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A Very Challenging Spring

12 Oct

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Very Challenging Spring

                In farming, as well as in life, things sometimes go totally different than what a person expects or plans. This last winter proved to be a very hard one with all the ice, snow and bitter cold. Spring finally came and with it the realization that most of our hayfields had terrible winter kill. It’s the worst winter kill that I’ve seen in my entire life. And it’s not just my hayfields; it’s true of hayfields all across the Midwest.

Since our cattle eat a lot of hay, we decided to seed down a lot of new hay. That was a challenge though, since it started to rain and rain and then rain some more. In between all the rain we did manage to get a few days in which we were able to get the hay in. I did have to stay out of the lower corner of one of my fields though, since the ducks and geese were swimming around in it! Sometimes you have to plant what you can and leave the rest lie. I’m sure it will be a couple months at least before those acres dry out. We put in some long days to get it in, but I’m sure glad that we did, because right after we had it planted, it started to rain a lot again.

In between all the rain showers, we did manage to get our corn planted too. In the process of working that land, I did manage to plant my big tractor twice, and real good at that. And right after we got the corn planted, it rained a lot more again.

I must say that it’s been a very challenging spring, but God’s grace and provisions are sufficient. We are so thankful to the Lord that we were able to get our crops planted. Our hearts and prayers go out to the many farmers that haven’t been able to get their crops planted this spring and have had to leave many acres unplanted. As a farmer, I know it is very difficult to look at an empty field all summer long knowing there should be a beautiful crop there and there isn’t. No matter how bleak things look, God is always so good and faithful. When things look dark, that’s when we really need to look to Him and trust Him.

With our crops planted, we look to the Lord to bless the seed we sowed, that it will bring forth an abundant harvest. We desperately need it so that we can feed our cattle for another year, and so that we have food to eat too. We pray to the Lord to provide for us our daily bread every day, and rightly so. Sadly, many people in our country today don’t even realize where their food comes from, or whom they should be thanking for it. It would be so wise for them to thank the farmers who work so hard to produce it, and to thank the Lord who blesses and gives the increase. For without God’s blessings, we would all starve.

An Overwhelming Success

10 Aug

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

An Overwhelming Success

                Springtime on the farm is always a wonderful season, as the earth comes alive again, and the old winter is finally behind us. It’s exciting getting out in the fields and working the land and putting the tiny seeds into the ground, anticipating a bountiful harvest later in the season. Sometimes we don’t always get the harvest we hope for, but once in awhile we get far more than our wildest dreams.

Such is what happened many years ago on my parents’ dairy farm. Their farm had a lot of very steep, hilly land on it that we had to keep in hay almost constantly. It also had some nice rolling land and some flat land. Since we didn’t have much level land, that always got planted to corn.

We had one, twelve acre field that was flat except for one small sandy knoll in it. The rest of it was a sandy loam soil that grew beautiful crops of corn always. Well, the 1980’s came along and one year the government came out with the PIK program that paid farmers to leave half of their corn ground lie idle in order to raise the price of corn. My dad signed up for the program along with most other farmers.

One of the requirements of the program was that you had to put a cover crop on the land and clip it once or twice during the growing season. My brother and I suggested to my dad that we put that twelve acre field in the program since we had never had it out of corn for all the years we had owned it. My dad thought it was a good idea, so we did it.

For a cover crop, most farmers seeded the land down with a small amount of oats; it was cheap and met the program’s requirement. But, we got talking, and said, “Why not put a little alfalfa seed in with it and then that will put nitrogen in the soil, which will be beneficial since we plan on putting it back into corn the following year.” Pa didn’t really want to stick extra money in it, so we told him to go into town and buy one, fifty pound bag of the cheapest alfalfa seed he could get. And so he did.

Well, it came time to seed the field down, and so we set the grain drill down to just four pounds per acre. We got the whole field seeded down with one bag of the cheapest alfalfa seed we could get. If I remember right, I think it was Vernal. And then we clipped it during the summer.

