Chapter 331 - Spring Planting

Yu Xiaocao was currently thinking about what to do. This residence shouldn’t only be used for half a month to live in while her brother took his exams. In order to get the most value from the purchase, she needed to do something else with it. Originally, she was thinking of renting it out to students who were taking exams. However, even with that idea the residence would stay empty for more than ten months out of the year! That was such a waste of an investment!

She really wanted to go back to her roots and open a braised food store. However, right now was not the right season for this as it would be hard to have a food-related business take off, especially something that relied on meat. It was just the start of spring, meaning it was the usual time for people to catch piglets for people to raise. Thus, there was a half a year delay before those piglets would be ready for slaughter. As for chickens and ducks, she also needed to wait for half a year...forget it for now, there was no need to think so much now. Once she got home, the whole family could get together and decide what to do!

The day of the prefectural exam approached quickly. With the experience of one set of examinations under their belt, Little Shitou and Qian Wen were both a lot more calm and collected this time around. At five in the morning, the doors to the prefectural examination yard opened. Because the exams were only across the street from them, the two of them ate breakfast and left the house at five in the morning. After undergoing inspections by the guards, they were seated according to their exam results. Everyone was given a small booth in the prefectural examination courtyard. This was another measure to prevent people from cheating.

The prefectural exam consisted of vocabulary, essays, and essays discussing political affairs. It was split into writing from memory, poetry and prose, and current affairs. Writing from memory posed no difficulty at all for Little Shitou. Furthermore, prior to the prefectural exam, Headmaster Yuan had personally instructed him and gave him tutoring on poetry, pose, and current affairs. Therefore, the other two sections of the exam were also passable for him.

There were a total of fifty people who qualified for the prefectural exams and they were split into two ranks. The top ten were considered the A-rankers. When they were being seated, Little Shitou was at the tail-end of the A-rankers and was number nine. During the examinations, the prefectural magistrate and many of the examiners had all taken note of this exam candidate who was the youngest of the bunch. They made sure to remember his name. When they were discussing the exam results and grading, they discovered that this cute and handsome little examinee had unexpectedly very good results.

They went back to review the sign up materials and discovered that he had studied at Rongxuan Academy, so his results were not surprising at all. Rongxuan Academy had produced many geniuses. An eight year old who could pass the county level examinations was not off the mark. Even a ten year old top scorer in the imperial palace examinations could be produced from them.

When they were looking at the results, Yu Bo deliberately waited over there. His name was also on the list. However, compared to the A-rank that Little Shitou received, he was only a B-rank and was only within the top forty. Someone who had passed the prefectural exam was someone who was halfway towards passing the entry-level exams as a whole. After passing the third in the series, only then was a candidate considered to be someone who had passed the county-level exams. 

Originally, Yu Bo was full of self-confidence. However, after he saw his little nephew’s results and compared it to his own, he had to admit that comparisons were the devil. He had been studying for over a decade yet he only scored at the back of the pack. His young nephew, on the other hand, had only studied for only two years yet he was able to score in the top ten!

He didn’t believe that his own intelligence and efforts were any less than his nephew’s. Instead, he placed all of the blame on the fact that Little Shitou was able to study at a famous school and he wasn’t. Yu Bo even thought, ‘If I was able to enter Rongxuan Academy last year, I would definitely have a better result than Little Shitou. Like at least the top three!’ No one knew where his self-confidence came from!

However, the top three on the prefectural entry exams were all students from Rongxuan Academy. In fact, within the A-rankers, seven of them were students from Rongxuan Academy. Were they not giving other people a chance? Based on that, it wasn’t surprising that many people did everything they could to enter the school!

Yu Bo restrained the raging jealousy within his heart and congratulated Little Shitou. The Yu Family’s siblings also congratulated him. After setting the time when they would head back, they went their respective ways. As for where the Yu Family’s siblings were living, Yu Bo didn’t even bother to ask them.

