.  Otis is also gone, leaving my feline companion Izzy and two new recruits, Odin and Nick, to carry on where he left off. 

Sadie and Rosie by the wood stove, on the Connecticut Horse Farm homestead. From November 2016.

Nick came to live with us a year ago November, a rescue from a feral colony. He sports a clipped ear and bears a very strong resemblance to his predecessor, Otis, although he does not have the size or stature of his predecessor.

 

Nick, taking over Otis’ old chair.

 

Odin, or Odie as he is known to us, rode in from parts unknown.  He is thought to be a Maine Coon Cat, and at an estimated 9 months old, and quite large already, has much to learn about farm protocol.

Odin enjoys high places.

As for more general news, more land was cleared, new fencing was put up, the electrical to the house was upgraded, and the new generator was installed.  There will be no more worries about losing power in our remote area   Last year’s vegetable garden was a fine producer of greens and tomatoes, while the human master of the house is in a much better frame of mind now that his back is  mending.   Aside from the human master’s car getting totaled when a backhoe backed into a fallen tree, life has been good.

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

The late correspondent Otis, gathering news from the hayloft on the Connecticut horse farm.

– Canine Correspondent Rosie, reporting from the Northeast Regional Feline Correspondents Desk in Connecticut.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

For those readers who missed previous posts or are new to this blog, I will be posting on mostly seasonal basis now. Hopefully someday, I may be able to actually catch up on the many projects, including updating the pages associated with this blog, as well as stay in touch with all of you. I will keep the performance schedule updated regularly. New videos will follow as soon as I can get to it.  After a very busy start to the new year, I fell ill with a tenacious respiratory bug at the end of January, requiring me to cancel most of my shows during February. It was a rough start when I did return, as my voice had not quite recovered.  I had finally gone to Urgent Care after 4 weeks, where it was deemed  a sinus infection, and given antibiotics for a week.  I got in a few shows and then the pandemic hit, requiring venues to close down and people to self-isolate.

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 17 years older and a good bit more grey since my first and only CD was released back in 2003, but still in the saddle. It has been an interesting ride, with more to come!   For those who have missed previous posts and wish to view the channel content, here are links to the previous two videos.  The coughing and what seemed like endless sleepless nights in February had been hard on me, and I have not attempted to actually record anything yet until I feel my voice is back to where it was. It is still a little rough.  We are almost there.

 

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.

Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms
https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for May, June & July 2019

Our feature photo this summer is of Queen Anne’s Lace. It was difficult to choose a favorite flower from the season’s parade of blooms, although at this time of year, this familiar wildflower with its lacy white umbrels can be seen practically everywhere along with the ubiquitous oxeye daisy.

The hardy yet delicate-looking Queen Anne’s Lace.

A neighboring field of oxeye daisy

News from the farm

With the month of May, came the time of irises and rhododendrons, heralds of summer.    Each year is unique in how the oscillating weather patterns play out over the season, affecting bloom time and growth.  The residual  coolness this year prolonged the time we enjoyed some of our garden residents, as well as the symphony of chorus frogs whose music graced the late spring nights.

We planted this beauty last spring.

A few of these irises were given to us by a friend. There are now many of them.

Daylilies followed, along with spearmint in spires of pale lavender, attracting clouds of bees and various insects.  Each passing year I watch the procession, never tiring of what nature sends us.

The color of summer, captured by a sun-dappled daylily growing beneath a crabapple tree.

The barrel of reblooming daylilies, hard at work.

The rains have since ceased.  Late summer is harsh as the daytime temperature rises, cracking open the hard clay earth.   Grass, a collection of hardy souls here in the Willamette Valley, goes dormant when not watered, taking on a whitish-tan hue, becoming brittle and cracking underfoot.   Our gardens and plantings need spot watering and heavy mulching to stay alive.  Some garden areas have gone feral while I have been occupied with other needs, needing no help from me,  just yet.

Feral California poppy and sweet pea amid a bed of untended irises.

The dark green, hungry-looking maw of a developing feral sunflower that came up amid the roses.

That sunflower now has many colorful heads and little visitors.

One of our red roses unfolding. The mulch is sawdust, and helps with needing to water less often.

It is the seasons of dust devils in our area, those carefree vortices spinning lazily across farmland, spawned in the late summer heat after grass seed and wheat farms have harvested their crops.  I noted my first one this year on July 23rd, while driving across the valley.  I find myself patiently waiting for autumn’s cornucopia, and the first rains.

For Pacific Paratrooper – Michael’s tree is now taller than me!

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

The Feline Correspondents Desk is back at work after recovering from a respiratory illness earlier this summer that affected most of the crew, passing cat to cat, taking several weeks to recover from it.   Mr. Nano, head of the Resident Feline Correspondent’s Desk, will provide a short essay for May, June and July.

Spring tarried a while this year, long and cool, accompanied by the nightly sounds of chorus frogs as darkness set in.  She sent the rains, the moon bobbing along on her nocturnal cloudy seas, and the morning’s rain drenched flowers.

A clump of Dutch iris after a storm in May.

Our days grew longer as Old Sol approached his northernmost post, peering over the horizon, spilling golden light across a green land, sending the myriad drops of water on leaf and blade of grass into prismatic brilliance.   Those who have witnessed sunrise, seen the gold upon the green, the sparkle of a new day, know an ephemeral wealth far greater than any jewel cut by Man.  No day can be replicated, only appreciated in mind’s eye and felt in the soul.

Some cloud sport downward tails, appearing much like the trumpets of chanterelle mushrooms as seen looking up from the forest floor

I watched the glow one evening as  molten golden-white clouds took on the longer peach and rose colored rays post sundown. The grey fox was sighted out back, leaping and prancing with his long brushy tail streaming out behind.   Humans had only been walking through his area a few minutes earlier.

The longer rays light the clouds in a post sundown sky.

The tree swallows followed summer’s longer days, wheeling in the early evening sky, catching insects on the wing.  Grass grew long and coarse, a house finch sat on the overhead electrical wires and sang his heart out to no one in particular.  Goldfinches arrived, darting about the roses and out in main garden.  A mole came up out of one hole, and went down another, a great blue heron flew overhead, long legs out behind, wings like oars methodically rowing across the river of sky, out towards the lake.  Each species goes about life according to its own needs, in its own time and space, separate yet shared and connected, gears in the great clockwork of life.

Chive blooms from earlier this summer.

Now well past solstice, the days grow perceptibly shorter, and the transition of day into night seems different somehow, perhaps reminiscent of my own aging bones, knowing the road ahead is shorter than the road I have already traveled.  The same barn lights glow softly on neighboring hills as night’s deepening veil rises in the east, and the last rays disappear below the horizon, as they always have done.  Stars emerge, one by one, lighting the blackness of space, beacons for imagination.  Another day has come to a close.

A spectacular sundown from October, 2018.

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 Nano, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

For those readers who missed the spring post, I will be posting on mostly seasonal basis now. Hopefully someday, I may be able to actually catch up on the many projects, including updating the pages associated with this blog, as well as stay in touch with all of you. I will keep the performance schedule updated regularly.

The westbound PIE sign as seen on May 7th on the way to the Oregon coast. This time there was no traffic behind us, and Rick was able to slow down the car while I took this shot out the window.

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.

The source of PIE, further on down the road. We did not check the odometer.

I have been enjoying playing over on the Oregon coast regularly.  Rick has been an excellent driver, roadie and sound man.  I grow his tomato, eggplant and pepper starts, and make wine for him from our grapes in autumn.

View from a scenic area on Route 101. Filtered light played on a thrashing silver-grey sea, the wind cool and refreshing with the light tang of salt. The Pacific has her own spirit and mood compared to her sister, the Atlantic, scents and sounds particular to her.

We stopped here for a quick look around.

We will come back and hike the trail.

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 16 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

Safe travels to wherever your destination in life may lead you. This photo was taken from the plane on my way into LAX from Phoenix last year.

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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 August 2018

Our feature photo  for August is of a resident crab spider that has ambushed an unwary visitor to this lovely rose.   I have often found these spiders inhabiting floral truck stops in the gardens, waylaying assorted pollinators that have come seeking refreshment, and sometimes a place to spend the night, amid the beautiful but potentially deadly blooms.

An unwary visitor has been captured by this flower’s resident crab sider.

News from the farm

The air has been hazy with dust from agriculture, and smoke from field burning and distant fires.  There is little to no rain, and what seems like endless days in the 90s.   Rooted in place, trees, shrubs and other plant life stoically wait out the dry season, the only indication of their stress noted in their dry, drooping leaves.    We spot water the most needy, conserving water and well pump.

We have four young pinot meunier vines that were given to us. They came from a heritage block up around Newberg, Oregon. A place has been found in the vineyard to grow these youngsters who will require water until they are established.