The next year came and we hooked the plow up to the tractor to plow it under. We got out there and we couldn’t do it. That field had the most beautiful stand of alfalfa on it. We didn’t have another field on the whole farm that matched it. We ended up putting some other ground into corn instead.

We ended up leaving that field in hay for a number of years after that and took tremendous crops of hay off of it. What an overwhelming success, we could hardly believe it!

Over the years, I have bought a fair bit of alfalfa seed; normally the seed salesman will recommend seeding it at fifteen to twenty-five pounds per acre. When I tell them about my dad’s field years ago they always respond, “Well, if you had a real good seedbed, you could do it.”

Well, I always try to have a real good seedbed, and I always go for ten to twelve pounds per acre to be on the safe side. And I’ve always had excellent stands of hay. I was blessed to read an article by Dan Undersander of U W Madison in 2017 telling that 10 pounds of live seed per acre was plenty adequate with good seedbed preparation.

It’s nice in farming and in life when something turns out far better than we would ever dream possible. Like my dad’s hayfield. But, I know one thing that has far exceeded that in my own life, that’s in following my Lord and Saviour all these years. It’s far above and beyond what I could have ever expected. That doesn’t mean that life is always easy, or a bed of roses, but walking with Jesus everyday through it all, is the greatest life possible. I wouldn’t trade it for all the riches and pleasures in the world.

Special

27 Jun

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Special

                Some things that happen on our farm are difficult to write about, especially what happened here recently. But in farming, like in life, things don’t always go nice. There are hard times and disappointments.

In December and January of this winter, we have seen very little snow and a fair bit of rain, which is extremely unusual for northern Wisconsin. With the snow melting with the rain we received in January, and then getting very cold out, it turned large areas of our pastures and fields into glare ice. This makes it extremely slippery and dangerous for us and our cattle. We went about and put down lots of wood ashes, along with salt and sand to make things safer. It definitely helps, but it still is slippery and dangerous.

Our oldest group of youngstock have shelter in a shed, but they have to come out of the shed everyday to come up on the barnyard to get feed to eat and water to drink. This setup has always worked excellently for us.

Well, a couple days after we got all this ice, our heifer, Special, came up to the barnyard one morning and went down, hurting her back end. Catherine, Joshua and I went out to help her. We prayed for her and put a halter on her. Then we worked and worked to get her off the ice and onto the barnyard where she could get real good footing. She then was barely able to get up and she walked around with great difficulty. We thanked the Lord for this, and prayed asking Him for full restoration for her.

Now, our cattle come onto our barnyard from the north side, but that was all covered with ice, and I knew Special would never make it back off safely. I surveyed the situation over and decided that we would have to open the fence up on the east side of my barnyard. That was a little hard to do, since we had built a beautiful barnyard fence there just two years earlier. But for the sake of our cattle it had to be done, so that afternoon we went to work and did it.

Well, that evening, Special, along with her herdmates, went off the yard through the new opening in the fence all by themselves, without any problems. We were so thankful to the Lord. The next morning, our heifers all came up on the yard to eat except Special. We went to the shed and checked on her; she was standing up, but was afraid to come up to the barnyard because of what happened to her the day before. I certainly couldn’t blame her. We gently guided her out of the shed and up to the barnyard   through the new opening in the fence. She walked very tenderly, but made it alright. After that she made it fine everyday all on her own. And with every passing day, we could see her improving.

A week passed, and she acted totally normal again. Then we had a beautiful, sunny day and the heifers had to have something to do, so they went exploring out in their pasture. The older heifers led the way, with the younger heifers, Special included, following. They found a large area of glare ice that they thought they had to walk over. Two heifers went down on the ice, one was Special. The other one managed to get up and off the ice on her own, but not Special.

I was shocked that Special would follow the other older heifers out onto the ice after what had happened to her the week before. Well, we went to work again, and got a halter and got her off the ice, which was no easy thing to do. This time though, she didn’t get up. We prayed for her once again, and then left her lying comfortably. We hoped that in time she would get up again.

