Chapter 349 - An Old Topic Comes Up Again

The Zhou Family’s factory continued to buy chicken eggs from the nearby villages to create preserved eggs, so they didn’t have to worry about not being able to sell their eggs. There was also a good market for the chickens too. Didn’t the Zhou Family, who lived next to Brother Dahai, become rich from raising chickens? Fortune favored the bold, leaving only scraps for the timid. Liu Shuanzhu thought that raising chickens was a very good idea.

Shuanzhu’s wife still wasn’t completely convinced and had her oldest daughter, Huifang, go ask Yu Xiaocao. In her heart, Yu Xiaocao was a golden grass [1] that knew how to make money. If she agreed, then raising chickens was truly a risk-free method to earn money.

When Liu Huifang got to the Yu Family’s residence, Yu Xiaocao was currently pondering on what to do next. If they opened a braised food shop, only selling braised pork was not enough. They also needed to prepare some other dishes, like chicken, duck, and vegetables to sell. Vegetarian dishes were easy enough. Her family grew vegetables and then, in a while, the markets would also have plenty of vegetables for sale. Ducks were also easy to get. Their neighbor, Madame Mao, had bought and bred over a few hundred ducklings to raise this year. Every day they herded the ducks into the pond behind the house to free feed and at night they were fed some wild grasses, so they didn’t have to use much grain to keep them.

However, the Zhou Family’s chickens were not as easy to keep. Luckily, Zhou Shanhu’s father and older brother peddled goods, so they traveled quite a bit. They were able to bring back some cheaply priced rice husks and wheat stalks back. Even with this, the Zhou Family still couldn’t raise too many chickens. They only had a hundred or so chickens. Let alone Zhenxiu Restaurant, even Yu Xiaocao’s braised food shop needed a larger supply of chickens than this!

When Older Sister Huifang came over to tell her that they wanted to raise chickens, Yu Xiaocao naturally applauded their plans wholeheartedly. Furthermore, she promised Huifang that they would buy her family’s chickens at two copper coins above the market price, so they had to only sell chickens to them.

Liu Huifang was finally able to relax. She smiled and then leveled a look at Yu Xiaocao, “Our two families have a good relationship, so there’s no need to be so polite. When the time comes, just buy our chickens at the market price. We can’t always take advantage of your family, right? I can’t chat anymore, I need to go back and tell my parents to start getting chicks.”

The days passed and the Yu Family’s vegetables had been pretty much sold out. In a blink of an eye, their dozen or so mu of watermelon fields had reopened. Although they planted a lot more watermelons this year, a lot of people came by from the nearby towns and the prefectural city to discuss doing business with the Yu Family. They didn’t need the Yu Family to ship the watermelons as they were willing to come get them themselves. The watermelons would be sold to these people at a wholesale price.

Liu Hu’s whole family continued to sell watermelons in town. Those who could afford watermelons definitely didn’t lack money. Although last year was a disaster year, it didn’t affect the blazing popularity of watermelons one bit. In about a month’s time, Liu Hu’s whole family had earned several fold more than they did the previous year; they received two hundred taels in profit!

Last year, the royal prince had transported a few carts of watermelons and caused a sensation in the capital. Fang Zizhen was inspired by this. He privately negotiated with Xiaocao’s three maternal uncles. They were in charge of transporting the melons while he would be in charge of finding a market in the capital. The profits would be split fifty-fifty.

The watermelons sold in the prefectural city were priced higher than the ones sold in Tanggu Town. Thus, if they went to the capital, the price would go up even more. With such profits in front of them, they’d be lying if they said they weren’t tempted. The Liu Family’s three brothers calculated it out and decided it was worth it! The Fang Estate provided the horse cart, while the three brothers hired a few guards from a business that provided escorting services for merchants. They transported the melons to one of the dowry shops of Xiaocao’s godmother. From spring to the start of summer, the Liu Family’s brothers had gone back and forth to the capital five to six times and earned almost a thousand taels for their efforts.

In the blink of an eye, it was now midsummer. The spring crop of corn was now ripe. Although there wasn’t a lot of rainfall until now, the corn was not affected one bit as it was a drought-hardy crop. In addition, Yu Xiaocao had emphasized that the crops only be watered with the best water from the wells. Thus, the corn on the Yu Family’s farmstead grew very well.

