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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.

 

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.