Unfortunately, this time it didn’t work this way. This second time made her injury much worse, and in the night she tried desperately to get up and broke her one rear leg. So then I had the terrible job of putting her to sleep.

I said to my family, “If she only wouldn’t have gone out onto the ice the second time, she would have been just fine. I thought she would have learned from what happened to her the first time on the ice. But she followed the older, supposedly wiser heifers, and it cost her her life. The other ones made it just fine, but she didn’t.”

So it is with people in life, we have to be extremely careful who we follow and what we do. Some people will lead us astray, and insist that what they’re doing is alright. That’s why it’s so important for each one of us to read our Bibles and pray daily.

Others will do sinful things that hurt themselves and others.  After they’ve done them, they may even be sorry for a while, but then they go back to the same old sinful things and it only gets worse. It can be alcohol, drugs, gambling or a long list of other sinful things. Some say that they just can’t get free from it, and on their own they can’t. And unless they get free from it, it will end up costing them their lives, and then a horrible eternity awaits them. But I know Someone who can set them free and keep them free. His name is Jesus. I know because He has done it for me. One day I got down on my knees and repented of my sins and asked Him to come into my heart and be the Lord of my life. He forgave me of my sins, and gave me power to overcome them all. He lives within me, and has given me a wonderful life; I wouldn’t go back to the old life for anything in this world. He can do the same for you; He loves you greatly and is just a prayer away.

A Land Flowing With Milk And Honey

7 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Land Flowing With Milk and Honey

                Growing up as a child, my mom told me a number of times of how difficult it was during the Great Depression. Her family had a dairy farm, but were deeply in debt, and thus had no money. But, since they farmed, they grew almost all the food they ate, so in that they were greatly blessed. And they had one treat back then that most Americans didn’t have: honeycomb. Yes, they had a lot of that in the wintertime, and they greatly enjoyed it.

My grandparents had a lot of woods on their farm and so they pastured their cattle in the woods. It was the children’s responsibility to go out to the woods every afternoon and bring in the cows for milking. And in their woods they always had wild honeybees. The children would always keep their eyes open to locate hollow trees with bees in them. Sometimes it wasn’t hard to locate them, sometimes they would have thousands of bees swarming around them.

My grandfather always told his children to mark the bee tree or remember where it was, which they always did. Then early in the winter, on a real cold day, he would go out to the woods with a bunch of Grandma’s big bowls, and cut the tree down, and with a butcher knife cut the honeycomb out of the hollow tree. Thus they had honey to eat all winter long.

I would always ask my mother, “Didn’t he get stung by all those bees when he cut their tree down and cut out all the honeycomb?” Her answer was, “No, by waiting till it got really cold out, the bees didn’t really bother him much.” I was amazed. Mom always said what a treat it was having that honeycomb to eat all winter long. They maybe were very poor, but they had a loving home with lots of honeycomb to eat!

Growing up, I never had wild honeycomb to eat, my parents said that with all the chemicals used in agricultural today, that the wild honeybees were a thing of the past.

In 1991, the Lord opened the door for us to buy the farm that we’re on today, which was a real miracle. Before buying this farm, we prayed much, and the Lord told us that He had a farm for us flowing with milk and honey. Well, we’ve produced a lot of milk on this farm over the years. Honey? Well, I always looked at that as all the goodness and blessings of the Lord. And He has surely blessed us greatly here.

We have a big woods here on our farm, and we heat our home with firewood from the woods. Late this fall, Joshua and I were cutting firewood, and I cut down an eighty-foot-tall pine tree that was hollow in its center. I’ve cut a lot of hollow trees down over the years, so I didn’t think much of it. I started blocking it up for firewood when all of a sudden I cut through a bunch of honeycomb, and hundreds of very angry honeybees came swarming out sending Joshua and me running! We were shocked, this had never happened to us in the past. Fortunately, the bees were as confused as we were and we were able to get out of there without getting stung.

