The Wild Apple Tree

29 Oct

When we bought this farm, there was a small, old heifer shed up on the hill west of our barn.  It was in bad shape, but we used it for a number of years to house our mid-sized heifers.  In those early years, we didn’t have a skid loader to clean it out with, so we did it the old-fashioned way – doing it by hand with manure forks.  And Joanne and I gladly did it, we were so thankful to have our own farm to serve the Lord on.

Oftentimes in the fall and winter months when I would go up there to clean it out or to feed the heifers, I would be eating an apple.  When I would finish eating the apple, I would usually throw the core off into the area west of the building.  That area was a steep hillside that was really rough and brushy.  Years before a previous owner had dug a bunch of shale rock out of the hill there.  So many times in those early years I tossed my apple cores into that area.

Well, guess what?  Eventually one of those apple seeds germinated and grew.  It was just two feet on the other side of the heifer fence on an extremely steep slope.  Not the ideal place for an apple tree!

The tree grew and got several feet tall.  It was a terrible scraggly looking apple tree and I never did get an apple off of it.  And then it happened.  My old heifer shed got to the point where it was getting dangerous to use it anymore.  So we took it down and got an excavator in with a large backhoe to move more of the hill away.  In the process of doing it, he ran our apple tree over with the tracks on his backhoe.  I figured the tree was dead.  Finished.

Well, we built a bigger, better heifer shed than what we had before.  It’s been excellent and a real blessing to us and to our cattle.  What about the apple tree you ask?  It wasn’t dead like I figured.  Somehow, from the roots in that shale rock on that super steep hillside, it started to grow again!  I didn’t think much of it though, since it never did give me an apple.  I decided it could stay there though, since it would give my heifers some shade on real hot sunny days.

Since we all really like to eat apples, I have bought and planted a number of apple trees here over the years.  So the other day when my daughter said to me, “Have you seen that apple tree up there this year with all those beautiful apples on?”, I was bewildered.  I replied, “What apple tree do you mean?”  “That one on the shale rock slope,” she replied.   I said, “Not that one, that one never gets any apples on it.”  “Yes,” she replied, “It’s just loaded with beautiful apples this year.”  Well, I could hardly believe it, so I had to climb down to it from the top of the hill through a whole bunch of brush, being careful not to fall, to see the amazing sight!

It was beautiful, loaded with lots of bright red apples just gleaming in the sunshine.  Seeing that I had never gotten an apple off of that tree in twenty years, I expected I never would.  Boy, was I wrong!  Now I’m looking forward to harvesting those apples and tasting them for the first time.  I know it will be a challenge harvesting them on that super steep hillside, but it will be a pleasure to do so.

It’s amazing how that tree grew from one apple seed in an apple core that I threw out there many years ago in such a harsh environment.  And yet today, it is so beautiful to look upon.  Catherine says that she oftentimes likes to look out the barn window and see it up there with all its bright red apples.  I know of one other thing that is far more amazing and beautiful than that.  That is when a person turns from their sinful ways and follows Jesus.  It doesn’t matter how their lives started out or what a harsh environment they are in.  The change in their lives is incredible and the fruit they bear is wonderful.  I know this from personal experience.

 

You Can Have it All

26 Sep

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

                It was the summer before my senior year of high school, and I was spending a couple weeks of my summer vacation helping my uncle George on his dairy farm. George was a very hard-working farmer who always treated me very well and was fun to work around. We would always do the barn chores together, and then the fieldwork, or whatever else needed doing. In the summer time that usually meant putting up lots of baled hay. It meant getting up early in the morning and usually working till after dark every day. And did we ever get a lot of work done in a day! It was enjoyable seeing the barn and sheds getting filled up with hay to feed all the cattle for another year. There was such a sense of accomplishment in it and rightly so.

On the day I was to go back home, while George and I were working he said something to me that almost floored me. He said, “Next year after you graduate from high school, if you will come and farm with me, I’ll will this whole farm to you when I die. You can have it all.” I was absolutely shocked to say the least. I enjoyed farming greatly and knew I wanted to farm after school.

George always treated me very well and he had a beautiful 240 acre farm. It had some very fertile flat land along with a lot of rolling hills and some very steep woodland. He had a nice herd of dairy cattle, mostly Holsteins with a few Guernseys mixed in. He had a beautiful set of buildings with lots of large maple trees, well over 100 years old, scattered among them. George also had a very good line of machinery.

For a young man who wanted to farm, it sounded like a dream come true. George always treated me far better than my own dad did. I was hoping that my dad would work me into his farm along with my older brother, but I knew that was very questionable. So when George made me this offer my immediate response was, “I’ll be over next year after I graduate.” George was super happy and so was I.

But something happened that year in high school that changed all that. Study hall. That period of the day that students have to do their assignments in. On many days I would get my book work done and have a little extra time left over to think. And did I ever think! Should I go and farm with my uncle George whom I loved greatly?

Why did I even think this you ask? Because there was one dark side to this whole thing that I was terrified of! Pornography. George loved his pornography and had it all over in the buildings on the farm. Not only that, the way he talked about women was very wicked and lustful.

I knew down inside that if I went and farmed with him, he most certainly would give me his farm someday. But I also knew that his pornography would destroy me. I did not know Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour, but I knew that the lust within me, coupled with his pornography, would certainly destroy my life, and probably send me to an early grave. So, sitting in study hall in high school, I made one of the biggest and most important decisions in my life. I decided to say, “No” to George about his farm and the life I would’ve really liked. In doing so I said, “No” to pornography and lust and a destructive life style that I’m sure would have ended in an early death for me. And how wise I was. For the Bible says in James 1:14-15, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

After high school, when I was at a very low point in my life, I knelt by my bed one day and repented of my sins and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Saviour.   What a difference He has made in my life! I told George about Jesus, but he absolutely refused Him. George made me his offer a few more times over the years, “You can have it all!” but I always refused.

Sadly, George died many years ago of a heart attack with piles of pornography on his farm. The farm he used to have is in ruins today. But, I’m not. God has taken good care of me and provided abundantly for me these many years. Has it been an easy walk you ask? No, but it has been a wonderful, blessed walk with Jesus.

Oftentimes the world will tell a person, “You can have it all.” But the price it asks brings destruction and death to a person’s life and soul. I have never regretted saying, “No” to George and to, “You can have it all.” And I have most certainly never regretted saying, “Yes” to Jesus and following Him. In the end the world offers death and an eternity in Hell. But Jesus offers life and that so much more abundantly and an eternity in Heaven with Him!

A Lifetime Guarantee

23 Jul

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Lifetime Guarantee

                Years ago, when we first started farming here, I didn’t have many tools. Since I was very short on money I ended up buying some tools through a mail-order catalog. They were the cheapest tools I could find, and yes, they were made in China. The saying, “You get what you pay for,” was most certainly true in this case.

I bought a good-sized electric drill that worked fine until I got to a difficult job with it. A few minutes into the job it started to put out blue smoke! I also had bought a large ¾ inch socket set. I used it a number of times on some really tough jobs. It wasn’t long before the ratchet wasn’t working like it should. So after these instances, I quit buying tools through these catalog companies. I started buying tools that were either American made or had lifetime guarantees on them.

Well, my kids learned from my mistakes, and they only buy tools like I do today. Joshua, a couple years ago, wanted to buy a nice ¾ inch socket set to use on the farm since my China set wasn’t working very good to say the least. I told him right out, “You can buy a set, but be sure and buy one that has a lifetime guarantee on and not a poor-quality set like I did.” His response, “I know Dad, I don’t want a set like you have.” Well, what can I say, at least my kids learn from my mistakes!

Joshua knew exactly what brand he wanted, and of course it had a lifetime guarantee on it. I told him to wait to buy it until it came on sale. That can be hard for a young man who really likes tools and likes to use them to fix things. Finally after a few months it came on sale for fifty dollars off. Joshua couldn’t buy that bright shiny socket set fast enough!

Well, since that day, my large socket set has never gotten used. We’ve used his set a number of times on some really tough jobs in the last couple of years. It’s a very nice set, but from day one his ratchet wasn’t quite perfect. It didn’t always want to reverse direction real easy like it should. But it wasn’t hard to do, so I told him I didn’t think the manufacturer would replace it since it did work. So Joshua was fine with it. But there was definitely something not quite right in it.

This spring we needed to set the wheels out on two of our tractors. The wheels had not been moved in many years so the big bolts did not loosen up easily. That’s were Joshua’s large socket set came into play. We really worked hard with his ratchet to get them, and halfway through the job his ratchet broke inside and locked up solid! I turned to him and said, “This is why you bought one with a lifetime guarantee.” As he looked it over he replied, “I’m sure glad I did.”

We took it back to the store that very same day and they looked it over and immediately gave us a replacement one that actually is a couple inches longer than the old one. We put it to work right away finishing up the job on our tractors. It works perfectly and Joshua clearly sees that it pays to pay a little more money and get quality tools with a lifetime guarantee.

I’m so glad that God in His Word gives us so many “Lifetime Guarantees.” For those of us that know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He also promises us eternal life which is far better than what we have now. It’s forever; how is that for a lifetime guarantee? Tools may break and the companies behind them may go out of business, but God stands forever and His Word will never be broken. That’s an absolute guarantee that I base my whole life on. And this I know: God will never let me down.

It Really Pays To Pray

17 Jun

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

It Really Pays to Pray

                Some people think praying is a waste of time, but we here know that to be totally untrue.  As a matter-of-fact sometimes it literally means the difference between life and death!  Such was the case here awhile back.

For the last several years, we were having a lot of trouble with the silo unloader in our big silo bringing out the haylage that we feed to our cows.  The unloader’s augers and blower were continually getting plugged up with haylage.  When that would happen Joshua or I would have to climb up into the silo with a large wrecking bar and unplug it.  Sometimes we would have to do it a number of times in one day which really took a lot of time and work.  On a number of occasions, we would end up getting our hands cut on the sharp augers.  We had the dealer out a number of times to work on it, and we spent a fair bit of money doing that, but it never helped very much.

Well, it got so bad that we finally made the decision to buy a new silo unloader.  All four of us were in full agreement on this.  Joshua and I did a bunch of research on the different unloaders out there, and we also talked to some farmers.  We finally chose the one we thought would be best.  I contacted the dealer for that particular brand of unloaders and bought one from him.  This was late summer so I knew they would have plenty of time to get it in before winter set in.  Or so I thought.

The man told me there was so much demand for these silo unloaders that they were way back-ordered already.  He said it would take about two months to get it.  I didn’t like it, but there was nothing I could do about it except wait.  Well, two months went by and we were still waiting.  November came and with it an early winter.  Freezing rain and snow and bitter cold.  And yes, then our new silo unloader too.

I didn’t like it, but the crew came on a bitter cold day to put our new silo unloader in.  The outside of the silo had a thick coat of glare ice on it from the freezing rain that we had a few days before.  Shortly after they got here, we went into the house for breakfast.  When we were done eating breakfast, we did what we always do: we pray together as a family.  On this particular day, I felt so strongly to pray for the safety of the men putting the new unloader in.  And so we did as a family.  We pray as a family because we know it pays to pray!

To put the new unloader in the silo and to take the old one out, the crew fastened a pulley system to the top of the silo.  Then with a man sixty feet up on the silo, standing in a little cage, he would guide the parts in and out of the small opening in the roof.  With a couple men on the ground and a couple more in the silo this usually worked pretty well.

Things were going fairly well until they came to the largest piece to put in: the frame of the unloader with the long auger and heavy gearbox attached to it.  The piece was about twelve feet long weighing a few hundred pounds.  They had it pulled sixty feet up to the top of the silo and the man had it halfways through the roof opening when his pulley set-up ripped loose of the silo because of the ice.  The silo unloader piece came flying back out of the silo and went crashing to the ground with the pulley set-up, landing just a few feet away from the man standing there.  The man standing in the cage on top of the silo stayed up there and didn’t get hurt when all that stuff went crashing down around him.  The man on the ground didn’t get hurt either.

It did damage my silo roof some and the cage the man was standing in.  When it hit the ground, it bounced and hit the running board of the pickup totally destroying it.  It also sent a small rock flying up like a bullet that hit my silo filler pipe putting a hole in it the size of a man’s fist.  The auger also got bent bad and had to be replaced.  Needless to say, the men were really shaken.

It obviously was an answer to prayer and a miracle that nobody got hurt or killed here that day.  The head man of the crew kept shaking his head saying, “We just got lucky, we just got lucky.  We’ve been doing this for eighteen years and never dropped an unloader.”  But luck had absolutely nothing to do with it.  God did!  And God did because we as a family prayed as we were led to by His Holy Spirit.  God, as a loving heavenly Father, longs to answer our prayers.  And because He did, men’s lives were spared on that bitter cold November day!

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Photo caption:  The silo where the incident occurred.

~ Rattlesnakes

11 Jan

My grandfather was Paul K. Heck of Mondovi, Wis.  My mind always goes back to him around this time of year.  He was born on July 14, 1898, west of Mondovi in Canton township.  He lived to be about 95 years old.  For many years he dairy farmed northwest of Mondovi in what is known as German Valley.  The early settlers in that valley were all of German ancestry, that’s how the valley got its name.  My grandfather farmed there many years before moving into Mondovi to live.  Oftentimes in my single adult years, after milking my parents’ dairy cows in the evening, I would go to my grandparents’ home and visit with them.  They had excellent memories and such a wealth of information from years gone by.  The following account is one that my grandfather told me one evening, that I’ll probably remember the rest of my life.  I’ll do my best to retell it here now.

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Christmas on Our Farm

4 Jan

One of the most fun and memorable aspects of Christmas for us is getting our Christmas tree. Sometimes something that starts out of necessity becomes a wonderful tradition. Years ago, right after Joanne and I were first married, we spent our first two Christmases in a trailer home. I was working as a hired man. Our finances were extremely tight so that we couldn’t afford to buy a Christmas tree. We got permission from the land owner to go into his small stand of pine trees and cut one, those first two years.

