Saturdays and Christmas and Family

Published by 29 Comments

The Torrent: as a child, I loved the violent tides of the heavens and the earth — wind storms, hail, the rumble of thunder, even earthquakes. That may be an indirect testimony to how safe my parents always made me feel, but, as an adult, responsible for roofs and roads and parking lots and lives, I’m ashamed to admit the weather can fill me with dread. I watch the deep red swirls of Doppler radar with gritted teeth, because I’ve seen what a 20 minute, four inch rain storm can do to Wilshire Peak. Dry streams turn into rivers full of grinding boulder and shredded pine. This year, we’ve experimented with some small berms that turn the water out into the grassy orchards, and it seems to be helping. You can’t control the volume of water, but you can slow it down and keep it from gaining too much speed. We managed the first six inches of Oak Glen rain, this season, without losing the road to the packing shed.

Pray for snow — the fine, light, slow-melting white stuff.

Speculating on Next Year: The Covid era has made for its own strange business cycles and fluctuations. Last year, when everyone was closed, we had enormous walk-on business. This year, our dinner theater was so full, we sold out weeks ahead of time, and we couldn’t open up more dates because staffing was difficult to secure, and when a tickle at the back of your throat leaves you wondering if you’re a plague-bearer, it’s difficult to know who will be able to work and who won’t. We would love to have two understudies for every part, but we don’t charge $998 a ticket, the way Bette Midler does. (Who understudies for Bette Midler, by the way? Jack Black? Rachel Levine?)

Orchard Lights: Anyway, we’re thinking about opening up December evenings next year with an old fashioned evening illumination — pear and apple trees decorated with flickering lights, Christmas carolers, walking trails, food vendors, hayrides, maybe even an ice skating rink. We think if there’s a new version of the Commie virus plaguing the region, there should be a place for normal people to do the Andy Williams winter-wonderland thing.  What say you?   One of our boys is thinking about taking a month off to run the affair.

Saturdays and Christmas and Family: the cycle of the calendar meant that Christmas and New Year’s fell on Saturdays this year, and that meant it was probably smart for us to close for the Holiday break, which meant that the Rileys spent a fair amount of time together. Topics of conversation: Elon Musk’s proposed smart phone, and then Elon Musk, the marvelously eccentric and non-conformist person, followed by parlor games, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” board games, unhealthy portions of sourdough toast with butter, too many See’s Bordeaux candies, a few too many glasses of Chardonnay and then fitful sleep through flood watches.

Life — to be certain — offers up a fair amount of joy, but it can be brittle and melancholy even at Christmas. We’re missing people in our circle. Instead of Luke 2 this, year, we read John 20, because I felt the need to skip to the end of the story. Bethlehem is the promise, but the weeping Mary at the empty tomb, (“..they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”), well, what follows is more like the coronation of the King.  It’s a startling, ancient kind of positive journalism: a story of life eternal.  What more can anyone hope for, but to hear the God-man speak your name, just like an old friend — “Mary!”

In these times of utter insanity and cowardice, it’s comforting to know we’re citizens of heaven right now. Behind all the lies, truth stands there like a mountain peak at sunrise, untouched by heathen fog. Believe, children. Rush in and take hold of it. Hold onto the Kingdom of Heaven with both arms. Believe as though your life depended on it, because it does.


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This post was written by Jim Riley


  • Karen Marie Farley says:

    Love the pictures, and the commentary. Thank you for standing strong in the face of crazy! We love visiting your ranches and experiencing all they have to offer.

  • Abby says:

    I purchased 12 tickets for Christmas in the colonies as soon as you sent the dates! I do love a place for us normal people to go to LOL!!!

  • Victoria says:

    If Riley’s Farm holds a Winter Wonderland event next year, I will definitely be there (if I haven’t yet escaped from Commiefornia). Almost 400,000 people moved from California in 2021, double the number who left in 2020, and yet people like us are the problem.

  • Jeannette Wilson says:

    I LOVE the idea of a winter outdoor wonderland!! And I love your blogs, your excellent writing abilities, your insights.

  • Jeannette Wilson says:

    I LOVE the idea of a winter outdoor wonderland!! Why just at night? Daytime too. I’d rather drive up to Oak Glen in daylight especially in 5he winter. And I love your blogs, your excellent writing abilities, your insights.

    • Jim Riley says:

      It would probably be combined with our Christmas Village program, which is day time. We’ve found — just surveying the competition — that weeknights are more likely to draw a crowd, since people are off work.

  • Suzi Smith says:

    LOVE your musings! Keep it up.

  • Dianna says:

    An ice skating rink would make all my daughter’s dreams come true! We will definitely make our rounds to each event next year.

  • Grace Monge says:

    Love to hear you reflections !! Merry Christmas !

  • Kim says:

    You are an excellent writer! I enjoy reading your commentaries about our current situation!

  • Helen Myers says:

    We love our trips to Riley’s Farm, but not the hours it takes to get there and home. 🙁 Next time I think we will look to rent a room at a local inn to lessen the stress.

    I appreciate all that the Riley Family is doing in Oak Glen.

  • Kristi says:

    Praise God for your writings! I so look forward to a bit of sanity in this intentional chaos. Your family is a huge blessing to those of us in CA who choose to live in reality.
    Blessings to you and your family!

  • Sarah Green says:

    So glad Riley’s Farm is still Riley’s Farm! Thank you for all you do!!

  • Christi says:

    100 country cottages? Why? The area is so pristine and the fight to keep it that way over the years has been so great. Forestry does not need 100 more homes to worry about saving if fire breaks out again. And who would be able to buy? The elite? No. This place is a refuge for all. Picking fruit. Shades of yesteryear. Hiking. Picnics. We don’t need 100 more homes to rob us of the joy of getting away to one of the few places not clogged by homes and more traffic. It’s bad enough during seasonal picks…let’s not make it that way and then some by adding 100 extra dwelling places.

    • Jim Riley says:

      We’re not talking about single family homes, but small, historically themed cottages for people to enjoy the country, in much the same way wineries provide vineyard-close overnight accommodations. We own 820 acres. That’s about one small cottage per 8 acres. We’ve found, over the years, that the land is actually better cared for, the more we build, and the more we open it to the public. We love hiking and picnicking too, but that simply won’t pay the massive property taxes we face in California.

  • Christi says:

    A nice sled run would be welcome.

  • Jennifer Duncan says:

    I love the idea of the “evening orchard lights” and the historically themed cottages! Hope they both happen. Would definitely attend/stay. The cottages would be great for those of us that drive from far away for events to have a place to stay right on the farm.

  • Wendy Morris says:

    I would love to stay at the cottages we used to stay at Serindipity bed and breakfast and it was wonderful but that is no longer available and they have moved away so sad for us but happy for them . I love your grand ideas oak Glen is my happiest place we try and go to most of the shows you have and I would love to come up for a winter wonderland that’s sounds like another grand idea and the cottages oh that’s even better thank you for all that your family contributes to society we need you to expand to help with the rising costs our state puts on us . I say go for it we will support your new adventure because I know you will keep it like it should be kept historical merry Christmas and a very happy new year to you and your family

  • Kathy Johnson says:

    Yes and yes to the winter wonderland and cottages! You know your farm is my happy place. I can’t wait to take our first grade classes for a field trip this spring! It sounds like your family Christmas gatherings were precious. I need to start a parlor games tradition in my family, not even sure what that entails… charades? And the toast and Bourdeauxs are right up my alley! Love and more blessings to you and Mary from me and Jim.

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