A Good Home, Couples Farming, Musicians

At Home at Salmon Brook Farms

Have you visited the blog for Salmon Brook Farms, home of Lavinia and Rick Ross?

Blog photo Lavinia and Rick story Daffodils

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story Rick in Vineyard house in BGBlog Photo Lavinia and Rick Vineyard

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Rick preparing tomatoes for canning

They grow grapes, flowers, fruit, berries, vegetables and other produce.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Rose

They love cats.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Cats

Their Subaru, Seabisquit, has driven nearly 435, 000 miles.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story Seabisquit the Subaru

They are musicians who encourage their readers to support other local musicians.

Blog Photo Lavinia playing guitar

I follow their blog, primarily maintained by Lavinia, and email back and forth with her, but realized recently that I knew little about her as a musician and writer.

So I listened to her CD. Lavinia sings folk music and plays the guitar beautifully.   My husband and I played it repeatedly on a drive in the countryside.

“Where did your love of music come from?” I asked Lavinia later.

I grew up hearing everything, from the Appalachian mountain and assorted older folk music that my parents enjoyed to the current folk and rock & roll from the 60s and 70s that my brothers were listening to.  I would sit on the swings and sing & swing away when I was very young. 

Blog Photo Lavinia at age 5

I remember when I was about 5 or 6 years old trying to mimic the sound of the trumpet in “Trumpeter’s Prayer” by making air buzz through my teeth.  I can’t remember how to do that now.   I simply enjoy creating, and expressing it.  It is part of me. 

Lavinia has performed at various events, garnering recognition along the way.

My “lifetime achievement” award came from a young child.  When my first (and only, so far) CD came out, my old friend Margaret suggested that I send a copy to her friend Ruth, whom I had never met.  Ruth played it for her granddaughter who remarked, “That must be God’s mother singing!”   

Blog Photo Lavinia

 Margaret promptly reported that comment back to me, and I was stunned.  Children, especially the younger ones, are in general brutally honest.  To me, this child’s comment is the most meaningful endorsement I have ever received on my music, and will be difficult for anyone to top.

Rick and Lavinia, though coming from different musical genres, have also performed together. It’s helped their working relationship on their farm in Linn County, Oregon.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story Rick performing
Photo of Rick by Nat Kennedy, Connecticut

I  was exposed to the blues through listening to Rick, and had to learn to do a bit of that myself, as we often played for audiences who had come to hear him play blues and were not so interested in quiet folk music.   I had to stretch myself. 

As for the farm, like the music we have some things we work on together, but still maintain our own departments for which we are mainly responsible.There is still give and take, different points of view, and some bickering, but most importantly now, the shared vision of making our farm a beautiful, productive and peaceful place in our retirement years.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Pinot Noir

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick tomatoes

And the cats?

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story The Indoor crew

The cats are definitely characters in their own right, and are more like living with eccentric roommates than pets.   Friends for a short time, remembered for a lifetime.   Wise old souls and teachers, comforters in hard times, playful little elvish creatures who help us see the lighter side of life. 

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Miss Nod

They teach us how to be better people.  Their lives, and all the memories they leave behind after they depart, are all woven into the fabric of our own, becoming part of the legends and history of this place we call home.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story cats Marcus and Lucio

Four years ago, their home life changed drastically. Earlier than planned, they became caregivers to Rick’s mother.

A friend who took care of her elderly mother with Parkinson’s described her own experience as “the quicksand years”, and I understand now what she meant.  We rebuilt the house to accommodate Gladys, and had to move twice in one year. 

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Gladys' room

Although we loved Gladys very much, the experience stretched our coping ability with her, ourselves and each other to the limit of what we were capable of handling, even with help from Hospice in the last 3 months and additional caregivers coming in to help.  Physically and emotionally, it took a serious toll on my health, and I wanted little to do with anyone for some time after she died.  I needed peace, quiet and downtime from responsibility, which can be difficult for friends and relatives to comprehend. 