Shortly after our second Christmas, the Lord opened the door for us to buy our own farm. We have a good-sized woods here, with a fair number of long-needled pine trees spread throughout. In the early years of our farming, finances were still tight, so the choice to go to our own woods for a Christmas tree was an easy one to make. Our young children really liked it, too.

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I Just Knew I Could Make It

21 Nov

LIFE ON THE FAMILY UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

I Just Knew I Could Make It

                In our early years farming here, we had several acres of land on the lower end of our farm that had a lot of grass and brush on it along with a few trees.  It was a real wet piece of land with a few springs in it.  I always looked at it, seeing it had the potential to be an excellent field to farm someday.

Well, after being here several years and getting established financially, we decided to proceed and make it into our dream field.  Sometimes dreams take a lot of work and money to bring them to reality.  This one certainly did.

I had Jack come in with his big drain tiling machine and two backhoes to install drain tile in the land and to clear all the brush and trees.   He put the tile in six to seven feet deep.  The tile has small holes in it that allow the excess water in the ground to seep into it and drain out at the lower end of our field into the woods.

As I mentioned earlier, there were a few springs in this piece of land.  One of them towards the upper end was a pretty big one that always flowed year around.  I had never seen it dry up, even in a drought year.  When Jack came to the springs, he would hook his two backhoes with heavy cables to the front of his tiling machine to get through them so he wouldn’t get his tiling machine stuck.  It worked very well.

Jack was hesitant about the big spring though, he wasn’t sure it would dry it out enough for us to farm that particular area.  But, I fully believed it would, so I insisted that he put a drain tile line right through it.

After Jack had the tile all in, he finished clearing the brush and trees, then loaded up his equipment and left.  Then our work really started – picking up a lot of tree roots and rocks.  But we enjoyed it; we could see the great potential this piece of land held.  After disking and plowing it several times and picking up more roots and rocks, we had it looking beautiful.

There was one slight problem though, the big spring hole area.  It had dried out fairly well and looked really nice.  It looked like it shouldn’t be any problem at all working that area.  And as long as I didn’t have the plow or disk in the ground too deep it wasn’t.   But, if I had it in too deep, then I would get the tractor stuck really bad.  That happened a couple of times!  When that happened, I would have to get another tractor to pull it out.

Well, spring came and we were looking forward to planting corn on our new field to feed to our cows.  We had to do one more thing to it yet before planting it, and that was to get lime spread on it to raise the soil pH to the right level.  What is soil pH you ask?  It’s how acidic the soil is.  If the soil is too acidic, the crops will not grow well on it.  Lime will raise the soil’s pH so that crops will grow to their fullest potential.

So, I called up Bill to bring his big, heavy lime truck loaded with lime out to our new field. I caught him before he got to the field and pointed out the spot that had been the big spring area and told him, “Don’t go through that area with your truck until you have it at least half empty.  If you try to go through there with a loaded truck you will never make it.”  He looked at me in disbelief because the area was on the upper side of the field and looked just fine.  So I went on to explain to him how that had been a big spring hole and how on more than one occasion I had gotten my tractor stuck there.  He said, “O.K.” and drove off.  I stood there watching him to make sure that it would go good for him.  He spread it on the lower side of our new field without any problem.

Then he brought out the second load.  To my astonishment, he headed straight for the big spring area spreading lime as he went.  I thought, “Oh no! What’s he doing?”  He got to the spot with his heaping full lime truck and it went down fast!  By the time I got to the truck, Bill was walking around it surveying the situation.  The first thing I said to him was, “What did you do?  I told you not to go here with a full truck.”  He replied, “Yea, I know, but I just knew I could make it through here, it looked so good.  You know something?  This is the worst I ever got a truck stuck in my forty years of spreading lime.”  Seeing the truck sinking how many feet down into the earth, I didn’t have a hard time believing that!

Well, the next thing Bill wanted to know was if I could get my tractor and pull him out.  I knew I couldn’t pull his truck out with my tractor and told him so, but he insisted that I try.  He emptied the lime off of his truck onto the ground and I tried to pull him out.  I moved his truck about two feet forward and that was it.  Bill ended up calling my neighbor, Tom who lived up the road from us.  He brought his big four wheel drive International tractor down and pulled him out.  Bill and I were both very glad to see his big muddy lime truck out again.

                Even though I told Bill not to go into that spot with a full load of lime, he did it anyway.  As he told me a number of times over the years, “I just knew I wouldn’t get stuck there.”  And with that we laugh about it today.  But there’s something a whole lot more that can be said here.  God often times in His Word tells us not to do stuff.  He tells us that for our good because He loves us so and doesn’t want to see us get hurt.  Sometimes we think He’s just trying to keep us from having fun or from getting ahead, but such is not the case.  He tells it to us for our own good and if we will heed His Word we will be blessed.  I know when I heed His Word I’m blessed.  And Bill would have been better off if he would have heeded my word and stayed out of that area with his loaded truck!  He still says, “You know, that’s the worst I’ve ever gotten stuck.”

An Unwanted Family

21 Nov

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

An Unwanted Family

This last summer we had a family move in here unexpectedly.  They never asked us if they could come and live here or not.  They just set up their home out by my silos.  One day Joshua was mowing the grass out there and he spotted four of them.  They were as surprised to see him as he was to see them.  He immediately came running to the house to tell the rest of us about them.  I quickly grabbed my gun and went running out there, but by the time I got there they had disappeared.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.  I had hoped that I could shoot them and get rid of them.

What sort of a family was this that I wanted to shoot them on sight you ask?  A family of skunks!  I started to look around and quickly found a freshly dug hole going down between my silo and the corner of my silo room.  It was obvious that this new family of skunks had set up housekeeping there.  The kids asked me, “What do we do now?”  I replied, “We have to get them out of here, it isn’t safe for us or our cattle to have them around.”

What makes skunks so dangerous on a dairy farm you ask?  Rabies.  Skunks love milk so they will hang around dairy cows that are outside at night and try to nurse on them.  Often times in doing that they will bite the cow lightly and that is all it takes to transmit the rabies virus.  The cow that gets rabies will die a very horrible death after several months.  Since farmers work with cows, it’s easy for farmers to catch the virus.  All it takes is a little saliva from an infected cow getting into a little nick or scratch on a farmer’s hand and he will have it too.

If this happens to a farmer, he has to get a lot of very painful shots from a doctor so that he doesn’t die.  I know personally of a farm couple that had this happen to them years ago.  Cheryl said, “The shots were terrible and you never want to go through that!”  She also told me one other interesting fact that shocked me.  “Skunks will not die from rabies; they’re the only animal that it doesn’t kill.”

So, knowing all this, I had no tolerance for a family of skunks around my barn.  The question the kids asked was, “How do we get rid of them?”  I said, “I don’t want to set a trap now since we are going at putting up a new crop of hay.  Let’s keep our eyes open, hopefully in the coming days we can see them outside here and shoot them.”  It sounded like a good plan, but it never worked that way.  Yes, we did see them outside a number of times, but by the time we got the gun they were gone.

Well, we got our hay put up and I knew we had to try a different approach.  I decided to set a large cage trap for them just a few feet in front of their hole.  So, the kids and I set it using some broken ice cream cones and cookies as bait.  Then we prayed asking the Lord to bless it and help us catch the skunks.

Needless to say, when we went to bed that night we were all excited to see what our trap would have in it the next morning.  And were we ever surprised when we got out there the next morning and saw what we had!  We had our big cat, Mr. Stripey, caught in the trap with his tail straight up and all his hair standing on end.  He was spatting and putting out a ferocious growl.  A large skunk was just a few feet away from him with its tail up in the air aiming right for him.  Mr. Stripey being in the cage trap couldn’t get away from the skunk and he was terrified.  I don’t blame him.  The skunk was scared of the cat that was between him and his hole.  The skunk knew he had to get into his hole for safety which meant he had to pass within eighteen inches of a growling Mr. Stripey!  I felt sorry for our cat, I thought for sure he was going to get sprayed by the skunk at extremely close range.

Once again I got my gun and ran with it.  I wanted to do all I could to spare Mr. Stripey from a terrible experience.  When I got back I was surprised to find out that the skunk had gotten its courage up, walked by our cat and went down in its hole without spraying him.  I was relieved that our cat didn’t get sprayed, but was disappointed that I still hadn’t gotten rid of any of the skunks.  I opened up the trap and Mr. Stripey set a world’s speed record for getting out of there!  I never saw a cat go so fast in my life.

Well, I was back to square one, I had a whole family of skunks living under my silo room floor and I still hadn’t gotten rid of a single one.  I decided to reset my cage trap, only this time I moved it about ten feet away from the skunks’ hole.  I figured if I caught another cat, the skunk wouldn’t be as apt to spray it if it was that far away.  One thing I must say is that Mr. Stripey never set a foot close to that area again.  He had learned his lesson.

We did our daily work around the farm and that night just before bed we took a flashlight out and checked our trap.  Were we in for another big surprise!  No, it wasn’t a cat this time.  Instead we had two skunks caught in the trap and a third one hanging around the outside of it which I quickly shot.  A couple days later we caught the fourth skunk in the trap.  Were we ever thankful and blessed to have the unwanted family of skunks gone.

There are things in our lives sometimes that aren’t good for us, but we put up with them thinking that they won’t hurt us.  And they may not hurt us, but they may hurt somebody else.  We need to get rid of those things.  By doing so, you and those around you will be blessed much more.  We are all glad that the skunks are all gone, that includes our cattle and especially Mr. Stripey!

Christmas During The Great Depression

22 Dec

 

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

Christmas During The Great Depression

                The older I get, the more it seems that I look back at past Christmases.  The one thing that really stands out in my memory is my mother telling me a number of times about her childhood Christmases during the Great Depression.  I guess the reason I really remember them is because they were so different than what is normal in America today.

                Mom’s parents back then farmed their 160 acre farm, along with some rented acreage, five miles west of Augusta, WI.  Back then they used horses to work the land and to put up the crops.  So they always had several horses on the farm along with some dairy cows.  They also raised hogs and chickens.  They had a very diversified farming operation.  They sold milk, meat, eggs and crops from their farm.

                The problem back then was that prices for farm commodities were extremely low, so it was almost impossible for them to make a profit on the farm, even though they were very hard workers.  Added to that was the fact that during the 1930’s they had many years of severe drought, so they didn’t get much for crops.  If all of this wasn’t bad enough, they had a double mortgage on the farm.  They lived for years under the constant threat that the bank would foreclose on them.

                So what did my mom and her sister and brother get for Christmas a lot of those years you ask?  The answer will probably shock you, but it is the truth.  Just before Christmas, Mom’s dad would go into town and buy three oranges.  On Christmas Day, each child got one orange to eat.  It was the only time of year that they ever got an orange to eat!  And how they savored them, they were such a special treat, and they knew their parents had sacrificed to buy them.

                Is that all they got you ask?  Well, yes and no.  That’s all their parents could afford to buy them.  But they got so much more.  They had godly parents who loved them greatly.  They read the Bible to them and told them of God’s great gift to man.  How God’s Son, Jesus, was born in an animal stable to a very poor couple many years ago to save all of us from our sins.  They told them that that was the whole meaning of Christmas.

                On Christmas Day, Mom’s dad would hook a horse up to the sleigh and take his family to church where the children participated in a special children’s program.  The preacher would once again read Luke 2:1-20 and tell of the greatest gift ever given to mankind – Jesus.

                My mom told me this many times over the years.  Not because of how hard those Christmases were, but because of how blessed they were.

                Today, in our society, so much is made of buying piles of gifts to put under the Christmas tree.  But, all those gifts don’t really buy happiness.  True happiness comes from receiving God’s great gift, Jesus, into our hearts.  Once you have Jesus in your heart, then you know what Christmas is all about.

                If you have Jesus in your heart and the love of God in your home, as my mom did, you are truly blessed.  She was and she knew it, even if there were only three oranges under their Christmas tree!

                Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com  To view Tom’s past articles go to: tomheckfarm.com   Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

 

                Photo caption:  From our farm to your home – Merry Christmas.

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A Dirty Thankless Job

21 Nov

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN
By: Tom Heck
A Dirty Thankless Job
Every year in the fall we have our neighbors, Howard and his son Bob, come and combine our corn. As one of them drives their large machine down the rows of corn, it snaps the ears from the stalks. Then it takes the ears into the heart of the machine where it shells the kernels off of the cobs and augers them up into the grain tank. From there, it gets loaded onto a truck and hauled into my farmyard here where we run it through a roller mill. The mill breaks up the kernels and blows them up into our silo. By processing our corn this way, it makes it highly digestible for our cattle. With our small silo full of corn, we have enough grain to feed our cattle for another year.
But, harvest isn’t over yet. The grain is off, but the rest of the corn plant is still in the field. This also is very valuable to us. We use this to bedden our cattle with over the long cold winter months. It is very soft, absorbent and helps to keep our cattle warm and comfortable. We call it, “cornstalk bedding”.
So, after the corn is combined, I take a tractor and flail chopper out to the field and run the cornstalks through the chopper. It cuts the stalks, leaves and husks into small pieces and blows them back onto the ground. This is necessary, because the stalks have a lot of juice in them. By doing this, it helps them to dry out. If cornstalks get put up with too much moisture in them they will mold and possibly catch on fire. After we have them chopped, we leave them lay for a few days to dry.
Then it’s time to harvest them. I rake them into large rolls with our rotary rake. Then I take the tractor with the same flail chopper back to the field, this time though, I have a large chopper box hooked behind it. I head the chopper down the large roll chopping it into the chopper box. Because the cornstalks are dry and since the rake put a little bit of dry soil in with them, my flail chopper puts up a large cloud of dust. It’s unavoidable.
Once I have the chopper box full, I take it home and unload it into an elevator that takes it up into the barn where we store it. Unloading the bedding into the elevator is also a very dirty, dusty job. Joanne, Catherine and Joshua are in the mow moving all this and packing it away while I’m unloading it. By the end of the day, we all look like we’ve been in a terrible dust storm! We all wear glasses and masks to keep the dirt out of our eyes and noses. It usually takes us a full week to put our bedding all up.
I remember one day after I had unloaded several loads of very dusty bedding and was in the process of finishing up another one, a lady walked up behind me. Since I was almost done, I finished unloading it while she stood about fifty feet away. When I got done, I walked over to see what she wanted. The first words out of her mouth were, “That’s sure a dirty thankless job.” Then she went on to tell me that in her previous marriage she had helped her husband put up cornstalk bedding. She had hated it because of how dirty it was.
I was shocked at her comments and attitude. While it is a very dirty job, the four of us here have always enjoyed doing it. It’s very rewarding seeing the barn full of soft fluffy bedding at the end of the harvest season. We use this bedding every day throughout the next year for our cattle. The cattle sure appreciate it and do well on it. When we see our cattle lying in it very contentedly and even mooing occasionally; we know they appreciate it, even if they can’t say it in English! A dirty thankless job – we don’t think so. A dirty job, yes; a thankless job, no!
It is so important for a person in their work to keep a good attitude. If you keep a good attitude, your work will be much more enjoyable and rewarding. If you don’t, your work will be miserable and the hours will just drag by. The same can be said for marriage, family and so many other things too.
I know there are many people that do ordinary jobs where they receive very little thanks or appreciation. Sometimes they wonder if it’s really worth it. Let me tell you something, if you are doing a service to others and blessing them, it most certainly is worth it. The Bible says in Gal. 6:9, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”
I’ve never heard my bossie cows say, “Thank you” in English yet, but I know they sure appreciate us putting up all that dry fluffy cornstalk bedding. It’s too bad that lady didn’t hear her cows saying, “Thank you” years before. If she would have, I’m sure she would have enjoyed her work much more and found it rewarding. I know we do here.

