Although it is still autumn for another two weeks here in the northeastern United States, last weekend we had our first big snow storm.
So it feels like winter has already begun, with the holidays of Solstice and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and Christmas looming on the horizon…
As recent readers of this blog may recall, my two sisters live on a farm in upstate New York.
One of them has lived there for many years, is a terrific photographer, and has agreed to let me use her photos in this blog post. You can click here to read a post from two years ago which also featured her photos and the song “Winter Wonderland.”
My sisters take at least one long walk with their dogs each day.
Stella, a very large black Lab mix, is unfazed by rain or snow.
My younger sister and nephew moved from California a couple of summers ago.
He, too, is unfazed by snow…
Their beloved dog of 14 years recently died, and after some reflection they decided to welcome a herding dog into their lives.
This is Tasso.
Right now he’s still growing.
But eventually he will help with these woolly beings..
My older sister works in Cornell’s department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design.
This is one of the reasons why she invited several pregnant Icelandic ewes onto the farm last winter.
Here is a sampling of their un-dyed wool…
They have a soft, insulating undercoat as well as a hardy outer coat which helps them keep warm during the winter months.
My older sister also has a very hardy flock of Australorps who are willing to venture out into the snow if someone offers something delicious such as sunflower seeds.
They have been very healthy and generous egg-producers.
My sister has learned firsthand how intimately connected with sunlight their egg-laying cycles are.
Egg production drops off as the days get shorter and gradually picks back up after the winter solstice.
I continue to be amazed that hens can create such enormous and beautiful and nutritious objects inside their bodies ON A DAILY BASIS!!!
My sister feeds them organic grain from a local mill and lots of left-over vegetables — and in non-snowy months they forage outside all day long, too.
She sells some of the eggs to local customers, and her family consumes a goodly number of them, too.
During the holidays my grown up nephew and niece and her husband return to town to partake in various family rituals.
The cutting of a tree..
And decorating of cookies.
The chopping of wood…
The singing of songs…
The lighting of torches with cousins to drive away the winter’s gloom…
The trimming of the tree…
The baking of pies…
The eating of pomegranates…
And those daily walks around the farm with the dogs…
Past the irrigation pond…
Along the edge of a field…
Admiring the beauty of an invasive species…
Sometimes shoveling a path…
Sometimes visiting with a sheep…
Or watching a squirrel’s adventures on the side of one of the barns…
Under which Stella is taking a break…
I have long loved the song “We Need A Little Christmas” — written by the songwriter Jerry Herman for Angela Lansbury to sing in the musical Mame.
Here he is with Angela and Carol Channing, who starred in another one of his hit musicals — Hello Dolly.
Pianist/composer Doug Hammer and I recorded the version in the player at the beginning of this blog post several years ago.
I also perform it each December as part of an hour-long program of winter holiday songs written or co-written by Jewish lyricists and composers which jazz pianist Joe Reid and I bring to Boston-area retirement communities and public libraries.
In our current era of cultural polarization, I am grateful to remember that some of our favorite winter holiday songs — including “Silver Bells,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (and all of the other songs from that animated TV special), “The Christmas Song” (a.k.a. “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire”), “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” and “White Christmas” — were written or co-written by Jewish-American songwriters.
I thank them for their creativity and their appreciation/respect for the loving spirit of Christmas.
I thank my older sister for letting me grab all of these photos (except the one of Angela, Jerry and Carol) from her Facebook archives.
And I — standing in snowy field during a visit to upstate NY — thank you for reading and listening to another blog post.
May you enjoy healthy and happy holidays during this season of short days and long nights…
And maybe some pie and tapioca pudding and colorful root vegetables, too…
What a lovely walk round the farm – very different from my damp mild garden.