So I waited for a real cold morning, then Catherine and I went back to the bee tree. I took a clean 5 gallon pail, along with an axe, a mall, a wedge, and a big butcher knife to cut the honeycomb out of the tree. I split the hunks of wood open to get at the honeycomb. Needless to say, the bees were not happy with me. Even in the bitter cold, a few of the bees would swarm up around me. I had to run away a few times to get away from them, and Catherine brushed a number of them off my clothing. Fortunately, I didn’t get stung.

I cut a lot of wild honeycomb out of that tree with my butcher knife that morning. We brought it home and we all had to have a taste of it. As we tasted it, we all got big smiles on our faces, it was super delicious. Every morning at breakfast we’re having wild honeycomb on our toast and greatly enjoying it. Just like my ancestors did.

A land flowing with milk and honey? Absolutely yes.   God is so good. The Bible says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psm. 34:8. I can testify from personal experience that the Lord is good, far better than the wild honey even!

Aside

Give It Enough Snort

15 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Give It Enough Snort

                It was one of those falls up here that was wetter than normal. We had gotten our corn silage chopped off and now we were going at our high-moisture corn. I always hired my neighbor, Howie, to come with his combine and two trucks to harvest my corn. While he combined, I would unload the corn into the roller mill that rolled the corn and then blew it up into the silo. Usually things would work pretty well and we could get it done in one to two days.

But, this fall was different, the fields were very wet. Howie parked his trucks on my field road and started to open the field up with the combine. That went fine. As he started to get more of the field off, he had me park the trucks in my field close to where he was combining so that it would be faster for him to unload the combine. I was hesitant to do it, but followed his instructions. He filled the truck way full of corn and the truck started to go down a little.

When I got back to the field with the other empty truck and saw the loaded truck sunk down about six inches already, I felt we were in for trouble. Howie said to me, “Give it plenty of gas, Tom.” Now a grain truck loaded full doesn’t go very fast in first gear even with the gas pedal to the floor. I went ahead about four feet and the truck died. The back end had sunk in a good two foot deep! It was not a nice looking sight.

We looked the situation over and Howie said, “If we try to pull that truck out loaded, we’ll just pull it apart. To which I readily agreed. We went and got Howie’s big four wheel drive Case tractor and two scoop shovels. Back in the field, we drove the other truck alongside the stuck one and then started shoveling corn from the one to the other. By the time we had it almost empty, we were about wore out too. Then we drove the good truck out of the field, and hooked on to the other one and pulled it out with the tractor, all in one piece.

After that, Howie had me park the trucks on higher, drier ground, even though it meant he had to drive a little further to unload his combine. It was late afternoon by the time we got that field done. Since we still had some daylight left, we decided to start my marsh cornfield.

We were being very careful where we parked the trucks for him to fill them; we had learned our lesson very well earlier in the day. Howie got the outside rows all off without any problem whatsoever. So I assumed this field would go just fine. But, there’s always the unexpected. On the other end of this cornfield, I had about two acres that was way too wet to plant in the spring. I had to leave it lay idle all summer long and it grew up in weeds.

When Howie got to the other end, instead of just turning the combine around on the headland, he made a big turnaround out in the weedy hunk, or I should say that he tried to. He got half turned around, and the one side of the combine went down to its axle. When I got up there, I was astonished at what I saw. It was not a pretty sight after a long day of hard work. Howie wasn’t too happy over it either. I asked him, “Why did you go out in that wet area?” To which he replied, “It didn’t look wet to me.”

Howie and I talked it over and we agreed that we would never pull the combine out with its hopper nearly full of grain. We also agreed that we didn’t dare drive an empty truck in there either, neither one of us wanted another stuck truck. So we went and got a tractor with an empty grain wagon and backed it in to the wet area just far enough so that we could unload the combine. After that, we were able to drive the tractor and wagon out of there.