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI. Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com To view Tom’s past articles go to: tomheckfarm.com Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck. All rights reserved.

Photo caption: Tom chopping cornstalk bedding.

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THE TWO DOLLAR WHEELBARROW

30 Oct

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

The Two Dollar Wheelbarrow

                Many years ago, shortly after we bought our farm, I went to a farm auction that had lots of stuff for sale by a farmer who was retiring.  One of the things that came up for sale was his old wheelbarrow.  It was a heavy-duty one that had been welded up some, leaked in the corners, but was still in good solid working condition.  I knew I could sure use it on my farm.  The auctioneer opened up the bidding on it for one dollar and immediately somebody said, “Yes.”  Then he asked for two dollars and I raised my hand.  Then he asked for three dollars and I held my breath.  To my amazement, nobody raised my bid so the auctioneer said, “Sold.”  I had just bought a two dollar wheelbarrow.

Over the last 22 years, we have used it for lots of work on our farm here.  From hauling dirt and rock, to hay bales and feed, we have used it for a tremendous amount of work here.  I’ve done a little bit of welding on it over the years, but pretty much it’s been trouble free.

This last spring, I had to replace some of the old bolts and washers holding the thing together with new ones.  I told the kids then that we could buy a new one and that I was sure we had gotten our two dollars worth of use out of it.  “But, Dad”, they said, “Why spend all that money on a new one when we can fix up ‘Old Dependable’?”   Well, it’s hard to argue with my kids, especially when I’m of the same mind-set that they are, so we fixed it up.

A month later, Joshua was hauling a load of shale rock with it that weighed between two and three hundred pounds when the wheel rim bent sideways.  Considering it is probably 40 to 50 years old and fairly rusty it’s not surprising.  Actually, it’s surprising it made it this long.  We were all disappointed to see it.  I told the kids, “It’s definitely time to buy a new one now.”  Their reply, “But can’t we fix it up some way?”  I told them, “I don’t think so; it’s time for a new one.”  Needless to say their faces were down cast.

A few days later we went to a store that sells wheelbarrows.  I had my mind made up that we were going to buy a new one.  They had several on display, but we were greatly disappointed as we looked at them.  They were all built so cheap and light.  I said to my family, “They will never stand up to the work we have for them on our farm.  I’m not buying one of these.”  The kids agreed with me.  Joanne said, “What are we going to do then?”  I answered, “I don’t know, but I’m not buying one of these that’s built so cheap, it won’t last.”

So with that we continued walking through the store and came to a place where they sold wheelbarrow tires.  I thought, “Here’s our answer.”  They cost 30 to 40 some dollars.  I told the kids that that was a lot to stick into a two dollar wheelbarrow.  But they thought it was worth saving.  But, as we looked at them we saw that the rims were built so light, that they would never stand up to the loads we put in our wheelbarrow.  So again I said, “No.”  I left the store in frustration, it’s sad that sometimes in America today, it’s impossible to buy a quality built item.

Later that day, Joshua came up to me and said, “Could we use an old steel wheel off of the chopper hay head that we got junked out up in the woods?”  I thought on it a minute and said, “It might work.”  Needless to say, we were desperate to find an answer to our problem.  Well, we went up there and after a fair bit of work we got both steel wheels off of the old junked out hay head.

We got them and the old wheelbarrow in the shop and went to work.  The kids were very eager to help me, since they didn’t want to see Old Dependable junked out.  They thought I was going to put one steel wheel on it, but I said, “Why not put both of them on it?”  So that’s what we did.  A couple hours later we rolled Old Dependable out of the shop.  It looks like we’re going backwards in time since it originally came out with a rubber tire and now it has two steel wheels on it.

Since then we’ve used it a lot and it has worked great.  I told the kids that we spent about two dollars on new nuts, bolts and washers for it so it had better go another 22 years so that I get my money out of it!  They laughed and agreed.  Looking at it, we think it might make another 22 years.  I’m sure it will go a lot further than one of those new ones that we looked at.

Sometimes it’s hard to throw old things away that have special memories with them.  The kids think it’s pretty special, that the two dollar wheelbarrow we started farming with years ago is still working.  It’s hard for us to throw stuff away that has worked well over the years if it’s possible to fix it up and keep it working.

And what is more amazing and special is that God loves to take broken, hopeless people and rescue them and then fix them up and use them for his glory.  That’s what the Gospel is all about.  I know this is true, because I’m one of those that He’s saved.  The wonderful news is that He will save anybody who cries out to Him.  He never throws anybody away.

     Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.comImage

   Photo caption:  Our steel wheeled wheelbarrow.

  Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

IT ALL STARTED SO INNOCENTLY

30 Oct

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN
By: Tom Heck
It All Started So Innocently
When I was a teenager, I would often times spend a couple weeks every summer helping my uncle George and my grandmother on their dairy farm. I so looked forward to those couple weeks all year long when I could go live with them and work alongside George. It was the highlight of my year, since my home life wasn’t that good.
My uncle George and Grandma treated me wonderfully. I would work alongside George from early morning till late at night. Whether it was milking cows, grinding feed, putting up hay, cleaning calf pens, or the many other jobs there were to do, he was always great to work with.
One early summer day something happened that affected my life for years afterwards. On that particular day, we baled our first field of hay for the season. After taking the first crop of hay off of that field that day, George wanted to work the field and plant it to corn. He figured it was early enough in the season so that he could get a good crop of corn off of it come fall.
So after we had the hay baled that day, George hooked the tractor up to the disk and told me to go out and disk that field. As I headed out to the field, he went to the barn to get ready for the evening milking. I started disking the field and everything was going great until something broke on the tractor’s hitch. I got off the tractor and looked it over and saw two possible ways to fix it. I wasn’t sure which way to do it and since it wasn’t mine, I figured I’d better go in and ask George how he wanted it done.
Since it was only about 100 yards north of the barn, I decided I might as well walk in instead of driving the equipment in. I found George in the milkhouse with his back towards the door. He jumped when I opened the door and walked in. He quickly turned and faced me while hiding something behind his back. I was extremely interested in what he had behind his back, because I’d never seen him act this way before. He wanted to know what I wanted and so I told him about the tractor. Then I asked him what he was hiding. It was clear to him that he couldn’t really hide it on me, so he pulled it out from behind his back. It was his latest issue of Playboy magazine. I was shocked. I had never seen one before. Now here my uncle that I thought so highly of was holding one in his hands. He said, “It’s only this, just a little fun entertainment.” Then he said, “We’d better go and get that tractor fixed so you can finish disking that field this evening yet.”
With that we headed out to the field and fixed the tractor. A couple hours later I finished disking the field and drove into the farm yard. I saw George working in the barn so I went to help him. He had a big surprise waiting for me. He had laid out a whole pile of his magazines for me to look at. I knew it was wrong so I pretty much avoided them, but later that evening he showed me a bunch of the pictures in them that he really liked. With that, he got me looking at them. Up until that day, I never knew that George was into pornography.
I must say that George never mistreated me. But after that day, I started to look at his pornography and started to enjoy it. The more I looked at it, the more I enjoyed it. Every time I went to stay with him, I’d find myself looking at it. The Bible is most certainly right when it teaches in Heb. 11:25, that there is pleasure in sin for a season.
Did it hurt me at all you ask? Absolutely yes! The more I looked at it the more I started to look down on women. The more perverted thoughts ran through my mind. I’ve read accounts over the years of men that started looking at porn for pleasure and eventually they ended up assaulting women and in some cases killing them. How tragic!
Although, I never assaulted or killed a woman, I most certainly did not treat them with the respect I should have. Fortunately, when I was 20 years old I repented of my sins, including pornography, and accepted Jesus as my Lord. He saved me then and as I started to follow Him, He began to deal with me in my attitudes towards women. Boy, did I need that. As I look back, I am amazed at how perverted my mind was regarding women.
Thank God for His Word! For through His word my mind got straightened out. Seven years later I was blessed to marry a beautiful, godly woman – Joanne. I’ve had the privilege of being married to her for over 20 years now and having a wonderful family.
I got caught up into porn so innocently and because of my sinful nature, I became a slave to it. But, by the power of God I’ve been set free. So many men, women and children are affected by porn today in our society. It destroys families, marriages and individuals. The toll is terrible. And it just isn’t in magazines anymore. It’s all around us today, on TV, computers, billboards and so forth. Is it any wonder that there are so many abortions today and rapes and people in prison?
Looking back, I wish I had never got caught up into porn, but I thank the Lord for forgiveness and for setting me on the right path. The years after I got saved have most definitely been the best years of my life. If I would have continued in my sin, I definitely would not be where I am today. The Bible says it well when it says in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Just a little fun entertainment? Definitely not! Deadly destroying entertainment? Yes, a thousand times over.
If you are caught up in porn, I know a Saviour who loves you and wants to forgive you and set you free. The choice is yours. I have never regretted following Him, I just wish I would have done it sooner.

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI. Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck. All rights reserved.

One of Those Days

6 Aug

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN
By: Tom Heck
One of Those Days
We all have days once in a while where it seems if something can go wrong it does. And it just isn’t one thing that goes wrong; it seems that they just pile up! I had one day like that a while back here. We were starting to cut a new crop of hay on this particular day. I had my 1206 Farmall tractor sitting in the shed in front of the tractor that I had my discbine hooked up to. The plan was to drive the old dependable 1206 out of the shed and put it on the blower for filling the silo with the hay I was about to cut. The tractor started right up and I drove it out of the shed and turned it to head to the silo. I was turning it right in the middle of our drive way when I saw that the front wheel was almost ready to fall off. I quickly pushed in the clutch and stopped. In my many years of running tractors, I never had anything like this happen.
My kids came to see why I had stopped the tractor right in the middle of the driveway. We were all shocked to see the wheel almost ready to fall off. Joshua asked me, “What do we do?” I replied, “We have to get it fixed so that we can move it out of the way; our milk hauler can’t even get up to the milkhouse to get our milk.” With that we went and got a bunch of tools out of our shop and went to work on it. The inside wheel bearing was chewed up into an innumerable number of pieces. The outside wheel bearing was still good. By running the tractor like this over time, it had put a lot of pressure on the pack nut holding the wheel on. Over time, the threads on the spindle which hold the pack nut on stripped half off. Then the cotter pin that goes through the pack nut and spindle sheared off. The end result was my wheel falling almost off on this particular day. On this day when I really wanted to go at haying! Surprisingly the tractor had run really nice with the inner wheel bearing out until this day.
Once we had it apart, I headed for the phone to call my local machine shops to see if they had the bearing I needed. To my astonishment, they didn’t have it. I turned to my family and said, “What do we do? We can’t go at haying with the tractor setting there and our milk hauler can’t even get in here to get the milk.” With that we started to pray for wisdom in what to do. With that an idea came to my mind. Our neighbors up the road have a large front end loader, so I decided to call them and see if they could bring it down and lift the front end of my tractor up and push it out of the way. I figured we could fix it later on after haying. The idea would have probably worked, but my neighbors were gone for the day.
So we were back to square one again, what do we do? Joanne kept praying while I started to make more phone calls. I finally located a bearing a fair distance away. I wanted to replace both bearings, but they only had the inner one. I asked him to hold it for me and with that we got into the car and went after it. Back home, we put the new bearing in and the used outer bearing. We greased them and tightened up the packing nut. But the packing nut wouldn’t tighten up it just started to jump the damaged threads on the spindle. Now what do we do? It seemed like it was impossible to get it fixed and out of the way.
I said to my family, “This is going to take a lot to get this fixed right and we don’t have the time or stuff here now to do it.” Catherine said, “Yes, but what do we do with this tractor in the middle of the driveway?” I replied, “We’ll put a new cotter pin through the packing nut and spindle. I think with those two bearings in the wheel and the pack nut on loosely, I can real slowly back it into the corner of the shed and park it there till we have time after haying to fix it right.” And that’s what we did.
By now it was late afternoon, and I finally headed out to the hay field just west of the barn. Was I ever happy to be finally cutting hay! The rest of my family headed to the barn to clean the gutters. I was just making my second round around the outside of the field when Catherine came walking out. On this particular day, I figured she wasn’t bringing good news. She told me the barn cleaner had broken. So, I stopped the tractor and headed for the barn. It took a little bit, but we got it fixed and running good again. I headed back to the hay field and started to cut hay again. By this time it was getting really late in the day and I ended up cutting just a few acres of hay.
It was time to get at the evening chores and to our surprise we had a real sick cow. I wasn’t expecting this at all, but a lot of the previous stuff in the day I hadn’t expected either. We ended up giving her an I.V. in her neck and praying for her. If we couldn’t pray, I don’t know what we would do! I’m so glad to have a Heavenly Father that answers our prayers. Well, we got our evening chores all done and called it a day.
Fortunately the following days went a lot better and we got our hay all off. The barn cleaner kept working well and our cow recovered. In time we got our 1206 fixed and running again.
Even though that day didn’t go at all as planned, we still had a good day working together as a family. We’ve learned no matter what comes our way, if we look to the Lord and rule our spirits we can and will overcome our adversities.

