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

Riding The Munitions Train

3 Dec

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

Riding The Munitions Train

                My dad, Earl Heck, was born and raised on a small farm in Wisconsin.  There, his parents taught him hard work and responsibility.  As a boy, things were hard, since the country was in the Great Depression.  The family worked very hard to put food on the table, put clothes on their backs, wood in the stove and to pay the bills.  But they were greatly blessed, since they lived in America, the land of freedom, a nation under God.

                WWII came and my dad was on the young side to go to war, however, as the war was getting close to being over, my dad got put on the short list of having to report at a moment’s notice.  Well, the war ended, and he didn’t have to report. 

                But, then came the Korean War, and he got drafted by the army.  He went through boot camp, and while there, the leadership found out that he was very good at mechanics.  So, after boot camp, they sent him to another camp for several weeks to teach him mechanics.  They put him in a group of men called the Engineering Maintenance Aviation Company (EMAC).  Once they got their time in there, they shipped them out to Korea. 

                And what can I say, if he would have landed on the moon, it wouldn’t have been as shocking as Korea.  What did he find there you ask?  A land totally bombed out.  So many people half starving to death.  So many people who only had a few rags for clothing.  And orphans by the thousands.  What he had growing up in the Great Depression was exceedingly great compared to what these people had.  He couldn’t even find one nice standing tree in the area where he was stationed.

                He was stationed at K 13.  That is Korea Airstrip number 13.  At that time it was the largest airstrip in the world, he said.  It was used 100% for our aircraft for fighting the war.  When the war was raging, the jet fighters would be taking off literally all day and all night. 

                It took a lot of earth-moving equipment to keep the airstrip up and running.  And equipment they had, acres and acres of it.  All left over from WWII in the Pacific.  When the Korean War broke out, our government gathered up all that left over equipment and moved it to Korea. 

                The job of the EMAC was to keep this equipment up and running so that they could continually keep the airstrip in excellent shape for the planes.  And they did this very well.  How?  By taking parts off of the acres and acres of junked out equipment left over from WWII. 

                But, they got a couple of other jobs once-in-a-while that they didn’t like.  When the fighting got really bad, the planes would fly around the clock.  So many of the planes then would come in shot up badly, and sometimes the pilots would too.  At these times the airplane mechanics couldn’t keep up with fixing the planes.  The orders were, “Get those planes back in the air as fast as possible.”  At those times they would pull the EMAC off of the earth-moving equipment and onto the planes. 

                Their orders: “Get those planes back in the air as fast as possible.”  So they would fix them up as fast as they could, so that they would fly.  They were not fixed as good as they should have been, but they got them so they would fly, and they hoped the pilots would make it back in them alive.  But, they had no choice; the men fighting on the ground at the front lines desperately needed them for support.  It was literally a matter of life and death for so many men.

                The other job the EMAC got sometimes was to ride guard on the munitions trains running up to the front lines to supply our troops with ammunition.  They would send the trains up in the black of night so they wouldn’t be easy for the enemy to spot and attack.  On the back of the railroad cars they would have a platform with a machine gun mounted on it.  They would put one or two men on each machine gun to protect the train. 

                Talk about being a moving target.  And if your car load of ammunition gets hit, it’ll blow sky high and you along with it.  Fortunately, the train never got attacked when my Dad was riding guard on it.  And it was cold in the wintertime riding those trains.  I remember my Dad saying a number of times that that was the coldest he ever got in his whole life. 

                My Dad was blessed; he came home from the war alive, in good health.  He farmed the rest of his life living to an old age.  Others came back wounded and hurt.  Many others didn’t make it back alive; they paid the ultimate price.  They paid the price to keep other people free. 

                We in our nation today, owe a great debt of gratitude to all of those who have served our country so well.  We should never take for granted the great blessings of liberty and freedom that we have in America.  They have been bought with a great price.  God has blessed us greatly, may we never forget this, and may we live our lives wisely.  We owe so much to so many.

Chasing The Big Black Bear

3 Dec

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

Chasing The Big, Black Bear

                Sometimes in life, and especially in farming, the most unusual things happen.  Things you would never dream of or predict, but they happen anyway. They have a way of making life much more interesting and to some degree, entertaining.

