Where did July go? What a whirlwind of activities on the farm. Time seemed to disappear with chopping hay, harvesting wheat and baling, along with all of our other cow and calf chores. It does not seem like July without the county fairs to attend. We missed all of the 4-H and FFA kids coming out this spring to pick out chicks and ducklings to bring to the shows.
    Our place is in Dane County where the COVID-19 cases have surged with the re-opening of restaurants and bars. We started family tours at the end of June, with hosting three days a week. Everyone wears masks, and we try our hardest to practice social distancing. Limiting group size has been the only factor whether going on a wagon ride or not. If too many family members join, then we simply walk around the farm.
    Many of the families are coming to Wisconsin to do something while they are not working. There has also been a surge in visits from grandparents taking the grandkids to spend time with each other or to give the parents a break. Whatever the reason, to be on a farm while enjoying the day together is a special memory that will never be forgotten with the photos of everyone with masks on.
    Without spring school groups, we do not have all the farm animals that we show on our website. There are no pigs, lambs or goat kids. We usually purchase these animals for the kids to feed with bottles and then later to hand feed. This did not bother any of the visitors. They wanted to see and milk a cow. The time spent talking together and sharing what we do is always great conversation. Putting the kids into the picture gives most children a glimpse into what a day would be like as a farm kid.
    Their imagination soars when I mention that my kids rode their bikes for hours on the field roads, set up campsites in the tree lines, and had chores to do every morning and evening with us. I can see their eyes glaze over when I mention that they would be working with their own heifer for hours to take to the county fair. Showing animals and meeting other 4-H members that also live on farms creates lasting relationships. Summer fun at the fairs starts early every morning, and all the show kids go every day to take care of their animals, almost like living at the fair.
    If the children on the tour are younger, I mention they would have chickens, piglets, lambs and kittens to care for and name. As we walk through the yard, we stop to look at the grasshoppers that magically appear as summer is ending and listen for the crickets chirping. The apples starting to fall from the trees is a sign that we need to start canning applesauce and pie filling. Walking under the trees, the branches are hanging low with the weight of the apples.
    As July ended, we are put into wedding mode. On Aug. 1, we held a tail gate bachelor/bachelorette party by the apple trees that are right off our back porch. The invites were sent out to 60 family members, but only 30 guests were able to attend. The trucks and cars were parked just beyond the trees in the hayfield. We all had our masks on and sat in groups away from each other until the games started. Laughter does bring everyone together. Ringing the cow bells to make Anna and Kevin kiss was great fun, too.
    As the sun went down, after the gifts were opened, the bonfire was lit. We all drank together and wanted to hug and embrace the moment, but this is not the year to do that. So, we all said goodbye, waved and mentioned we will all be together again soon for the wedding.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.