We are not the same people we were previous to caring for Gladys.  We survived the experience and I think have come out the better as individuals and as partners for it.

Lavinia’s blog is beautifully written.  So I ask: “I know you’re not performing at present, but are you writing?”

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick story old apple tree and tunnel

Although I am taking a break from performing, I am still playing music for myself, working on songs as well as working on a collection of essays, pictures drawn in words of things I remember from my life.  I am finding that reconnection to earlier parts of my life an enjoyable exploration.

Blog Photo Lavinia and Rick Story Rainbow over SBF

Writing is the thread that sews the remnants of life and soul together.   

Photos from Salmon Brook Farms Website.


A Good Home, Adopted HOme, Award-winning wines, Canadian Icewine, Canadian Wine, Family business, Reif Estate Winery, Reif Wines, Riesling Wine, Vidal Icewine, Vineyards, Winery of the year, Wines

At Home with Klaus Reif, Award-Winning Winemaker

Blog Photo - Klaus Story Winery Front picture

“Born into a winemaking family of twelve generations,” says the Reif Estate Winery website, “Klaus W. Reif may have had his future preordained.”

No kidding!

Thirteen generations of one family doing the same thing for a living?

Blog Photo - Reif Wines in Glass

It’s like something in a novel. 

Like thirteen generations of butchers, bakers or candle-stick makers.

What is it like? I wondered.


Klaus Reif is president of Canadian winery Reif Estate.

But his childhood home and vineyard are in Neustadt, Germany.

“Growing up in a winemaking family was a fun time, maybe the best time of my life. Since my early childhood I loved working with my father in the vineyard and the winery. Home was a great place. My parents had the incredible ability to integrate us kids into the winery business as a natural extension of our family life.”

Blog Photo - Klaus Story youngest winemaker in family

In 1978, Klaus visited his uncle Eward in Niagara on the Lake, an idyllic part of Canada. Eward had started a vineyard in ‘NOTL’ just the year before, making him one of Canada’s wine pioneers.

Blog Photo - Klaus story Reif Barrel Herb LR

Klaus fell in love with Niagara. He returned to Germany, determined to learn more about both winemaking and business. He studied at prestigious winemaking institutions.

In 1987, he returned.

“I was young and was looking for an adventure, so coming to Canada was perfect for me.” 

Klaus’ uncle handed him the reins.  Believing that great wines start in the vineyard, Klaus focused on creating small batches of exceptional wine.

Blog Photo - Reif Icewine

One of his first was “a simple wine”, a Vidal icewine.

“I obviously had a different style of winemaking from my uncle. Upon tasting my first wine he basically told me this wine would ruin the winery! Nevertheless, I entered the wine into a competition and won an award which gave me the confidence for my future in winemaking.”

Named one of the Top Ten Wines of 1987, the Vidal has a special place in Klaus’ heart. It helped Reif to grow, becoming its most popular wine, while helping Reif win 100 gold awards for icewines.

Blog Photo - Klaus with glass of wine

In 1989, winemaker Roberto Didomenico joined Reif. (Photo Below, Roberto at right) 

Reif focused on improving its wines and production facility.

Reif has won one international award after another. Reif was also honoured as Canada’s top winery.

“Thirty years ago Canadian wine had a well-deserved bad reputation. It was our goal to change this with new varieties and the application of world class winemaking technology. I believe — no, I know we succeeded — Canadian wines can measure up to the best wines in the world!”

Reif Estate Wines

Klaus’ special place in the vineyard is the “22 rows of the Chardonnay block”. During tough times, it was the backbone of the farm, creating the income Reif needed to make it into the next year.

“This was obviously many years back, but it will always remain my favorite spot!”

Reif produces about 35,000 cases of wine a year — including one of Klaus’ favorites, the Riesling.