The day after the results were published, the two siblings packed up everything to go back home. There were a lot of tasks waiting for them when they got back. The most important out of all of them was to get the corn crop sowed into the ground. Although the last entry-level exam was also in the prefectural city, it only happened in the autumn! The county-level exams only happened twice every three years and this year was the second of the two. Otherwise, they would have to wait until next autumn to take the exam.

When they got back, the courtyard was covered in a carpet of green liveliness. It made a person feel comfortable just from looking at it! The front courtyard was planted full of green leafy vegetables that were already ready to be harvested and sold. Under their agreement with Zhenxiu Restaurant, the vegetables were first sold to them to provide the Tanggu Town’s and prefectural city’s branches. Then, the remaining vegetables could be sold to their frequent customers in Tanggu Town. There were many buyers that had come over happily to inquire but they had to leave disappointed. If they didn’t have to plant and breed corn, Yu Xiaocao would have wanted to use the farmland in Tanggu Town to plant early-growing green vegetables. Could make a lot of money ah!

That evening, the residence only had Madam Liu, Yu Caifeng, Liu Yaner, and Little Fangping. After asking, she found out that her father and her uncle had taken Liu Junping to the Yu Family’s farmstead to prep the land. They had already plowed almost all a hundred mu and fertilized it too. They were just waiting for Yu Xiaocao to come back before they started planting the seeds.

Farming matters didn’t wait for anyone. The next day, early in the morning, Yu Xiaocao rode her little red horse to her family’s farmstead in town with the young royal prince accompanying her. All of the corn seeds had been transported to the storehouse there and there was always someone there watching over them every day.  

The tenants on the farmstead regarded the owners with awe and gratitude. Last year there was the drought as well as the locust plague, so there wasn’t any harvest to be had let alone enough to pay the rent. Even getting food to eat was a problem. Right about the time they were going to despair, the owners had waived them from paying rent and gave them a way to survive.

After managing to survive the winter with difficulty, most families had no resources left. Just as they were at an impasse, the owners appeared again. At first, the news that they brought, that they weren’t renting out the land anymore, had hit like a bolt of lightning. Some people started crying bitterly right then and there, and everyone kneeled in front of the masters to beg. Tenant farmers all came from poor families and didn’t have much. They had somehow managed to survive the autumn and winter seasons of last year. If there was no land to be rented, then they would truly have to go out on the streets and beg for food!

After the owners coaxed them all up and explained, they found out that the masters wanted to hire them to till the land. Those that did more work and did it well could get a reward. It was a bit like being hired on as long-term workers. However, the wages they offered were on the higher side and were quite fair.

When it was time to plow and fertilize the fields, everyone worked their hearts out. Even the women and older children in their families came out to help. There were a hundred and seventy or so mu to take care at this farmstead. All sixteen families here had been farmers for generations. Those who had more hands at home could plow around fifteen to sixteen mu. Those that had fewer could still plow three to four mu

Most of the families on the farmstead were facing imminent starvation due to lack of food stores. Thus, Yu Hai made sure to hand out their wages on a daily basis. Those who plowed more and did a better job could receive more money. The families who plowed less or perhaps didn’t do as good of a job would receive less or even no money. Thus, on the first day, there were some families who received a hundred copper coins while others only received twenty to thirty copper coins.  

Even the people who only got twenty to thirty copper coins were quite satisfied. The current markets had reasonably-priced grain. Coarse grains were eight to nine copper coins a catty, so the money from a day’s work could buy three catties worth of grain! If you added on the wild herbs that the children gathered, the family could still eat until they were half full.

However, those who only pursued speed and not quality on the first day learned their lesson for the second day and made sure to spend their time doing the job well. Sure enough, the money they received for the second day was a lot more than what they got from the first. As this happened, those who were trying to take advantage of the situation all settled down and began to carefully farm to earn money.