Then we went and got Howie’s big tractor from the other side of my farm where we had left it after pulling the truck out earlier that day. We hooked it up to the combine, and I could tell Howie was real uneasy about it. He said, “If that other tire goes down, I don’t know how we’re going to get it out.” I had to agree with him; I was uneasy about it too.

As I headed to the tractor, Howie’s last words to me were, “Give it enough snort.” We both knew that we only had one chance to get it out with that tractor. I said a quick prayer. When Howie was in the combine and ready, I tightened up the chain and pushed the throttle almost wide open. I wasn’t going to fail by not giving it enough snort. The Lord blessed and the combine came out, for which we were both very thankful and relieved. With the sun almost down, we decided to call it a day.

Every year when we combine corn here, I always think back to that and to what Howie said, “Give it enough snort.” That’s how we need to live our lives, to the fullest, to the glory of God. So many people today live such empty, selfish, meaningless lives. But with God they don’t have to.

Howie passed on a short time ago, but he lived a full life. He was a loving husband, father and an excellent, hard working farmer. He was also a wonderful neighbor and friend to us. I could never have asked for a better one. I’m sure someday I’ll see Howie on the other side, and we’ll smile as we think back to that night down in my marsh when he told me to, “Give it enough snort.” I’m sure too, that there will be no stuck trucks or combines for us in heaven.

Billy Graham – A Man Who Changed My Life

17 Aug

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Billy Graham – A Man Who Changed My Life

                A short while ago, the news came out that evangelist Billy Graham had died. Although he was 99 years old, when I heard of his passing, I had to stop and do a lot of remembering. I, along with a lot of other Americans, and people from around the world owe a lot to this man. It certainly can be said that Billy Graham impacted the world for God.

Billy had a big impact on my life; I know I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for him. That is saying a lot, but it’s the truth. You see, in the home I was raised in, I was beaten and abused something terrible. I grew up with a very twisted, wicked mind set. As I grew up, I was a very sinful person. I hated the sinful life I was living, but I was powerless to change. I was becoming more and more like the people who abused me so.

Yes, we as a family were real religious; we went to church every week.   But going to a dead, religious church every week doesn’t change a person at all. The preacher would stand up in the pulpit and say to all present, “We are all so blessed, we’re all going to Heaven when we die because we’ve all been infant water baptized. All the people out there in the world are all going to Hell when they die though.” I sat there quietly with my head held down thinking, “They may all be going to Heaven in this church when they die, but I know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I’m going to Hell when I die.” Today, I so thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit who speaks the truth to sinners, such as I was, who are on the road to Hell.

Because of the terrible abuse in my home, as a teenager, I started looking for a way out. It was so bad, and I was so desperate, that I started to think about suicide every day. And I most certainly would have committed suicide if it wouldn’t have been for one person – Billy Graham.

Billy was always faithful to preach the true Word of God. He held many crusades across the nation and around the world. After the crusades, he would broadcast some of them on national TV late in the evenings. We would normally get done with our evening chores about the time he would come on TV. My mom would always turn the TV on for them.

One of his sermons radically affected my life. His sermon text was from Rev. 20:11-15, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” He preached on this and it absolutely terrified me. From that day on, and for years to come, every day when I would think of suicide, I would remember that text and sermon. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that if I ended my life, I would end up in the lake of fire for eternity. I knew what I was going through at home wasn’t as bad as the lake of fire.

Things at home were so bad however, and I was becoming more wicked and life seemed absolutely hopeless that one day shortly after my 18th birthday I nearly committed suicide. If it wasn’t for God’s mercy and good medical doctors, I most certainly would have died. How I so thank God for His great mercy and grace.

Life went on, totally hopeless and without meaning or purpose. And then, two years later, I got a letter in the mail from the Billy Graham ministry advertising a book they were selling called Meeting God At Every Turn written by Catherine Marshall. In the book Catherine told of a personal loving God who was alive and real, who would forgive a person of all of their sins, and guide them through their lives and use them for His glory. I had never heard of a God like this before in my life. And I most certainly had never seen this in my home or church. I had to check this out, it sounded way too good to be true, but for a person on the verge of suicide, what did I have to lose?