August is the primary month to view dust devils, those carefree vortices seen spinning lazily across farmland after grass seed, wheat and straw have been harvested in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Impressively large machines harvest, plow and pulverize the soil, sending the dust of Oregon swirling up into the atmosphere until early summer’s azure blue has taken on tones of tan and grey.   The clarity of light noted earlier this summer is now gone, and will not return for some time.  As this month of heat and dust comes to a close, we are grateful for this year’s bounty of fruit and vegetables, and anxiously wait for the grape harvest and this year’s wine.

Pinot noir before covering with insect netting. It is a heavy yellow jacket year here.

Insect netting was quite effective last year, and worth the investment.

We have a short row of Early Muscat and Gewürztraminer. The grapes shown here are Early Muscat.

It is cooling down sooner in the evenings now as the last light fades and the stellar community reveals itself, as a symphony of stridulators performs in the growing darkness.  The rising veil of night in the east comes earlier;  the calendar shows we are only about three weeks now from autumnal equinox.

Sunset on the 29th of August.

The same sunset, a short time later.

A week earlier, I saw one of our grey foxes one evening when I was finishing up watering the garden. A sleek healthy fox had flushed a dove, and was chasing it down past the garden where I stood not 50 feet away. The fox was not quick enough, and the bird escaped the jaws of death yet another day. Looking longingly after a lost meal, our fox sat down, unaware of my presence, turning to look at me only when I called to him. He moved only when I went out the gate, disappearing back into the woodland, long brushy tail streaming out behind.

We have been enjoying eating fresh plums and apples right off the trees these days, as well as blackberries, raspberries and tomatoes.  We are grateful for all that we have, and consider ourselves very lucky to be here on this farm.  Life is good.

Raspberries, variety “Amity”.

Raspberries, variety “Autumn Bliss”.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident feline correspondent and head of the local correspondents desk Mr. Nano is still on vacation this month, sleeping off the summer heat and enjoying the breezes coming in the window.  Miss Wynken of the Three Sisters will file another report in his absence.  She has chosen a few excerpts from her daily logs for August, 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?”

Saturday, August 4, 2018: A breeze sprung up in mid morning, and a front appears to be coming in from the south. A long swath of altocumulus and cirrus, a clear zone, and then another band of interesting development, including some kind of cumulus convection cell that grew in the shape of chanterelle mushrooms. Flared tubes with delicately gilled throats, rising up and capping off in a frilled top, were a reminder that mushroom season will be here again in a few months.  I see these unusual cloud forms from time to time. The waning moon in last quarter, white with faint grey marbling like sea-tumbled quartz, was sailing west on an intensely blue river of sky between the swaths of frontal cloud.

Sunday, August 12, 2018: 52 and mostly cloudy at daybreak, which opened up soon enough into mostly clear skies,a pleasant breeze and a high somewhere in the low to mid 80s. I watched a squirrel come barreling down the driveway, followed closely by a blue jay who was pecking the squirrel’s behind. The windows stayed open until the late afternoon sun heated the house up; the arrival of dinner guests who had been traveling in a hot car were pleased to come into a cool place. It was a day busy end to end with small things.  By post-sundown, a patch of hazy clouds to the southwest had grown, and more had flocculated in the direction of the setting sun. A partly clear night in progress here as another day has slipped though my paws like sand.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018:  A pleasant 52 degrees under hazy skies at daybreak. It was extremely hazy but not humid today. I did not smell smoke today or this evening, yet it looks smoky; the dark forms of conifers on the surrounding hills appear as if through a veil.  I am becoming used to heat in the 90s, perhaps because the daylight hours are shrinking and the heat does not build for quite as long.

Another orange-red sundown this evening. It is still near 80 out there at this time as another day comes to a close, and the stridulating insects of late summer play their symphonies out there as the daylight fades and the cooler realm of night rises up from the east.

Thursday August 16, 2018:  Small birds perched sideways on lemon balm stalks collected seed. I noted a brief interaction between a goldfinch and a hummingbird, the surprised goldfinch getting out of the way of the hummingbird.

A summer night in progress, complete with August’s nightly symphony of insects, signaling September is not far off. A waxing orange-red crescent moon sails across a smoky sea. Even the bright planets appear reddish, and far fewer stars are visible through the haze.

Tuesday August 21, 2018:  Another orange sunrise, hazy morning down in the low 50s, rising into the mid 90s by mid afternoon. A warm breeze blew most of today, with a pensive, wandering feel to it; its path revealed in the rustling of leaves, shrubs and dry grass . Everything is so dry, waiting for rain that will be a while in coming.

Saturday August 25, 2018: A variable cloudy day, rising into the mid 70s by afternoon. The feeling is more autumn-like out there, and it is easy to envision first frost within a month. The bright orange, golds and reds of New England do not grace the hills here. Tired, drought-stricken leaves slowly turn a faded yellow and brown, quietly slipping away with the daylight hours. The rains and winds will come, stripping the remaining leaves off the branches.

Sunday August 26, 2018:  The earth is damp this morning; dew covered webs of ground nesting spiders cover the yard in a silver gossamer patchwork. A light breeze gently ripples through trees and vegetation, a whispered prayer for rain.

Monday August 27, 2018:  I awoke just after 7:00 AM to overcast conditions. A relatively warm 57 degrees; all was wetted down from a very light rain sometime during the night, not enough to really do much good except keep down the dust and bring an arachnid Brigadoon into view. A rain-drenched city of spider webs, particularly the ground spider webs that resemble tiny faerie trampolines, was now visible. Eventually they will all fade from view in the heat of the day, concealed until the next damp window of visibility.

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

Bright sunset clouds on August 29th. Nature’s most beautiful skyscapes, and wildlife, can be seen at the bookends of the day.

 

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

On our way over to a show in Yachats, on the westbound side of Route 34 we passed a small wooden sign with red letters which read, “PIE 3.14 miles”.  Unfortunately, there was no good place to stop on that side of the narrow road, which winds its way through a sparsely populated section of the Coast Range, and take a photo.  We did pass a real pie shop out in the wilds further down, and figured there must be a sign somewhere on the eastbound side about 3 miles down.  Sure enough, we did see one, managed to turn around without getting ourselves killed, and got the photo below.  Some mischievous soul had added  “.1427” after the “3”.   My brother the mathematician informed me that the sign was incorrect, and that the decimal expansion of pi is approximately 3.14159265.

There really was a pie shop down the road, although we are not sure of the exact mileage. Click on photo to enlarge.

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

Developing blackberries, variety “Black Magic”. The changing of the seasons and so many good, healthful things to eat make the end of summer and early autumn my favorite time of year.

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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 March 2018

The transition from winter into spring brings forth a profusion of wildlife, blooms, and rainbows amid wild, kaleidoscopic skies. Our feature photo this month is a shy but comely daffodil residing by an apple tree near the house.

A single daffodil, tucked in near an apple tree in the previous year, presenting us with a smiling face this spring.

Over time, these individual bulbs planted here and there will continue to divide, forming colorful islands in the sea of green.

Protected from gophers, the old barrel of crocus did not disappoint us, putting on a spectacular show this year.

A half-barrel of crocus on a sunny afternoon in March.

A cluster of crocus from the same barrel, in full orange-throated song, as only such a joyous spring flower can do.

News from the farm

February passed the baton of cold weather on to March, although spring cannot readily be held back as the days lengthen and sunrise moves north along the eastern ridge towards equinox. Perhaps a blessing, cool late weather and early spring weather have kept bush, tree and vine in check from breaking bud and blooming too early.

February 26th, another light covering of short-lived snow.

Undaunted daffodils, silently waiting to open their buds.

Early March brought slightly warmer weather, and a return to green.   Stinklesby II, the first skunk of the season, came calling early on; inquisitive and hungry, he left his unmistakably scented calling card behind in many places, including the shed.  He seems to have spent some time investigating that outbuilding, unfortunately.

Stinklesby II, a handsome striped skunk, came to visit. I kept the flash off so as not to alarm him. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

Stinklesby II investigating the solar path light.

Stopping to smell the roses, although there are no roses blooming yet.

Showing us the business end. The photo shoot came to a close! It is said they can accurately spray up to 10 feet.

While the earth remained cold and wet, the first round of seeds were started indoors in preparation for warmer times.  Tomatoes are ready for transplanting into larger pots, making room for ground cherries, something I have never tried to grow, in the seed start rack.   Late winter changes continued to make themselves apparent in the local plants and animals, including myself.  Like the skunk, I feel ready to shake off winter’s torpor and wander about, soaking up the still angled but warm sun.  Everything is to be investigated, noted and logged; every ephemeral rainbow and passing cloud present a feast for the eyes to be appreciated.

Daffodils and grape hyacinths were a bit dismayed at encountering snow again on March 23rd. Hopefully this storm closed the final chapter in winter’s book.

Bright sun and a passing storm two days later produced an intense rainbow, as well as a fainter second rainbow.