                Such is what happened here a while back.  It started out as a normal hay-making day.  We did our morning cattle chores and then Joanne and the kids went to town on some business.   I went out to rake my long upper marsh hayfield so I could bale it later in the day.  It was a hot, sunny day, without a cloud in the sky, perfect for baling dry hay for our cows to eat in the coming cold, snowy months ahead.  I had raked a few swaths around the outside of the field and was on the lower end of it, when the unexpected happened.  A great big, black bear came out of the woods into the swath of hay I was raking about thirty yards in front of my tractor.  He didn’t seem to know I was there, until I was just yards away from him with my tractor.

                Now, if I would’ve been out there on foot, I would have been scared of him, but on the tractor, I knew I was perfectly safe.  As I got close to him, he took off running down the swaths of hay in front of my tractor.  I knew if he kept running in that direction, when he got to the end of the field, he very well could cut across my other fields and end up in the small woods next to my building site where my dairy cattle are.  That would not be a good thing, because sometimes big bears kill cattle.  I knew my family was safe because they had gone to town, but I was concerned about my cattle. 

                So, I speeded my tractor up to almost full throttle, raking hay faster than I ever had before in my life.  I hoped by chasing him hard, he would go back into the big woods on my field’s edge.  But, it didn’t work that way.  He kept running in front of my tractor the full length of the field.  It was a hot day, and he was giving it his all to stay in front of my tractor.  We finally got to the end of the field and Mr. Bear turned and headed towards my building site.  He did exactly what I didn’t want him to do. 

                Well, I was at the end of my field, so I couldn’t chase him anymore.  As I watched him, he slowed down considerably as he crossed my other fields and entered the little woods by my buildings.  All that I could do then was pray to God, that He would keep our animals all safe from the bear.

                I kept raking my field for the next couple of hours, and was almost done when what do you expect happened?  Mr. Bear comes out of my little woods and heads back across my fields into my hayfield again.  This time though, he gets into the upper end of it when I’m up there raking heading to the lower end.  Again, he gets right in front of my tractor without realizing it, until I’m just yards away from him.  I wonder if the super hot day was affecting him some.  Well, he takes off running in front of my tractor for nearly the full length of the field.  And yes, I had my old tractor at nearly full throttle as I chased him the length of my field.  As we got close to the other end, he finally cut across the end of the field and went crashing into the woods.  He was all done in; he had had enough of being chased twice in one day by a tractor across the length of that field. 

                Well, what can I say?  I’ve never chased him across my field since, and I’ve never had him up here by my building site since either.  God answered my prayer that day and kept all our cattle safe in His care.  I think Mr. Bear learned that he didn’t want to get chased by that tractor and rake anymore.  At least I hope he did. 

                By chasing him with my tractor, I tried to guide him to where he should’ve gone.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way.  God does the same thing with us.  Through His Holy Spirit and circumstances, He tries to guide and direct our lives.  We are very wise when we are sensitive to Him and follow Him.  Otherwise, things will not go so well for us, and we will live to regret it.  I know that’s certainly been true in my own life at times. 

                As for Mr. Bear, once he got rested up, I’m sure he was alright, although, he might have had nightmares about being chased by a tractor and hay rake after that.

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

25 Jun

By:  Tom Heck

What A Way To Go

                There are many, many voices crying out in our world today telling us which way we should go.  These voices come from our schools, universities, governments, news sources as well as many other places.  Who are we to listen to?  Who’s right?  One thing is for sure, when we close our eyes in death, we will want to have lived our lives right, so that we can look forward to a blessed eternity with God.

                My great-grandfather, John P. Elbert, knew the right way and lived it all his life.  His Bible was his daily guide, and he walked in fellowship with God daily.  And what a legacy he left, especially on his dying day. 

                John Elbert was born in southern Wis. on Feb. 23rd, 1860.  Being born and raised on a farm; farming was his life’s work.  As a young man, he married Emilie Opperman, and together they raised seven children.  They had a godly home and taught their children to work on the farm alongside of them.  And work they had to, because as John got older he was very limited in what he could do.  You see, John was born with a bad heart condition.  As he got older and older his heart kept getting worse.  So Emilie and the children all pitched in to keep the farm going and to put food on the table. 

