Even a wildfire couldn’t completely destroy grass; it grew again when the spring breeze blew. Weeds had the most tenacious grip on life. Even though it was just the start of spring, in the front and back of the village and all over the mountain, there were wild weeds and herbs growing. The village kids were all able to cut a basket of them without much difficulty.
There weren’t enough people in the Yu Family but there were plenty of village children that had nothing to do! If they set the price at one copper coin for two baskets of fishwort, there would probably be many children who were willing to do a little bit of work to earn some snack money.
After Yu Xiaocao analyzed the situation, the rest of the Yu Family also thought that it wouldn’t be difficult to raise a hundred or so pigs. Her three maternal uncles continued to help with buying and catching piglets in the other villages. Before long, construction on the piggery had finished. It had tall and sturdy walls and spacious pig stalls neatly laid out in a row. They transferred water from a mountain spring using bamboo tubes and filled a pond in the piggery that was constructed out of stone...everything was just about ready.
The little piglets had been moved into their new home. Each pig stall had five fat and noisy little piglets. Out of the twenty pig stalls, there were still half that were empty!
Xiaolian, Eldest Maternal Aunt and her daughter had all come back from the docks. Last year, their business at the docks had been heavily affected by the locust plague. First of all, their braised food business had to stop as none of the butchers in the area had any pigs to slaughter. Thus, they only occasionally encountered pig heads and offal.
Although the Yu Family didn’t lack grain, everyone else in the area wished they could break one copper coin into two. How could a worker at the docks buy a bowl of noodles to enjoy if his wife and kids were all starving at home?
Eldest Maternal Aunt and older cousin Liu Feiyan had already returned back to Xishan Village. However, once Eldest Maternal Aunt heard from her husband that the Yu Family was making a piggery and wanted her to help manage it, she was just waiting for their summons. Once the piggery was finished, she quickly packed her things with her youngest daughter and the two of them went to the piggery and set up their living space.
Currently, the piglets were still small and didn’t need a lot of food. Eldest Maternal Aunt and her daughter, Xiaocao and her sister, and Old Yu, who was becoming more energetic with each passing day, all went out every day with sickles and baskets on their back to cut fishwort in the area around the piggery. Furthermore, they also had the Liu Family’s three cousins coming around to help from time to time, so there were enough people gathering food for the piglets for now.
In order to guarantee the pigs would grow fast, feeding them only fishwort was not enough. The Yu Family had a bunch of coarse grain stored from the winter that they pretty much hadn’t touched. With white rice and wheat flour around, who would want to eat coarse grain? They also had the sweet potatoes they had harvested from last year that had been turned into dried sweet potatoes.
Other than the corn set aside for seed, they also had around a thousand catties of corn which had been ground into cornmeal. The family left a portion to be used to make porridge while the rest was used to feed the pigs. If that old fellow, the Minister of Revenue, found out Yu Xiaocao had used corn to feed pigs, he’d probably be so infuriated that he’d have an aneurysm and then be reborn!
They also had a lot of bean flour, millet and other coarse grains stored in the granary. Old Yu fretted over the stored grain as he was afraid that when summer arrived the grain would attract pests. Thus, he sighed and lamented constantly about this.
Yu Xiaolian and Eldest Maternal Aunt and her daughter were in charge of preparing the food for the pigs. In the corner of the piggery was a small building crafted of bamboo that had a stove with five large burners. Five large pots were on those burners and were currently cooking. The three of them were very used to doing work in the kitchen, so preparing enough food for fifty to sixty little piglets wasn’t considered a difficult task.
Yu Xiaocao also came over every day to help. The most important task she had on hand was to make sure that the water cistern had mystic-stone water added to it. By using water with a very low concentration of mystic-stone water to cook food for the pigs, it created food that the pigs not only liked to eat but it also kept them healthy and growing quickly!
Zhu Junyang, who was in the capital, somehow found out that she was raising pigs in a piggery. Thus, he sent someone over to bring over a few dozen piglets and a few carts full of rice bran, wheat bran, millet, and other coarse grains to feed them. The piggery now had around a hundred and twenty little piglets.