Cirrus clouds quickly formed after sunrise one morning; the sun shone through the layer of ice crystal cirrostratus as if it were a light source behind a sintered glass filter.  A quick look about the sky with polarized sunglasses revealed a bright ring around the sun, and a faint cloud bow.  Nature provides a wealth of memories to those willing to take the time to look.

An evening just past sundown was noteworthy, captured in mind’s eye; sound and scent will be remembered. A sliver of growing moon hung in the fading light to the west behind the thin, long sweeping tails of cirrus clouds while the first frogs of the evening tuned up for their night-long performance; the scent of geosmin rose from the damp earth. All was as it should be.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has called upon Correspondent Miss Nod to file her report for March.  She will be 5 years old this August, and has been learning the valuable skills of observation from the crow’s nest.  Very little has escaped her sharp-eyed gaze.  Without further ado, Miss Nod will present her findings.

Feline Correspondent Miss Nod, keeping an eye on news from the crow’s nest.

In early March, I sat transfixed one morning as frost appeared to thicken into a solid white patina and sparkle as the sun rose; perhaps the mists added to it, or it was the illusion created by Old Sol’s gaze cast upon it.   The rising sun quickly dispatched Jack Frost’s handiwork; eventually the green below emerged, and all traces of the ice kingdom were gone.

Our daffodils by the old garage that bloomed in January had already begun to die back in early March, while others in less protected places were in the fat bud stage, or just emerging. Mint was slowing forming shoots and leaves from wandering rootstock, still keeping low to the ground. Crocus and other spring bulbs continued to push upward into the light, while other green shoots came out of hiding like Muchkins upon discovering Dorthy was not the Wicked Witch.

Another solitary daffodil among the daylilies.

Morning sun after a rain presents yet another view of Nature’s handiwork, spilling gold across the green winter grass and and causing the myriad water drops clinging to branch and stem to scintillate.  She sometimes sends us soft, rumply skies with patches of blue and hints of pastel color at daybreak, or dawn’s rosy glow on the underside of lavender-grey clouds.  I recall one dawn colored in Maxfield Parrish hues and a silver-gold sliver of waning moon, captured in mind’s eye.

The black locust tree at dawn on the 12th. The soft clouds in the background have captured dawn’s pink glow.

The aerial rivers of moisture that flow across the Pacific Northwest deposit a variety of cloud forms.  The light plays amid the canyons created by water-swollen cumulonimbus clouds, giving a sense of texture and depth, of places to explore.

Our multilevel sky on March 16th.

March has presented us with two full moons, on the 1st and 31st, allowing many opportunities for observation, even on nights with intermittent cloud cover.  The moon, in its last quarter, hung pale-gold in the sky.   I had seen it over the southeast horizon around 3:30 AM that morning, not long after it had risen, flooding the room with pale golden light. I fell asleep again to the sound of chorus frogs cheerfully serenading the moon’s passage high above through the blackness of space.  We all see the same moon, no matter where we reside, a common tie that binds us all on this one Earth we share.  If only that were enough.

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

Correspondent Miss Nod, on duty.

– 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.  March has not been any more conducive to finishing projects than February, 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
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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2018

Our feature photo this month is of the first snow iris to emerge in the garden on January 28th, from within the clump of a volunteer lemon balm. Another snow iris has appeared this morning, along with the first snowdrops of the season.

The first snow iris to emerge. This iris is part of Archie and Marion’s memorial garden. Please visit https://thelandy.com/2013/11/04/the-pain-of-the-loss-of-a-loved-one-menieres-disease/ and https://thelandy.com/2013/05/21/life-death-and-grief-well-miss-you-mate/

Daffodils started their journey towards the sun back in December, forming buds but remaining in a sort of stasis during the colder part of the season, which often went down into the 20s at night. Our first daffodil of the season bloomed on January 16th.

A golden daffodil trumpet out by the old garage, herald of spring yet to come. I think of Wordworth’s poem when I see these beauties. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45521/i-wandered-lonely-as-a-cloud

Elbert’s memorial garden over by the cement pad greenhouse is continuing to send up new growth, and will soon be bustling with blooms.  Gophers have presented their challenges!

Elbert’s Garden continues along the north side of the greenhouse. More bulbs get added every fall as this garden continues to expand and develop. See https://phainopepla95.com/2016/04/19/

From Elbert’s Garden in late summer 2017, a sun-drenched golden gladiola.

Other memorial gardens will also make an appearance from time to time.  Watch for them in spring.

News from the farm

It is mid winter here on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. Yet amid the fallen leaves and skeletal remains of the previous year, green shoots continue to push their way up out of the cold, wet soil, their own internal clocks driving the annual reach for sunlight.

All that is left of the deer that expired in our yard back in October 2016. More soil will be added and a new perennial flower garden planted here. See https://salmonbrookfarms.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/rick-and-lavinia-ross-farm-music-newsletter-for-october-2016/

It is our winter rainy season in western Oregon, punctuated with days of sun and even some days reaching 70 degrees. Low areas are channeled with runoff, and there is much standing water about. In heavy rains, even gopher holes will spout water like mini artesian wells; I wonder about the inhabitants and their evacuation strategies. Barn lights still glow on the distant hills on heavily overcast mornings; the night’s darkness is reluctant to leave under such heavy atmospheric conditions.

Some of these low areas do not dry out until some time in June.

Pruning work in the vineyard continues, trimming vines down to two lateral canes.  Our lives are intertwined with the farm, orchard and vineyard.  It is a part of us; like the plum tree whose branches have fused, separation is unthinkable.

Rick at work pruning the pinot noir vineyard.

The old, twisted purple plum tree, we think is an Emperor plum. Two of the branches have twisted around and grown into each other.

On last rounds one evening I noted the resident spider by the porch thermometer, bravely tending her web in the 45 degree wind and rain. She shelters when needed behind the thermometer, which is fastened to the post; there is just enough clearance for her to slip in behind. She is not the first spider to set up housekeeping in this convenient location, prime real estate for catching insects attracted to the porch lights, and for shelter from the elements.

We have a had some days in the mid 60s and even 70 degrees. To the right of the thermometer, a spider web can be seen on close inspection. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

On clearer evenings, the moon is a pleasant companion when she is in the visible part of her journey. A few nights ago, a gibbous moon shone down through a mostly clear sky, which appeared to be rapidly filling in with clouds as the evening progressed. Only the most prominent stars were visible, and I was able to find Orion, a familiar landmark in the sky. Pacific Chorus frogs, enlivened by the day’s warm winter sun, provided the music for the nightly dance of the moon and stars across the heavens. An owl softly hooted in the distance.

A chorus frog from 2016, found hiding under the roll-up window on the porch greenhouse.

I continue to marvel at life springing from the ground in winter, the sound of chorus frogs, the nip in the wind, and the perfection in all these things. The smallest details of life are the most important to me, to be held in the moment, studied, and released to go about their business.

The small winged insect in the center I believe is a species of hoverfly. They were out visiting daffodils.

What I believe is a hoverfly visiting a daffodil.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has observed much from his window this month, and has also enlisted fellow Feline Correspondent Miss Hope to record her observations from the crow’s nest basket perch next to her window. They have once again sent the photographer out to investigate. Without further ado, Mr. Nano and Miss Hope will present their findings.

Resident Feline Correspondent Miss Hope, reporting from the Crow’s Nest.

Taking a break while Mr. Nano is on duty.

The days are discernibly longer now that we are almost 6 weeks past solstice, especially notable on clear days when one can observe sundown through last light, unobstructed by cloud cover. Of particular beauty is the banding of colors along the eastern horizon, night’s rising purple veil transitioning into rose-pink. Contrail and cloud pick up the last long rays of sun below the horizon, briefly flaming the sky before fading to lavender and finally grey. The guard changes at the boundaries of day and night; the realm of stars becomes visible; creatures of the night begin to stir.

This is a sundown image from 2016 I particularly love for its colors and depth. It was on my wish list to get a good photo of the color transitions on the eastern horizon at sundown this month. Colors change quickly at the bookends of the day, and one has to be prepared to catch them.

Earlier in the lunar cycle, the bright sliver of growing moon bobbed in and out view on night’s partially cloudy sea one evening. A few stars peered down through portholes while a light breeze played in the wind chimes; Pacific chorus frogs struck up a symphony in the low marshy areas.  All seemed as it should be; the sense of peace was as encompassing as the mists at ground level.

Marshy wooded area in the back lot.

A walk in the back lot in late afternoon reveals signs of other lives at work. Small green shoots are everywhere, from wild garlic chives and catkins dangling hazelnut trees – the tiny red female flowers will follow in February – to fattening buds on blueberry and tree alike. A blueberry bush near the house was recently damaged by a male deer scraping his antlers, and many cuttings were made from the broken branches. This sort of destruction by roving cervids is usually not seen here past the end of December.  Hastily stuck into a pot of good clay gopher mound soil until they can be separated and individually potted, some of these cuttings may survive and root.