                But John never neglected his responsibilities as a husband and father.  He was a man of the Word and prayer.  In his later years he couldn’t do much farm work, but he spent a lot of time in prayer and the Word.  John was a man who heard from God.  His wife and seven children all testified to this.  There were times when John would tell his family that God told him of something that was going to happen in the future.  And it always happened exactly as he said.  When he told them something like that, they never doubted him.

                And so it was on the morning of May 16th, 1914.  John, having been bed ridden for some time already, waited for his family to get in the house for breakfast after milking the cows.  Once they got into the house, he called them around his bedside and told them, “The Lord told me that I’m going home to be with Him today.  I want you to eat breakfast, and go back out and finish up the chores you need to do.  Then this afternoon, I want you all to gather around me, and I want to speak to each of you individually and pray for you.”  They did exactly what he told them to do, with no doubts whatsoever about what he said.  They knew by the life he had lived that he was a real man of God.

                Afternoon came, and they all gathered around his bed.  He spoke to, prayed for, and blessed each of his family members.  When he was all done, he said, “I’m going home now.”  With that he shut his eyes and was gone.  What a blessed way to go!  What a legacy he left.

                As a young child, John came to Jesus and followed Him the rest of his life.  When it was time to step over into eternity, John was fully ready to do so.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6.  When you know Jesus as John did, then you’re ready to meet God face to face. 

                Some of us have lived a much more sinful life than what John did, I certainly did, but there’s room at the foot of the cross for all of us.  We must come there with godly sorrow and true repentance, and give ourselves fully to Jesus.  If we do, Jesus will take the heavy burden of sin that we carry, and we won’t have to carry it anymore.  Furthermore, we can walk with God daily in fellowship with Him.  I call it, ‘walking under an open heaven’.  It’s the most wonderful thing in all the world.  I know that for a fact.

Changing With The Times

6 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

Changing With The Times

                My grandfather, George A. Elbert, was born in 1888 on a small farm in Wisconsin.  Growing up and then as an adult he farmed most of his life using horses.  He was a very gentle and loving man and took excellent care of all his animals.  He had a fair number of horses that he used to do all the field work with.  He farmed that way for many years and enjoyed it. 

                And then World War II came and farmers were asked to produce all the food that they could to help win the war.  George, along with his family did all they could to help the war effort.  He realized during those years though, that if he had one or two tractors it would make farming so much easier, and he could produce a lot more milk and meat.  But with the war on, and everything going to the war effort, there weren’t any tractors to buy.

                Thank the Lord, the war finally came to an end, and many factories were converted over to producing agricultural equipment.  The equipment rolled out of the factories at an astounding rate, and that included tractors. 

                When the local implement shop got in a number of Farmall H’s on the railroad, it didn’t take George long to get into town and buy one.  He was in his late fifties by now, but his age wasn’t going to stop him from investing in this new thing.  He was willing to change with the times.

                It wasn’t long after this that the horses started going down the road.  With a number of empty horse stalls in the barn now, the next natural thing to do was to put dairy cows in them and produce more food. 

                Things continued to go well and a couple years later he was able to buy 80 acres of land next to his farm that he desperately needed for crops for his livestock.  And then Grandpa really stepped up big, he went back to the implement dealership and bought a big, brand new, Farmall M tractor. 

                After that, all the remaining horses went down the road.  The barn in time filled up with cows and calves, and farming became so much more productive and profitable.  Grandpa didn’t miss having to take care of the horses every day.  He so liked his two red tractors that he did so much work with.

                Grandpa was willing to learn and change with the times.  But one thing never changed for him, and that was his love, devotion and obedience to God.  Grandpa never questioned or doubted the Bible.  God’s word was final, never changing, for God never changes, He is the same yesterday, today and forever. 

                Unfortunately today many people, including politicians, judges and even many preachers think they can twist and change God’s Word to satisfy their own sinful selves.  These people will be in for a terrible shock when they stand before God someday at the Great Judgment. 