Yu Xiaocao calculated after receiving the pigs. If they sold one pig a day, then by the time the first pig they caught left the gates, then it’d be around the New Years celebrations. Thus, she had her maternal uncles stop buying piglets.
With a hundred and twenty piglets now, they needed a considerable amount of fishwort to feed them every day. Xiaolian and her Eldest Maternal Aunt and cousin had enough work on their hands preparing the food for these piglets, so they definitely didn’t have enough time to gather fishwort. They ended up hiring the twelve year old Liu Yaner to help them.
The family also had to move up the plans on buying fishwort from other people. Yu Xiaocao found her good friends Zhou Shanhu, Qian Yafang and Liu Huifang and told them that they were planning on buying fishwort at a price of one copper coin per two baskets. The three girls, who had nothing better to do, all proclaimed that they were willing to do this.
In the past, when circumstances permitted, all hard working folks would catch a couple of piglets at the start of spring to raise until the New Years. Then, they could either slaughter them for meat or sell them for money. The three girls’ families had all done this before, so they were all very used to gathering fishwort. In one day, they could gather at least four baskets of fishwort while working leisurely.
When they found out that the Yu Family was planning on buying at least thirty baskets of fishwort a day and that the number would increase, the three girls negotiated between themselves. They decided that the three of them would work on gathering fishwort first. If they got to the point that they couldn’t handle it, didn’t they also have brothers and sisters at home? Once the pigs got larger and needed even more fishwort, then they could find other people to also help.
They did as they promised. That same day, Zhou Shanhu and the others all received a bamboo basket from the Yu Family and went out with sickles to gather fishwort at the foot of the West Mountain. Qian Yafang brought along Qian Wu, who wasn’t very willing, while Liu Huifang brought along her younger brother and sister too. Only Zhou Shanhu had no one else to bring with her, but there was nothing she could do. Her older brother had gone off with her father to peddle goods on the street and her sister had already gotten married. Her mother needed to take care of a flock of small chicks, so she was the only one with nothing to do at home.
On the first day, Zhou Shanhu made three copper coins and Qian Yafang made five copper coins. Liu Huifang and her siblings earned nine copper coins in total. After they gave the Yu Family the fishwort and got paid, those who had baskets that weren’t quite full would have those baskets settled during the next day’s work.
After a month of work passed, Liu Huifang and her siblings didn’t expect that they had earned three hundred or so copper coins. In order to earn money nowadays, there were many people hungrily staring at the few open work positions available. If people encountered a bad boss, they could only earn ten or so copper coins for one day of backbreaking labor.
Thus, when Liu Huifang gave her mother the months’ worth of money, Shuanzhu’s wife asked in surprise, “Huifang, where did you go to earn so much money?”
In the past, three hundred copper coins wasn’t considered a lot of money. Those who worked hard when the tide receded to dig up sandworms could earn about this much in one day if they were lucky. However, last year was a disaster year. Thus, the beaches near Dongshan Village were now filled with people every day. Most of the beaches had been scoured completely clean and almost all of the sandworms had disappeared in the area.
Every day, after finishing her chores around the house, her daughter would take her younger brother and younger sister out to play. Whenever she asked, her daughter said that she was going to find her good friend, Yu Xiaocao, to play with. Thus, Shuanzhu’s wife didn’t think much of it. However, she would have never expected that her daughter would come back in a month with three hundred or so copper coins.
Liu Huifang told her how she was getting paid for helping the Yu Family gather fishwort every day. Shuanzhu’s wife sternly looked at her and said, “I’m not even going to mention the good relationship between you and Xiaocao. However, just with your father’s good friendship with your Uncle Yu, we should be helping them without taking their money ah! Come, Mother will return the money back to Xiaocao!”
Liu Huifang wasn’t that concerned about the money as she patiently explained, “Mother, you also know what type of people Uncle Yu and Xiaocao are. If I didn’t take their money, they absolutely wouldn’t let me help them. Instead of having them find other people, it’s better for us to stuff each basket until they are bursting full of fishwort. That way, it’ll prevent Xiaocao giving out money and not receiving enough fishwort in return.”
