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The Asher garden of delights

‘Would you like some of those white half-runners, you know, those beans you said you like but can never find?’
‘Oh, my gosh, yes!’
That’s all it took. The deal was struck. So that very afternoon, after work, my husband, Virgil, picked me up at the O’Bannon Publishing Co. office in Corydon and we headed north to New Salisbury, to the Asher place east of the traffic signal on S.R. 64.
It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say what we found there was a small ‘truck farm.’ There were rows and rows of green beans, sweet corn, potatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, tomatoes …
Which, of course, takes me back a few years to my own gardening and canning days. Most of the kids, who, at the time, screamed ‘garden abuse!’ are long gone from home now, so we won’t belabor those days. But I had such a visit at the Ashers, I must tell you about it, because I’m pretty sure the same happens all the time to families with gardens all around Harrison County. There’s almost always bounty to share, and that’s important to most farmers, I think, and a treat for the grateful recipients.
Anyway, we picked. And picked. And picked with help from the farmer’s daughter, Sarah Turpin, our friend who works for the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County. She’s a big wig there. (She doesn’t know it, so please don’t tell her.)
Her mom, Helen, came out to the garden to help, and a few minutes later, Sarah’s father, Junior, stopped by, apparently on his way from the barn to the house, and Sarah introduced us.
‘She works for The Corydon Democrat,’ Sarah said.
‘Oh, I know her,’ said Junior, matter of factly. ‘I’ve been seeing her picture in the paper about a 100 years now!’
(Gulp. Has it really been that long?)
‘I cover county government,’ I said, and ducked behind a clump of bushes, in case I needed to dodge a fat tomato.
But Junior (who is 73 and formally known as Beldon) didn’t throw a thing. Instead, he wanted to know about the state of the county, one of my favorite subjects.
‘Everything’s just fine, for now,’ I said. ‘But it sure seems like it’s a lot harder for our politicians since we got all that boat money! They can’t just say, ‘Sorry. We don’t have the money.’ ‘ The commissioners and council members have to deal with the issues differently than in the pre-boat days, because they must come down on one side or the other ‘ and be ready to back up their actions.
It’s a lot like trying to handle an over-abundant harvest with no mistakes, no jars of tomatoes mysteriously missing half the liquid or green beans with loose lids that don’t pop.
Apparently, Sarah’s mom knows no such mishaps because, as Sarah tells it, a trip to her mother’s pantry is like a trip to the grocery.
Not only can you ‘borrow’ the green beans and tomatoes, there are jams and jellies, bread and butter cukes, hot and sweet peppers, sweet relishes, tomato paste, tiny new potatoes, hearty soups, and so on. Thanks to her husband, Helen always has plenty of stock to preserve. If she doesn’t can it, she freezes it.
‘She even freezes biscuits!’ said Sarah.
‘Well, I do that, too,’ I said. ‘You just buy them from the Schwan’s man; they’re really good and you can pop only as many as you need in the oven,’ I said, smartly. ‘You …
‘No, no. Not those. Mom does her own,’ Sarah said, clearly taking note of my shortcomings. ‘You wouldn’t believe the breakfasts: eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits. fried apples, oatmeal, biscuits and gravy.’
In contrast, Sarah said, ‘Dad loves gardening; he’s an outside person.’
But he, too, can cook. ‘He cooked on an aircraft carrier,’ Sarah said. ‘Spaghetti and meatballs are his specialty. If they’re having spaghetti, it’s like the whole family converges on him. It’s just really good.’
Junior and Helen reared six children: Tim, 51; Toni, 49; Sarah, 48; Taffy, 45; Tracy, 43, and Toby, 39.
To meet Helen, a petite woman with an ever-present smile and quick wit, is to meet Sarah. ‘Anybody who wants to know where I get my outgoing personality … ‘
Well, thank you very much, Mr. and Mrs. Asher. For the half-runners, too.