Wild garlic chives have sprung up many places out back.

Hazelnut catkins. Tiny red female flowers will follow.

Digger at work. Many such holes were found out back.

Blueberry bush battered by deer scraping antlers. This usually results in new shoot growth from the roots. I am attempting to root cuttings from broken branches.

A pot full of blueberry cuttings, waiting to be separated into pots of their own. Gopher mound dirt, mostly clay soil, makes good medium.

Many small tunnels lead out of the swampy area, including one that leads into the garden. The wire fence mesh would be big enough for a small fox, cat or nutria to get through. A rotten apple had been pulled out of the compost pile and dragged outside the fence; a hungry nutria tired of grass is suspected.

A well-worn path and grassy tunnel into the garden. Gopher mound in the foreground.

Another year is underway as Father Time continues his travels, taking us along with him.  We will change along with the land and the seasons, growing older, and hopefully, wiser.  Everything here is temporary, including ourselves.  Choose wisely, plant happiness wherever possible.  Live in the moment, cherish the memories.  They too will pass into the great abyss of time.  We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead, and safe travels to wherever their destination in life may lead them.

View from the plane heading from Phoenix into LAX earlier this month.

Resident Feline Correspondents Nano and Hope, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

We are continuing to enjoy the slower winter months, and a return to music.  An appreciative listener in an airport recently asked me what I wanted most in 2018.  I told him I would like the year to work for everyone, that World Peace would be a nice change from current events.  He smiled and said, “Music is a part of that, and so are you.”  I am humbled by those whose lives I have touched with my music, and who have touched mine in return.

I am also please to report Kate Wolf’s family has included the Keepsake CD on her Tributes page, a listing of those who have covered Kate’s songs.  Kate passed from this world all too soon and left a legacy of beautiful, soulful music.  Please visit her site to learn about this amazing singer-songwriter from California at  https://www.katewolf.com

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! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that the harvest season, and holiday 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

Morning mists to the south of the farm accentuate the dark forms of conifers and winter-bare trees.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for December 2017

Our feature photo for this month is of a colony of what I believe is Usnea
longissima, or Methuselah’s Beard Lichen, growing on an apple tree along with some Parmelia sulcata, or Hammered Shield Lichen. They are quite common here, and can be seen hanging about on many trees around the farm.  When these lichens are swollen with rain in winter, distant heavily festooned deciduous trees appear to be clothed in light grey-green leaves, riding out winter alongside their dark green coniferous cousins.

Feature photo for December 2017, Methuselah’s Beard Lichen, growing on an apple tree along with some Parmelia sulcata, or Hammered Shield Lichen. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

News from the farm

The month of December passed quickly on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  The days have been a highly variable mix of cloud, rain and sun, warm to numbingly cold days and many nights below freezing.

Land of the Long Grey Cloud, a southern view from the farm on Christmas day. Many winter mornings begin this way.

Or begin this way, dawn’s colors reflected on the underside of morning clouds.

Or perhaps in misty pastel colors.

Or rose-colored contrails.

Old Man Winter established himself here early on, but seems to be currently occupied with the eastern regions of the country as they experience extremely cold and harsh conditions.  By contrast, our weather here today in western Oregon was in the mid 50s, sunny and pleasant.  We will enjoy his forgetfulness, while we can.

Christmas morning.

Fresh late-season apples were still clinging to trees in the early part of December, including a neighboring tree that has grown branches over the fenceline and over the roof of our shed.

The last hold outs, for birds only now. They were quite tasty and crisp earlier in the month.

The larger, hungry birds have since worked their way down the tree, drilling holes and slashing fruit with their beaks.  They are welcome gleaners.  Everyone must eat.

Daffodils in warmer areas with good southern exposure have already shaken off their slumber and begun the journey back up to the world of light.  Many sport buds, which will remain tightly closed until mid to late January.

Daffodils coming up by the old garage amid purple columbine seedlings on Christmas day.

Wild garlic chives stand tall above winter’s green but slower growing grass.  Pocket gophers tunnel everywhere, mounds piled up and plugged above the entrances.  Life stirs below as well as above.  I note where the tunnels are, and will collect their leavings for the gardens and barrel planters.

Gopher mounds amid the wild garlic chives.

As the afternoon comes to a close, a gibbous moon hangs in the eastern sky, white and marbled, like quartz tumbled by the sea.  My mother called such treasures cast up by the waves moonstones, and I think of her when I see the moon, looming large over the horizon, ghostly pale against a fading blue sky.  Another year has passed;  I am another year older, acutely aware of my own time and its passage here.  Mercury vapor and high pressure sodium barn and utility pole lights will soon glow like blue-green and orange stars on the surrounding hills as the sun dips below the horizon, and last light fades.  The sky is mostly clear tonight, and will be down in the 20s by morning.  A visit from Jack Frost and his silver brush is expected to close out the year.

We are thankful for all that we have, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures at this time of year.

An important and timely message for the world from the producers of these cheery and colorful crocus bulbs.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nano, ever watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has observed much from his window this month, and has once again sent the photographer out to investigate. Without further ado, Mr. Nano will present his findings.

The winter solstice has passed, and slowly, imperceptibly, the days are lengthening.  The foxes have continued to be sighted near the border of the hazelnut grove; their nightly vocalizations are muted by windows closed against the cold.  Out in the grove itself, life stirs.  A plump squirrel has taken up residence in the old ash tree, nest visible up high.   He will need to exercise caution when foraging below; many would find him a good source of much needed calories at this time of year.  In protected areas, the Lilliputian forests of ferns, mosses and lichens abound.

Ferns growing at the base of the old feral apple tree, one of the guardians of the tunnel to the back lot.

Mosses and lichens on a hazelnut tree.

Possible signs of nutria have been sighted in the form of small tunnels coming out of the underbrush leading to areas where the grass has been clipped short.  We have noted that the last set of nutria that lived here liked to “farm” an area, keeping a patch of grass clipped short to provide tender growth for their dining pleasure.  Fresh scat has not been found, however, or an actual nutria sighted this season.  The presence of foxes about may have left them more wary.

A young blacktail doe, probably one of this year’s fawns, wandered through the orchard, casually nibbling grass.  We found it surprising that they appear to urinate by squatting like a cat.  The photographer was too slow at getting the camera to catch this in progress.

Pruning of the vineyards has commenced, as it does each December, beginning in the table grapes, and ending in the pinot noir vineyard behind the deer fencing. 

Unpruned vine in the foreground. Vines pruned back to two canes in the row behind.

A venerable old table grape vine pruned back to two canes.

Cuttings have been made of the Glenora Black Seedless table grapes, and started in pots filled with gopher mound dirt.  The pots will remain in the drainage area for now to keep them wet until bud break.

Glenora Black Seedless cuttings potted up for the winter.

December has been sunnier and drier than the previous year, leaving many days to observe clouds forming in the blue rivers of moisture above.

A view from the back lot looking west.

Multilevel cloud formations, all floating at their point of buoyant density.

Friends of the farm have sent us identification and propagation challenges.  Anyone having experience propagating wild Columbia Lily from seed is encouraged to contact me.  Columbia Lily is a native lily with a tall stalk, orange tiger lily like flowers, and seed pods similar to Columbine.

This photo was sent by a friend in Cornelius who lives in a house previously owned by an avid gardener, who may be deceased at this time and unavailable for questions.  We believe this plant is in the mallow family.   A positive ID is requested.  Readers may click on the photo to enlarge.

A kind of mallow, perhaps?

Father Time continues his slow, steady tread into the coming year, taking us with him.  We see the changes in the land, and feel the changes in ourselves.  Everything is temporary, including ourselves.  Choose wisely, plant happiness wherever possible.  We wish all our readers a peaceful and bountiful year ahead.

Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nod, decided to have an eye to eye conversation with Rick regarding the vineyard.

Correspondent Blynken (left) and retired Correspondent Willow (right), warming themselves in the winter sun.

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am enjoying the winter hours of slower days, long cool nights, and more time to spend on music. I completely burned out in 2015 during the last year Rick’s mother was alive and with us, trying to work part-time, play music and provide round the clock care, resulting in my taking 2016 off entirely to recover my health. This has been a year of slowly regaining my sea legs as a performer.

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! Do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that the harvest season, and holiday 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

A primrose in winter, photo taken 12/30/2017. This plant was being thrown away, and found sitting out by a dumpster, sad and dehydrated. It was rescued and planted out front here at the farm. It has rewarded us with blooms for years, even in winter.

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for October 2017

Our feature photo this month is of a colorful cluster of hawthorn berries sporting a tiny visitor, a 12 spotted cucumber beetle.  In past years, we rarely encountered any.  This year, we have seen quite a few of these little fellows, although we do not seem to have sustained any damage from their presence other than occasional photobombing.   One can click on any photo in this post to enlarge.