Blog Photo - Klaus Story Riesling

Blog Photo - Klaus' Story Reif Estate Winery

Wines are sold online and at the winery at 5608 Niagara Parkway, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Blog Photo - Klaus story wine tastings among barrels

Tastings, tours, weddings and corporate events are held there.

Blog Photo - Klaus story Sign

Klaus found great success in Canada.

“I love Canada, I love Canadians, I love the Niagara Region. I am grateful for the opportunities I was given. If only the rest of the Reifs could be here with me, life would be perfect!”

Klaus and Destiny

So: what is it like for Klaus  — far from his family home?

“Only in the later years I realized that my lust for adventure took me away from my family. It was definitely the right decision from the perspective of business success and many other reasons.  But, 27 years later, I still miss them!”


Photos from Klaus and Reif Estate.

Website:  www.reifwinery.com

A Good Home, Homes, Interior Design, Life in canada, Lifestyle, Photographs, Prince Edward County, Renovating, Restoration, Restoring old houses

John’s House in Prince Edward County

Some weeks ago, I asked the question: Who would buy an old house, knowing it needed a lot of renovation?

John Garside replied: “I would!”

And he’s doing exactly that.  Which led me to more questions:

Why would a big-city guy, born and raised in Toronto, sell his comfortable home and move to a small town 2 hours away in Prince Edward County?

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior

Why would he buy a rambling old house, knowing it would need years of renovation – most of it his own labour?

And why – several months into the dusty, grueling process – is John so darned happy with his decision?

John is the former editor of the horticultural newsletter that publishes some of my garden stories and poems.  When I heard about this move, I was happy for him — but very curious at the same time.

Was he, like so many other émigrés who’ve left big cities and moved to “The County”,  planning to have his own vineyard and make wine?

Image via thecountywines.com
Image via thecountywines.com

Or produce fine cheese?

Image via kingstonherald.com
Black River Cheese – Image via kingstonherald.com

Or become a landscape painter, perhaps?

Glide by C. Pachter - via Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County
“Glide” by Charles Pachter – Available at Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County

None of the above.

Turns out that John has had a love affair with the small towns and lakeside settings of  Prince Edward County since he was a teenager on a Grade 13 geography project in the area. Years later, he fell in love with Ann, who also loved the area. They visited often, and even honeymooned there.

Six years ago, they bought a condo in The County for weekends and summers.  By then, the area was already becoming a trendy place.  More and more people were ditching their big-city lifestyles and operating vineyards and wineries,   restaurants, cooking schools and  art galleries. Some were winning awards for their cheese and wine.

More and more artists had moved there, while others were buying weekend and summer homes in the small, lakeside towns.  Still others discovered that The County was a great place to visit.

Meanwhile, John and Ann toured an old house in downtown Picton one weekend a year ago.

“Walking through the home,” John says,  “I felt an immediate attraction, not only for the home but the property itself.  It needed a keeper, and I really felt that we were the ideal people to take on this project.”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

Only four families had owned the house in 100 years.  Each owner had  preserved its grandeur.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

Each bedroom has its own bathroom.

“And lastly,” John says, “the stained glass windows in every room are wonderful!”

Blog Photo - Picton Window

John sounds like a man in love – with a house.  But his eyes were wide open.  For all its good looks, the house needed a lot of work.  New electrical wiring and plastering,  for starters.   That meant floors and walls ripped open, etc., etc., etc.

John’s been doing the work for several months now.

“This project”,  he says, is “the greatest test of my skills in my life”.

For one thing, he’s doing most of the work alone. For another, he’s not a brawny guy – John weighs only 155 pounds.   And then the third thing: he promised Ann that they’d move in by the end of April.

So how’s it going?   Will John and Ann be able to move into the house as planned?

Blog Photo - Green Room in Progress

We’ll find out!  I’ll check in with John each week.  And I’ll share pictures and progress with you.

Good luck, John!

Original Photos by John Garside