Thank you for making time to read and listen, tidalscribe! Now I am curious about what is happening in your damp, mild garden today…
Will, This is you walking through your Winter Wonderland, and I enjoyed every minute. Your sisters have a terrific place and I love their photographs. It made me think of that very ancient TV series, “I Remember Mama”. Every Christmas was the show where all the farm animals had a role in the story of the birth of Christ. Thank you for helping me find my Christmas spirit, thanks for the memories and melodies. ☃️
You are very welcome!!! Thank YOU for reading and listening to yet another blog post. I know you have your own family of beloved animals out in CA.
Omigosh, the photos are amazing! And your sister is obviously another exceptional member of your family. I mean — the pregnant Icelandic sheep. Totally cool.
The sheep have brought a lot of pleasure (and drama — one of the ewes was a first-time mom and had to be held against a barn wall every few hours so that her babies could nurse, which meant that my sisters took turns going out into barn all day/night long for a couple of weeks until this mother sheep became more willing to nurse…) Thank you, as always, for reading and listening to my blog posts!
What a talented and amazing family! Your sisters photos are awesome. Happy Holidays to all of you.
They are a hard-working family, that’s for sure. I think my sister has a bunch of photos I’ve never looked through on a Google drive she shared with me; so I may be able to use more of her beautiful images in future posts! I truly appreciate the humans — such as you and my older sister — who visually document the world because I do not have that impulse/habit. But I get great pleasure looking at other people’s photos. Thank you for reading and listening!
Pie and Tapioca pudding, I never would have thought of that combo. Lovely post wonderful photo’s, thank you.
Me, too. I love tapioca pudding and I love pie (in this case I think it was strawberry rhubarb) but I would never have thought to combine them. My younger sister used to be a chef at some delicious restaurants; so it may have been her idea… Thank YOU for reading and listening!
How beautiful! Every photo depicts a wonderful farm life at this holiday season and winter solstice. Thank you for the visit, Will. You are blessed with family. It is notable that most of the songs you love (me, too) were written my Jewish composers. Taking this a step further, when I was growing up, it was the Jewish families who were always the strongest supporters of the arts. Why is that? Whether it was music, the symphony, art and museums, or ballet, they were involved. They cared. I loved that, and of course I still do. I teach that appreciation to my preschoolers. So now I will go and play a few of those Christmas songs and look at the snow and drink my coffee before going to work. Thanks again for a wonderful post, Will. Happy holidays to you!
You are most welcome, Jennie. I do not know enough about Jewish cultural history to write anything in response, although it certainly does appear that Jewish culture has long placed a high value on education and music and the arts (my stepfather is Jewish and grew up in a family in Brooklyn where they all played chamber music every weekend at home! His father was a doctor, and he and his brother both became professional musicians…) Not long ago — although I forget which biography it might have been a part of — I read that many talented/gifted/hardworking/passionate/creative Jewish people went into the various branches of the US entertainment industry as songwriters, dancers, singers, directors, choreographers, producers in vaudeville, movies, radio, theater, recording, etc. because their opportunities for education and employment were limited in many other spheres due to explicit or implicit quotas about how many Jews would be accepted to a particular college or company or trade or industry. So many different forces affect our lives at any given moment… On a completely different note, jazz pianist Joe Reid (who is Jewish, now that I think about it…) and I are bringing our new program of songs written for Bing Crosby to a retirement community in Concord later this month. Don’t you live in that general direction? It’s 3pm on Monday 12/16/19, and they are very welcoming of outside guests/visitors in the event that you might be interested/available to join us…
The stories you tell are much like those of the Jewish people I grew up with. They place a high value on education and the arts. How interesting that many chose entertainment due to quotas on college acceptance. It’s hard to imagine being restricted due to one’s religion, yet sadly that’s how it was. It was always the Jewish kids who went to private schools, because their families placed such a high value on education (and the arts.). Fast forward to today, and in my area it is the Indian people who put education, family, and the arts first. They raise wonderful children with the values of yesteryear. Thank you for telling me about your program in Concord. It’s not far, and of course I would love to go… but I have to work. If there is a clip of a video, I hope you post it! Best to you, Will.
I find these lovely, gentle photo essays a true balm in these tumultuous times—and your rendition of the song was a delight. But I’m worried about your nephew “swimming” in the snow. I trust he has the constitution for it, but it gave me the chills to see him.