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI. Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck. All rights reserved.

A Sleepless Night

6 Aug

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN
By: Tom Heck
A Sleepless Night
A number of years ago, when I had a silo built here a very interesting thing happened. Something I’m not pleased about at all, but rather ashamed of. I share it with you readers though, hoping you can learn from my mistake.
In this particular situation, the crew of men that built my silo had several more silos to build after they finished mine. So needless to say, they were in a hurry to get my silo done so they could move on to the next job. Once they had my silo done they moved on to the next job, leaving a mess of broken concrete staves and metal behind.
We as a family were so glad to have our new silo done, that we joyfully went to work cleaning up the mess they left behind. In the process of cleaning it up, we found a very expensive, name brand ratchet they had left behind. They had thrown it away because it had broken.
I eyed it up, because I knew that tool company had a lifetime warranty on all its tools. Their tools were premium quality and carried a premium price tag. Thus, I had never bought a single tool from them, but I had admired their line of tools for years. Now, here I had one of their ratchets with a lifetime warranty on it. I use ratchets with sockets a lot on the farm here fixing machinery.
Once we had the mess cleaned up, I called around to find a store that carried that brand of tools. A couple days later, I took it into the store and showed it to the man behind the counter. He looked it over and replied, “No problem, I’ll give it to the company man when he comes around next week and then you can come in and get a brand new ratchet free.” I thanked him and left with a big smile on my face. Boy, was I looking forward to this expensive, top of the line ratchet. What a deal! But down inside I didn’t feel quite right about it. I brushed off those inner feelings though and went about the rest of my day.
I went to bed that night and fell asleep fast, but then shortly after that I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. I tossed and turned for hours. Down inside I knew what was wrong. The lifetime warranty was for the owner of the tool. I had never bought it and the rightful owners had thrown it away. It was wrong for me to try and claim their warranty. In doing so, I would really be stealing from the company. Right there, lying in bed, I repented of my sin and asked the Lord to forgive me. And He did, and then I went back to sleep until my alarm clock went off.
After doing morning chores, I called the store up and talked to the man behind the counter again. I told him exactly what happened and apologized for being deceitful. His response, “That’s all right, people do that all the time here.” I replied, “It’s not all right, it’s stealing and I was wrong.” With that he absolutely insisted that I take the new ratchet because people do it all the time. Nobody would know the difference. I strongly replied, “I’ll know the difference and so will God. I’m not going to lose anymore sleep over a ratchet!” He was flabbergasted and said, “What should I do with this busted ratchet then?” I responded, “Throw it in the garbage; I don’t ever want to see that thing again!” With that we said, “Good-bye.”
Needless to say, I slept really well the next night. It is always right to be honest. Human nature always wants a good deal. We must always be careful that that doesn’t led us into sin. In the years since then, I’ve always been glad that I did the honest thing. If I wouldn’t have done it I would always have regretted it. I would have never enjoyed using that tool either. And it isn’t worth sleepless nights and a broken relationship with God. That would be terrible.

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI. Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck. All rights reserved.

Do We Care About Our Fellow Man or is it Just Money?

6 May

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

Do We Care About Our Fellow Man or is it Just Money?

                As many of you readers know, the milk we produce on our dairy farm here, we sell to the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery.  They are a farmer owned and run cooperative that produces high quality cheese curds that are sold to customers all over the country.  They have been in business for over 100 years and have done an excellent job of producing and selling dairy products.

We have counted it a privilege to sell our milk there for many years.  We always seek to take excellent care of our animals and to produce the highest quality milk possible.  We say, “We have the privilege of producing high quality food to feed hungry people.”  As a matter of fact, we have won beautiful plaques over the years from the creamery for our exceptionally high quality milk.

The creamery, because of increased growth, is expanding to handle more milk.  Part of that expansion is a new cheese store to better serve their ever growing number of customers.  I am in full support of the expansion, but I have a problem with one thing.

A couple months ago, I talked to Paul, the CEO of the creamery and asked him, “Once the new store is complete, will we be selling wine from it?”  He answered, “Yes.”  This greatly disturbed my family and me.  So a month ago, we went to the annual meeting and I talked to the president of the board and expressed our concerns about this.  He listened intently and then afterwards asked me if I would come the following week and address the board of directors about this issue.  To which I agreed.

The creamery in its entire history has never sold alcohol.  In recent years, the CEO has always been emphasizing to us farmers the importance of good public image.  We need to take good care of our animals and the land that we farm.  On our farm here, we look at our farm and the animals on it as a gift from God and always seek to take the very best care of it along with the animals.  We have received many compliments over the years because of it.

I addressed the board on the alcohol issue and talked to them for a half hour.  They were strongly in favor of selling it because from research done, it would increase cheese sales and profits.  The point I brought up was caring for our customers and neighbors.  I said, “For over 100 years this creamery has not sold alcohol and has been very profitable.  We have an excellent public image.  What if somebody buys alcohol here and goes out drinking and driving and hurts or kills some innocent people?  How would we feel about that and what would that do to the image of the creamery?”  Their response floored me.  “We have liability insurance, we’re protected.”

From talking to the board president afterwards on the phone, it appears the board voted unanimously to approve the sale of alcohol in its new store.  We as a family had been hoping and praying that they wouldn’t sell it.  We have seen so many accidents where people have been hurt, crippled or killed over the years because of alcohol.  We have seen where a parent would go home drunk and beat and abuse their family.  The very ones they should care for and love the most.  It has led to so many broken homes and marriages.  So many innocent people getting hurt.  No wonder the Bible says in Hab. 2:15, “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also.”

We as a family would much rather receive a little less money from the creamery and not have them sell alcohol.  I emphasized to the board the terrible things alcohol is responsible for, and yet they voted for it so they could make more money.  Money was what mattered.  Not the people that would be hurt and killed by it.  No wonder the Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

We as a family care for our neighbors and customers who buy our dairy products.  We wish our creamery did too, but unfortunately that is not the case.  Now we are left wondering, “Where do we sell our milk in the future?”

 

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com    Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

 

Spring

12 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

Spring

                After a long, cold, snowy winter, we greatly look forwards to spring on the farm.  It’s nice to see the huge snow piles that have accumulated over the winter months melt away.  Yes, there is lots of mud around and lots of work to do, but it’s good to have the warm temperatures.

One of the first things we look forward to in the spring are the Canadian and snow-white Arctic geese flying north to Canada.  It’s great seeing their big V-shaped formations flying over our buildings as they head straight north to their summer homes honking and honking as they go.  Sometimes they will land in our fields and scrounge up some food.  Sometimes we will have hundreds or even thousands of them stop in to visit.  We greatly enjoy having them, although they don’t stay very long, with spring in the air and Canada calling.  When they leave we always tell them, “Good bye, we’ll see you again in the fall.”  And they always honk their “Good byes” to us.  It is truly amazing how the Creator, God, put it into these majestic birds to fly thousands of miles north every spring and then in the fall to travel thousands of miles south once again.

We also have a contest here every spring between the four of us.  The contest is: who will see the first robin on our farm here.  The winner usually gets a special piece of candy, so needless to say we are all very attentive.  We know with the robins back spring is surely here.

Further into spring the green grass starts to grow, especially next to the foundations of the buildings.  The kids start to pick handfuls of this lush, juicy, green stuff and take them to the barn to give to their favorite cows.  And the cows, what do they do?  Out come their long tongues twisting around the clumps of grass and quickly taking them in.  In a matter of a few seconds it’s gone and they’re looking for more with their big bright eyes.  This is always a very special treat for them.

Also with the green grass comes the beautiful spring flowers.  The kids and I love to pick them and bring them into the house for Joanne.  And she always greatly appreciates them – even if they are just dandelions at times.

With spring there is always so much new life.  Part of every spring is Easter.  Before I came to know Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour, Easter was just another religious holiday.  But once Jesus came into my heart, Easter took on a whole new meaning.  The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus became very personal to me.  With Jesus alive and living in my heart, He gave me life and that so much more abundantly.  It was life like I had never experienced in all my growing up years!  Before, life was so dead, hopeless and loveless, but now with Jesus it’s just the opposite!

The Bible teaches that the creation declares the glory of God.  I believe this is so true in the spring of the year when creation is all coming so alive.

So enjoy the geese, robins and all the flowers and be sure and give God thanks for it all.  Spring shows us all that God sends new life every year.  And the greatest part of spring was when Jesus came out of the grave to live forevermore.  Because He lives, I live and you can too.

 

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com  Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

 

A Matter of Integrity

5 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

A Matter of Integrity

                A while back, our son Joshua got the fever.  At first it wasn’t too bad, but as time went on it went from bad to worse.  There were times when we tried to cure it, that he improved, but in time it would always come back worse than what it had been before.  As a father, I did everything I could to help my son get through it without getting burned badly.  That can be a real challenge at times though.  It took a lot of time and patience to get him through it and successfully cured.

What is this fever you ask?  It’s a thing young farm boys get and the only way to cure it is by them buying a tractor!  It’s also known as, “Tractor Fever.”  And it isn’t always boys that get it either, sometimes grown men can get extremely bad cases of it!  It has to be treated very carefully.  Many people have made very bad deals on tractors that later on they’ve regretted.

Joshua wanted to buy an old Farmall tractor to use on the farm here.  I was really glad that he liked the same kind of tractors that I do.  I laid down a couple of rules concerning purchasing a used tractor.  One was that it had to be in good working condition.  That can be a challenge when the tractor we’re looking for will be forty to sixty years old!  A second condition was that it had to be big enough to really be useful on our farm here.

Over the years, Joanne would notice many small old Farmall tractors that had been restored to like new condition and think they were so cute!  Of course, Joshua took a great interest in them too.  My reply would be, “They’re nice, but they’re not for us because they’re too small.  You can hardly use them for anything on our farm.”

Joshua agreed to my two conditions.  Another thing was he wasn’t ready to buy a tractor all by himself.  I could well understand that.  So after talking it over, we came to the agreement that we would each own fifty percent of the tractor.  That made him really happy.  He was very confident that I wouldn’t buy a bad tractor or make a bad deal.  It took a lot of pressure off of him.

So we started scanning the newspapers for a good tractor to buy.  Every week we would check them along with all the auction bills.  We came across a few possibilities that sounded good.  When we came across one I would immediately call the owner up and ask him a long list of questions I had concerning the tractor.  Usually he would answer my questions assuring me that the tractor was in excellent shape – not a thing wrong with it.  So with that, we would set up a time convenient for both of us to go and look at the “Perfect tractor.”  Many times after looking at and test running the tractor we would leave just shaking our heads in disbelief.  Often times I said on the way home, “If the owner would have told me the truth about it when I talked to him on the phone, I would never even have went and looked at it.”  To which my wife replied, “He knew that and that’s why he didn’t tell you the truth.”

One tractor we looked at was absolutely shocking.  The owner had bought it off of a farmer in Iowa that had bought it brand new many years before.  He assured us it was in super excellent condition and we had better look at it soon before somebody else bought it from him.  We went and looked at it and were shocked at what we saw.  It had been stripped down and wasn’t even safe to run.  I did run it a little and it ran terrible.  When I mentioned the condition of the tractor to the owner, he didn’t think it was that bad.  He did tell us though that his niece got killed by that tractor, but that didn’t seem to affect him at all!   We quickly told him, “No” and left.  It is amazing what some people are like.

We went and looked at another tractor that was in “excellent shape.”  When we saw it we were amazed at all the duct tape holding it together!  I am not joking on this.  The farmer assured me though that if I bought it he would get it fixed up for me.  I told him, “I don’t think so” and left.

This was getting discouraging trying to find a good used tractor to buy.  Joshua really wanted one, I told him we had to have patience and in time we would get one.  Patience can be hard to have when a boy has a bad case of “tractor fever.”  I must say though, that Joshua did very well.  Every time we looked at a tractor, afterwards we would talk it over and I would always have him tell me first what he thought of it and why.  This was very educational for Joshua, as well as for Catherine and Joanne.  I would always tell them my opinion last.  It was interesting; sometimes they would see stuff on the tractor that I would miss.

We were getting desperate to find a good used tractor.  Finally one day we stopped at our local implement shop and talked to the owner.  Ron said he had a man from a fair distance away that wanted to trade his older Farmall in on a newer tractor that Ron had on his lot.  He had pictures of it on the computer and it looked sharp!  Needless to say, we were very interested.  Through a lot of wheeling and dealing over the phone we came to an agreement that was contingent on us looking at and running his tractor for final approval.

On the set day, Ron and I drove down to look at the tractor with plans to close the deal.  Joshua had school that day and so he couldn’t go, but he gave me permission to buy the tractor if I thought it was a good deal.  Ron and I checked it out and it did pass muster.  We were ready to close the deal when the owner told us he had to have $500 more than what we had agreed on.  With that Ron got very upset and walked right out.  I stayed a minute and questioned the man about the extra money seeing we had already agreed on the price ahead of time.  But he insisted he had to have $500 more.  With that I also in disgust went and joined Ron in the pickup and left.

On the way home, Ron and I talked quite a bit.  We were both very upset with the man not keeping his word to us.  I did ask Ron if he thought the tractor was worth $500 more.  Ron thought on it a while and said, “I think you could buy it for that price and be O.K.”  That was kind of how I felt too, but both of us strongly disapproved of the owner breaking his word to us.  I told Ron I would tell Joshua the whole story and let him decide.

When I got home later that day, Joshua was eagerly awaiting news on the tractor.  I told him the whole story and his face went sad.  I told him to think it over and decide.  The next day he told me, “I don’t want that tractor.”  Later on when I told Ron, his reply was, “Fine, don’t have him buy something he isn’t going to feel good about.”  With that I thanked Ron for both of us and said, “Good-bye.”

