Work in the Potato Garden

By | November 14, 2013

As I mentioned on Monday, today’s blog entry is an excerpt from the novel I’m writing this month. You may think you recognize some of the characters involved, but any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is purely coincidental.*

Get ready for it! The setting of this story is right next to this fence!

Get ready for it! The setting of this story is right next to this fence!

Without further ado, enjoy this scene, called, “Work in the Potato Garden.”


That afternoon, my new site mate Blevin came over to help out in the garden. As I mentioned, my host mom had a big garden and over half of it was planted with potatoes. It was a lot of work for one older woman to keep up with, and Blevin and I offered to help out.

Blevin got an old shovel with a flat blade (not curved like the shovels in America) and worked digging out irrigation trenches between the raised rows of plants.

This was an irrigation style I had never seen until I got to Armenia, but it seemed that Armenians all did it the same way. Their vegetables were planted on hills and in between their rows were valleys. I think this was because of the way they watered their gardens.

Rows of Potatoes

Rows of Potatoes

They didn’t have sprinklers like we do in America; instead they would use straight hoses. The water would flow from the hose down the main “aisle” and into a row. They would build an earthen dam so the water only flowed into one row at a time. The water would completely saturate the earth, but never flood the plants, which were high on their hills. Just the roots were getting their much desired water.

Once one row was filled with water, they would flatten their earthen dam and let the water flow down the center aisle and into the next row. They would build up another dam so the water didn’t go too far. And so on, until the entire garden received its fill of water.

[Hope this makes sense; this entry doesn’t have a lot of editing done on it, as it is the product of a “NaNoWriMo” session. The point of NaNoWriMo is to get words on a page, not to make sure that they are completely legible. Editing comes sometime after November is over and the bare bones of the writing are ready to be clothed.]

It was a labor intensive process but seemed to work well enough that they hadn’t changed their practice.

I don’t know much about gardening, so I’m not sure if this is the best way or the worst way or just another way to do things.

[If I have any gardening friends reading this, please let me know your thoughts on the matter.]

While Blevin and my host mom dug small trenches, I walked around picking rocks and throwing them over the fence into the alleyway. And I talked Blevin’s ear off. To be more precise, I drove him to talk my ear off, by making him answer my unrelenting questions for two solid hours.

This could be what Blevin looked like in the garden! It's just lucky that I happen to have a picture that can so nicely illustrate my completely made-up story!

This could be what Blevin looked like in the garden! It’s just lucky that I happen to have a picture that can so nicely illustrate my completely made-up story!

I asked him about his life in Vardenis, his experiences in Armenia in general, what he did at work, his abilities with the language, personal questions about his family back home and his girlfriend, his thoughts about my work assignment, his regrets, his hopes for the future after Peace Corps, and on and on.

“So, Blevin,” I said, “what do you eat in the winter?”

“A lot of lentil soup, rice, noodles with butter, oatmeal. Actually that’s what I eat year-round. It’s plain, but I like it. I would eat the same way back home. Sometimes the girls at work will send me home with muraba or dolma. They don’t believe I can cook, and imagine me sitting at home starving every night.”

We laughed.

“In fact, when I told my host family from training that I was living on my own, they were shocked. I think they were expecting me to be a skeleton when I went back to visit them after I moved out on my own.”

“Have you gone back to see them very often?”

“I’ve gone a couple times. We got along really well, and I like them a lot. I’m planning on going there in a couple weeks when my family comes to Armenia to visit. We’re going to have khorovats; they’ve been planning this since before we knew for sure my family was going to come!”

“That’s so cool that your family is coming! Are you excited? Where are you going to take them?”

And on and on and on. Everything he had to tell me was so interesting and exciting for me to hear about that I couldn’t get enough.

Without exception, every single person from the A-18 group who found out I was going to have Blevin for a site mate had the exact same comment. “You’re in Vardenis with Blevin? He’s such a nice guy.”

They were right, and he proved it that very first day of my site visit. Not only was he working in my host mother’s garden simply because he wanted to help, he was also very patiently answering my questions which never seemed to stop.

While we talked and worked, my host mom just worked and listened. She didn’t understand a lick of English, but she seemed to enjoy listening to us just the same.

Another gardener (who could pass for a host mother) in a random garden.

Another gardener (who could pass for a host mother) in a completely random garden.

Finally my host mom put a stop to all the work, declaring we had done enough for the day and she would finish the rest tomorrow. Then she invited us in for dolma.

As we sat and ate, she piled more and more food onto Blevin’s plate, telling him, “Since you live alone, you don’t eat very much. You like dolma, so eat! Eat! Have more! Do you ever make dolma at home? No! So eat now! Have more!”

When Blevin had his fill and tried to prevent her from putting even more food on his plate, she said, “You worked hard all day in my garden. You can eat a little bit more. Just a little bit. Eat!” And she dumped another helping in front of him.


There you have it—almost 1,000 words of my novel. Imagine 49,000 or so more words, and you have a pretty good gist of what it’s about this year. Some scenes are a bit more exciting than this one, but I’m not ready to share them yet.

*In case you haven’t guessed yet, I told a little white lie at the top of this blog entry. Any resemblance to real people is totally on purpose because this is a *mostly* true account of my Peace Corps experience. I just changed a name to conceal someone’s real identity.

P.S. I’m really not sure how this “changing facts and details to protect peoples’ privacy” thing works. I figure I’m safe with “Blevin” because he’s such a nice guy, he’ll forgive me. The rest of the people in my novel I’m not so sure about, but I’ll cross that hurdle when I get to the “thinking about publishing” stage.

If you have any comments about the passage from my novel that I’ve shared with you, or thoughts about privacy, please comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Work in the Potato Garden

  1. Mel

    That type of irrigation is called “furrow” irrigation. It’s not the most efficient, best way to water but it’s not the worst 🙂

    1. Ev Post author

      Cool! I’m glad someone understands what I was trying to describe! And now I can use the technical term in my novel. Thanks, Mel!

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