Our feature photo. The 12 spotted cucumber beetle, the yellow fellow with black spots on the right edge of this cluster of hawthorn berries, has been found in larger numbers on the farm this year.

News from the library – a special book by Cynthia Reyes for children of all ages

I do not consider myself to be a reviewer of books or music, feeling neither qualified nor inclined to critique someone else’s work.   I find enough technical problems with my own endeavors to keep me sufficiently occupied pursuing a lifetime of improvement.  A very special book, however, has caught my attention, not only because it is well-written and beautifully illustrated, but because it sends a simple yet powerful message of the need for tolerance.  That book is Myrtle the Purple Turtle, a children’s book written by Cynthia Reyes, blogger, author, and former journalist and executive producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The story of Myrtle was originally written as a bedtime story for Cynthia’s daughter Lauren, who had been bullied at school for bringing her favorite doll, a black Cabbage Patch doll named Quentin. Some of the children thought Quentin was “dirty” because of his color, and wouldn’t play with her if she brought him along. As a consequence, the four year old stopped bringing him to school, hoping to fit in better, although it hurt her very, very much. Eventually, her parents caught on, and Cynthia developed the story of Myrtle, a different sort of turtle, to help Lauren feel less alone. Myrtle attempts to change her appearance to make her more acceptable, but learns in the end that is our differences that make us special, and that we must love ourselves. A book for children of all ages, and dedicated to the child in all of us, I encourage readers to help spread the word about this very special turtle.   Donate a copy to your local library; give one to a child in need.  We are all Myrtle the Purple Turtle.

Myrtle is available on Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0620773421/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_t2_E4R1zbYDKVZ27

Cynthia Reyes
Myrtle the Purple Turtle
About

Lauren Reyes-Grange
Myrtle the Purple Turtle

When a little girl decided she wanted a black doll for Christmas
https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2015/12/19/when-a-little-girl-decided-she-wanted-a-black-doll-for-christmas.html

The Love Your Shell campaign
#LoveYourShell

A very moving review of Myrtle the Purple Turtle book by Andrea Stephenson
We are all Myrtle the Purple Turtle

News from the farm

October’s weather was relatively mild, with sufficient rain to return the grass to its winter seasonal lush emerald green.  Our chives have revived in the cooler, wetter conditions, while dandelions once again stand tall, proudly present their sunshine-yellow blooms to late season visiting bees.  Tiny leaflets of clover have started to appear everywhere, adding to the carpet of green below as the leaves of tree and shrub above turn shades of yellow and brown, quietly slipping away with the daylight hours.  Blueberry bushes are among the exceptions to the muted colors of autumn in this region, celebrating the end of their season in a blaze of scarlet, orange and gold.

A fiery blueberry bush against the green carpet of grass and clover below.

A blueberry bush on the lighter hued side.

The annual rutting season has arrived along with October’s bright blue skies and falling leaves.  Once again, roving male deer have started looking for small trees and shrubbery upon which to scrape the velvet from their antlers.  It is the one aspect of autumn which I dread, but I am also thankful that we have only had deer,  not elk, wander through this farm.  Our larger blueberry bushes suffered some damage a few nights ago.  Not having fencing up yet, I resorted to taking the old wire basket tomato cages and put them upside down, points up, near targeted bushes, in the hope of discouraging them.   Broken branches, lying like matchwood on the ground, were collected to make cuttings for rooting.  Our visitors also tested the line of young redwoods up front, requiring installation of emergency, makeshift barricades.  Nature’s children are always hungry, or creating mischief.

A sunflower in the main garden, early October. This particular one somehow started to grow with roots in the air as it emerged from its shell. I turned it around in its pot, coddled it, and transplanted it to the main garden when it was ready. This sunflower has rewarded us with a beautiful bloom and has attracted many bees.

The garden has worked hard and done well this season, resting now except for a few cool weather crops such as broccoli, celery and cabbage.  It is difficult to bid goodbye to each year’s plantings when autumn returns;  all have been nurtured from seed to garden bed, and are now returning to the earth which sustained them, as they sustained us.  All things are connected to all things.

Broccoli, variety “Green Goliath”, lived up to its name.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano, always watchful.

Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano has observed much from his window this month, and has once again sent the photographer out to investigate. Without further ado, Mr. Nano will present his findings, including the state of the current vintage and wine experiments.

The nights have continued to grow longer since the equinox, allowing more viewing time from the windows under clear skies when the moon is in the brightest part of its phase.  The foxes have continued to leave scat around the farm, although they have been quieter about their comings and goings.  Our visiting pack of coyotes has not been heard again since last month, their lyrical chorus eerily beautiful yet frightening to felines.  Sunrise brings all the beauty and promise of a new day.

Sunrise on October 15th. The dark, lacy silhouettes of trees, mists and fleeting colors set upon morning’s early blue canvas of sky are always worth getting up early to see. Sunrise arrives late enough at this time of year that these scenes are much easier to catch.

A few interesting shoots were found growing out of a  hawthorn stump.  The young tree broke off in a windstorm last year, effectively becoming a coppice stool.  Some of these new shoots had leaves with no pigment.   Development will be followed.

Hawthorn stump sporting some shoots with no leaf pigment.

Our wasps in the blueberry bush remained with us for a while in early October, but have since disappeared.

The wasps remained at the site of their old nest long after the paper nest mysteriously disappeared.

The good weather held early in the month, and the onslaught of grape-eating birds and wasps had not descended yet.  A decision was made to run another crush from the pinot vineyard with grapes that were now up to 22 brix.    Four trays of the ripest pinot noir were selected and harvested, crushed by hand, and fermentation with Epernay II started in a 16 qt stainless steel stockpot, as was done in the previous run.   Fewer earwigs, and no stinkbugs or ladybugs were encountered in this run. 

Hand-crushing pinot noir grapes, and checking for earwigs and other non-grape entities . Primitive methods, but the results were worth the effort. Photo credit Rick Ross.

Another light pinot rosé was created from this fermentation, coming in at 12% alcohol with riper grapes.  The wine is still cold stabilizing on the lees at this time.

The first fermentation experiment has since been racked off into bottles, and stored in the refrigerator.  There has been no fining, filtering or sulfiting of this wine, so it is being stored cold. 

The lees, or sludge comprised of dead yeast cells and other solids that settled to the bottom during cold stabilization. Finished wine was ladled off into jars. Any remaining lees will settle there over time, and wine decanted.

Finished wine from left to right. The wines in bottle at the right were taken near the bottom of the pot, and the lees will have to settle again before decanting off the wine.

Rick, our Quality Control man, comparing the results of the second fermentation (left glass) with the first fermentation (right glass) as he has lunch. Both have passed inspection.

The rest of the fruit from under the insect netting was harvested yesterday, and is being held for a third experiment.

It is hard to smile while searching for earwigs. Photo credit Rick Ross.

Like all the residents and wild creatures of this farm, I hear the approaching winter in the wind as it rustles the dying leaves, and in the gentle staccato  of rain on the metal roof.  One can feel it in the nip in the air on a sunny day, especially when the sun slips behind a wandering cumulus.  Another year is soon ending, and I and my fellow correspondents are a year older.  We hear the slow, steady tread of  Father Time, and feel the changes.

Correspondent Willow has retired from filing reports, and prefers to spend her days napping on her bed by the kitchen window. We are not quite sure of her age, but think she is over 20 years old now. She was found in our yard, almost dead, a little over 5 years ago. She recovered, and has been with us ever since.

We wish our readers a pleasant evening ahead.  May everyone have a warm place to sleep, and plenty of good food.

Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Thank you, Mr. Nano!

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 all the seasonal outside work.   I have no new videos yet due to all the activity here, but do keep an eye on more content appearing from time to time, now that 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

The rapidly changing colors and sky of sunrise and sunset offer a spectacular show to those willing to take the time. Admission is free.

 

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for September 2017

Our feature photo for September, 2017 is of a gladiola that came up in the cherry tree garden planted for our Belgian friend Herman to remember his mother, brother, sister and cats Glippe and Mrs. Jones.   The old cherry tree, a black tartarian, produced buckets of delicious soft, dark fruit in early summer.  This garden was full of cheery daffodils this spring, and irises and daylilies later on before the real heat was upon us.  I particularly loved this late season swath of color against the grey, lenticeled bark of the tree.  The green swords provided visual relief to the dormant grasses beyond, burned and dried under summer’s relentless sun to a tan-white, crunching underfoot.

Herman’s cherry tree garden. Herman and my favorite British Shorthair cat, Mr. Bowie, can be found at https://hopedog.wordpress.com/

With many days in the 90s and 100s and little to no rain, this summer has been a particularly brutal one for keeping plantings alive while conserving water, and our well pump, as much as possible. Rooted in place, trees and garden residents wait patiently during the dry season for the return of rain in autumn.