Within a dozen days, all a hundred and seventy or so mu of farmland had been carefully plowed. Weeds had all been cleaned up and the land had been fertilized. The fertilizer used was all human waste that had come from each family saving it up at home. Yu Hai set a price of five copper coins a cart for the fertilizer and bought it from all of the tenant farmers. The tenants didn’t expect that the fertilizer created from their own waste could also be sold for money, so they were even more deeply grateful towards their employer.

When Yu Xiaocao arrived at the farmstead, she first met up with her father. After chatting a bit, the two of them separated to do their own work. Yu Xiaocao went into the storehouse to select seeds while Yu Hai gathered all of the tenant farmers up. With the manager of the farmstead there, Yu Hai, as the owner, didn’t need to personally do these menial tasks.

Zhu Junyang followed Yu Xiaocao and watched as she first went to the farmstead’s well and drew up a bucket of water. In actuality, Yu Xiaocao was using the action of drawing up water to conceal the fact that she told the little divine stone to alter the well. The well water was now a very dilute form of mystic-stone water.   

When he saw Yu Xiaocao struggling to carry the bucket of water, Zhu Junyang took the bucket over with a look of disdain, “Your arms and legs are way too weak. Aren’t you afraid that this bucket of water will cause you to collapse?”

Head Steward Liu was shocked, ‘Master is helping Miss Yu carry water? When did Master ever do such crude labor like this before?’

“Master, leave it there and let me take it instead!” Head Steward Liu hurried forward to take the bucket of water from Royal Prince Yang.

Yu Xiaocao didn’t feel it was right for Head Steward Liu to do hard labor at his age, so she interjected, “Forget it, let me do it instead! The more I exercise, the stronger I’ll get!”

“Alright, alright! Let’s go, where are we taking this?” Zhu Junyang carried the bucket of water and ran forward. Yu Xiaocao had to run to catch up. Behind them was Head Steward Liu, whose face was wrinkled into a suffering frown.

When they got to the storehouse, Yu Xiaocao took out her bottle of already prepared ‘special medicine’ and poured it into the bucket to mix. Once done, she sprayed it on the corn seeds.

Zhu Junyang didn’t quite understand what she was doing, so he asked, “What’s the purpose of spraying this water on the seeds?”

“To prevent pests and disease from harming the plants ah!! Look, in the autumn, there were probably insects that laid their eggs in the soil. When spring gets warmer, those bugs will all come out and will start eating the roots and shoots of the crops. If I spray the seeds with this pesticide, we can avoid losing some of our crops!”

Yu Xiaocao was very earnest as she explained herself. In fact, the spiritual power within the pesticide could also increase the germination and survival rate of the seeds. These other factors were not easily explained to the young royal prince. If the young royal prince didn’t follow her inside, she would have directly sprayed the mystic-stone water onto them instead of going through the hassle of ‘mixing pesticide’.

The seeds that had been sprayed with ‘pesticide’ were all delivered out into the fields. The tenant farmers took the seeds and watched the owner demonstrate the depth of the holes and distance between the holes. Following that, they started to enthusiastically sow all of the seeds into the ground.

Yu Hai and Liu Hu all had a decent amount of experience with this, so they were in charge of patrolling the land and watching over the process. They conscientiously recorded down every family’s speed and quality of work. This was the first time that the tenant farmers had encountered the planting methods for corn, so some of them hadn’t fully grasped on how to plant them. Yu Hai and the others identified those people and also patiently taught them the right method. 

The efficiency of sowing on the first day was relatively low. The faster families had managed to plant about two mu worth and they received around eighty copper coins in wages. The ones who planted the least were Widow Li and her son. There were only two of them and her son was only around ten years old. Although the two of them were slow, they were very diligent and careful with their planting. In fact, Widow Li was afraid that they might plant the corn in the wrong distance, so she used a branch that she had broken into the correct length to measure as she slowly dug the holes. Yu Hai had seen everything they had done, so when they were getting their wages, they received forty copper coins in total.  

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Yu Bo is so delusional about his own abilities. 

Translator: Sanguine