“Your Royal Highness, you finally came!!” Liu Jiajin, the Minister of Revenue, welcomed him with a delighted expression. After they politely greeted each other, he eagerly asked, “Did anyone from Tanggu Town’s Yu Family come?”
Since he received the official documents that Royal Prince Yang sent from Tanggu Town and found out that corn grown in Tanggu Town had been bred with pesticides that prevented pests and diseases, Minister Liu’s heart couldn’t stay calm as if it was being scratched by a cat.
Last year, when they planted the corn, everyone on the experimental fields of the Imperial Plantation tended to the corn meticulously. Nearly all corn seedlings were carefully protected, but they still couldn’t grow as well as the corn seedlings planted in the barren and sandy soil of Dongshan Village. When the locust plague came, the capital wasn’t considered one of the worst-hit regions. It was just mildly affected, but the yield of corn was low, and the seedlings looked as if they were malnourished. Over at Dongshan Village, they had harvested the early-matured crop in a rush and reaped around 1,800 catties per mu. It was such a sharp contrast!!
Last year, they could say that they were inexperienced since it was their first time growing corn. But, if they still couldn’t grow the crop better than those at Tanggu Town, where would he put his old face ah?! Therefore, when Minister Liu received the news, he immediately rushed to send a message to request for help. He hoped that the Yu Family would send someone to check if there was a possibility of saving the corn at the Imperial Plantation!
Zhu Junyang admired this white-haired old minister for his sincere concern for the livelihood of the common people. Originally, the Ministry of Revenue wasn’t only in charge of agriculture. However, Minister Liu had devoted all of his energy into cultivating high-yield crops since last year. He wholeheartedly hoped that the common people could stop suffering from starvation a little bit earlier! Minister Liu was born in a poor family. Perhaps, he was able to understand the life of the common people due to his childhood experiences, and thus he was able to become an official who truly cared about the common people.
“Yes! She’s on the carriage!” Zhu Junyang had just finished speaking when Minister Liu reached the side of the carriage.
The first to come down was Yingtao, who held a crook. Minister Liu looked at her and wondered when the Yu Family had a daughter so big in their family. At this time, he heard Yingtao voice a reminder, “Young Miss, be careful. The ground isn’t very even, so let Older Sister Linglong support you.”
Just as she finished speaking, Yu Xiaocao had already jumped down from the horse carriage and giggled, “The ground here is considered pretty good already. When I went to catch wild hares in the mountain forest in the past, there were some places that were really hard to walk… Official Liu, how are you? We meet again!”
For some unknown reason, Minister Liu’s anxious heart calmed down when he saw Yu Xiaocao. He said with a smile, “Miss Yu also came? This is great. Our corn can be saved!!”
Yu Xiaocao looked at the corn sprouting at the side of the road and reassured him, “Official Liu, you don’t need to be too worried. The pesticide is only a preventive measure. If the corn is grown well, then the possibility of them being harmed by pests and diseases will be reduced!”
Minister Liu stared at the jar in Yingtao’s hands and somewhat anxiously asked, “Is this the pesticide that Miss Yu made? There are over a thousand mu of corn and over fifty mu of potatoes planted in our plantation, is there enough pesticide?”
Yu Xiaocao didn’t even need to think about as she said, “This is a highly-concentrated pesticide. We only need to add one drop of pesticide into each bucket. Adding too much, on the other hand, wouldn’t be good for the corn seedlings! Official Liu, can you first show me the water source of the plantation?”
Minister Liu nodded and said, “Miss Yu, please…”
Zhu Junyang, who was on the side, interrupted their conversation, “Aren’t we going into the farmstead to rest for a while and have a cup of tea first?”
Minister Liu came to a sudden realization and said, “Just look at this brain of mine. I’m only thinking about the corn fields. Come, Miss Yu, Yu… dear nephew, I should be around the same age as your father, so I’ll just refer to you as my nephew!”
Yu Hai quickly replied, “Thank you, Official Liu, for such a great honor. Please do as you will wish…”
However, Yu Xiaocao glanced at Zhu Junyang and said, “Official business is more important. We came in the horse carriage, so I’m not tired! Official Liu, let’s go check out the water source first.”
As Minister Liu gladly led the way, he asked, “Is the water source related to the growth of the corn?”
Yu Xiaocao thought about it and said, “It’s not too closely related! As you know, corn can endure droughts but not floods. If it’s not as dry as last year, rainfall will be enough! It’s just a precaution to check the source of water.”
Minister Liu nodded in slight confusion and said, “Oh, ok…”
The Imperial Plantation was situated in front of a small mountain on the outskirts of the capital. The spring water from the mountain gathered behind the plantation and formed a natural lake. The Imperial Plantation was relatively large, so wells were dug out certain distances apart to fight against and prevent droughts.
Inside the lake, there were fish, shrimp, and other creatures. Yu Xiaocao didn’t want to attract things like water monsters, so she didn’t do anything to the lake. After she checked all the wells and changed the quality of the well water, she said to Minister Liu, “Although the water isn’t quite as good as that of our Dongshan Village, it still meets the standard. Is there enough manpower? We can start working!!”
This time, Minister Liu had also brought along two vice ministers and the director of the Granaries Bureau. He was the boss of the Ministry of Revenue, so how could he take care of everything? Minister Liu turned his gaze towards the director of the Granaries Bureau.
Official Li quickly said, “There are over one hundred households in the Imperial Plantation, and there are over four hundred adult male workers. If it’s not enough, this subordinate can borrow some people from nearby plantations.”