So I ordered the book and after several weeks it arrived in the mail. Through that book, I came to see and know the true and living God! After reading that book, I got down on my knees with tears running down my face and confessed my sins to God and repented of them. Then I asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my total Lord and Saviour. I told Him my life was worthless, but I was giving it totally to Him and if He could use it at all for His glory, He could. Back then I couldn’t see or dream how He could possibly use my life at all, but I gave it totally to Him. When I got off my knees that day, for the first time in my life I knew love, I knew forgiveness of all of my terrible sins and I had a reason for living. Life was finally worth living, and I never ever thought about suicide again. I have followed my precious Lord and Saviour all these years now, and the longer I follow Him, the more I love Him, and the sweeter it is. And someday I will not step over into the lake of fire, but I will cross that final shore and step over into Heaven and see Jesus face to face and spend eternity with Him!

Billy Graham, my friend, is now gone, but how I thank God for him, and I know I most certainly will see him too on the other side.

The Cat-Killed Apple Tree

23 Jun

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

The Cat-Killed Apple Tree

                Sometimes in life we take on a project and no matter what we do, it seems to go wrong, wrong. And no matter how hard we try to correct it, it still keeps going wrong, but if we stick with it a long time, it will turn out well, although it may be entirely different than what we planned on in the first place. Such is what happened here over many years with one of my supposedly simple projects.

My family really likes to eat fresh apples, and since our part of the country here is great for growing apples, we’ve planted several apple trees on our farm here over the years. After a while, I decided it would be nice to have an early maturing apple, so that we could start enjoying them earlier in the fall. I also decided the perfect place to plant it would be on our small grass island between the house and barn. It would look nice there and a person could easily pick an apple off of it on the way to the barn. Since our power pole with all the electrical lines going off of it to the different buildings is also located there, I bought a semi-dwarf apple tree and planted it a little ways away from the pole. Since it was a semi-dwarf tree, it shouldn’t interfere with the pole or power lines. I thought I had a really good plan. I couldn’t imagine how anything could go wrong with such a simple plan. But, things don’t always work out like they’re supposed to.

I ordered my tree and planted it in the spring of the year. It took off and started to grow real well. I was pleased with it. After a few years the totally unexpected happened, our barn cats decided that they really liked that tree too, and started going to it constantly clawing into its bark. Now I’ve never before or since ever had them do it, but that tree they loved doing it to. They did it so much that over time they killed our beautiful apple tree. They literally clawed it to death.

Now, the apple tree I had planted was grafted onto wild rootstock. The wild rootstock sent up a shoot that really took off and grew. So after awhile, I cut off the old, dead tree and let the new one grow. For some reason the cats didn’t bother this one. And boy, did it grow! It was a beautiful tree and it hardly looked like an apple tree. After several years it started to get apples on that were mostly a good medium size, bright red, very firm and super delicious and that ripened later in the fall. We were very disappointed that the cats killed our early maturing apple tree, but very thankful for this one. We have no idea what kind of an apple tree it is, since it grew from wild rootstock, so we just call it our Cat-killed apple tree.

As I said earlier, that tree took off and really grew. It wasn’t a semi-dwarf anymore at all. It wasn’t long and it was up to the power lines. And it showed no signs of stopping any time soon. I realized too late that I had planted that tree in the wrong place, considering our cats and the power lines. So, what was I to do with one of my favorite apple trees? I decided I better prune it way back to about 12 foot, which I did. I figured I would have to keep pruning it way back the rest of its life.

There was one other problem with the tree that I didn’t like, that I really couldn’t fix. When it grew up off the side of the old, dead tree, it grew at quite an angle, thus making it more of a hazard to go down on our driveway someday. Well, a couple years after pruning it way back, we got a powerful storm through here out of the south and it tipped it way over, so that it was leaning just above the driveway. Why it didn’t take it down on the driveway, I don’t really know. But, there it was, leaning way over.