Have a wonderful Christmas season!
Thank you for reading and listening! It gives me pleasure to record songs, and it gives me pleasure to pore over my sister’s photos, and it gives me pleasure to write something inspired by the photos and/or the song — so I am delighted that it gives anyone else pleasure to read and listen to one of my blog posts. Both of my nephews seem to have strong constitutions. It may be related to the oatmeal which my sisters buy in 25 pound bags and serve/eat every morning with various chopped fruits, nuts, and chocolate chips…
I have oatmeal with blueberries, almonds, and raisins every morning—but I dare not swim in the snow! Of course, there’s an age differential…
Anyway, I had a very enjoyable virtual romp!
I, too, start the day with oatmeal and fruit and nuts. Yum!!! And I did wash my face with snow a few days ago inspired by my nephew’s full bodied snow encounter… Today everything outside is blessedly melting.
I really needed to hear you sing Will. Thanks for those healing sounds and melodies. Love to you!!
You are vey, very welcome!!!!
Loved this post – the pictures, the song and your comments. Thanks for sharing it
You are very welcome, dear man. Just knowing you are alive somewhere on the planet, thoughtfully and heartfully wrestling with how to live a more respectful and sustainable life on planet earth gives me great comfort and inspiration! A peaceful, rejuvenating, and lightly-consumerist (consumptive sounds too much like tuberculosis) holyday season to you and yours!!!
A lovely Christmas journey. You did amazing things with “We Need A Little Christmas”, joyful and poignant.
Maeve! How delightful to find your comment! It is high praise coming from you! Because Doug and I have been playing together for so many years — maybe 25+ (!?!?!) — we are able to go to some unusual places when we are rehearsing/recording at his studio. We have learned to operate under the banners of “Nothing Is A Mistake” and “Let’s Keep The Creative Flow Going.” After a few of takes, magic sometimes happens… I trust you are well and singing, dear woman. THANK YOU for making time to read/listen to one of my blog posts!
Thank you for the great posting. Be happy to have snow in a wonderful area. Best wishes, Michael
We had another snow/ice/rain storm yesterday! Glad that we have precipitation here in New England when so many parts of the planet are experiencing drought. We must plant more trees!!!
Totally wonderful post, Will. You are so gifted and creative. Happy holidays! xoxoxo
Oh, this was lovely. Thank you for the journey. There is no snow here in North East Texas. My Christmas spirit was waning a bit when I came to your page. I must visit often from now until Christmas day to hear this lovely song , too.
Thank you for listening and reading!!! I am working on one more blog post with another Christmas song (“I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” which is based on a poem written by Longfellow during the Civil War, I think…) which I hope to share in the next day or two. May you have a peaceful and rejuvenating holiday season!!!
I will be looking forward to your next song and post! Merry Christmas!
Happy Christmas! What a lovely photo tribute to farm life and your family. Your rendition of the song is grand. Thanks so much for your touching version.
So very beautiful. Thank you. Merry Christmas to all the wonderful animals, including the humans. 🙂 Yay!
THANK YOU for making time to read and listen to this blog post!!!
What a wonderful trip to the North! What is that magical white stuff?? I live just north of Houston and snow is a very rare event. Love those Icelandic sheep – their coats are amazing. Happy Holidays!
Thank you for making time to visit my blog. The sheeps’ coats ARE amazing. So many different colors and textures… Happy holidays to you in Texas!
Thank you and Happy New Year! 🎆
You are very welcome. A happy and healthy new year to you and yours!!!
I loved those pictures, and peek into your sisters’ farm. It sounds like the perfect place to spend the holidays! And they must like it a lot when you sing along.
Happy New Year!
Thank you for reading and listening to this blog post! Lots of cooking happening right now in a very old farm kitchen while teenaged dog tries to play with anyone who passes through… A healthy and happy new year to you!
THANK YOU for making time to read and listen to one of my blog posts!!!