                In our world today there is so much change going on, and we must be willing to change with it when it is right to do so.  But we must never go against God and His ways, for that will led to death and destruction.  My grandfather knew this and was blessed in it.  We will be too if we follow his example.

I Don’t Want To Go To Bed

13 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

I Don’t Want To Go To Bed

                Christmas is a very special time of the year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Saviour of the world. It’s a time of fellowship and love, and the giving of gifts one to another. It’s also a time when children look excitedly at opening all the brightly wrapped presents under the Christmas tree.

I remember one Christmas in particular when we had sat down and read the beautiful account of Jesus’ birth out of Luke chapter two. If it wasn’t in the Bible it would be almost impossible to believe that God would come like He did to save us sinners. What Love!

Joanne prepared an exceptional Christmas dinner and we ate and ate. And as we ate, we fellowshipped around all that the Lord had done for us. It is so good to count our many blessings and name them one by one. Even when we have had hard or difficult times, it’s still amazing to look back and see how good God has been to us. Even this year with COVID-19 and all the unrest in this country and around the world, we have so much to be thankful for.

After the table was all cleared, and our wonderful cook, Joanne, was thanked for all the work and love she put into the special meal, we headed into the living room. There our Christmas tree, which we had cut earlier out of our own woods, was beautifully decorated with lots of presents underneath it.

Our young children’s eyes were all sparkling and they had big joyous smiles on their faces as they eagerly awaited opening the presents. Christmas is such a wonderful time of the year of giving and receiving gifts. And it seems children make it much more special. Well, our children received a number of gifts, of which some were new toys to play with, along with a number of new tools. Our children really liked to get new tools that they could use to help me fix things with on the farm here.

Well, after a while it was time to go out and do the evening chores: milking the cows, feeding the calves and giving the cows some fresh hay to munch on overnight. Then it was quickly into the house for the children to play with all their new toys and tools.

As it got way late, bedtime, something totally unexpected happened. Catherine started crying. We were startled and asked her what was wrong. Her reply, “I’m so tired, I just can’t stay awake, but I don’t want to go to bed, I just want to keep playing with all my new toys.” With that, we as parents had to smile and laugh. We told her it was bedtime and that tomorrow she could play with her toys a lot more. What a wonderful Christmas Day we had and it continued for many days after.

It’s sad that in this world today, so many people don’t know the real meaning of Christmas. To be politically correct it’s, “Happy Holidays”, or something else. But when you remove Jesus from Christmas, it’s very empty. That’s why there are so many suicides and so much depression after Christmas. And there’s so very little love in so many families today. But when you have Jesus you have love, joy and peace. Whether you have a Christmas tree with presents or not, if you have Jesus, you have everything. If you want to have a wonderful Christmas this year with all the unrest in the world, invite Jesus into your heart and home. He is what Christmas is all about. And you can go to bed Christmas Day night and every night thereafter with The Prince of Peace in your heart.

From our family to yours, have a blessed, Christ-filled Christmas.

It’ll Cost You

22 Jan

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By:  Tom Heck

It’ll Cost You

                It was the middle of the summer, and the day dawned bright and sunny.  A perfect hay-making day.  We were thankful since we had a large field of hay cut to chop into the silo that afternoon.  The weather forecasters were predicting heavy rain for the coming night, so we along with a lot of other farmers were anxious to get the hay off.

We were able to start chopping shortly after noon that day; I had chopped just two rounds off the field when I noticed a silver-colored pickup driving down my field road towards me.  I wondered who that could be and what they wanted.  I had one thing on my mind and that was getting my beautiful hay off before the heavy rain was due to come the coming night.  Needless to say, other farmers were thinking just like I was.  As the pickup got closer, I saw it was my neighbor, Harley, who farmed a couple miles down the road from me.

Harley had an urgent request, could I come and bale his small field of hay.  He had had another farmer lined up to bale it, but that farmer had too much of his own to bale, so there was no way that he could make it.  Harley was getting out of crop farming and had just sold me his baler a couple of months before.

I looked over my own hayfield and told Harley that I had to get mine chopped and then I would try to get to his place and bale his hay.  I told him that it wouldn’t be before 5 o’clock though.  He said that if I didn’t get there till 6 or 7 that would be fine, he would go back home and rake his hay.