News from the farm

Early September found us still engulfed in heat and drought amid the dragon’s breath of heavy smoke from forest fires around the region, with no rain in sight.  Late summer is a difficult seasonal period to work through; air quality tends to be poor; eyes itch and burn and the lungs feel congested.  Endless spot-watering and resuscitation of plantings wear one down as much as the heat and smoke.

The evening of September 3, 2017, southeastern view. We heard much of our smoke this year was from the Sisters, Brookings and Cascade Locks fires, which sent considerable smoke down the valley.

The morning of September 4, 2017, eastern view.

As the nights grow longer, Autumn finally arrives, cloaked in morning mists which form, settle in, then rise with the sun, eventually becoming part of the wandering herds of clouds passing through during the day. Dawn’s quickly changing colors and veiled scenes are among Nature’s finest displays of her art. In the geologic bowl where this farm resides, silver-grey mists condense and stratify as the light grows, showing only the jagged peaks of conifers on the surrounding hills. The first rays of sunlight are an alchemist’s dream, turning silver into gold; I quietly observe the transformation in awe. As the sun continues to climb, colors fade; the now bright white veil thins and rises, revealing the land below.   Another day begins.

This particular scene is from November 2013, but shows a lovely golden mist in progress.

The season continues to unfold.  Heavier, brooding clouds are seen more frequently; the first rain brings the welcome odor of petrichor.  It is only enough precipitation to settle the dust and clear residual smoke, but not enough to quench the thirst of the land for water.    Clouds, each floating at their point of buoyant density, give a textural feeling of depth to the wild sky, revealing dark caverns, canyons and sinkholes.

The eastern sky on September18th.

Sunrises show promise of saturated dawn colors and colorful cloud formations as equinox approaches.  A few fractures in the cloud cover after sundown glow like rose-colored embers of the dying day.

Sunset, eastern view, on September 17th. The last long rays of sun reflected off of clouds to the east. I don’t take many sundown photos from a western view until winter, when the sun sets far enough south that I can avoid power lines and utility poles in the photos.

The days come and go along with the moon and the equinox.  The pleasant staccato of rain on the metal roof signals a more significant storm in progress.  Multiple passing storms drench the farm with life-giving moisture and warm sun, followed by rainbows.   An EF0 tornado touched down early one morning in a town not far from here, severely damaging one dairy. Fortunately, none of the cows were harmed, not being in the barn at the time.  The pleasant staccato took on the sound of machine gun fire as the winds and rain from this storm reached us.  We suffered no damage here, but were reminded we are continually at the mercy of Nature.  There will be good years, and bad.

The cycle continues. The moon returns, a beautiful half moon up there hanging pale gold above the trees on clearer nights.   In the west, clouds form like curds out of the moisture laden air.  Food from our own garden is on the table, and it is warm inside.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Correspondent Nano, ever watchful.

Correspondent Nano has observed much from his window this month, and has sent the photographer out to investigate. Without further ado, Mr. Nano will present his findings, including the state of the current vintage.

As the days grow shorter,  the sounds, scents and scenes of late summer and early autumn catch my attention.  The symphony of late season stridulators perform as the afternoon fades, the temperature drops and the night comes into its own.  In the distance, the unusual growly barking of the grey foxes can be heard.  The foxes, of which there were five at last count,  have been observed eating grapes from the vineyard, and leaving scat filled with grape pips about the farm.

Non-netted table grapes showing fox, bird, wasp and bee damage. Stripped clean!

Resident grey fox, photo taken earlier this summer. They are now eating grapes along with wasps, bees and birds, although few larger birds have been seen this year except for quail.

A chorus of coyotes began to crescendo under the window in the early hours one morning.    Eerie yet beautiful, these songs also strike fear into the heart of any sensible feline.

California quail with their musical liquid calls have returned to the farm, but curiously, we have seen very few larger birds such as jays, starlings, robins and flickers.  These species usually begin the raids on the vineyard and orchard.

The changing weather affected two other species we have been watching.  The paper wasps that built their nest in the blueberry bush lost their nest after a wind and rainstorm.  Survivors have continued to remain at the old nest site, huddling and possibly feeding on shriveling blueberries.  Readers may review their story on our previous posts for July and August.

The wasps as of this morning. There has been no nest for some weeks now,although they remain at the site.

The garden spider continued to remain in her hunting hideout amid the cornstalks for some time, taking shelter under corn leaves during storms.  She was not found this morning.

Our resident Argiope aurantia, on September 18th. A tiny fly was caught in her web, left and above her leg.

The garden is still producing;  some plants winding down, some in full swing.

Last of the summer beans. This variety of stringbean is called Black Creaseback. The mature beans inside the pods are black. The seeds were kindly sent to us by a friend back east. The plants are shutting down now, although there are still some flowers and some developing beans.

On September 23rd, the decision was made to start a 4 gallon test batch of wine, as the non-netted grapes were showing signs of predation.  Four trays of the ripest pinot noir were selected and harvested, crushed by hand, and fermentation with Epernay II started in a 16 qt stainless steel stockpot, as was done the previous year.  The brix level was roughly 18% as they were not fully ripe.  The vintners hope for a light pinot rosé from this run, which was named “Wigadoon” for all the resident earwigs that were evicted before and during processing.  Numerous ladybugs and stink bugs were also removed.   These are normal residents found in grapes, and another reason why the vintner likes to hand process.  Another test will take place in early October, when the grapes should be a bit riper, weather permitting.

Pinot noir, reading for crushing.

Four trays hand processes enough juice for about 4 gallons.

Resident Feline Correspondent Nano, reporting for Salmon Brook Farms

Thank you, Mr. Nano!

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

A cheerful sunflower growing in front of the well house, wishing readers a pleasant evening. Deer had initially bitten off the center bud. This flower grew from a side shoot which formed after the terminal bud was ingested. Perseverance in the face of roaming cervids is an admirable trait.

 

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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, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for July 2017

Readers may click on any photo in this post to enlarge.  Our feature photo for July is of some resident paper wasps found nesting in one of the blueberry bushes this month. We are not sure if they are native paper wasps, or European paper wasps in the genus Polistes. The legs tend to dangle below them in flight.  Both types prey on insects.

Paper nest building wasps have built a home in a blueberry bush.

I almost put my hand in their nest by accident while berry picking.  Fortunately for me, these paper nest building wasps were relatively non-aggressive, only flying out to investigate who was disturbing them, returning to nest sitting once they were satisfied I was no serious threat.  Satisfied in turn that they were no serious threat to me, I have been picking that bush right up to the immediate vicinity of their nest since then, and have enjoyed observing them.  The paper nest, being situated where it is at the top of the blueberry bush, has no real protection from relentless sun, or the autumn rains when they come.   In this case, they have selected a doomed building site.  I will not disturb these industrious wasps that feed on other insects, and continue to work around them this season.  Unfortunately, their ground nesting relatives the yellow jackets in the genus Vespula or Dolichovespula, tend to be highly aggressive, swarming and stinging without what we humans feel is sufficient provocation; we usually have to eradicate at least one nest, generally found by accident during the season, only because they present a real physical danger.

News from the farm

Among the many visitors to the farm this month were the gray foxes.  Rick came out with binoculars early one evening, indicating he had seen four of them cavorting on a pile of grass clippings out back.  There were only two by the time I had a look, and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of quick photos before they disappeared. According to ODFW, there are three species of foxes in Oregon: the Common Gray Fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus, the Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, and the Kit Fox, Vulpes velox.  Our visitors, as best as I can tell, were gray foxes.

A curious fellow wanting to know why I was interested in him. 3x telephoto is the maximum this old Sony camera can do.

He proceeded towards the woods, but stopped to have a look.

Same fox, doubled back for another look. Click on any photo in this blog to enlarge.

Having been spared continual excessive heat earlier this season, we have now entered the time of heat and seasonal drought here in western Oregon. As the chapter for this July comes to a close with temperatures in the mid 90s, August will make her debut with 100+ degree temperatures for several days.  The hillsides have appropriately transitioned from emerald green to a more seasonal dress of toasted gold as grass withers and goes dormant.  Deer will grow bolder, coming closer to the house, looking for any green shoots they can nip.  Every creature will be looking for shelter from the relentless heat, adequate food, and whatever source of water or moisture they can find.  I find myself becoming more of a crepuscular creature at this time of year, preferring to be active in early morning and late evening.  Tree, shrub, vine and plant life in general are not so fortunate.  Stoic beings rooted in place, they bear the sun’s searing heat in silence, waiting for rain, or a kindly drink from a watering can or soaker hose.

A golden gladiola in Elbert’s Garden at the end of the day. The garden bed this gladiola graces along the side of the greenhouse was planted for Elbert. It has grown to include others now as well. It is the gift of the living to those left behind, sometimes the only meaningful kind thing I can do. See https://phainopepla95.com/2016/04/19/post-1013-passing-of-a-friend/

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

There was some confusion among the correspondents this month as to whose report for July was being filed for publication, and was complicated by the photographer forgetting to pack a camera along on a recent trip to the northern California coast.  Mr. Nano has decided to file a quick report on an unusual skull found in a garden bed next to the garage.