It was getting so that I was hesitant to call on any more tractors.  But shortly thereafter, we saw a different tractor advertized in the paper.  I called on it and the farmer made it sound like a really good one.  So on a set Saturday Joshua and I went and looked at it.  Were we surprised; it looked decent and ran excellent.  We agreed right there on it and bought the tractor from Ed.  It’s a Farmall 450 made in 1957.  We have had it on our farm for awhile now and it has worked very well.

Looking back we are all very happy that we passed up all the previous tractors.  Why did Joshua say no to the nice one that the farmer wanted $500 more for you ask?  It’s a matter of integrity.  We always taught our children early on to tell the truth and to keep their word.  The Bible commands us parents, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  So when the farmer wouldn’t keep his word to us, Joshua wanted nothing to do with him.  I couldn’t blame him a bit and I felt the same way.

So Joshua got cured of his “tractor fever” and learned a lot more about people.  He also put in practice the principals we taught him from the Word of God.  What’s more than that, he saw God answer our prayers for a good used tractor.

 

 

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com    Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

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Photo caption:  Joshua by his tractor.

Don’t Forget Your Valentine

20 Mar

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

Don’t Forget Your Valentine

                That special day is coming up soon again.  That special day to tell your sweetheart that you love them and that they are very special.  That day of course is Valentine’s Day.

In our fast paced world today, it is easy for married couples to start to take each other for granted.  The person we should love, honor and respect the most, we often times forget to treat special at all.  We should never take for granted the spouse we married and pledged ourselves to.

When a married couple starts to take each other too much for granted, that’s when their marriage starts to go downhill.  I have a sad, but true story to recount here.

Many years ago, when we were first starting to farm here, I had a good friend who would come sometimes and help me fix machinery.  We would naturally visit as we worked on the machinery together.  Sometimes we would talk about “Treasure Island” and some of the really good things we got from there.

You ask, “What is ‘Treasure Island’?”  It’s the name we’d given the spot where the city had their place for people to drop off their garbage.  Back then, if you could find something of value there, you could freely take it.  So we scavengers got all kinds of treasures from there. The phrase, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure” was true here.

One time my friend, Mike, found a very expensive window in excellent condition there.  It appears that it came from a doctor’s or lawyer’s office when they did a bunch of remodeling.  I had a glass block window in my milkhouse that was literally falling to pieces.  When he asked me if I could use his new found treasure, my answer was, “Absolutely yes!”

It took all of my carpentry skills, but I got it fit in there beautifully.  This now, is twenty years later, and the window looks as nice now as the day I put it in.  It was and still is a super quality window that was sure worth retrieving.

Another time Mike told me of something he’d found at Treasure Island that nearly brought us to tears.  He found a large wedding album filled with pictures.  The couple in the album had had a large wedding party with many guests.  They had a fabulous wedding day with everything done to perfection.

But, what had started out so beautifully and wonderfully had now ended in disaster.  The lovely bride and handsome bridegroom in time ended up getting divorced!  Their marriage didn’t last very long.  When they split up, they took a lot of their things, including their wedding album to the garbage place.  How tragic!  Mike, when he got done looking at it, gently laid it back in the trash.

Wedding albums should never be put in the garbage.  Marriages should never end in divorce either.  Broken marriages and broken people and innocent children caught in the fray.  It should not be this way.  There are way too many broken homes and marriages in our nation today.

We need to keep our wedding vows and love our spouses with all our hearts.  We need to love them and treat them special every day, not just on our wedding day.   But there are days when we can really treat them special and show them how much we really do love them.  One of those days is Valentine’s Day.  If we do this, there will be a lot less wedding albums ending up in the garbage.  If we do this we will be amazed as we look back in time at how blessed we’ve been.

The Bible says in Luke 6:38, “Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over.”  I know that as I have learned to express my love and appreciation to my wife on a daily basis, it has certainly improved our marriage and family life.  And in the end, I’m the one blessed most of all.  So men, on this Valentine’s Day do something special for your wife that says you really love her and would count it a privilege to marry her all over again!

 

 

 

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com   Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

A Bold, Cold Step of Faith

2 Mar

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

A Bold, Cold Step of Faith

                Sometimes in life we are called to take a big bold step of faith.  Such was the case for Joanne and myself in early 1991.  I was working as a hired man on my parents’ dairy farm then, but they had informed us months before already that they wanted us out.  I didn’t know it at the time, but they were turning the farm over to my older brother Paul.

So for a number of months, we had earnestly sought the Lord daily as to what He had for us.  Through much prayer, He made known to us that He had a farm for us.  We didn’t know where it was, but we did know He had one for us.  We knew if we were going to farm, we needed a line of farm machinery.  I owned absolutely none!

We prayed and felt led that I should start to attend farm auctions in the area to buy old used farm machinery to farm the farm the Lord had promised us.  We started to look at the farm newspapers for auction bills.  The first auction we came across was on Jan. 29, 1991 at Kellogg, MN.  It had a Farmall 806 diesel tractor on it.  I figured it would be a big enough tractor for us to start farming with.

Joanne and I looked at our checkbook; we had just over $5,000 in it.  That was all the money we had, except for a few dollars in our wallets.  We did not have $5,100 total.  Joanne looked at me and asked, “Would that tractor be a good deal for $5,000?”  “If the tractor is in good condition, it would be an excellent deal,” I replied.  So we got down on our knees and prayed to our Heavenly Father asking Him in faith that we could buy that 806 for $5,000.  The Bible says in Matt. 18:19, “That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”

Jan. 29th came and it was bitter cold.  20 degrees below zero with a 20 mile an hour wind out of the north.  My brother Paul and I went to the auction that day.  I was walking in pure faith that day.  I knew that if I had missed it with God, I would be going home empty-handed.  We got to the farm and headed for the line of tractors.  We walked down the line till we got to the 806.  Boy, were we disappointed.  It was in real rough shape as were the other tractors we had walked by before it.  I knew I didn’t want that tractor.

But then Paul saw a tractor just beyond it and said, “Hey, look at that one.”  We looked at it and were greatly impressed.  It was a Farmall 1206 diesel in excellent condition!  We were shocked because all the rest of the tractors were in such poor condition and this one stood out like a diamond!  What’s more, this one was not listed on the auction bill.

The auctioneer kept the auction moving at a real fast pace that day because of the bitter cold.  He knew if he didn’t he would lose a lot of the bidders.  They started all the tractors up; the 1206 ran as nice as it looked.  I decided to bid on it.  The auctioneer started down the row of tractors, he had a few interested bidders in the 806 and sold it for almost $6,000.  I was surprised that it went for that much.  Then he came to the 1206 and said the reason it wasn’t listed on the bill was because it was sitting in the corner of the shed and he had missed it.  I didn’t believe him and I think nobody else did either.  But, with that he opened up the bidding.

I started bidding right away and the price climbed fast.  Soon I had the bid at exactly $5,000 and the auctioneer kept asking for $5,050.  I held my breath.  I knew if somebody bid that then the next price would be $5,100 which I did not have.  I clearly remembered how Joanne and I had asked the Lord for an 806 tractor for $5,000 and now I was looking at a larger, much better tractor for that miraculous price.  I knew if we got it for that price it most certainly was the Lord answering our prayer.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity the auctioneer said, “Sold.”  I had just bought my first tractor.

People in the crowd were shaking their heads in disbelief, trying to comprehend what had just happened.  Later on, when I talked to the farmer about the tractor, he also was dumb-founded over the 1206 selling for less than his 806.  He just couldn’t believe the price the 1206 sold for.  He went on to tell me, “That 1206 was my favorite tractor.  I let the hired help run all the other tractors here, but I wouldn’t let them touch that tractor.  I’m the only one that ran that tractor.  I had planned on keeping it, but at the last minute decided to sell it also, that’s why it wasn’t listed on the auction bill.”

Paul offered to start driving the tractor home while I went and wrote out a check paying for it.  I caught up to him when he was driving it over the bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Wabasha.  As soon as he got into WI he stopped and came back to the pickup.  After driving it just several miles he looked like he was almost froze up.  The tractor did not have a cab on it, so we had nothing protecting us from the cold and wind.  Paul asked me, “Do you want to take it up over the bluffs on the back roads and save several miles?”  I said, “Sure, if you will pick out the route with the pickup.”

Fortunately, I had dressed well.  I was wearing my insulated coveralls and the sheepskin coat that my Grandfather had given me several years earlier.  It was the one he had worn decades before when he would go into town with his team of horses in the winter time.  Now I was wearing it, as I headed my new “red horse” north across the bluffs.  Looking back, that was the coldest ride of my life!  But it was a wonderful ride, there is such excitement when one steps out in faith and sees God answer above and beyond what one asks for.  And that is what God did that day for us.

When we drove it into the yard, Joanne was looking out the window and was surprised at how big and beautiful the tractor looked.  When I told her the whole story, she just started praising the Lord with me.  God was faithful; He had answered our prayer and more.  The Bible is most certainly true when it says in Eph. 3:20, “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”  It is wonderful to know that when we walk rightly with God, we can pray and fully expect Him to answer our prayers.  We are not alone in this world, we have a wonderful, loving Heavenly Father to guide us and to provide for us what we have need of.

 

 

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at: lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com  To view Tom’s past articles go to: tomheckfarm.com   Copyright © 2013 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

 

Photo caption:  Tom by his 1206 tractor.               CIMG0252

Why Did This Happen?

22 Dec

This morning as I sat in the kitchen putting my work shoes on, I turned on the TV news.  The news anchor woman was interviewing another woman who was supposed to be an expert on how to handle tragedies.  They were talking about the terrible tragedy that had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.  Twenty young children along with six adults were killed by a lone gunman.

The anchor woman shared how her young daughter asked her, “Why did this happen?”  To which the mother replied, “I don’t know.”  The anchor woman then turned to the expert and asked her the same question, “Why did this happen?”  The expert’s reply was the same, “I don’t know.”  The expert went on to say that we need to talk to our children and ask them, “Why do you think this happened?”  She thought it would be good to get the children to talk about it.

The next thing that came up was that a lot of children all across America are not going to feel safe going back to school.  The expert’s response was that we need to tell the children that it will be safe for them to go back to school because we have lots of policemen, teachers, principals and others to protect them.  By this time, I had put my shoes on so I shut the TV off, shaking my head in disbelief as I headed out to take care of my cattle.

When we as a family heard of this great tragedy on Friday afternoon, I immediately turned to my family and said, “I can tell you exactly why this happened.”  Then I went on to say, “This nation has put God out of the schools and out of public life as much as possible.  They want nothing to do with God and His ways anymore.  When you put God and His ways out, then the devil and his cohorts work totally unobstructed in their ways.  Their ways are lying, stealing, cheating, drugs, immorality, death and destruction.  This nation put God out of the public schools many years ago.  When He got put out, the devil had free rein to do his work.  Now, after many years, it’s come to all this death and destruction.”  The Bible sums this up very well in John 10:10 when Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

The experts second answer about telling the children they will be safe going back to school because of all the policemen, teachers, principals and others out there to protect them is so hollow and empty.  Those people were all present in Newtown, Conn., but it didn’t save the lives of the twenty children that perished that day.  Likewise many other children have died in school shootings over the years.  So why do we think they will be able to save the children in the future?

Why can’t a teacher in public school today put on the blackboard the commandment from God, “Thou shall not kill” or “Love thy neighbor as thyself”?  It would help children to grow up right. To respect life and to help others, not kill them!  But in America today, a court would rule that the teacher couldn’t do that because it would be violating somebody’s constitutional rights!  If the teacher didn’t remove God’s Word he/she would be fired and maybe end up in jail!

So today,  God is out of the public schools and the devil is firmly entrenched there.  Is it any wonder that we see so much immorality, drugs, violence, suicide and death among our students today?  The Bible says in Hosea 8:7, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

Will things get better in America now that this has happened?  Absolutely not.  It will only get worse.  We as a nation will continue to reap the harvest of putting God out of our public schools and public life.  It is very, very sad to realize this, but I say it with tears that it is most certainly true.

What should we do seeing we live in such dangerous times?  We need to be reading our Bibles and teaching our families the Word of God.  We also need to obey the Word of God.  This will teach our children to do the same.  Last, but not least, we need to pray for God’s protection over us and our children every day.  God can and will watch over our children when we ask Him to, even when policemen, teachers and others cannot.  I realize we live in dangerous times, but I know God is more than able to take care of us and our children.  We must look to Him and trust Him every day.

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at:  lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com  Copyright © 2012 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

An Old Veteran

5 Nov

Recently, Catherine and I attended a farm business meeting in Jim Falls.  As we drove into that town we saw a large statue of a famous Civil War Veteran.  This brave veteran took part in 42 battles and skirmishes with bullets flying all around him.  This leader was so popular that they changed the name of the regiment from Badger to Eagle after him.  Who was he you ask?  Old Abe, the war eagle.  There has never been another bald eagle like him before or since.

Old Abe was born in the early spring of 1861 about 25 miles north of Jim Falls.  The Chippewa Indians that resided north of there a ways would always collect maple sap and boil it down to maple sugar to take down river in their birch bark canoes to trade for supplies.  On the way down river, Chief Sky’s group saw an eagle hovering around a tall pine tree.

So one of the young braves climbed up the tree to get the young eaglets in hopes of trading them for supplies also.  As the man got close to the nest, the mother eagle attacked him to protect her young ones.  The Indians shot her dead and the brave proceeded to get the two young eagles out of the nest.  God, the Creator, put it into the heart of the mother eagle to protect her young at all costs, even to the point of death.  It is sad to see that so many parents don’t protect their children from the evil and dangers in the world today.  Because of it, the children pay a terrible price.

The Indians proceeded down river and stopped at a small farm owned by Dan McCann and his wife.  The McCann’s had just finished planting their corn and had about a half bushel of seed left over.  The Indians offered to trade one of the young eagles for the left over seed, but when Mrs. McCann saw the bird she was convinced it was a crow and wanted nothing to do with it!  Young eagles are solid black and do not get their white feathers until they are two to three years old.  The Indians insisted that it was a bald eagle and went down to one of their canoes and brought up the dead mother.  When she saw it, she changed her mind and made the trade.