What to do now? I hated to cut it off since it was such a beautiful tree and we really liked the apples; they were some of our favorites. Yet, I couldn’t leave it like it was, and if I straightened it back out; it would soon grow too tall for the power lines again. I was in a predicament with it.

I finally decided there was only one possible solution: transplant it. I had never transplanted that big of a tree before in my life, but since we all liked it so well; we decided to give it a try. The first thing I had to do was to cut it way back, if it was going to have a chance of making it. And did I ever cut it back, down to five foot tall. Then I put the tine bucket on our skid loader and stuck it in under the trunk of the tree. Since the storm had broken a number of roots off already, my skid loader was able to lift it out without too much trouble bringing a bunch of roots with it. Then I hauled it up the hill, up by our old shale pit area and planted it there, where it’s out of the way of everything and it can grow as tall as it likes. And yes, produce a lot of super delicious apples for us.

Joshua and I dug a large hole to get all the roots in and then as we planted it, I took a level and made sure we had it perfectly straight. That’s the first time in its life that its even been close to straight. Well, the tree lived, and now this last fall I picked a five-gallon pail full of Cat-killed apples off of it.

I had to overcome many difficulties with that tree to get an excellent apple tree out of it. Sometimes it looked hopeless, it was very challenging to say the least, but I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. There have been many things in my life over the years that looked almost totally hopeless, but this one thing I know, with God there is always hope. We just need to look to Him. And if we do, God will work on us and for us, for our good and His glory.

 

 

 

 

Our Cat-killed Apple Tree Today.

The Most Fun Thing We Did

5 Dec

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

The Most Fun Thing We Did

It never ceases to amaze me how sometimes my kids will say something out of the clear blue that totally surprises me. Such is what happened here a while back. I was working in the barn with Catherine one day when she asked me a question that caught me totally off guard. She said, “Dad, you know what the most fun thing was that we did here last summer?” I was busy working, not thinking about that at all. I had to stop and think a minute about her question. I could think up a number of possible answers: when we went fishing at the lake, or when we went to the park and saw all the wild animals in the zoo and played a game. I really didn’t know how to answer her question so after a minute I replied, “No, what was the most fun thing we did here last summer?” By turning the question back to her, I couldn’t possibly come up with the wrong answer! And it’s a good thing that I did because I would have never come up with the right answer. Age does bring some wisdom.

Her answer really surprised and blessed me. “You know those three weeks we spent fixing up that old chopper we bought? That was the most fun thing we did all summer long.” I was amazed at her answer. More fun than fishing or going to the park or playing some fun games? Absolutely Yes.

We had decided to buy a good used chopper to use for chopping corn silage in the fall. I wanted to buy one that was an older model so that it wouldn’t cost me a lot of money. I asked around and found a farmer that had one sitting in the back corner of his shed. Joshua and I went to look at it one day and made the mistake of not taking a flashlight with us. It was dark in the corner of the shed and hard to see it good. The farmer assured me it was in excellent working order. The price he was asking was a little on the high side I thought, but if it was as good as he said I thought it was maybe worth it, so I bought it.

He delivered it to my place on a Sunday afternoon and left. As the kids and I started to look it over, we were a little disappointed at its actual condition. I said to the kids, “Well, we bought it; we’ll have to do a little fixing on it.” In the middle of the summer we went to fixing on it. We started out replacing the roller chains on it and then we saw sprockets and gears that needed replacing. And yes, bearings too, along with other stuff that needed fixing or adjusting.

We started visiting our local implement dealership at least two or three times a week buying parts. Catherine and Joshua were by my side all the time helping me fix the chopper and buy parts. It was a little disappointing that we found so much wrong with the chopper, but we kept a good attitude and kept working on it as a team. The kids were eager to help me fix on it every day. It’s amazing how fast the barn chores got done on those days so that we could get at the chopper!