As he was turning to leave, I said to him, “It’ll cost you.”  He quickly turned back around with a real serious look on his face.  I then asked him, “Do you have a couple packages of frozen bluegills in the freezer?”  He broke into a big smile and replied that he did.  Now, Harley is an excellent fisherman and catches a lot of fish, so I knew I wasn’t asking too much.  Nothing beats bluegills fried in butter; they’re just delicious!

Well, we kept moving real fast, and got our hay off; then we hooked the baler up to the tractor and I got down to Harley’s at ten minutes to five.  We had done better than what I thought possible.  Harley was ready and waiting for me. I went right to baling and had his small field off in less than an hour.  There was an excellent crop on it and Harley was sure relieved to have it off.  As soon as I got done, he took me to the house and pulled two packages of bluegills out of the freezer.  With that I headed home.  And that night it poured, but we were sure happy, because we had our hay all off.  For supper the next day we had bluegills, compliments of Harley.

A lot of people think they can live their lives just for self; if they hurt others it’s no big deal to them as long as they profit by it.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  It will cost them.  The Bible tells us that there is a Judgment Day coming for everyone, where we will each give an accounting for all that we have done.  For those who have not followed the Lord and His ways, it will cost them dearly.  But for the righteous, for those who have followed their Lord, it will be an eternity with Him beyond their best dreams.  I learned a long time ago that the best, most rewarding life, is one fully given to Jesus.

That’s Stupid

6 Jan

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

That’s Stupid

                Sometimes farm kids look at things totally different than other people do. Such is the case in what happened many years ago, in my Sunday school classroom, when I was a small child. My Sunday school teacher, who was a nice lady, who lived in town, opened the class on this particular day by reading the portion of Scripture from Luke 12:16-21, “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

I sat there stunned as my teacher read this; this was the first time in my life I had heard this read. This was talking about farming, so it had 100 percent of my attention, since I was a farm boy. I was absolutely amazed at what the teacher read. When she got done reading, she turned to the class and in a real nice voice said, “What do you think of that?” I normally didn’t speak up in class at all, but that day I was so captivated I just blurted out, “That’s stupid.” The teacher was horrified at my response. Her teacher training had not prepared her for this. She was silent for a while not knowing what to do. Finally she managed to say, “Why do you say that?” I quickly responded, “A good farmer doesn’t tear down his good barns that are producing profitably already, he keeps them producing, and builds bigger barns to produce even more. This farmer tore down his good barns! That’s stupid.” The teacher stood in front of the class totally dumb-founded, not knowing how to respond. Finally, after a fair while the teacher said, “Let’s turn to our lesson and see what it says.” From there she went on, not asking the class any more questions. She didn’t want to get into any more predicaments that day.

Looking back on it, there certainly was some truth in what I said, and I’m sure the Lord must have smiled that day when He heard what a young farm boy said in response to His parable. I do admit now, that I certainly missed the point of it that day, but at least I was honest. Being truthful goes a long ways with God.

The Lord didn’t condemn the man for wanting to build bigger barns; He condemned him for living 100 percent for self in this life. He was very rich on this earth, but he was totally bankrupt towards God. And God didn’t say he was stupid, He said he was a fool, which is far worse. How can he be rich towards God you ask? The Scriptures tell us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” It starts by having a personal relationship with the Lord, and then living every day fully for Him. And then He goes on to give an amazing promise that all things that you need will be added unto you. That includes a bigger barn if you need it!

I have a nice small, old barn, and I’m not planning on building a bigger barn. A lot of farmers are building much bigger barns these days, and that’s their choice. I hope they’re not building just for self; I hope they’re also rich towards God. Someday, like the rich farmer in the Bible, we will all stand before God and give an accounting. My heart’s desire is to hear, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord.”   I certainly don’t want to hear Him say, “Thou fool.”

Great Opportunities Arise

14 Aug

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Great Opportunities Arise

                Sometimes in life certain things just naturally happen that turn into great opportunities to teach children great lessons that they will remember the rest of their lives. Such is what happened here unexpectedly years ago.