Now that it was ready to harvest, Yu Xiaocao accompanied her father to keep an eye on the town’s farms. For the past two months, Royal Prince Yang had been busy with something, so she hadn’t even seen him once. Right before they were going to harvest, he finally came over in a hurry.  

“Oh ho! Looks like you’ve enjoyed the easy life so much in the capital that you were reluctant to leave eh?” Yu Xiaocao couldn’t help but crack a joke when she saw Royal Prince Yang, who had gotten thinner and tanner since she last saw him. Despite these changes, he was in good spirits.

Zhu Junyang narrowed his beautiful phoenix eyes and indifferently scanned her, “Do you think I am like you? Always looking for ways to slack off and enjoy life instead of getting ahead?! This prince had gone to Tuolai Mountain to clean out some bandits!”

A band of violent bandits had formed at Tuolai Mountain and slaughtered and burnt out villages indiscriminately. All of the commoners in the area suffered immensely. Taian Prefecture had sent up a report, asking for help from the court. Zhu Junyang recommended himself and took a group of elite soldiers out. They entered the depths of the mountain and completely defeated that group of bandits. The prince was highly skilled at martial arts and talented at commanding troops. Although he didn’t bring a lot of men with him, he managed to defeat a large group with a few men and completely caught the whole group of criminals in one swoop!

Yu Xiaocao listened to Head Steward Liu’s detailed descriptions about the campaign against the bandits. Her pair of eyes immediately started shining with delight. Wow! A young hero with incredible skills. She had finally met a true expert! 

“Young Royal Prince, are you able to traverse a river in one step and go across the snow without leaving prints? Are you able to use leaves as throwing knives and kill a person? Are you able to perform earth-shattering feats and sweep everything in your path? Are you…”

“Stop, stop, stop! What sort of nonsense are you talking about? It sounds like you think martial arts experts are like gods, but that’s not possible! From what you’re saying, a few experts would be able to destroy a whole city, right?” Zhu Junyang really wanted to crack open the little lass’s head and figure just what was in there. How could she have such ridiculous ideas?

Yu Xiaocao thought and decided he was right. Martial arts experts weren’t gods. Those who had the skills to dominate the skies were likely only found in wuxia novels, right?

After looking at the heavy ears of corn that were on the corn stalks, Zhu Junyang personally pulled off an ear of corn and peeled off its outer leaves. The glistening yellow kernels of corn were densely packed together in neat rows and each kernel seemed to be plump and full of juice. The corn on the fields today was not in any way inferior to the ones that were harvested by the Yu Family last year. 

The hired temporary workers on Royal Prince Yang’s eight hundred mu corn plantation were all doing their best. The wages given to them by the master were high and harvesting corn wasn’t something that required a lot of skill. Even women and half-grown children could do this work. In any case, the wages paid out was based on the weight of corn harvested every day. The more a person harvested, the more money he or she received. Thus, the temporary workers all enthusiastically did their jobs. They were often in the fields before the sun came up and only left when they couldn’t see the corn anymore. 

The Yu Family’s farmstead only had around a hundred mu and were taken care of by sixteen families. Their wages were based on how many catties of corn each mu produced. Those who were in the top three could get a bonus of five taels, three taels, or one tael respectively. 

Although Widow Li and her son didn’t have a lot of land to take care of, the amount of corn per field they produced was in the top three. First place went to someone else but they managed to get second place and received three taels as a bonus. Widow Li and her son immediately kneeled in front of their masters. If they hadn’t followed the right master, they would have probably starved to death at the beginning of spring.  

In the past two months, they not only received money during spring plowing but they also got a salary every month. After subtracting the costs of food, they still had some surplus money leftover. During a time where there wasn't much surplus grain to be had, the two of them were still able to eat until they were full every day. This was something that they had never thought was possible in previous years. The two of them not only had rosy cheeks, but they also gained some weight and no longer looked like starving refugees.