After three weeks, we had gone through the whole chopper and had it in good running condition. Except for one minor breakdown, it worked excellently for chopping corn that fall. We were all very pleased and smiling, especially after all the work and money that we had put in it.

Looking back on it, I’m glad that I bought the chopper, even though I spent more for it than I should have and it took more work and money than I had planned on to get it in good working order. But, when a dad can get his daughter and son saying, “That was the most fun thing we did all summer long.”, what for a price tag can you put on that? When they have big smiles on their faces afterwards over a job well done, what for a price can you put on that? When they comment on all the good corn silage that the chopper put up for our cows to eat, what for a price can you put on that?

The kids won’t remember how much I paid for the chopper or how much I spent in parts. They will remember how we worked together in love as a family fixing that old chopper up and doing an excellent job on it. Those are things that are priceless.

So parents, work with your kids, have them help you, they will learn a lot and you will too. You will all be blessed if you work together in love and harmony. Someday down the road when they say to you, “Dad, you know what the most fun thing was that we did last summer?” You may be shocked and very pleased at their answer, I know that I was.

Noodles – Our Talking Cow

28 Oct

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Noodles – Our Talking Cow

Animals are much more intelligent than most people realize. While many people know that cats and dogs know their names, and many dogs will obey certain commands, what about a cow that will carry on a conversation with a person? Sounds kind of far-fetched, but I have a cow that will talk with me. Now, many of us are familiar with Mr. ED, the talking horse on the TV show from many years ago. He would talk only to Wilbur Post, but as we all know he really didn’t talk, that was Hollywood.   Our cow Noodles though will talk to any one of us.

When a person is born into this world, they are given a name, so likewise, when we have a calf born here, we give them a name also. And we call them by their names the rest of their lives. When we go out to the cow pasture to bring them to the barn, they will usually be scattered all around, lying down enjoying the day and the lush green grass, with the barn swallows and red-winged blackbirds flying about singing to them. We start calling them by name, and one by one, when they hear their name called out, they will rise to their feet and head towards the barn.

Now you ask, “A real talking cow?” My answer is, “Yes, but not quite like you think.” Let me introduce you to Noodles. She is a cross-bred cow that is a Montbeliarde- Ayrshire- Holstein. She is black and white in color and very friendly. She is an excellent cow and a joy to have in our barn. And normally we talk to her everyday and she likes it.

But how does she talk you ask? I’ll explain. We ask her questions and she always answers by shaking her head yes or no. Sometimes this comes in very handy when we want to find out information that we don’t know. But, we always test her first to make sure she understands us and is telling the truth. We ask her questions first that we know the answer to, such as, “Do you like good corn silage?” She will respond by shaking her head up and down. Then we will ask, “Do you like moldy hay?” She will respond by shaking her head sideways saying, “No.” Then we will ask if a cat ran in front of her in the last couple of minutes and she will tell us that correctly. When we are sure that she is clearly understanding us and answering our questions correctly, and she always does, then we ask her a question that we don’t know the answer to. A question I asked her just recently was, “Did a coyote go through the pasture last night when you were out there?” She responded by vigorously shaking her head, “No.” I was relieved with her answer since I have a cow calve out there at night sometimes and I don’t want a coyote killing a new born calf.

Noodles is a very special cow to us, but then all our cows are. It amazes us how God has made all the animals so unique and special.   One thing really unique about dairy farming is interacting with all the different animals. It’s wonderful when we can take good care of them and they let us know by a soft moo or a gentle lick of their tongue or a light bump with their nose. It blesses us. How much more isn’t it with God when we His children love Him and say, “Thank you” to Him for all His wonderful care for us. And how much more shouldn’t we do that considering He gave His only Son Jesus to redeem us back to Himself. If Noodles talks to me, her owner, and she most certainly does, how much more shouldn’t we talk to our Heavenly Father who loves us so?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Noodles in the cow pasture.

Aside

Christmas Brings Hope Even In Difficult Days

11 Mar

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Christmas Brings Hope Even In Difficult Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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