Dan McCann played the fiddle very well and the eagle loved it.  He would walk around and dance and flutter his wings to the music.  The eagle grew and by late summer had become a large bird.  A company of soldiers was being formed in the area to go and fight.  Dan wanted to go but couldn’t since he was a cripple, so he sent the eagle in his place.  The company gladly accepted him as their mascot and changed their name from the Badger Company to the Eagle Company.  They also named their new member, “Old Abe” in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

Old Abe rode on a special perch next to the flags.  This usually put him in the worst part of the battle.  Most birds at the sound of a gun would seek to fly away to safety, but not Old Abe.  He lived for battle!  History tells us that the hotter the battle got the more he would flutter his large wings and let out shrill screams that could be heard above the sound of battle.  His courage gave the men great inspiration to fight even harder, sometimes against overwhelming odds.

Confederate Generals, Price and VanDorn commanded their armies to take Old Abe dead or alive.  They knew if they could get him it would have a very demoralizing effect on the union armies.  Old Abe was kept up front by the flags at all times and had tons of bullets flying around him, yet he only lost some of his wing feathers.  I think the Lord must have preserved his life, especially when you consider that in the battle of Corinth the regiment lost fifty percent of its men.

When General Grant and other Union Generals would pass by Old Abe they would salute him, like he was President Lincoln and raise their hats to him.  At this the Wis. Regiment would let out loud cheers and Old Abe would spread his magnificent wings.  The generals along with all the other men loved it; it motivated them to keep going on, even on bad days.

After the war, Old Abe returned to Wis. and made many public appearances to raise money for veterans.  He was always the honored guest at such meetings.  On his last appearance in Milwaukee in 1880 he met his old friend General Grant.  The two old warriors had a great love and respect for each other.  In March of 1881 the famous war eagle died.  It is said that many veterans cried when they heard about his death.

If Old Abe would have been left in his nest when he was young, he would have had a normal life like other eagles.  But circumstances beyond his control totally changed his life.  So it is in life for many people, circumstances beyond our control change our lives radically.  I know that has certainly been true in my life.  I am so glad though to know the Lord.  The Bible says in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  Since I belong to Him and follow Him, He makes all things to work out for my good.  He will do it for you too, if you will give Him your life.  I must say it is the most exciting and rewarding life possible.  I’m sure Old Abe would agree with that.

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at:  lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com  Copyright © 2012 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

Catherine standing in front of Old Abe’s statue.

The Aerial Show

18 Oct

One of the jobs that I really enjoy doing on the farm here in the summer time is cutting hay. It is wonderful to get out in God’s beautiful creation. There’s always an exciting, beautiful aerial show to watch. It amazes me how our Creator made so many unique and beautiful birds. There are many different birds that are attracted to my hay fields.  Continue reading

Aside

Christmas Brings Hope Even In Difficult Days

11 Mar

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Christmas Brings Hope Even In Difficult Days

                Christmas is the most wonderful season of the year, a season full of love, hope, and giving. A season that blesses us all. Or at least it should be that way, but unfortunately it isn’t always. Sometimes it can be a very difficult season.

I had a very challenging Christmas back in 1992. Joanne was expecting, and this pregnancy was not going well for her. As a result, I was doing almost all the farm work here. On Dec. 13, early in the morning, Joanne went into labor and had to be flown by helicopter to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital where she delivered our son Joshua. He was born weighing only one pound ten ounces. The doctors gave him little chance of living, and they said if he did, he would probably have serious problems the rest of his life.

It didn’t look good at all, actually it looked very hopeless in the natural, but with God there is always hope. Joanne and I had been praying for months for Joshua already, so when this happened we just kept on praying. Don’t limit God: God can do anything. God loves to do the impossible for praying people.

With Joanne in the hospital with our new-born son, I was alone here on the farm. I talked to Joanne late every night on the phone. The question came up, “What do we do for Christmas this year?” After talking it over, we decided we would celebrate it as much as was possible like normal. We decided though that this year, I would have to get the Christmas tree from our big woods by myself.

Since I was going from early morning till way late at night just doing all the chores on the farm here, I came up with an idea to save me a lot of time in getting our Christmas tree. I was spreading manure from the barn every day on my cornfield down by the big woods. Earlier that fall, I had noticed a beautiful nine foot tall pine tree right on the edge of the woods there. So a couple days later, I took my hand saw with me, and once I had the manure spread I stopped and cut the tree down. I had my 560 Farmall tractor that does not have a cab on it, on the spreader. I got back onto the tractor and decided to drive with my left hand and hold my Christmas tree by the butt upright with my right hand. I guess I was quite a sight driving my tractor through the fields and then up the township road with my Christmas tree towering over me and the tractor! It was extremely difficult hanging onto that tree when I was going up the township road in road-gear. By the time I got home with my tree, I had decided that I would never bring another Christmas tree home that way ever again.

Next, I got the tree into the house and trimmed down to the right size, then I set it up in our living room. Then, I got to do something I had never done before in all my life: I got to decorate it. And I enjoyed it. By the time I got it done, it looked pretty nice.

There was something special about that Christmas tree all decorated and lit up in our living room. It was like it was full of hope and life because by it we were once again going to celebrate the birth of a baby boy born many years ago. That baby boy was Jesus, and His parents were going through some very difficult days too. Joseph couldn’t even get a room for his wife, Mary, to have her baby in. The best he could do for her was a stable with some livestock in it. Then a short while later, they had to leave in the middle of the night and flee to Egypt because King Herod was committed to killing their son. They had very difficult days, but I believe what the angel said to Mary really helped to see them through. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37. Joanne and I fully believed that the same God who saw them through would see us through also.

So that Christmas, Joanne, Catherine and I celebrated the birth of our Lord and Saviour around our special Christmas tree. And what a joy it was as we trusted Him to see us through our difficult days. Little did we know what lay just ahead in the next couple weeks.

In early January, Catherine started to cock her head side-ways a lot. So we took her in to see the doctor, and to make a long story short, we ended up taking her over to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital to have open-heart surgery. Without it they said she wouldn’t live much longer. So now Joshua and Catherine were both patients at that hospital, and Joanne was staying there with both of them. I was once again on the farm here by myself. But I really wasn’t by myself, I had Jesus, the one whose birthday we had just celebrated a couple weeks before.

And yes, Joanne and I kept walking in faith, hope and love believing God to see us through. He saw Mary and Joseph through, so why shouldn’t He see us through our difficult days too? And He did. Catherine came through her open-heart surgery well and has grown into a beautiful, young woman. And Joshua is a very strong, hard-working young man today. What can I say, “For with God nothing is impossible.”

God is still in the business of seeing people through difficult days and situations. He gives hope when in the natural things look bleak. I’ve found out that sometimes in the darkest days, His light shines the brightest. Because of Christmas we have an eternal hope no matter what dark days we go through here.

Your Kids Will Remember

8 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Your Kids Will Remember

This past summer I went out early one morning to crimp the hay in my upper hay field next to my cow pasture. It was a beautiful morning with the sun rising in the east and a gorgeous blue sky. I always like to pray and fellowship with my Lord at this time. The birds were active, chirping and singing out praises to their Creator. The barn swallows were swooping down close to my hay field to catch bugs and insects, then climbing back up in altitude before making another dive. They are very entertaining to watch – better than TV most of the time!

I will go out and cut hay one day; and then early on the morning of the second day, I will go out and crimp it. What is “crimping,” you ask? The hay when I cut it on the first day is green, full of moisture and heavy. I usually cut it so that I leave about four inches of stubble. The fresh-cut hay lies on top of the stubble, which is good, so that the air can move through it and help to dry it, along with the sunshine. After cutting it on the first day, as it starts to dry, that force called “gravity” starts to pull it down into the stubble. By the second day, it’s really down in the stubble so that the air hardly moves through it any more to dry it. This is where the hay crimper comes in. This machine, which I hook behind my tractor, has two rolls in it about six feet long. As I drive down the swath of hay, the crimper picks the hay up out of the stubble, gently crushing the stems of hay between the rolls, which helps it dry even more, and then gently lays it back on top of the stubble to finish drying. It makes a world of difference.

Then the next day I can go out, rake it up, and bale it for our cattle. We get extremely high quality hay for our cattle this way. If we don’t crimp our hay, it won’t dry near as well. We would end up with moldy hay, which the cattle don’t like, and which is somewhat toxic to them. On rare occasions I have seen farmers put up really tough hay that in time started on fire and ended up burning their barns down. Needless to say, I’m a firm believer in crimping hay.

On this particular morning, I had the whole field crimped, except the one last swath of hay, when it happened. I heard a bang and looked back to see that the drive shaft on the crimper had busted. It not only busted, but it got ripped up really bad. I picked up some parts and headed for home. I was thankful that I basically had the whole field crimped, but very disappointed over my machine. When I got home I told my family I thought it was probably the end of the line for the crimper. My hay crimper is really old – about 50 years old. They quit making them about 45 years ago. I do have a hay tedder, which is much newer, and it basically does the same job, but it just doesn’t do as good of a job. Sometimes the old stuff is the best.

My son, Joshua, was greatly disappointed that it might be “curtains” for our old hay crimper. He kept on me over the next couple of weeks asking me if there wasn’t some way we could fix it up. I told him I didn’t know – we would have to see. So we made it a matter of prayer. Well, we finished haying, and I started to check into getting it fixed. As I said before, the drive line had gotten busted up really bad and needed a number of parts to fix it. I went to the implement dealership and they were able to pull the machine up on their computer. The computer told us there were no longer any parts available for it and that the company had listed the machine as “obsolete.” It wasn’t looking good for our crimper, but my kids kept saying, “Isn’t there some way we can fix it, Dad?”

Well, we found a couple old crimpers that had been retired, but they were different brands and the parts just would not interchange. My kids still didn’t want to give up on it, so after quite a number of phone calls, we came up with a possible solution. We special-ordered some parts in through a machinery parts house and then had to take them to a blacksmith shop and get them machined just right. Also I was able to get one old part off of a junked-out crimper that my brother, Paul, had. Then it came time to put it together.

It didn’t go too good, with old shields, bolts, bearings, and different parts from many different sources. But after many days and hours of work on it with my kids, we got it all together and working excellently, as good as new. Our kids, along with their parents, were greatly elated over it.

Afterwards when I was talking to my friend, Jeff, telling him the whole story, he made a comment which really surprised me. He said, “The biggest thing is, your kids will remember how you worked with them and had all the fun of fixing that machine up every time they see that machine in the years to come.” I replied, “I never thought about that, but I guess you’re probably right.” And right he is! My kids, along with myself, will remember it for years to come and take great satisfaction in it. We also will remember that God answers our prayers.

There’s real satisfaction in a difficult, challenging job well done. So, parents, do challenging things with your kids. It will be good for all of you. You will all learn from it and your kids will remember it for years to come. We are very glad we got our old hay crimper fixed, and so are our cattle. They like high-quality delicious hay to eat.

 

My Shop Foreman

1 Jan

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

My Shop Foreman

                My wife, Joanne, is like a lot of women: she likes to go to thrift sales. As she tells me, “Sometimes you can get some really good deals there.” Sometimes some of the things she brings home make me raise my eyebrows, wondering if she got a really good deal or if the seller got the best end of the deal in selling them to my wife!

Many years ago, when Joanne went into town on some errands, she happened to go by a place that was having a thrift sale. Since she had the time, she just had to stop and check it out. She got a few things there that day really cheap. At the time, I had no idea that one of those things would so change our lives!

What was that thing you ask? A stuffed polar bear, teddy bear, that stood about 15 inches tall that was real white except for the ends of his four paws and the insides of his ears. They were all bright red. When our young son, Joshua, saw him, he fell for him right away. So we gave it to him and he named him Beddy Bear. I’m not sure where he came up with that name, but that’s what he named him, and he’s been his favorite stuffed animal all these years.

So how did Beddy Bear so change our lives you ask? Well, it’s kind of my fault. Shortly after we got him, I got working on a project in my shop one day with Joshua, but then I had to go and do some other farm work. I thought Joshua could maybe finish up that part of the project without me, but I wasn’t sure. So to really motivate him, I told him if he and Beddy Bear could finish it up, I would make Beddy Bear Shop Foreman. Joshua’s eyes got really big and he said, “Really?” To which I replied, “Yes.”

Well, he went at it with all his heart and got it done, doing a good job. So now all of a sudden, I had a shop foreman named Beddy Bear. Every day when I would open the shop up, Beddy Bear would get right out there, he certainly didn’t want to get fired. And every day, we would all have big smiles on our faces having Beddy Bear out there. Normally, when I would pull up to the shop with a tractor, Beddy Bear would get into the tractor’s seat to supervise us.

Many times we will get to working in the shop in the afternoon on a piece of equipment or something else, and won’t get it done until we’re a half-hour to hour late for supper. It’s so nice to get a job done though, and not put it off for another day. So when we come in late for supper, which is quite often, I just tell Joanne, “That highly-productive shop foreman that we have wouldn’t let us quit until we had the job done.” With that we all smile and she replies that she knows.

After a little while, Beddy Bear’s super white coat started to get a little dirty from being in the shop so much. So it was Joanne to the rescue: at another thrift sale (wouldn’t you know it), she found a child’s small red t-shirt and a small pair of bib overalls for him. With a little work, she got them to fit him just fine. So now, every once in a while, she does his laundry with ours!

It didn’t take us long to realize that the bright red on his paws and ears was a bad case of, ‘Red Tractor Fever’. Since we run the red International tractors here, what else could it be? I would tease Joshua that I should take Beddy Bear into town to the vet so he could give him a shot to help him get over his Red Tractor Fever. But Joshua would protest loudly, “NO, he likes his Red Tractor Fever.” And we would all smile and laugh.