We needed some work done on top of one of our silos, since it was sixty feet up in the air and there was not much to hang on to, I called in an experienced silo man to do it. Dino came and climbed right up there with his tools and went to work.   After a couple hours, he had it fixed and I paid him. I thought it was all done and taken care of, but I was in for a surprise.

About two months later, our son, Joshua, was out by that silo and saw something shiny sticking about one inch out of the ground by a big burdock weed. He tried to pull it out, but couldn’t. So he showed it to me, and I was able to pull it out. It was a vise-grip. We cleaned it up, it was in excellent condition yet. Joshua wondered how it got there in the ground. I realized Dino had accidently dropped it nose first when he was working on top of the silo. That’s why it went into the ground as far as it did. By the time he got the job done, he had forgotten about it.

Now Joshua, from a way small boy on, has really liked tools. So he was really excited to find this tool. He wondered how it had gotten there. Once I had put all the pieces together, I explained it to him. He could see that it all made perfect sense.

Then I asked him what he was going to do with it, since he was the one who found it. He thought real hard on it and then said, “I suppose we should give it back to Dino.” I replied, “Yes, that’s what you should do. That’s the right thing to do.” Joshua’s eyes got kind a big and he said to me, “Can’t you give it back to him, Dad?” I said, “No, you found it, you should give it back to him and tell him how you found it.” I could tell he was a little afraid to do it, so I said to him, “Dino is coming back in a few weeks to do some work on another silo for us, then you can give it to him; I’ll be there right by your side.” He was relieved when I told him that.

Needless to say, I was very proud of him, that he had chosen to do the right thing. There’s a saying, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” Many people live by that saying, but it’s totally wrong. It’s always right to give back to a person something they lost if at all possible.

Since Joshua was a way small boy and doing the right thing, I wanted him to be rewarded in a small way. I knew by so doing, it could really help to build good character. Unfortunately, good character is so lacking in many people in this world today.

So without Joshua knowing it, I called Dino up and told him the whole story. I told Dino that I wanted him to reward Joshua in a small way for his honesty. I told him it could be like a one-dollar bill or something else, but that I would reimburse him afterwards for it. He told me that he would give Joshua something, but that it was on him. He wouldn’t take anything from me. So all I could tell him was, “Thank you.”

It was a bright sunny day when Dino drove up by our silos. Joshua got the vice-grip and together we greeted Dino. Joshua handed the tool to him and told him the whole story. Dino took it and thanked Joshua for it. He looked it over and said that it definitely was his. He then thanked Joshua for it and told him that he wanted him to have it for being honest with him. With that, he handed it back to Joshua. Joshua was thrilled; he got a great big smile on his face and thanked Dino for it. Dino then went on to tell us that he has many farmers who look for opportunities to steal tools from him. They will steal while he’s working on their farms, or when he accidently leaves something behind, they don’t give it back to him. How sad, how dishonest, how sinful.

Joshua still has that tool in his toolbox today. He always remembers how Dino gave it to him for being honest. I’m so thankful that Dino did that. It helped to reinforce the biblical values we had been teaching him. When it happened, I could see it was a great opportunity to do so; that’s why I called Dino up.

The Bible says in Prov. 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” God expects parents to teach their children His ways. Parents do that by living rightly themselves and thereby setting a good example for their children. Also, great opportunities arise that can be used to teach children God’s ways.   And they will remember them the rest of their lives. Joshua does these many years later, every time he sees that vise-grip in his toolbox.

Great-Great-Grandma Elbert Had The Answer For Today’s Problems

3 Jul

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Great-Great-Grandma Elbert Had The Answer For Today’s Problems

                There are people who lived years ago, that the world considered just ordinary people. But, the lives they lived, and the influence they had, goes on long after they’re dead and gone. Such was the life of my great-great-grandma, Mary (Marie) Elbert.

Mary Ziehlsdorf was born in Germany on June 24, 1834, and as a child gave her life to God. Later on her family immigrated to the United States settling in Wisconsin. There she met and married Philip Elbert. Together they farmed, working very hard to provide for themselves and their family. And what a family they had, eleven children!

Life wasn’t easy for them; they had lots of trials and challenges, obviously. And there were no government programs to help them out. Moreover, they didn’t expect any help from the government. They worked hard with their hands and looked to God to provide for them, and He always did.