Liu Shuanzhu, who was in the courtyard drying out the fishnets, heard his daughter’s explanation and remarked in approval, “Wife, Huifang is right. You also know how Brother Dahai doesn’t like to take advantage of other people. If we don’t take his money now, he’ll likely find some other way to compensate us even more in the future!”
When Shuanzhu’s wife heard this, she hesitated for a few seconds before she finally said, “Since your father said this, then I guess we’ll just keep this money?”
Liu Shuanzhu was similar to Yu Hai as he also loved and pampered his children, “Our Huifang, Xiaoying and Tiedan’er are all hard working. We’ll give them ten copper coins each as spending money! Let’s also buy a few catties of white flour and cut a couple catties of chives from Brother Dahai’s place. Tonight, we’ll eat some chive pockets!”
When the three kids heard this, they all started cheering in glee. Shuanzhu’s wife laughed and then glared at her husband, “You ah, is there anyone else who spoils their children so? Making some chive pockets is one thing, but you also give them some spending money! Children have loose hands, so giving them money is the sure fire way to lose it!!”
Liu Huifang placed the ten copper coins into her own embroidered purse and somewhat indignantly said, “Mother, I don’t agree with what you said! Younger Sister Xiaocao is younger than me, yet all of the money in her family is in her hands and I’ve never heard of her spending money recklessly! Also Xiaosha (Author’s note: Yu Hang’s nickname) and Xiaolian all keep the money that they earn. Even Little Shitou has his own savings. Have any of them spent their money unwisely?”
Yingzi also nodded her head in agreement, “That’s right, that’s right! Xiaocao is so amazing! She herself has said: ‘Money is made by earning, not by saving. Those who know how to spend money are the ones who know how to make money!!’ Look at how Xiaocao’s family spends money. They’re never stingy. Even last year, during the disaster, they ate white rice and white flour and had meat at every meal…”
Shuanzhu’s wife pinched her daughter’s face and said, “Who among us can compare to that lass Xiaocao? Every idea that comes out her head is a money-making method. Yingzi, if you can be half as good as her, then you can manage all of the money at home!”
Yingzi thought for a bit and replied somewhat in discouragement, “My head is not as good as Xiaocao’s, I can’t think of any methods to make money…”
Liu Huifang hesitated for a moment and then said the idea that had been ruminating inside of her for a long time for the adults in her family to hear, “Father, Mother! I want to get some small chicks and bring them back home to raise! I heard Xiaocao say that the reason why she’s raising pigs is because she wants to open a braised food store in the prefectural city. I thought for a bit and I think that a braised food shop can’t only sell braised pork. Braised chicken and duck should also be a good thing to sell too, right? We don’t have a lot of people in our village raising chickens, so if we’re able to get them, we won’t have to worry about not selling them…”
Liu Shuanzhu stopped what he was doing, thought carefully a bit, and then nodded his head, “Our daughter has a good idea!”
“How is this a good idea? The child’s dreams are bigger than reality, yet you, as her father, also want to dream so big! Who doesn’t want to raise chickens? Even if you can’t sell them off when they get big, they can still lay eggs to make money. However, the problem is, who has enough extra grain lying around at home to feed all of these mouths ah?!” Shuanzhu’s wife thought that both her husband and daughter were not reliable enough.
Liu Shuanzhu considered this for a bit before he replied, “If we can’t currently, I’ll borrow Brother Dahai’s horse cart and travel farther to buy a cart full of coarse grain home. Along with some wild grasses, with our family’s situation, we should be able to afford to raise around a hundred and eighty chickens without any problems.”
Last year he had gone shark-hunting with Yu Hai a couple of times. After the money came to hand, he also enlarged and updated the family's home. Right now, one side of their now larger courtyard was being used to grow vegetables. They could lay some stones at the other side and craft a few straw shacks to make a big chicken pen.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: I love how the Yu Family can enable other honest families to better their situations too.