Usually, before the setting sun disappeared behind the West Mountains, the Yu sisters would have already reached home. Today, the sky was already dark, but there was still no sign of them. Yu Hai couldn’t sit still anymore and led a horse out of the stable. After putting the saddle on the horse, he rode it out of the village.
Halfway on the road, he ran into the three coming back from the docks. Fang Zizhen, who rode on a high steed, held a torch and led the way in front, while the sisters sat on the donkey cart in the back.
Seeing that the sisters were safe, Yu Hai was relieved and asked with concern, “Why did you guys come back so late today?”
Xiaolian excitedly chattered, “Father! Royal Prince Yang, who sailed to the west, has returned. He brought back a lot of things that we didn’t have in the Great Ming Dynasty. He also gave Younger Sister some seeds and asked Younger Sister to help him grow them!”
The Yu Family and the Fang Family lived close by, so they usually ate dinner together. Lady Fang was close with Princess Consort Jing, so they naturally knew how much Princess Consort Jing hoped for her youngest son’s safe return. When Yu Hai heard that, he nodded and said, “It’s good that he returned safely! Princess Consort Jing don’t have to worry anymore! What does the young prince returning have to do with you guys coming back late? Also… the young prince gave Cao’er seeds and asked her to help him plant them? What kind of seeds? Will we be able to grow them?”
Xiaolian had glanced at Royal Prince Yang from the distance, and she was still immersed in the excitement of being able to see royalty in person. Hearing the questions, she replied, “Royal Prince Yang brought back too many goods from the west, so the dockworkers didn’t finish unloading until very late. In order to save time, they rotated to eat dinner. How would they be able to work without eating? We waited until the last batch of workers finished eating before closing our stall.”
After taking a breath, Xiaolian continued, “Royal Prince Yang gave Younger Sister seeds that we’ve never seen in the Great Ming Dynasty before. The one that is shiny like a golden bean is called ‘corn’. The round one is called ‘potato’, which is similar to sweet potatoes! Younger Sister can grow green vegetables that were ready two months in advance, so what else can’t she grow?”
A new kind of crop that didn’t exist in the Great Ming Dynasty was something that even the emperor attached great importance to. It wouldn’t be a small matter if his daughter failed to grow them. Yu Hai was slightly worried and asked, “Cao’er, what do you think? Do you think you can grow them?”
Yu Xiaocao nonchalantly said, “Don’t worry. As soon as I saw these seeds, their planting methods appeared in my mind. It’s the same as the usual methods! There definitely won’t be any problem! But, Father! The young prince gave me around ten mu of seeds. Our family doesn’t have that much land ah!”
“Not enough land? Then buy some ah! I heard that there are several families in the village who want to sell their farmland… However, the land around our village are sandy soil, which isn’t very fertile. I don’t know if they would be suitable for farming these precious seeds! If we buy them in town, then the far distance would make it inconvenient to take care of…” As he spoke, Yu Hai frowned, feeling somewhat troubled.
Xiaocao thought about it and said, “Let’s first buy the land in the village and see how it is. It’s best if the land is connected, or else it would be hard to take care of them. As for buying land in town, let’s also ask someone to keep an eye out for it. If there’s a suitable place, then let’s buy it. Even if we don’t farm on it ourselves, we can rent it out to others! Both of these crops are high-yielding crops, moreover, they are suitable to be grown on all sorts of land. After the autumn harvest, we can cultivate them in a large area next year!”
Hearing his younger daughter’s firm tone, Yu Hai didn’t hesitate anymore. She was able to do business and farm; it didn’t seem like there was anything that his younger daughter couldn’t do. His family had never grown watermelons before, but didn’t they turn out pretty good?
The next day, Yu Hai went to find two of the families, who were selling land. He asked the village chief to be his guarantor and spent thirty-six taels to buy the two families’ twelve mu of farmland. Dongshan Village mostly had barren, sandy soil, so except for cheap crops like sweet potato, there was a low harvest of other grain. As a result, the price for land was very cheap. It was already very generous of Yu Hai to pay them three taels per mu!
The two pieces of land was only separated by Wang Ergou’s farmland. When Wang Ergou heard about Yu Hai buying land, he came over and grinned cheekily, “Brother Dahai, are you expanding the cultivation of watermelons? Your family doesn’t have enough land? If you need more land, my family can lend ours to you for free! But… heh heh, you have to give me priority for this year’s watermelons… I need to earn more family property for my son!”
Wang Ergou’s wife had given birth to a chubby son in January, which he was overjoyed about. In the past, he would go drinking and waste some money with several of his bad friends in the village. However, ever since he got a son, he had become an extremely dutiful father and stayed around his wife and child every day. He also came to the Yu Residence many times to ask for advice on how to make meals to be eaten during the postnatal confinement period. He even personally served his wife during confinement period, nurturing her to become fair and plump. Since she had plenty of breast milk, the little guy ate until his tummy was bloated every day.
Yu Xiaocao teased him, “Why don’t you also sell your family’s farmland to us?!”
“No, I can’t sell it!! I’m leaving this land to my son!” Wang Ergou waved his hands and firmly refused.
Yu Xiaocao continued, “Would your son care about that mere two mu of farmland? It’s better to earn more money this year, and then buy some good, fertile land for your son in the surrounding villages. If you want to farm on it yourself, then do it. If you don’t want to, then rent it out and collect rent!”