Correspondent Nano

A small white object lying in the mulch amid withered daffodil leaves drew attention to itself.  It could not have been there long, yet did not seem to be too recent.  Mostly clean and still bone white, no other bones were found along beside it to aid in identification.  The cavity where the brain once resided and directed the body’s activities seemed relatively large, the upper jaw long and narrow with many sharp teeth.  Any information leading to the identification of the specimen would be greatly appreciated.

Alas poor Yorick, although I did not know him at all. Young possum, perhaps?

Yorick skull bottom view, showing teeth.

Top view of skull.

We wish our readers a pleasant day and evening ahead, wherever you may be.

– Resident Feline Correspondent Mr. Nano

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

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.  The days disappear all too quickly, and Rick and I managed to get in a three day vacation to go down to Arcata, California to see Jennings & Keller in concert, with the help of Lyn, who took care of the cats and the farm while we were away.  I have no new videos for July as promised due to all the activity here, but 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.

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

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

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for June 2017

Readers may click on any photo in this post to enlarge.  Our feature photo for June is one of our fine roses that came into bloom this month. Originally planted by the previous owner, this one and its many friends survived being dug up and replanted when the house was rebuilt 5 years ago.  I am forever grateful to the help we received from our friend Lyn in digging up all these thorny beauties and boxing them up until they could be replanted.

This lightly scented beauty begins life a creamy pink, and turns almost white as the blooms age.

Tough girls, they survived hot weather in pots and cardboard boxes covered with a minimal amount of dirt and infrequent watering.  Only one of the group has died back over the years, leaving just the rootstock to regrow and bloom.  The surviving rootstock we believe is an example of one called Dr. Huey.

Dr. Huey, I presume. The photo is from a previous year when the graft (pinkish bloom upper right) was still living and blooming. The Dr. Huey rootstock has taken over with masses of red blooms.

Tim & Laurie Price have some lovely photos of their Dr. Huey and other photos from the Corrales Rose Society annual Dr. Huey tours on their site.

http://photos.tandlphotos.com/blog/2016/5/third-annual-corrales-rose-society-dr-huey-tour

Susan B. Graham is a rose photography judge and avid gardener.  Please visit her sites as well for many outstanding photos, including the famous Dr. Huey rose.

http://susanbgraham.com/blog/

http://swdesertgardening.com/category/roses/dr-huey/

News from the farm

Sundown here at Salmon Brook Farms, view to the southeast.

The troubled weather that came riding in with Spring is transitioning peacefully as Summer asserts her time and place on our little farm in the Cascade foothills. Our first of the month arrived in a shroud of light drizzle and temperatures in the mid 50s, and ended that evening in the 70s watching the molten colors of sunset from a nearby mountain top, deep in conversation with friends.  June has come and gone quickly, mostly filled with snapshots in time of things I have seen, to be replayed in mind’s eye at later times.  I was struck by a quotation I recently saw on Baz & Janet’s Xplore site.  Avid travelers and explorers from Australia, they were visiting Merlin’s Cave, Tintatgel, Cornwall.

The Wisdom of Merlin…

“Spend time not pondering what you see, but why you see it…”

The blooms of the black locust scented the air in early June, attracting bees and admiring humans.

The creamy white, heavily scented blooms of the black locust tree have come and gone along with the irises, succeeded by other species now heavily in bloom. Roses wave and dance, colorful skirts swirling on the breeze, while the orange trumpets of daylilies continue to make a joyful nose of color, accompanied by the butterfly bush which has now joined the symphony.

Make a joyful noise! A bed of orange daylily trumpets at sundown last night. The purple butterfly bush in the background has joined in celebration.

A colorful dancer, she can be seen whirling and waving at the sky on breezy days.

A contemplative member of the garden who has seen several locations, and is much happier now. Planted in memory of my own mother, variety John Paul.

I recall one clear blue, cloudless sky morning earlier in the month; the waning crescent moon was still overhead, white and marbled with light grey like quartz tumbled by the sea. There was little to no traffic on the road, being an early Sunday morning.  It was pleasantly quiet; the land was still and the wind chimes silent.

A few days in the 90s caught my attention. The wind was continually restless and warm, and contained much energy; I could see cumulus piling up over the Cascades. The sky continued to marble with thin, high cirrus clouds, later on boiling with heavy, rolling clouds and widening chasms where one could see to upper levels and bright filtered light. That night, flashes of light over the mountains glowed on the underside of clouds as a storm brewed to the southeast.

Some of June’s many colorful clouds. An eastern view at sunset as the last rays of the sun reflected off the bottom of our aerial wanderers as they crossed over the Cascades.

A few morning cumulus and altocumulus reflected the peach and rose colors of dawn, and at least two clouds were presenting themselves as a colorful example of virga, rain observed to fall from a cloud and evaporate well above the ground.

Clouds in shades of lavender, white hot peach and rose painted in bold strokes against a deepening blue. A pleasant breeze came up after sundown that evening as the land cooled off. Movement over by the back north border head caught my eye. A brushy-tailed grey fox came down from the neighbor’s field across our back lot and into our patch of woods; a handsome little fellow in search of food. I recall Rick saying he had seen a fox a few nights prior to my sighting, but he indicated he had seen a red fox. I saw the grey fox on the border of the hazelnut grove another evening; he watched me intently as I closed the gate and shut off the water. I was probably within 100 feet of him.

Sundown, northwest view.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Mr. Nano has been occupied with important duties this month, so he has assigned Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio the task of filing the June report. The farm photographer was sent out to provide documentation on activities they have seen.

Mr. Nano has been very busy this month.

Without further ado, Mr. Nano presents Resident Feline Correspondents Marcus and Lucio, and their report for June, 2017.

 

Mr. Marcus (left), Mr. Lucio (right). Time to wake up and get to work!

We have observed the transition in the weather from cool and wet to drier and sunnier.  The mornings are still deliciously cool and pleasant, and often accompanied by the missives of small birds outside the office window as they cling to strong-stemmed plants and eat the seeds from neighboring dandelions. We have noted with alarm the distinct drop off in the number of bees, especially honeybees, this spring, which we attribute to wetter and cooler than usual weather.  Although there is much clover growing amid the grassy areas, few honeybees have been sighted feeding on it.

The vineyards and garden are now receiving much attention as the season progresses.   Tomatoes, corn, peppers and a few eggplants starts have already gone in, soon to be followed by squash, cucumbers, red cabbage and broccoli this weekend.

Rick carefully tending a pepper plant start.

Placing a cage around the pepper plant to support it as it grows.

The table grapes and pinot noir produced many flowering clusters, and barring hail or other calamities, should produce a good crop, and perhaps some good wine, this autumn.

Cascade table grapes in progress!

Pinot noir wine grapes in progress!

Flowers continue to bloom in succession, both domestic and wild, presenting a visual feast from any window.  The heirloom roses on the north border provide a riot of color in June.  They bloom but once a season, unlike our other roses.

The Shogun tiger lily collection, safely growing in a barrel planter away from tunneling gophers.

Colorful purple spires of the butterfly bush at sundown, growing crescent of the moon just off to the right.

Wildflowers in the meadow. Perhaps Clare from “A Suffolk Lane” would know what they are?

Heirloom roses on the north border, growing wild and carefree.

Cherries are now coming into season, along with blueberries, native trailing blackberries, strawberries and raspberries, providing delicious, healthy deserts.

Non-native blackberry in bloom will provide much needed nectar for bees, good eating later on for us. Wild blackberry provides the main honey flow in June for the Willamette Valley. There are far more of these about the farm than the native trailing blackberry which has ripe fruit now. We keep it in check as best we can. These plants can throw 20 foot, very thorny canes.

The black tartarian cherries, soft and very sweet, will become inky purple when ripe. There are also bing cherries here, as well as many wild cherries about.

A favorite image from back in the old house. our own roses and fruit. Wine is from Sauternes.

We would like to end this report with Michael’s Tree.  Planted in honor of GP Cox’s son Michael, USMC.  GP runs the site Pacific Paratrooper, dedicated to Pacific War era information.

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2017/05/29/memorial-day-2017/

Michael’s tree at sundown. This redwood will grow tall and strong, providing shade and shelter. It will outlive us. It has already put on much new growth this spring.

Birds overseeing the photography at sundown. We believe these are the ones that were nesting in the eves of the old garage.

We wish our readers a pleasant day and evening ahead, wherever you may be.

– Resident Feline Correspondents Mr. Marcus and Mr. Lucio

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

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 for June due to all the activity here, but do keep an eye on more content appearing in July.

