Multi-generational veterans team up

Willie Askey and Adam Schlueter, right, military veterans living in apartments at Freedom's Path near the local VA hospital have teamed up this spring to plant and tend a garden behind their homes. The eastern end behind them features flowers that Schlueter's wife Cimone requested be included, while the two veterans, who served in wars years apart, laid out the rest of the 125 X 6 feet in mostly vegetables and herbs. They plan to eat all they can and give away the rest, when everything gets ripe and tasty.

Photo by Bonnie Arnold

Residents at the Freedom’s Path Apartments, near Kerrville’s VA Medical Center, have a new garden area to observe on the grounds, tended mainly by two of their fellow residents.

And the new garden was planted to grow not only some flowers but a large variety of produce.

Neighbors living on the south side of the building can see the new garden from their windows.

Residents Adam Schlueter and Willie Askey have partnered together in this project.

Askey has lived at Freedom’s Path for six years; and Schlueter moved into an apartment with his wife and an elementary-age son five years ago.

They got managers’ permission to fence in and prepare a strip of ground at the back of the apartments between a paved driveway and the bordering fence on the next property. Schlueter said their total garden area is 125 feet by about 6 feet.

The younger of the two veterans, Schlueter said he provided much of the actual tilling and planting.

But Askey, a World War II vet, grew up on a farm and has personal experience with timing and plant choices. Askey uses a motorized wheel chair to get around.

“My family and I had a garden every year when I was growing up,” he said.

“I keep telling everybody, Good Friday, Good Friday to start planting,” Askey said.

But, he added, they started about two months before that to prepare the ground.

“And I rented a tiller at first to start working the ground there,” Schlueter said.

Now Askey watches over the garden from his porch at his apartment; and Schlueter said his wife sometime helps them in the garden.

“The dirt has the right nutrients for these plants. And Willie has more experience doing this than I’ll ever know

“It’s like I’ve been wearing Willie’s head on my shoulders while we’ve been doing this,” Schlueter said. “He knows everything; and I keep doing what he tells me.”

Askey said they did a test run last year.

“We got a whole lot of beans and cantaloupe and tomatoes and other things, “Askey said.

Schlueter said Askey told him they could do this; and there isn’t another garden on the VA grounds.

“This year we’re going to eat what we can, and give away the rest to whoever needs it,” they said.

So here’s how ambitious they have been.

They planted 182 vegetable plants, not counting the flowers Schlueter’s wife Cimone also asked to be included.

They are looking forward to later eating red potatoes, sweet corn and two other kinds of corn, at least seven kinds of peppers, beans, kale, chard, mustard greens, Japanese eggplant, cucumber squash, cucumbers, cilantro, oregano, lemon thyme and dill; and admiring “mammoth sunflowers.”

“I’m really looking forward to seeing those mammoth sunflowers when they bloom,” Schlueter said.

There’s a gratification in knowing people here are pleased to see this, he said.

“One of the neighbors told me it reminds him of his farm growing up. And my son considers one little section of the plants ‘his’.”

Schlueter said their landlady gave them a “green thumb” up.

The gardeners said they got seeds to plant for a lot of the plants; and actual tomato plants from the Plant Haus.

“Then a neighbor in the building brought us even more tomato plants,” Askey said. “Other Freedom’s Path residents either had requests for what we should plant, or they donated plants to us.”

“We started potatoes from ‘shooters;’ and I started those in a bucket on my porch,” Schlueter said.

Schlueter said he sometimes has anxiety episodes and trouble sleeping; and he’s gone out to the garden after dark because working out there makes him feel better.

Both veterans were in the U.S. Army.

Askey said he served in the Army Engineers from 1945 to 1949.

Schlueter was in the Army from August 2005 to May 2014, including serving overseas and in Operation Enduring Freedom

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