The Imperial Plantation was in an area with good terrain and fertile soil. In addition to the Imperial Plantation, many rich and influential people also built plantations here. One of the neighboring plantations belonged to an idle prince in the capital. This idle prince was the younger male cousin of the emperor emeritus. He was also born from a farmer’s family and had no special skills. After the founding of the new empire, he was bestowed the title of an imperial prince. He didn’t have any authorities and only received an official’s salary. If calculated seriously, Zhu Junyang would have to call him ‘Granduncle’!
Yu Xiaocao thought about it and said, “No need! It’s not heavy labor, so women and children around the age of eight can also do the work.”
In fact, it wasn’t a difficult task. They just had to add mystic-stone water into the water bucket, and then sprinkle it onto the roots of the corn seedlings. However, it took patience to irrigate the crops one by one.
Official Li gathered the workers together, and they busily fetched water and irrigated the crops. The whole plantation bustled with activity. Yu Xiaocao didn’t stay idle either. She reckoned that the ‘pesticide’ that she brought over wasn’t enough, so she pretended to brew a pot of pesticide with the herbs that she brought along. When no one was paying attention, she added a bottle of mystic-stone water inside and completed the task.
There were six to seven hundred people and over to thousand mu of farmland, so with each person working on around three mu of land, they were able to complete the job in a day. There were people from the Ministry of Revenue supervising the plantation. Zhu Junyang was afraid that Yu Xiaocao would be bored, so he suggested, “Although there isn’t any big game in the back hills, wild hares, pheasants, and so on appear from time to time. Do you want to go take a look?”
The vegetation of Dongshan Village’s West Mountain had been destroyed by the locusts, so the small animals had all run away. Yu Xiaocao hadn’t been able to have a taste of pheasants again since last summer. She thought about it and said, “Okay! I have nothing to do anyway. If we can catch a pheasant or wild hare, then we can have an extra dish for lunch!”
When Yingtao heard that they were going up the mountain to catch game, she volunteered to go with them. Yu Hai was worried about his daughter being alone with the royal prince, so he followed her closely, for fear that his daughter would be deceived by the cunning wolf.
The hills behind the Imperial Plantation were full of green grass and covered in a vast sea of green. Yu Xiaocao had learned to track the steps of prey from Zhao Han. In the places that the wild hares and pheasants didn’t appear, she didn’t set up traps but left traces of mystic-stone water in the nearby thickets.
Zhu Junyang didn’t bring any hunting tools, but this didn’t affect him. He cut several bamboo poles, sharpened one end, and prepared to use it as a spear. The locust plague in the capital might not have been as serious as Dongshan Village, so from time to time, they would be able to see wild hares passing through the grass on the hills.
“There’s not a lot of game here. Let’s walk over there!” There weren’t any vicious beasts on the mountain, so what did they have to worry about? Yu Xiaocao beat the bushes with a bamboo pole as she followed behind Head Steward Liu and Zhu Junyang.
Suddenly, there was movement in the grass not too far away. Yu Xiaocao picked up a small rock and threw it over there. Flapping its wings in panic, a colorful pheasant came out of the thicket and darted towards Zhu Junyang.
Zhu Junyang calmly hit the pheasant’s head with the bamboo pole, and the pheasant stopped moving after fluttering its wings twice. Yingtao had never experienced hunting before. She rushed towards the game happily, and then came back holding the pheasant’s wings, “Young Miss, it seems like this pheasant has fainted. This servant will tie its wings so that it can’t run away when it wakes up!”
Yingtao tied the pheasant securely and put it into the basket that she was carrying.
[There are pheasant eggs over at the place that the pheasant just came out from!] The little divine stone lazily reminded her. Yu Xiaocao retracted her steps and walked back towards the relatively dense thicket.
Yingtao also curiously followed her. After Yu Xiaocao pushed away the bushes, she immediately exclaimed, “Young Miss, Young Miss!! There are pheasant eggs ah!! Seven or eight pheasant eggs!!”
Yu Xiaocao was infected by her joyous mood and laughed, “Hurry and go collect the eggs! For lunch, let’s make ‘stir-fried wild scallions and eggs’. It will definitely taste great!!”
Yingtao excitedly picked up the pheasant eggs and placed them in the basket. She carefully covered them with grass, and then asked, “Young Miss, we have pheasant eggs, but what’s wild scallions?”
Yu Xiaocao took a few steps, bent down, and pointed at a long and thin plant in the grass. She said, “Look! This is wild scallion. Be careful pulling them out. It’s best to also pull out the round rhizome underground.”
Yingtao was in high spirits. After she heard Xiaocao’s words, she started pulling out the wild scallions with her butt sticking out. When the soil was hard, she would dig the soil with a small piece of bamboo and did her best to ensure the wild scallions were intact.
Seeing that Zhu Junyang and his servant had walked far away, Yu Xiaocao stayed to wait for Yingtao. This girl had never been in the mountains, so Xiaocao was afraid that she would get lost. This small mountain wasn’t much compared with Dongshan Village’s West Mountain, but if she really got lost, it would be troublesome to find her.
Zhu Junyang walked slightly deeper in and caught two wild hares and a pheasant. He also got a ‘white-fronted pig’ out of its hole. A ‘white-fronted pig’ was actually a ferret-badger. It was a small animal that lived in a cave and had delicious meat, and thus it was a good game.
At this time, Yingtao had already dug up quite a lot of wild scallions. Yu Xiaocao looked at the sky and then walked down the mountain along the path that they came from. When she passed by the places that she set traps in, she harvested two more living hares.Previous Chapter Next Chapter