It didn’t matter what the weather was like outside, or what problems they were facing that day, Mary would always start her day with a song and prayer. I wonder, if all Americans would do that today, what kind of a nation would we have? I can tell you one thing for sure, it would be vastly different.

It was said of Mary that she was a ray of sunshine to her family and friends, a loving teacher and advisor. It was said that she always went to the Lord in times of trouble and she always encouraged others to do the same.

People today would be shocked and amazed if they knew what Mary’s greatest enjoyment in life was. Her family all testified to what it was: it was having her family gather about her so she could read them the Word of God.

It was said that her husband and children loved and adored her with all their hearts. The world would consider her just an ordinary woman, but I consider her a great woman, but what’s more important is that I believe God considers her a great woman. And in the end, it’s what God thinks that really matters.

In today’s world, we have many, many problems. Many people don’t know what to do or where to turn. People turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sports, tv, or many other things that don’t help them out at all. Mary knew where to turn and did it every day. To God: in the Bible, in prayer and in worship. And her testimony was that God never failed her. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He will not fail you, if you come to Him like Mary did. I know, I’m Mary’s great-great-grandson, and He’s never failed me either.

No, This Is Good For Me

31 May

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

No, This Is Good For Me

                In our culture today, so many people complain about hard work. By the way they talk about it, you would think it’s something that should be avoided if at all possible. But wise people know better. It always makes me think back to an incident that happened years ago on our farm here.

The only way we had to heat our house here years ago was with firewood. So in the wintertime I would cut a lot of it. I was very blessed to have an older man who was retired who would come and help us quite regularly. He always enjoyed coming out to the farm and helping us. Lots of times he would come out once a week; so in the winter time when he was here we would usually head to the woods to make firewood. He was a great blessing to us and he greatly enjoyed helping us.

He was here one day in early March and before he left, he asked me a question. “Would it be alright if I brought my nephew, Dave, along next time I come? He’s a foreman on a bridge building crew and he’s been laid off all winter. He would like to come help us.” I replied, “Sure, I’m not one to turn down good help.”

The next week came, and they showed up at our farm. We hit it off well right away. Dave was a big strong guy that looked like he had chosen the right career. Since I had two strong men to help me that day, I had decided to harvest a great big, old, twisted-up oak tree that leaned out over one of our fields.

They were ready and eager to go at it. We got the tree cut down and brushed it out and then started cutting it up into hunks of firewood. We loaded the smaller hunks onto our trailer, and the bigger ones we started to split with a mall and wedges. I didn’t own a wood splitter back then so that was the way we had to do it. Bob did most of the chainsaw work, while Dave and I did the splitting and loading of it.

The sun was getting low in the sky by the time we were down to the last two big hunks of wood to split and load. Dave was all done in; he hadn’t worked this hard in a long time. He was so worn-out, that he got down on his knees to split the last two hunks. I was really worn-out too, but I felt bad seeing Dave down on his knees swinging the mall for all that he had. I said to Dave, “I can finish that.” His response?   “No, this is good for me.” I was shocked to hear him say that. I replied, “Dave, you’re all worn-out, I can finish it.” His response back, “No, this is good for me. The bridge building plant I work for got sold and the new owners are coming in next week. I’ve got to be there and I want to make a good impression on them. I use a mall and wedges often when I’m building bridges.” So I stood back and let him finish splitting those two hard hunks of oak.

Well, we got the wood home and they were about ready to leave and Dave came up to me and thanked me for letting him come and help us that day. I was surprised and thanked him for all his help. I told him that I should give him something for all his help that afternoon, but he wouldn’t hear of it. His response, “No, this was good for me.” With that they left and I never did see Dave ever again; although, I know he did go on to build many more bridges. And I’m sure he was a fine bridge builder with the work ethic that he had.

God created all things, and that includes work. Work should be enjoyable, profitable and fulfilling. I find it very fulfilling at the end of a long day when I can look back on it and see what we’ve accomplished. There’s a real satisfaction in it. I know Dave would agree with me on that, even when he was down on his knees swinging my mall!