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Winter has arrived with a vengeance. We are fortunate in our small area because those not far to the north of us had two to three times more snow dumped on them than we have, so far. And lucky we don't live in Buffalo or even Niagara. I think maybe we are in for a colder, snowier winter than usual if events around the world are any indication. And then there is the increasing number of people coming down with COVID, the new flu virus and whatever is attacking kids just when people gather more inside and begin to celebrate in larger numbers.

Another sign might be some of the more northern birds are showing up. I have had a flock of about 30 evening grosbeaks for almost two weeks here. I had a couple a few years ago, but they are not common this far south. Another North Durham Nature member has had a flock of horned larks around, another uncommon winter sighting. We are hoping they will stay around long enough to be part of the Christmas Bird Count which will happen on December 27th this year.

Scott Central Intermediate Boys were the North Durham runners-up in volleyball against Joseph Gould. Congratulations to all involved in the pep rally and game. As of Sunday night, classes were still on for schools, but who knows what the situation will be by the time you read this.

Bryan Smith is surely getting around as he learns many new things about his job with all these new farm implements. Lately, he has been in Regina for Raven training. I asked him what that was, and he told me (not that I understood it all) it is a new system where the tractor could be programmed to go around the field either with or without a driver being in the vehicle; in other words, self-driving. I'm not sure I would want one of those monsters running around free, but that's what will happen in the next few years.

Happy birthday to Gord Elford. Gord is the oldest of Lois and Harry Elford's children. Retired now, he is an avid horseshoe player during the summer up at the museum. Happy birthday also to his cousin Rick Wilson. Rick's mother, Marie, is the younger sister of Gord's mother. The Wilson family are five-generation neighbours to our farm on Reach/Scugog 7, now owned by my sister and brother-in-law, a six-generation family farm. Rick owns his farm just a ways north.

Lorraine Ottolini has been on a wonderful trip to North Vancouver, and Whistler accompanied by five other ladies with whom she went to St. Clair College 40 years ago. They all looked like they were having a fantastic time together, sharing old memories and making new ones.

This has been another busy weekend. The highlight was the Santa Clause parade, bigger and better than ever. My only disappointment was that the Pipes and Drums band had no pipes playing. Unfortunately, when it gets too cold, the pipes cannot be played, and the breath just freezes in there. The drummers were great, though. The floats were beautifully decorated, and several new businesses were taking part. And the horses, costumed so prettily and well behaved!

Williamson's had a number of vehicles artistically painted; I wonder what that cost. Good job; there was no fire or other emergency, as every fire vehicle must have been there right from the antique truck, which I love to see, right down to the brand-spanking new aerial truck. What a beauty that is. Lots of police and police vehicles, too, with many officers walking the parade route, which was nice to see.

Fireman Dave Beare paused in his boot collecting to inform me that his brother Ron had passed away the night before as a result of a stroke some time ago. He had spent the last couple of years in a nursing home. Ron worked at the Uxbridge Post Office for many years, and I think he was the Postmaster for several of those years. So why did Dave tell me? Because the Beare family is another set of cousins. Our sympathies also go out to painter and musician Walter Campbell on the death of his sister Donna Campbell.

Breakfasts with Santa will take place at Zephyr on Saturday, December 10th, for $5 per person, but if you want to get in early, there will be one at Sandford on December 3th, 9-11 a.m. Santa already came to Leaskdale on Saturday night when the Old Fashioned Christmas Concert took place at the historic Leaskdale Church. During intermission, he handed out bags of cookies. Entertainers included Conrad Boyce, Jane Loewen, Kathy Normandeau and Cynthia Nidd, as well as several young people singing, dancing and playing piano. A lovely evening!

Rick McKinley conducted the "Christ the King" service on Sunday at Zephyr, driving from Toronto. He so far dodged the bullet as his wife has had COVID all week. Next week we will still be at Zephyr, but our own Adele Boy will be taking the service. The church year has ended, and we are already into the Advent Season, with Christmas not far behind! Watch for something special taking place in December at Sandford United Church.

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