Chapter 303 - Relieving the Disaster

Once they entered summer, besides the occasional two or three rainfalls, it didn’t rain anymore. Although it was better than the drought in the Northeast, if it wasn’t for the locust plague, then there was a good chance that harvest would’ve just declined sharply, and there would’ve been places without the possibility of the final harvest. 

On the West Mountains, the only trees left after the locust plague were dry and looked dead. If it didn't start raining soon then it would be very likely that all the plant life would die. Even the stream that flowed yearlong from the West Mountains was also dried up. The pond behind the Yu Family's old house was also only a tenth of what it had been. Large areas of mud at the bottom of the pond had large gaps from being dried up by the sun. Occasionally, a fish died in areas without water and would give off a rotting smell.

The water level in the well behind the old house had also dropped a lot and the ropes on the bucket had been changed again and again to be longer. The well in the Yu Family's home was considered to be in good condition, having been drilled deeper. Many of the wells in the village had already dried up and finding water to drink was becoming a problem! 

Just when everyone in the disaster zone was starting to become more and more desperate, freezing rain fell one evening near the end of autumn. It left a transparent string of ice on the roofs and branches, which melted and fell to the ground as water droplets at noon. The autumn rain continued to fall, moistening the dry ground. The annoying locusts were also frozen to death by the freezing rain. This rain came in at just the right time. Not only did it provide relief from the drought, but it also solved the locust plague problem. Spring planting shouldn't be affected next year.

The freezing rain alleviated the effects of the drought but it also brought disaster to the vegetables the Yu Family was growing. The Chinese cabbage, radishes, and other autumn vegetables managed to survive. Green vegetables, like lettuce and other greens, were all frozen into a droopy state overnight. If Yu Xiaocao hadn't watered the vegetables with the mystic-stone water every so often, they would've most likely frozen to death.

The rain continued to fall gently without ceasing for ten days. During these ten days, the Yu Family braved the rain in order to put all the vegetables into the warehouse in order to reduce some losses. After selling these vegetables, the autumn vegetables would almost be ready for harvest. 

Cabbage, radishes, and onions... there weren’t many autumn vegetables that could be planted in this era. The Yu Family's west courtyard was planted with autumn plants, which would be more than enough for their family to eat for the whole winter and some surplus to spare. Chinese cabbages were cut out from the ground one by one and were dried slightly before being put into the cellar in the west courtyard. The cellar in the east courtyard had already been converted into an ice cellar. 

Radishes were pulled out of the ground and the more tender radish seedlings could be used for cold dishes. Pulling radishes out was a strenuous job that was given to the men in the family. The women and children worked on chopping cabbages and pulling up onions. 

After working for ten days, the autumn vegetables were all put into the cellar. The surplus autumn vegetables of the Yu Family were contracted at a high price by Zhenxiu Restaurant. it wasn't that other vegetable growing families didn't grow cabbages and radishes, but they were all destroyed by the locust plague shortly after sprouting. Many of the wealthy people in town had bought the special pesticide from Yu Xiaocao, but what they grew wasn't enough for them to eat, much less sell it. Furthermore, these families didn’t lack the money to buy vegetables either. 

Out of all the restaurants of Tanggu Town, only fresh vegetables could be eaten in Zhenxiu Restaurant. Other well-known restaurants bought vegetables from the south, but their prices were higher and most of the vegetables weren't as fresh after such a long journey.

The taste of the Yu Family's vegetables was recognized by all of Tanggu Town. There used to be people who investigated the cause of the difference in the Yu Family's vegetables and those of other families. In the end, it was concluded that the well water behind their house was from a top grade mountain spring, which couldn't be found anywhere else. 

Not even a month after the autumn rain had fallen, the temperature sharply dropped and snowfall quietly began. Winter came without anyone noticing. All of the residents of Dongshan Village hid inside their houses for the winter. The winter this year wasn't any better than last year's winter. Although reasonably-priced grain was being shipped from the south, besides some dried vegetables and dried seafood, there wasn’t much food to be had. 

Last year, the villagers had more money in their pockets and were able to have a good winter. Now, many people weren’t even able to keep themselves full. 

However, for the Yu Family, the impact wasn't that big. 

After winter began, Royal Prince Yang and his attendants had returned to the capital to report on their tasks. He did a good job with the disaster relief and the stipulated grain prices were put in place in a timely matter. The citizens in the disaster area were all deeply grateful to the emperor and Royal Prince Yang. The reputation of the imperial court also rose among the people.

In this past year, Royal Prince Yang had brought in high yielding seeds from overseas and managed to cultivate one thousand catties of corn per mu and five thousand catties of potatoes per mu. He also did relatively well with the disaster relief. The emperor gave him a very generous reward. If he hadn't recently been promoted to the rank of royal prince, there would've been a good chance that he would've been given the rank of imperial prince, the same rank as his father! 

Fang Xun, who had gone with Royal Prince Yang to sea and was in charge of the acquisition and purchase of provisions, was also rewarded. He was not only promoted two ranks but was also awarded with the title of a defense marshal and placed in charge of the imperial guards. He was already an official of the second rank at such a young age, so how could others not be greedy and jealous? However, they could watch with envious eyes. After all, Royal Prince Yang looked highly upon Fang Xun, leading to his repeated promotions!

 Royal Prince Yang was now the emperor’s favorite. There was a saying being circulated privately among the official circles of the capital: "If you side with Royal Prince Yang, it is guaranteed that your rank will be promoted." This saying wasn't without any evidence and reason. The emperor trusted this younger cousin of his and often made him in charge of anything important going on. It was very easy to get results when working with someone like him. Furthermore, Royal Prince Yang never took credit for someone else's contribution. As a matter of fact, he was currently in court asking for the merits for the people who had helped him grow corn and potatoes! 

