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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.

My Shop Foreman

1 Jan

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

My Shop Foreman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Tom with Beddy Bear.

Not What I Want, But What He Wants

21 Oct

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Not What I Want, But What He Wants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joshua with his tractor.

Doing What’s Right – Even if it Costs

28 Jul

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Doing What’s Right – Even if it Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dixie – A Very Special Cow

15 Apr

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

Dixie – A Very Special Cow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                                               Tom with Dixie.

A New Door

5 Feb

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A New Door

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Was Absolutely Wonderful

7 Jan

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

It Was Absolutely Wonderful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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   Joshua, Joanne, Tom and Catherine.

A Disappointing Surprise Under the Christmas Tree

10 Dec

LIFE ON THE FAMILY FARM UNDER AN OPEN HEAVEN

By: Tom Heck

A Disappointing Surprise Under the Christmas Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unloading haylage into our new blower.

~ 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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