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

Sundown here at Salmon Brook Farms. I often think of the last lines of Desiderata. When my father died, he left all his children a copy of Desiderata, which I value above all else. “With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.” Having survived many battles in the Pacific during WWII, including Peleliu, he understood far better than any of us what this actually means. I regret that he did not find true peace until the end of his life.

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Music and Farm

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for January 2017

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

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

News from the farm

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

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

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Daybreak on January 1st. The farm in snow.

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

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Daffodils in snow on January 1st.

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

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A monochrome snow globe. Early morning light.

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Our patient resident black locust tree posing for the photographer.

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East view of the January 7th snow globe.

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

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Moss growing on the north side of an apple tree.

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The first daffodil bud opened January 29th.

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

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

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

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Evidence of surviving nutria.

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

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

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Sunrise January 27th.

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

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

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

Thank you Mr. Marcus and Miss Hope!

Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page

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

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

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

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

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I would like to mention fellow musician, author and editor Lorraine Anderson, who posts twice a year at the solstices. Please visit Lorraine at https://earth-and-eros.blogspot.com/

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for October 2016

Our feature photo this month is a colorful autumn view through the south row of table grapes.  The grass in the background has turned a lovely emerald green, as it always does at this time of year when the rains begin again.  Although we do not experience the vibrant colors of New England here except for where ornamentals and other non-native species are planted, our grapes, blueberries and hawthorns provide some red and orange hues to the predominantly green, yellow and browns of the season.

News from the farm

The days have grown noticeably shorter on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  As Autumn wearily trudges on towards Winter, her traveling companion Wind has grown restless.  Sometimes playful, sometimes angry, but always on the move now, driving the herds of wandering dark clouds before her, leaving a cold, fragmented sky in their wake.  She shakes tree, shrub and vine, demanding them to release spent leaves and overripe fruit.  Come January, she will call like a Banshee in the night, and I will wake and listen for a while, the sound of her wailing striking some momentary primordial feeling of dread.  Her siblings Storm and Mist visit much more frequently.  Mist is a shadowy figure, stealthily creeping in at times when the afternoon sun is warm and the air is still.  The breath of the mountains slides down into the bowl in which this farm sits, and I feel the cold dampness on my neck.  I turn to face this amorphous stark white entity, who soon envelopes me and all my surroundings.  I find myself ingested.  At night, her fingers curl and probe under the lights, attempting to find a way into the warmth beyond the door which shuts her out.  Waiting for me to leave the safety of the house, she knows I will eventually have to come outside for various reasons.  She will meet me on her own terms in this dark time of year.

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October sunrise in progress over Salmon Brook Farms.

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These intrepid little dandelions still bloom at this time of year.

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A nasturtium plant snuggled up against the garage provides color as well.

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The persimmon tree lost many leaves during the last storm.

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Falling rain at sunset, Nature’s fine filigree of black locust tree against the sky.

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And a rainbow to the east at sunset. Storm leaves a present for those who take time to observe.

Rick was busy rolling up netting today where all the grapes have been harvested.  We had a good year in the vineyards except for where quail and other birds robbed us clean in sections that were not netted.

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Rick, busy collecting netting this morning. Those are pruning shears at his side, for those who might be wondering.

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We still have table grapes!

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And a fine patch of kale, liking the cooler wet weather.

Earlier this month I had Rick collect four trays of Cascade table grapes for me to experiment with, as out Pinot Noir vineyard had been stripped clean by Quail, Inc.  Sorted and crushed by hand, I decided they might at least make a good vinegar, as I had done back in 2014 when the vineyard was also stripped clean.   Feeling adventurous, I decided to add a packet of Red Star Epernay II yeast that had been in the back of the refrigerator since last fall.  I wasn’t sure if the yeast would still function, so I decided to find out!  The stock pot was happily bubbling away within a couple of days, and the juice fermented dry to about 10% alcohol, based on the starting sugar content measured in the initial grape must (freshly pressed juice) and post fermentation juice.  Cascade grapes on their own don’t make great wine, but they are sometimes used for blending.  The “wine” is sitting sur lie in the refrigerator, before I rack it off and decide what to do with this experiment.

For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lees_(fermentation)

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4 trays of Cascade grapes ready for crushing!

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First load in the “press”.

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A makeshift press. Any good colander will do!

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Grape pomace – skins, stems and seeds ready for composting.

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Grape must, or juice ready for fermenting. The wild yeasts present 2 years ago were not sufficient to go the distance, and so we had great pinot noir vinegar that year when acetobacter took over.

And then there are those unpleasant events that occur.  We woke to find a large buck had expired out in the back yard.  The ODFW was called, and they indicated there was nothing to be done unless the animal had died of gunshot wounds, in which case they notify the State Police.  Rick and I rolled the buck over and could not find any signs of bullet wounds, so we dragged the poor fellow out of the way.  A shallow pit was dug, and I covered him with dirt and sod as best I could.  He will return to the earth from whence he came.

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John Doe, a handsome buck, expired out back from unknown causes. Not what one wants to find in their yard. Most likely cause according to ODFW was internal injuries from and encounter with other males during the rutting season. It is possible he was hit by a car, showed no external damage, and managed to wander back this far before falling.

News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms

Miss Wynken of The Three Sisters wanted to file a report this month for the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms, as she had plenty to say.

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Miss Wynken files her report.

Miss Wynken would like readers to know she is well again, having stopped eating on us.   She was treated for a possible urinary tract infection, but we suspect the real culprit or at least an additional problem was her catching a front claw in something and ripping it out.  She received antibiotics, special food and lots of TLC.  The nail is growing back in nicely, she is eating and playing with toys again.

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The lovely Wynken, all recovered.

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Miss Nod, also known as “Sister Bertrille” or “The Flying Nod”. She is the most talkative and most adventurous of the Three Sisters.

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Miss Blynken, the Quiet Intellectual. Studies people.

Miss Wynken would also like readers to know old Willow, the Calico Matriarch is doing well, and is still enjoying her window seat.  She is up there in age, although we are not sure exactly how old she is.

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Miss Willow, Calico Matriarch. She is somewhere in the vicinity of 20 years old, we think. Only she knows for sure.

Music News (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)

I am looking forward to the dark time of winter as a time of creativity, and getting fully back on my feet.  Stay tuned!  A few more tests and some surgery to get out of the way now.

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Photo credit Mike and Liz Santone of Meadowlake Studios and McMinnville Community Media TV.

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Album photo credit Sharon Mayock

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Photo credit Rick 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.

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One of the last roses of autumn to survive all the recent rain. A sweet reminder of summer, and a promise of good things to come.

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

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

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Music and Farm, The Cycle of Life

Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for September 2016

Our feature photo this month is of one of our red roses from the garden in front of the house.  Sunlight coming in at low angle caught the backside of swirling red petals, detailing the ruffled skirt of this cheerful, flamboyant blossom.  Depending on the weather, we may have blooms into late October or early November, a final farewell to this year’s growing season.

News from the farm

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The Apple Tunnel, formed when a very old and very tall apple tree fell over long ago, but did not die. The tunnel entrance is facing west in this photo looking back toward vineyards and house. On this side of the tunnel is the wild area of the farm, including an acre of hazelnuts.

Autumn has settled in on our little farm in the Cascade foothills.  Her arrival, unlike that of her maiden sister Spring, comes without the fanfare of golden trumpets and bright colors bursting forth from winter rain-damp soil and emerald green fields to meet her.  No, Autumn is a slow, stealthy traveler, preferring to keep her own counsel as she stalks the farm.  She is first seen out of the corner of one’s eye, cloaked in dessicated shades of yellow and brown, in the dry grass underfoot and stark white cirrus clouds overhead, foreshadowing much-needed rain.  The land and all its rooted and mobile inhabitants begin a slow shift towards the inevitable as they become aware of her growing presence.  Garden, orchard and vineyard race to ripen the fruits of their summer-long labor, and wildlife wait to feast on whatever they can before what all creatures know as the Hard Time sets in.  Jack Frost will not be far behind now, his icy brush painting the way for Old Man Winter.  It is the time of transition.

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Strands of cirrus clouds marbled the sky today.

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A sunset photo from last week. The depth and color of the clouds is beautiful to behold.

Plums have been dried and put away for the winter, and we are canning as many tomatoes as we have time for, since there are so many! The table grapes have done exceptionally well this year, and are providing us with copious fresh fruit. Since grapes can tolerate a light frost, we leave them on the vine until we are ready to pick.

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Ripe Cascade table grapes, fortunately protected by netting.

Our pinot noir which was not bird-netted was completely stripped clean by quail.  I had postponed harvesting the pinot since there was a lot of uneven ripening this year.  This proved to be a mistake.  The quail, not seen all summer long, launched a stealth attack on the vineyard, where there were many grapes hanging from the vines only a few days before.  Caught red-footed among the vines, they ran quite a ways before they achieved lift-off.  No wine this year, but I will make some vinegar from the Cascade table grapes of which there are plenty, and are covered with netting.

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