Beddy Bear didn’t always want to sit in the shop though, especially when there was field work to be done. Joshua would always try to get me to take Beddy Bear to the field with me. I would protest saying, “What will the neighbors think if they see me out there with a polar bear? Or what will an animal rights group do if they see a polar bear on my tractor?” With that he would reply, “What difference does it make? Beddy Bear wants to go.” With that we would all smile and laugh. It was easy to take him: all I had to do was tie him with a twine string to the slow moving vehicle sign that was on the tractor’s fender. Then he could ride along all day long with a big smile on his face, keeping me company.

He did have a couple close calls on the tractors over the years though. One time I went out cutting hay and after a while I noticed he wasn’t on the fender. I looked all around and saw him hanging by his britches from the tractor’s three point arm just above the PTO. I quickly retrieved him and was thankful he was all in one piece yet. Another time, he got a hot spark from the tractor’s muffler that burned a small black spot into his white coat. I was sure relieved, that it didn’t burn him all up. I tell Joshua that it probably isn’t the best thing for Beddy Bear to go on the tractors with me, but he just smiles and says, “Beddy Bear wants to go.” And with that we laugh and he goes for another tractor ride, helping me drive the tractor.

Since Beddy Bear is my shop foreman, he has a lot of say in my shop. Joshua tells me that he doesn’t like poor quality tools made in China. In my early years of farming here, I bought some of them because I couldn’t afford the American made ones. I’ve come to regret it too. They just don’t stand up. So, when I get these tool salesmen calling me on the phone trying to sell me their cheap China made tools, I just tell them, “No.” They usually won’t quit there though, so then I tell them that my shop foreman won’t like it at all if I get those tools, because he wants quality tools. I go on to tell them that I have an excellent shop foreman and I can’t afford to lose him. With that we say, “Good-bye” and hang up the phone. My family is all grinning and laughing as they hear our conversation. Needless to say, I’m glad that the salesmen have never asked to talk to my shop foreman!

As you can see by now, we have a lot of fun in our work here. The Bible is so correct when it says, “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” We as parents have the choice as to what kind of life we will have in our homes. The choice truly is ours. I can’t urge you strongly enough to choose a godly, Bible-based life for yourself and your family, if you do, you will be blessed beyond measure. I know, I am, I even have a polar bear for a shop foreman. Furthermore, I have the most wonderful family in the world.

 

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Tom with Beddy Bear.

Not What I Want, But What He Wants

21 Oct

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Not What I Want, But What He Wants

                We had a way-old Farmall tractor that we used for years on the farm here to do a lot of light work. My son, Joshua, ran it a fair bit and actually owned half of it. Over the last few years though, we started to have a lot of problems with it. We liked the tractor and so we tried to get it fixed. We took it to an experienced mechanic several different times to get it fixed, and yes, he would get it running decent for a little while, and then it would quit again. It really gets frustrating having it quit in the middle of the day when we’re using it to put up crops.

So the decision was made by all of us that we should start to look for a different used tractor. Now in the past when we went tractor shopping, I would normally decide what model I wanted to buy. So this time, I was thinking of a couple different model numbers we should be looking for. To my surprise though, Joshua told us that he was interested in a 656 Farmall. That was not what I was expecting at all. I had absolutely no experience with that model tractor. So we talked it over. It turns out that he has a friend who has one and he really likes it.

So now I have an unexpected decision to make: what model tractor do I pursue? I thought and prayed about it for several days and decided to go for the one he wanted. Joshua had already let me know that he wanted to buy half interest in the next tractor that we got. I know he would have gone along with any tractor I bought, but down in my heart I wanted to please him. He works very hard on the farm here, and I knew that whatever tractor we got, he would be running it a lot. So I wanted to bless him. So I said to Joanne, “Not what I want, but what he wants.”

So in February, we started looking for 656 tractors for sale. To our surprise, we couldn’t find any in our area for sale. So I started looking in newspapers and on the computer for them. I wasn’t having too much success, although I did find a couple in Minn. and a few down in Iowa. I told Joshua about it, and to my astonishment, he instantly grabs a tractor magazine that he gets with a really nice looking 656 in it for sale at a decent price down in Iowa!

I didn’t want to run way down to Iowa to look at a tractor, and what happens if the tractor isn’t very good and I come home empty? It’s one thing to drive a few miles and look at a tractor, and turn around and come home without it. I’ve done that a lot of times in the past. But to drive 224 miles down to Iowa and then turn around and come all the way back home is a lot.

Well, I wasn’t finding a tractor close by, and I really wanted to please my son, so I called the owner of the tractor up that my son had found and asked him a lot of questions about it. From the answers he gave me, it sounded like a very good tractor. I also called on a couple other tractors in the area down there in case this one fell through. Then I called a friend of mine up that does a lot of trucking to see if he would be able to haul it home for me. Eric was more than willing to do it.

We got up way early one morning and started the barn chores, and then I left with Eric while it was still dark. It turned out to be a bright sunny day, and we arrived at the tractor place shortly before noon. I checked the tractor over good and ran it some. There were some small issues with it, but buying a tractor that old, I kind of expected that. I bought the tractor and we headed home with it.

My whole family was anxiously waiting for us to get home to see if we had a tractor with us or not. Well, they weren’t disappointed; they were all smiles when they saw it.

We went to work getting it fixed up and modifying it some so that it would work well on our farm. And it has worked very well for us over the last several months. Having never run a 656, I was pleasantly surprised how nice a tractor it was. Matter-of-fact, it’s my favorite tractor to use for baling hay and Joshua greatly enjoys unloading chopper boxes with it.

But, there’s a greater blessing in this than what I realized: that’s the joy of giving my son what he wanted, and seeing him so happy with it. God is the same way; He loves to bless His children with good things. We need to seek Him and ask Him for the things we need, and then let Him abundantly bless us with those things. And then of course, we need to thank Him for those things. We’re all thankful here for the 656, and Joshua has thanked me a number of times for it with a big smile on his face. What more could I ask for?cimg0943

Joshua with his tractor.

Doing What’s Right – Even if it Costs

28 Jul

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Doing What’s Right – Even if it Costs

                We bought our farm in 1991, and I learned very quickly that it was impossible to get my crops planted early in the spring. It was usually late May before I could work the land and plant my seed. The problem was I had so many wet spots in my fields that wouldn’t dry out till then. By planting that late, it really cut into my crop yields. Back then, I was way in debt and couldn’t do anything about it though.

Then, 1993 came along, the year of rain, rain and more rain that caused so much flooding throughout the Midwest. I did get our crops planted, which was remarkable, but there were plenty of ruts left in my fields to show for it!

I figured my haying would go better, after all, I wasn’t pulling heavy tillage equipment through the ground. I was just cutting and harvesting the hay off of the land. Think again! I had a small, light Farmall 560 tractor pulling a nine-foot-wide haybine. And it sunk in nearly up to its rear axles. Then I did the only thing I knew to do: I called up my neighbor, Howard Sr., and asked him to come down and pull me out. He was more than happy to give me a helping hand, and brought down his International 1466 with dual tires on it and pulled me out.

Well, with all the rain, we had a tremendous crop of hay. Somehow, between all the rain and mud, we got our hay made that summer. We were so blessed to have such a large crop of hay put up to feed our dairy cattle over the winter.

Our corn crop was a totally different story though. I had planted our corn mostly on our low ground and it looked terrible. It was way short with real small ears on it. By leaving a lot of ruts in my fields, I managed to get it chopped off and into the silo. It filled my silo only a good half full. In a normal year, I could have filled it full and had a fair bit to combine. So now I was forced to buy all the grain that I needed to feed my cows for the next twelve months.

During all this time, I kept looking over at my neighbor’s crops. They were doing real well, and he wasn’t getting stuck in his fields either. I did a lot of thinking that winter and said to Joanne, “I think we should look into putting drain tile into the upper corner of our farm here. If we would have had it in this last growing season, it would’ve made a huge difference in our corn crop, and would have helped our hay out a lot too.” She was open to it, but questioned whether we could afford it.

I called up a man that installs drain tile for a living and had him come and look it over. He readily agreed with me that drain tiling that part of the farm would make a large difference in our cropping operation. He then gave me a price quote on it, and it nearly floored me. It would cost over $5,000. We were making so many payments on so many loans at that time, that there was no way that we could afford it, and I told him so.

I could see he was deep in thought as he went to his truck and drove up the road to my neighbor’s place. Little did I know what he was up to! He went to my neighbors to ask them one question: “Was I good for my word and my money?” They said, “Yes.” Then he came back down to my place and told me what he had just done. To say I was surprised, would be an understatement! He then told me he would install the tile early in the spring, and that I could make monthly payments to him till I had him paid in full. The Bible is most certainly correct when it says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1.

Joanne and I talked it over and agreed to it. Early in the spring he showed up with his equipment and went to work. As soon as he had the tile installed, the water started to pour out of it. We got our crops planted the earliest ever that spring, and got the most beautiful crops off of that part of the farm that we ever had by far.

The next spring I was out there in the field working ground when an older man in a pickup stopped by the edge of my field and walked out to me. He introduced himself as Richard, and explained that he farmed the land way over on the other side of the freeway from me. He commented how nice my fields were looking, and I told him what a difference the drain tile had made. He agreed and said it had made a mess for him in one of his fields. It turned out that the water coming out of my tile line was going through a long culvert under the freeway and coming out into one of his fields. That field of his had been wet to farm already, but now it was much worse.

I told him I was sorry and that I had no intentions of causing him any harm. Richard replied, “Well we have a problem now.” I said, “What do you suggest we do about it?” His response was to run a tile line from the edge of the field were the water was coming in at, over to the creek. He went on to say that since it would really benefit and improve his field he would pay for half of it and he wanted me to pay for the other half. Richard figured my half would come to $1,000.

I swallowed hard, a thousand dollars was a lot of money for us. But, I said yes to it because I could see that what I had done was hurting him. The Bible clearly teaches us that we are to bless our fellow man, not hurt him. And if we do accidently hurt him, we are to make it right the best we can. So to say, “Yes” was not a hard decision to make.

Richard called up the drain tile man and told him that I was going to pay for half of it. Then a very upset drain tile man called me up. He told me that I had no business paying for half of it. State law says that once the water leaves my property, I have no responsibility over it anymore. He said in a court of law the judge would favor me. In other similar cases the judge always had favored the landowner upstream. I told him that I didn’t care about that. What mattered was that I had hurt Richard and that it was only right for me to make amends for it. That would be pleasing to God, and to Richard, and to myself. Well, he didn’t see it that way and hung up very upset.

Richard got the tile line put in and sent me a bill for over $1,200 which was a fair bit more than he had estimated. I paid it and was thankful to have the mess I created straightened out. Even though the law may have been on my side, and I wouldn’t have had to pay a penny, it wouldn’t have been right. It is always best to do what is right in God’s eyes. When we do, we are always blessed and there are no regrets with it.

Dixie – A Very Special Cow

15 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Dixie – A Very Special Cow

                Sometimes in life there is a person or animal that always brings a smile to your face when you cross paths with them.  I have one cow here that always does that for me.  Her name is Dixie and she is one very unique individual.

When she was born a few years ago, she was a very small calf and totally black.  From day one, she was always a very friendly, cute calf.  As she grew, she stayed that way.  It didn’t matter if Dixie was on the barnyard or out in the pasture, she would always want to come up to us and nose us and want to be petted.

Dixie learned fast that besides getting petted there were also other benefits to being such a pet.  One thing I would do every once in a while would be to slip her an apple.  She really likes apples and will munch one down in a few seconds.  Since we have several apple trees on our farm it’s easy to sneak her one quite often in the fall of the year.  She thinks it’s absolutely wonderful when we do this for her.

I had a problem arise here a couple years ago though, when we were publishing our book, the publisher wanted a nice picture of me on our farm for the cover of the book.  Well, I thought right away that I should have one of my cows or heifers in the picture.  It would have to be one that would pose well with me, and I wanted it out in the pasture in God’s beautiful country.  I knew that it would have to be Dixie.

The publisher told us that he wanted us to take a lot of pictures for him, because he’s really picky when it comes to choosing the right picture for a book cover.  Now I had two problems, one was that Dixie would only cooperate naturally for a few pictures before she would just walk away.  Now I knew if I had apples I could keep her there for a fair number of pictures, but it wasn’t apple season.

So we talked it over as a family and decided we needed to find something else that Dixie would really like that would keep her attention for a lot of pictures.  We tried a number of things and finally hit the jackpot with her: black licorice jelly beans!  She absolutely loves them.  The amazing thing is that I’ve given them to other cows, and they will take them into their mouths for a few seconds and then will always spit them out.  But Dixie will never spit one out; she just wants more and more of them.

As a result, we got about 100 pictures of the two of us for the publisher, which made him very happy.  But now I have to keep buying black jelly beans for Dixie!  Every day when I come into the barn she eyes me up with her big brown eyes and her ears perked all up to see if I remembered her favorite treat.  And if I have one for her, her tongue will come way out to take it right out of my fingers.  To get those black jelly beans is the highlight of her day.

Dixie is one of the smallest cows in my barn, but a very special one.  Sometimes a cow will surprise us, and she really surprised us here a couple weeks ago.  She was due to give birth, we were expecting one calf, but Dixie decided she had to reward me for all those black jelly beans, and she gave us twin heifer calves!  We were absolutely amazed.  So afterwards, to let her know that she had done an exceptional job, I petted and rewarded her with four black jelly beans.

                Since Dixie is one of the smallest cows in my barn, she’s also one of the lower producing cows.  But, she’s special and she does well for her size.  So it is in God’s eyes, we are all very unique and special and greatly loved by Him, even if we’re not big name people.  For those of us who know and follow God, He promises that surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.  And what’s more is that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

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                                               Tom with Dixie.

Grandma Faced Reality

12 Mar

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Grandma Faced Reality

                My grandmother, Ottilie Heck, was born in 1902 on her parents’ farm in Pepin County Wisconsin.  Her parents, Wilhelm and Margaretha Roetter, were actually both born in Germany and attended church there.  They met and got married in Pepin County and farmed there for many years.  They had several children which they faithfully took to church and school just a half mile down the road from their home.  So following their religious traditions, shortly after my grandmother was born, they took her to the little country church and had her baptized.  The pastor assuring them that she was now a Christian and going to Heaven.