Feeling the weight of the three taels in her hand, Widow Li couldn’t believe that this was happening! The money glistened with a gentle silver light and she had never seen so much money before in her life. After the bout of happiness passed, she suddenly felt scared. Recently, the farmstead wasn’t very peaceful. She and her son were only a widow and a half-grown child. Having this much money around wasn’t necessarily a good thing!

“Master, would it be possible for you to help us exchange this money for some grain or cotton cloth?” Widow Li quickly made up her mind and made the decision to spend this money on goods that she and her son needed.

Yu Xiaocao also thought of their situation and took the money as she nodded, “Okay! I’ll help you save this money for now. When cotton cloth comes on the market, I’ll help you exchange some of the money for it as well as some coarse grains! If you two need something urgently, then you can take the money back from me…”

Under the eyes of everyone present, she took the money from the widow. Once the group of people dispersed, Xiaocao secretly found Widow Li again and returned the money back to the older woman as she grinned, “You should hold onto the money yourself, that way it’ll be easy for you to spend it when needed. Now, everyone thinks that I’ve taken the money for you, so you don’t need to worry about other people with bad intentions thinking about it!”

Widow Li was grateful to the bottom of her heart. The master’s daughter had a clever mind and a kind heart. With such a master, it was truly the fortune of a lifetime for her and her son. Yu Xiaocao didn’t realize that just a simple action done by her had caused the two of them to be hell-bent and forever loyal to her…

Yu Xiaocao was very pleased with the amount of corn harvested this year. There were more ears of corn harvested this year compared to the last and the production had sharply increased as well. Her family’s farmstead had yields around 2600 catties per mu for the highest ones and the thirty or so fields that produced the least still yielded around 1800 catties per mu, which was still considered high yield in this era. Royal Prince Yang’s plantation’s yields were a bit lower. The highest had around 2200 catties per mu and the lowest was 1600 catties per mu. The Imperial Plantation had very fertile land, so the corn that was planted there had around the same yield as the highest producing fields at Royal Prince Yang’s plantation.

When the news came out, the entire court erupted. The Great Ming Dynasty was used to grain yields of around two hundred to three hundred catties per mu. Finding out that corn could produce yields around a thousand catties per mu seemed like a fairytale. No wonder the emperor had been looking for this high-yielding crop for a long time. 

Due to the weather and soil conditions, the northern parts of the country had lower crop yields compared to the southern parts. The commoners there had to live with half-empty stomachs. This was a problem that had bothered Zhu Junfan for a long time. He wished to allow the people of the Great Ming Dynasty to all be able to eat their fill and dress properly. If corn could be widely spread throughout the north, the people there would finally be able to eat properly and have a peaceful life. This would also stabilize the Great Ming Dynasty greatly. 

Zhu Junfan decided that next year they would further increase the cultivation of corn in the capital. Then, the bitterly cold northern areas could start to plant corn and potatoes as well. As the capital and northern areas became the new heart, they could gradually spread these new crops to the rest of the country. He was sure that within a few years, corn and potatoes could be widely cultivated throughout the country.

Because of all of this, the emperor was very pleased and heavily rewarded the officials in the Ministry of Revenue and Royal Prince Yang. Zhu Junyang not only obtained the vast majority of rewards but he had also been given the town of Tanggu to be under his command. Naturally, the revenue from the new harbor would be given directly to the imperial purse!

“Emperor, perhaps you have forgotten a few people. Aren’t there some people who also deserve to be rewarded as well?” Royal Prince Yang once again reminded the emperor in court.

Zhu Junfan cheerfully looked at his younger cousin. Wasn’t his younger cousin taking a bit too much interest in the Yu Family’s daughter? His younger cousin had never cared one iota for the nobly born maidens in the capital, yet he took very good care of the little lass from the Yu Family. There was something fishy about this! 

We know of whom you’re talking about. Isn’t it about how the Yu Family made a lot of contributions to the planting of corn? We have thought about this, how about we make them officials and have them continue to help the court progress?” Zhu Junfan already made a decision. The success of corn and potatoes was heavily intertwined with the handiwork of his old transmigrator friend. 


[1] For reader who might not know, Xiaocao literally means little grass.

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Glad Yu Xiaocao can help other people as she becomes wealthy.

Translator: Sanguine