With an enlightened expression on his face, Wang Ergou slapped his thigh and said, “That’s right! Why didn’t I think of that? My wife’s village has a lot of good farmland. I wonder if there’s anyone selling them. I should ask my younger brother-in-law to help me ask around…”
Both of Wang Ergou’s parents had died and he was the only one left in his family. His wife was the eldest child in the family and had four younger siblings, who were all brought up by her. Her younger sisters had all gotten married. One of her younger brothers worked at the docks, while the other one stayed at home to farm and take care of their elderly parents. Looking at Ergou’s wife’s strong character, one could tell that her family, though poor, were people with integrity. After Ergou changed for the better, his in-laws had changed their perspective on him and treated him like half of a son. Wang Ergou felt the warmth of family from his in-laws, so he would always think of his in-laws when there was something good.
“Brother Dahai, I’ll go back and discuss it with my wife. If she agrees, then we’ll sell them to you! Brother Dahai, if you need help, then just let me know. Don’t be courteous with me!” After being taught by his wife, Wang Ergou was no longer the inconsiderate person he used to be.
Yu Hai stopped being courteous with him and said, “Alright! The land has been thawed these past two days, so I was planning on plowing the fields! If Brother Ergou is free, then come help hold the plow!” There were livestock at home, so they naturally didn’t have to plow by hand.
Wang Ergou cheerfully answered, “Okay! I’ll come over early tomorrow!”
Over the next few days, Yu Hai and Wang Ergou plowed the seventeen mu of land, which included land that Wang Ergou sold to them. Yu Xiaocao also stopped helping out at the docks because she needed to plant watermelon, corn, and potatoes. Even if it got too busy at the docks, Madam Han and her younger daughter would help serve the food and wash the dishes every day.
The days passed by, and it was soon the spring season. Standing on the hillside, one could see people busily working everywhere. The villagers of Dongshan Village mostly grew sweet potatoes. The Yu Family’s over a dozen mu of land would attract curious gazes from time to time.
The reason was very simple. The country magistrate personally met the village head of Dongshan Village and solemnly informed him that the Yu Family was helping Royal Prince Yang experiment with the cultivation of new crops. Thus, they must actively cooperate, assist them with guarding the crops, and firmly stop any hint of theft.
When village head returned home, he solemnly held a village-wide meeting. He made the protection of the ‘experimental field’ as the top priority of the whole village, which was firmly implemented. The village head was still worried, so he also threatened, “If anything goes wrong with the crops in the Yu Family’s fields, and thus delayed the royal prince’s affairs, then even the lives of the entire village wouldn’t be enough as compensation!”
Got it! Since this was something that concerning the lives of the entire village, it was no wonder that villagers were so concerned. However, they only looked from afar for fear of affecting the cultivation of the Yu Family’s crops. In order to prevent the crops from being damaged, the villagers had formed a night patrol team. At night, they would guard the Yu Family’s fields so securely that even a mosquito might not be able to fly in. In this way, it made things much easier for the Yu Family.
This year, the Yu Family had doubled their melon field. Besides the eleven mu of land used as an ‘experimental field’, watermelon was planted in all the other fields. It was quite easy to grow watermelon, which only required burying the seeds into the soil. In order to improve the emergence rate, Xiaocao soaked the seeds in mystic-stone water before planting them. For six mu of watermelon, the Yu Family and a free laborer—Wang Ergou—finally finished sowing after working busily for two days.
The method of presoaking the seeds was also used for the cultivation of corn. When growing corn, it was important to pay attention to the distance between the crops. If planted too densely, it would be stuffy and lack sunlight, and the corn wouldn’t be able to grow properly. If planted too loosely, the yield would decrease. Fortunately, Xiaocao had experience with growing corn in her previous life.
The field had been plowed and fertilized. Xiaocao took a hoe and dug shallow pits in the soil, while Madam Liu followed behind her. She put a seed in each pit, and then used her feet to cover the pits with soil. Yu Hai carried a bucket of water and watered the pits… The three family members cooperated very well.
Since the three family members were responsible for the ten mu of land, then it would take them several days to finish sowing. It was their first time trying to grow corn, so the whole family did everything themselves. The job of digging the pits looked simple, but in fact, it was actually hard work. Her waist always had to be bent, and she had to clench the hoe in her hand tightly. After a day, Xiaocao was so tired that she couldn’t even stand straight. She also got some blisters on her palms. The pain of popping the blisters made her scream incessantly.
Madam Liu used a needle, which had been sterilized with fire, and carefully popped the blisters on her younger daughter’s hands. On the side, Yu Hai’s heart ached so much that he gasped unceasingly. Fang Zizhen got the best wound medicine and applied a thin layer for his goddaughter. He also wrapped Xiaocao hand like a pig’s hoof with gauze. When eating dinner in the evening, like a seriously injured person, she had to be fed by Zhenzhu.
Madam Liu looked at her delicate younger daughter and could help but say, “Mother remembers the distance between the pits. Cao’er, you don’t need to work in the fields tomorrow. Stay at home and rest!”
Yu Xiaocao shook her head repeatedly and said, “No! With just you and Father, when would we be able to harvest all the corn ah?! My hand is just not used to doing hard labor. It will be fine in a few days!”
Fang Zizhen disagreed and said, “The blisters on your hand has just been popped. If they get scraped again tomorrow, a layer of skin will surely be peeled off. I might as well just take two days off and help out in the fields!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter