This is a winter we will remember and tell our grand kids about. Bitter cold, freezing rain, ice, snow, rain, more freezing rain, more ice and more snow. Lots of snow.
    I have been trying to walk carefully through the snow that is laying on top of 3 inches of ice, moving like a comedy skit from Tim Conway as Dorf. I have been shuffling from the house to the calf barn then to the loafing shed and to the freestall barn.
    Last weekend, I was walking around the loafing shed through the snow. I was stepping in someone’s footprints. As I went around the corner, I noticed that person must have taken a fall. I could see the ice from under the snow and the obvious body print of someone that was not trying to make a snow angel.
    I knew it must have been from Seth, a high school boy who helps us. He is in that awkward stage where he is growing an inch a week and tends to be a little clumsy. This kid would love to live on a farm. He asks almost daily if there is anything I need help with so he can come over to do some busy work; cleaning pens, fetching cows and feeding calves. He is also tech savy. He helps me with my phone and even went out of his way to do some research on the error messages on the discovery robots that push the manure through our slatted floor in our new barn. He is a great kid to have around, but if there is an area where he could slip and fall, he will. He has a wonderful outlook and laughed about his snow angel. He said he had fallen four times that day, and his boots are to blame. His mother is buying them big, because he keeps growing out of them so fast.
    It was not but a few hours later that I found myself laying in the snow, thinking I should have tried to put on the ice cleats I got for Christmas. As I was laying there, assessing if anything was hurting, not in a hurry to get up quick, I remembered when I was a kid and how comfortable it was to lay in the snow. We used to play outside in the snow for hours, sliding on the ice and digging holes in the snow piles to make igloos or see if we could get to the other side. My kids did it, too. Winter was not always a bad season.
    I have been nervous about a reservation we had for student visitors from southern China who were staying with host families from Rock County. I know that a fall can mean a liability issue. We had heard that the emergency rooms have seen more broken wrists and hips in the last two weeks than all year put together. I was glad I was not among the injured but did not want to have anyone get hurt while visiting our farm.
    These students had spent their morning in Madison, Wis., where they visited the capitol and ate lunch at the University of Wisconsin.
    This was their first time seeing a frozen lake. They were out sliding around, falling and having a great time when I called the contact person for the group with plans to cancel the visit. He was confident there would be no issue with any liability. These kids needed to see a farm while in Wisconsin, and we were where they wanted to go.
    Upon their arrival, they came into the shed for an introduction and brief history of the farm. The kids put their names on a map to show where they live. We shuffled to the tiestall barn to look at the old barn. Then, we headed through the barn and off to the calves.
    These kids have never been around animals. The cats were exciting to some but scary to others. The calves were happy to see the kids, and were mooing and kicking up their straw. The students did not know if this was a sign that the calves were angry. Some of the kids were holding their noses, and others had on masks.
    When we got to the old milk house, there was a little confusion about milking calves. But, that got cleared up quickly. I do not know if they have ever seen where milk comes from or if they consume much milk in China.
    We went into the kitchen area where the windows are face to face with cows. They were able to see the robots milking cows right in the pen. These kids have never seen a cow before either. The parents were interested in the robots. I led the way to the robot room.
    As the cows came in, the chattering calmed down and their eyes were focused on the robot attaching the inflations. Questions came from the kids: Does this make their milk taste different? Do they like the brushes? What is this, and what is that?
    When we were done, I left the robot room to see that the gate and the door were both left open. As I walked over to see, I saw hoof prints in the hallway. There was a cow standing at the end of the hallway right by the milk house door. She had managed to turn around without taking off any of the barnboard we have on the walls, and she did not poop. I looked back to see all of the kids taking photos and videos of her.
    We laughed a lot. This cow was not worried. She walked right back into the barn as if she owned the place. We all agreed. Kids are the same world over. They will always leave the doors and gates wide open.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 135 registered Holsteins and farm 2,500 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wis. They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.