"Your Imperial Majesty, the Yu Family planted ten mu of land and ended up harvesting ten thousand catties of corn. They also planted one mu of potatoes, which produced five thousand catties. If corn and potatoes become widely planted in the north, then wouldn't the people no longer need to worry about having enough food and be able to live in peace? I believe the Yu Family has made great contributions to the country and should be rewarded!" Zhu Junyang presented his thoughts to the emperor.

Minister Liu of the Ministry of Revenue agreed with the prince, “Imperial Majesty, such talents should be recruited to the Ministry of Revenue! I calculated that, if it wasn't for the locusts plague, the yield of corn per mu in the Ministry of Revenue's experimental fields would've been around six to seven hundred catties per mu. This subject has also seen that the corn planted by the Yu Family was full and even. The potatoes were big too! In my opinion, the Yu Family has a rare talent in farming, so it should be put to use!"

The other civil and military officials listened to the words of Minister Liu of the Ministry of Revenue and began calculating in their hearts. The experimental fields of the Ministry of Revenue were all fertile and had specially assigned people to take care of them. One mu of land could produce six to seven hundred catties. However, it was said that Dongshan Village had mostly mountainous and barren sandy land, yet the yield of one mu of land was more than one thousand catties.

What was going on? Either the Yu Family didn't record all of their planting methods or the Yu Family definitely had a brilliant talent at farming. With Zhu Junyang, the cold faced prince, watching over them, the Yu Family would certainly dare not hide anything. In other words, there was a 90% chance that it was the latter.

What was the Great Ming Dynasty lacking the most right now? Grain ah! Jiangnan, the land of fish and rice, was doing alright. The climate there was suitable for planting and there was an abundance of fertile land. With two harvesting seasons, the annual yields in Jiangnan was considered decent. At least the common people could fill their stomachs. However, north of Yangtze River, especially the bitter northeast and northwest, they only had one harvesting season each year due to the climate. Although the emperor has repeatedly reduced taxes on agriculture, the yield in the north was still too low. Most of the commoners there were happy if they could eat until they were half full.

It was said that corn and potatoes weren't picky with soil and climate and were easy to grow in the north. Most importantly, they have a high yield! One season was equivalent to two or three seasons of other crops. If every mu of land was able to reach a yield of a thousand catties per mu, what worries would the people have about hunger? 

Corn could be ground into cornmeal, which could be used to make steamed rolls and kneaded flat cakes. Although staple foods made with cornmeal were not as tender compared to white flour, it tasted better compared to other coarse grains such as millet flour and bean flour. The methods to cook potatoes had also been circulated among the officials. Some of them even borrowed a few potatoes to cook. After all, the cooking methods weren’t difficult. If potatoes became popular in the future, there will be many dishes to be had in winter.

All of the officials believed within their hearts that corn and potatoes should be planted in larger quantities. This year, they managed to harvest ten thousand catties of good seed. Therefore, next year, they could plant a few thousand mu of land. By the autumn of next year, they would be able to harvest several million catties of seeds...Thus, in three or five years, corn could be widely planted in the north! 

With this type of talented person, they were sure that no one would oppose his promotion! 

The Minister of Revenue had been hinting that he hoped the emperor could give the Yu Family a small seventh official rank so they could serve the Ministry of Revenue. None of the other officials raised an objection.

The emperor, who was sitting on the high dragon throne, had a smile on his face but stayed silent. The Minister of Revenue was starting to feel a little anxious. He thought the emperor didn't agree with him. When he was about to say something, the emperor finally said, "Royal Prince Yang, you've had the most contact with the Yu Family and have the most say on the matter. Who do you think should take the credit?"

The Minister of Revenue had been to Dongshan Village in person. Besides Yu Hai, the rest of the household were all women and children. It wasn't that he looked down on women and children, but they could only do housework in the home. Wasn't farming the job of the man? So who would get the credit? Of course, it would be Yu Hai, who was the head of the household. 

Zhu Junyang took a look at his smiling cousin and honestly said, "According to the observations of this subject, the planting methods for the corn and potatoes were all invented by Yu Xiaocao, Yu Hai's daughter."

The Minister of Revenue had seen Yu Xiaocao before, but she was only a skinny little girl. He couldn't help but frown and retorted, "Royal Prince Yang, that girl is only ten years old, how capable could she be? It seems to be that Yu Hai and his brother in law took care of all the corn..."

Royal Prince Yang glared at him coldly and said, "It doesn't matter who is in charge of the field. The key is who came up with the idea and who was making sure it was carried out. Your Majesty, this subject lived in Dongshan Village for more than three months. What this one saw was Yu Xiaocao coming up with the idea and commanding behind Yu Hai’s back. Yu Hai's whole family worked together in order to have a big harvest of corn."

The Minister of Revenue saw that Royal Prince Yang didn't seem to be joking. His brows wrinkled and he whispered, "Is this Yu Xiaocao really so powerful?" 

Zhu Junyang ignored him and continued on, "Imperial Majesty, you saw it in your last private visit. During the locust plague, Yu Xiaocao used her understanding of drugs to work with Doctor Sun to create a pesticide that kills locusts. It's a pity that some of the materials needed for the medicinal liquid are rare so the cost is too high for it to be produced in large quantities. However, the vegetables planted with the pesticide were not ruined by the locusts at all. This shows intelligence! How difficult is it for her to grow corn when she can grow vegetables during the locust plague? This subject believes that your majesty should give credit where it is deserved. That is the type of governance the Great Ming Dynasty should have!"

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Translator: Elaine