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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
News from the Cats of Salmon Brook Farms
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.
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.
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.
December has been sunnier and drier than the previous year, leaving many days to observe clouds forming in the blue rivers of moisture above.
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.
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
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.
Bookings and home-grown produce: