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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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