Grandma, along with her brothers and sisters worked very hard on their parents’ farm.  But there was also time for fun and play.  One of the things they enjoyed doing was going fishing in the little creek that ran through their farm.  Grandma said they would catch beautiful native trout out of it that were the best tasting fish that she had ever eaten.

The children all attended country school when they weren’t needed on the farm.  And the family always attended church whenever possible.   Grandma was eventually confirmed in that church, and then several years later got married to my grandfather, Paul Heck, in that same church.

They bought a small farm a mile up the valley from that church, and thus attended that church for many years until it eventually closed its doors and merged with a larger one in town.  They worked very hard on that new farm to make it go.  Grandma shared with me, years later, how she would take the team of horses out to the field with a one bottom walking plow, and plow all afternoon with them while Grandpa was busy doing other work.  My grandparents didn’t lack ambition or strength when it came to work.

They were blessed with four sons, all of whom they took to church and had baptized as infants, the pastor assuring them that they were also now Christians.  After farming there for many years and really building the farm up, they turned it over to their youngest son, Leroy, and moved into town.

But even then they didn’t retire, they slowed up a bit, but they certainly didn’t retire.  Grandpa in the spring, summer and fall would always be going out to his sons’ farms to help them.  In the wintertime he would work in his basement making beautiful things out of wood for his fourteen grandchildren.  Grandma kept house of course, but she also made quilts, afghans and other things for her fourteen grandchildren.  We grandchildren were blessed with many wonderful gifts from them over the years at Christmastime.

Another thing that I must say about my grandparents is that their door was always open.  I could stop in and talk to them anytime, or in the evening after chores were all done, stop in and play a game of cards.  I was very blessed in that I got to know them very well.

But one thing really upset my grandmother: that was when I repented of my sins and asked Jesus to forgive me, and to be my total Lord and Saviour. There was a total change in my life and everyone that knew me could see it.  Grandma was glad over the wonderful change in my life, but upset that it went against her religion.  Every time I would see her, she would start in on me over what her church taught, or over what this or that pastor had said years ago. It didn’t matter if it was Christmastime or a birthday party, or whatever, she would lay into me with all the relatives present.  I loved and respected her greatly, all I could do was tell her what Jesus had done in my life and what the Bible said to all the things she brought up – especially infant water baptism and salvation.

Grandma was getting well up in years and starting to battle cancer.  On a number of occasions, unknown to me at the time, her pastor stopped to see her.  She would always bring up her sinful past and tell him that she didn’t think she was going to make it to heaven.  He would always try to reassure her that she had been saved in infant water baptism, and that her sins were all washed away.

The time came when Grandma was real close to death.  The doctors told her that she had only a few days left to live, unless she had surgery.  With surgery they figured she could spend a week in the hospital and then go home for about five weeks and die there.  Grandma was in a lot of pain and suffering, but she chose the latter because she was terrified of dying.  Although she didn’t let anyone know it except her pastor.

A couple days later after her surgery, it was Sunday.  I did the normal farm chores and headed out to church.  But something strange happened on the way to church: the closer I got to church, the more impressed I felt not to go to church, but rather go and see my grandmother in the hospital.

I got there and had to wait outside her room for over a half hour as the nurses changed a bunch of her bandages.  I could hear her just groaning in pain as they did it.  I thought, “Boy, did I ever miss it in coming here instead of going to church.”  But I was wrong!

Once the nurses got done, they told me I could go in and see her.  As soon as I stepped into her room her face lit up and she said, “Tom, I’ve been chewing you apart for five years, but you got something that none of the other Hecks have and I want it!”  I must admit I was surprised, even though I had been praying for her.  And there on that Sunday morning I opened my Bible up and led my precious grandmother to the Lord.  Her face lit up with great joy and the tears just ran down her face.  It was the first time I had ever seen her cry in my life.

When I left her room that day, she made me promise her that I would tell the rest of the family what happened to her that day.  I told her that she could tell them, but she insisted that I do it because she knew her time was very short.  And she was right.  Three days later, this woman who had been so terrified of dying, died in perfect peace and entered the gates of Heaven.

I’m so grateful that Grandma faced reality; she realized her infant water baptism, church attendance and all her good works wouldn’t get her into Heaven.  She also realized what her pastors had told her was wrong.  On that day, when she repented of her sins and accepted Jesus as her Saviour and Lord, she passed from death to life, from Hell to Heaven.  The Bible calls it being, “Born again.”  And for good reason, it’s a totally new life.  The Bible says it well in 2 Cor. 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

I’m so glad that I also faced reality years ago.  For I, too, was a sinner on the road to Hell, but I cried out with all my heart and Jesus saved me.  And I know He’s waiting to do the same for you.  I can’t urge you strongly enough to come to Christ today; it doesn’t matter how good or how bad a life you’ve lived, only Jesus can save you.  And He’s waiting for you to come.

A New Door

5 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A New Door

                I have seen over the years how God oftentimes answers prayer in totally unexpected ways.  And then, I don’t realize He’s doing it until it’s done.  What an amazing God we serve.  Such is what has happened here in the last couple of years.

It was nearly three years ago that I went before our cooperative creamery board and addressed them on their decision to start to sell alcohol along with their cheese to increase profits.  I told them how alcohol contributes to so many broken lives, families and marriages.  I also told them how drunk driving causes so many accidents on our roadways, hurting and killing so many people.  The board shrugged off my comments saying, “We have liability insurance so we’re protected.”  I was shocked at their response.

As Christians, we love our fellow man and want to bless him, and not hurt him in any way.  On our dairy farm here, we seek to produce high quality milk that will be processed into high quality dairy products that consumers will buy and put on their tables to bless their families.  It has bothered us greatly that our creamery was processing our milk into cheese and selling it alongside the alcohol.  So we have prayed very much about this situation.

And then this last November, something totally unexpected happened.  The vice-president of one of the largest butter and cheese manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin had read a bunch of my writings and invited us for a personal tour of his facilities.  Needless to say, we jumped at his invitation.  So, on a cold November day, he led us through his butter and cheese manufacturing facilities.

To say we were impressed by him and his manufacturing facilities would be an understatement.  We were amazed!  All of the technology and equipment used to process and package the butter, cheese and other by-products was incredible.  But, that isn’t all of it.  We were greatly impressed with all the workers throughout the facilities also.  The combination of excellent workers, with high quality milk and outstanding production facilities leads to superior dairy products.

When we left that day, we thanked the vice-president for a once-in-a-lifetime tour.  We will remember it the rest of our lives.  On the way home, we talked a lot about what we had all seen that day.  And each one of us was wondering down inside if we should be shipping our milk there.

So after talking and praying about it as a family over the last several weeks, we have decided to leave our old creamery and sell our milk to this one instead.  This one does not sell alcohol and actually pays a premium price for high quality milk.  They really want high quality milk because they strive to produce outstanding dairy products.

                As of January 1st our milk is going to this new creamery.  We here are all excited about it.  We know this is an answer to prayer.  The main motive in our lives is not making money; it’s serving God.  We count it a privilege to serve God in farming here, and to produce high quality food that blesses people.

It Was Absolutely Wonderful

7 Jan

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

It Was Absolutely Wonderful

                We had some very special friends in this last summer for a picnic.  They had all traveled from a long ways; some had even come from foreign countries.  Since none of them were dairy farmers, we knew having them to our farm here would make for a very interesting day.  They were surprised at many things on our farm here, but in the end the biggest surprise was on us!

They marveled at all the machinery and equipment that it takes to dairy farm here in Wisconsin.  They had hundreds of questions to ask about the machinery here: what each piece was used for and how it worked exactly.  After answering their questions the best I could on that, then they had a lot of questions on the crops we grow to feed our cattle.  I took them out into one of our hayfields that had alfalfa and orchard grass growing in it.  They found this extremely interesting.  They had never seen this before, which surprised me.  They asked me if I was familiar with some certain forage crops that were grown in their country that looked somewhat similar to my hay crop here.  They named them off and I had to admit that I had never ever heard of those grasses and forage crops in my life.  This was proving to be very interesting and educational to all of us!

After this, it was off to see the cattle.  They really admired them and wanted to know all about them.  How we take care of them, how we feed them and how we milk them.  They were also amazed when Bronson came with his large milk truck to pick up our milk.  They watched him get our milk.  I could see he was real uneasy about it, especially since a number of our guests were talking in their native languages!  It isn’t everyday that our milk hauler has this happen to him.

While we were doing all this though, a couple of our guests were sneaking around here with Catherine.  What were they up to you ask?  Well, they had found out that Joanne and I were about to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in two weeks.  So they had decided to surprise and bless us.

They put up a bunch of wedding decorations in front of our house and then just before we were to sit down for our picnic dinner they blindfolded Joanne and myself and led us out in front of our house.  When they took our blindfolds off, we were absolutely shocked!  We never expected anything like this at all.  There on a card table was a beautiful wedding cake.  Next to it stood Catherine with the veil Joanne had worn 25 years before.  Mark, one of our guests that pastors churches in Paris, France, picked up his book to remarry us all over again.  But, Joanne with tears in her eyes had to stop him and run and get our vows from 25 years before.  And then we got married all over again. After that we had our picnic dinner and some wonderful fellowship.  It was the most wonderful day of the whole year for us.

Yes, it’s absolutely wonderful to be married to Joanne, the bride God chose for me.  I have never regretted marrying her.  I love her with all my heart and count it a privilege to go through life with her everyday serving God.  It truly is the most wonderful life possible.

It’s wonderful how God made marriage a holy and sacred covenant only to be entered into between a man and woman.  The Holy Scriptures clearly say in Mark 10:6-7, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife.”  When we follow God’s ways, then we live the most blessed lives possible.  If we go against God’s ways then it brings heartache and misery.  And in the end certain judgment.

 

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   Joshua, Joanne, Tom and Catherine.

A Disappointing Surprise Under the Christmas Tree

10 Dec

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Disappointing Surprise Under the Christmas Tree

                For many years, we had a forage blower here that we used to blow chopped hay into our big silo.  Over the last several years, we had a lot of problems with it.  We finally decided it was time to get rid of it and get a new blower.  All four of us were in favor of that, especially Joshua, since he was the one who used it the most.

Joshua had already been looking at machinery advertisements and been reading up on the different blowers on the market.  He had his selection narrowed down to two different ones.  So with that, I got a lot more information on the two and priced them both out at local machinery dealerships.  Men from both dealerships came out to our farm last year in early December and looked at our old blower that we were trading in and gave us price quotes.  The one that we liked best turned out to be a little cheaper than the other one which really surprised us.  But, it’s O.K. to be surprised that way once in a while!  So we set our focus on getting that one.

I called that dealer up a few days later and told him I would take it for the agreed upon price. He said, “Sold.  We’ll deliver it in the spring.”  So we were all really happy here that we were getting what we believed to be the best forage blower on the market for a good price.

Now, in our family here, we love to give each other lots of good gifts under the Christmas tree.  So as the days go by in December, more and more gifts get put under the tree.  Since I had a blower bought, and Joshua was so looking forward to the new blower because of all the troubles he had had with the old one, I decided to put a picture of it into a box.  I put a note in with it telling him it was for him to use and then wrapped it up.  I knew this would really bless him.  Then over time, I put more gifts under the tree for him.  The pile of presents under the tree continued to grow.  Now a lot of the gifts under our tree don’t cost a lot, but it’s the love with them that counts!  We all love to give gifts and we all love to open them.

Everything was going fine, until a few days before Christmas, the dealer called me on the phone early one morning and said he couldn’t sell me the blower at that price!  I was shocked.  I said, “What? We had agreed on the price and you told me, ‘sold’.”  “Yes,” he said, “but I can’t keep that deal.  You see I can’t get that blower for the price I thought I could.  Somehow there’s been a mistake in the computer and it’s going to cost me more so I have to have $400 more from you.”  I was shocked that he wouldn’t keep his word and said, “Good-bye.”

To my amazement, a few hours later he drove into my yard with a bunch of invoice sheets.  He told me he thought he had better stop in and explain the situation to me.  With that he showed me on the papers that the blower was costing him $400 more than what he originally figured.  As I quickly glanced at his sheets I was absolutely amazed.  He told me originally that he was only making 2 to $300 over the invoice price.  Now as I looked at his sheets I saw that he was making well over $1,000 more.  I quickly pointed this out to him and his face turned color.  He realized in trying to justify himself he had made a big mistake in showing me his paperwork.  He said a few more words and said he had to have the extra money.  I sternly said, “Good-bye.”  With that, he left.

Now I could’ve paid the extra money, but I refused to do so.  The man had outright lied to me and he broke his word.  The Bible says a man ought to keep his word and not break it, even if it’s to his own hurt.  Needless to say, I haven’t done any business with him since, nor do I intend to in the future. For if a man will lie and break his word over a little bit of money, how can you trust him at all?

So now I was faced with a problem: in a Christmas present under the tree, I had a note to Joshua telling him that I had gotten a new blower for him to use this next year.  And I had no idea what present it was in!  So I couldn’t go under the tree and get rid of it.

Well, Christmas came and we opened our presents.  When Joshua opened the blower present he was surprised and super happy.  He had no idea that I was going to put that under the tree for him.  But then I had to tell him the whole story.  The expression on his face just fell!  I went on to tell him I was going to try and get that model blower from some other dealer.  I told him I couldn’t guarantee that I could get one, but that I would do my best.  Joshua understood and took it well.

It wasn’t long after that, that Joshua started looking for other dealers that carried that line of equipment.  He found one close by that I didn’t know even carried it.  I called him up and shortly thereafter he came to our farm.  He looked at our old blower and gave me a price quote for a new one.  Now was I ever in for a surprise.  He quoted me $850 less than what the other dealer originally quoted me!  I bought it right there on the spot.  And true to his word, when spring came he delivered us our new blower.  Joshua was all smiles, he got his big Christmas present after all, and I must say that the new blower worked excellently.  Since then he has thanked me a number of times for getting it and we are all thankful that we didn’t get it from a man that we couldn’t trust.

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Unloading haylage into our new blower.