Chapter 287 – Maternal Relatives
The first thing her father thought when he saw her was whether or not she lacked food to eat. He even took out a large amount of grain from his own family to give to her. How was she supposed to hold back her tears of gratitude?
Xiaocao’s maternal grandmother, Madam Yao, immediately became anxious when she saw her daughter cry silently, “What’s wrong? What’s going on? Tell us ah! No matter what it is, as long as we work together, we can all survive these hard times!”
Madam Liu’s older sister-in-law, Madam Han, also came over and looked at her with concern. Madam Liu wiped her eyes and a smile crept out as she laughed, “It’s nothing, I just missed all of you. I came over to see how you were all doing and if you needed any grain!”
When Liu Cunjin heard that his daughter was doing fine, he immediately relaxed a lot. He chuckled, “We’re fine, we’re fine! We got your message and managed to hastily harvest a lot of green wheat. We got around a few dozen catties of grain from each mu. Added on to the disaster relief grain that the court sent over, we have enough to last us a few months. How’s your family? Did the corn and other crops get ruined by the locusts ah?”
Madam Yao gave her husband an exasperated look and said, “Do the two of you just plan on chatting here the entire time? Stop blocking the gate ah and let our daughter come sit inside!”
“Grandmother, Grandfather!” Little Shitou was on top of the grain sacks and was just carried down. He immediately ran through the gate and hollered his greetings to Liu Cunjin and his wife.
Yu Xiaocao was right behind him and also greeted her two elders. Then she also faced the courtyard where Madam Han and Madam Bian were standing and greeted them, “Eldest Maternal Aunt, Third Maternal Aunt…”
Madam Yao happily hugged Little Shitou into her arms and then freed a hand to rub Xiaocao’s head. She grinned until her eyes squinted up and said, “Oh! Our Xiaocao and Shitou also came over ah? Look at your little faces, all red from being under the sun. Come, go into the house, Grandmother will give you some sugar water to drink!”
Little Shitou perceptively replied, “No need, Grandmother, we’re not thirsty! Let me help you rub the green wheat, okay?” As he talked, he picked up a shaft of wheat from where Madam Yao was previously sitting and started to rub it between his hands.
Madam Yao hurriedly restrained him, “Be careful, don’t hurt your hand from rubbing wheat! Our Shitou’s hands are used for writing and learning. If they get injured, how will you be able to complete your homework that the teacher assigns?”
Yu Hai, who was outside, was currently unloading the cart. The Liu Family’s neighbors heard the noise and came out to look. When they saw the cart full of grain, they were so envious that their eyes turned red.
“Everyone says that Old Liu’s daughter has hit the jackpot! As expected, look, look! Grain is so expensive right now, yet they sent a whole cart’s worth!”
“That’s right, that’s right! This cart of grain must have around four to five hundred catties, right? If they eat it carefully, I’m sure Old Liu’s family could last a few months!”
“In the past you even laughed at Old Liu because his daughter had married a poor man and had a stern mother-in-law. She likely had a difficult time! Old Liu’s family had spent a lot subsidizing this daughter who had married out already. Now look at them. If they had known earlier that their son-in-law would gain a fortune, then they wouldn’t be at a loss even if they gave more in the past ah!”
“Obviously! This cart of grain must be worth around dozens of taels now ah! Hasn’t Uncle Liu already earned back everything he sent out before?”
Under the jealous and envious gazes of the neighbors, Yu Hai hauled a sack of flour on his shoulders and went into the courtyard. Liu Cunjin had been preoccupied with his daughter ever since she came back and only now realized that his son-in-law was outside. When he saw him bring in the grain, Liu Cunjin frowned and said, “Visiting is one thing! Why do you need to bring grain over? Is my family so poor that we can’t even supply a meal to my daughter and son-in-law?”
Madam Liu hurriedly interjected for her husband, “Father, that’s not what we’re trying to imply at all! We had stored up a lot of grain in the past and then the royal prince also gave us two carts full of grain. Our family can’t finish the food, so we brought some over for you all.”
Liu Cunjin continued to look displeased as he said, “We’re in the midst of a disaster year so having more grain stockpiled is a good thing! The locusts will only freeze to death when it’s winter, so we won’t be able to plant anything in the ground until next spring. How much grain does your family have? How could you all possibly not be able to finish it all? Quickly take the grain back!”
Yu Xiaocao hastily stepped in, “Grandfather, don’t worry about us! Let me tell you a secret. The young royal prince gave us two thousand catties of grain and we also managed to harvest three thousand catties of corn. Even if we ate until we were bloated every day, we wouldn’t be able to finish the grain in one year!”
Little Shitou also spoke up, “Second Sister also managed to create a pesticide that’s able to kill and expel locusts. Our family’s courtyard is now planted again with a lot of green vegetables, and they’re this tall now!” Little Shitou used his hands to gesture.
Madam Yao reacted in delighted surprise, “A pesticide that can kill locusts? Then can’t we plant some soybeans now?”
Liu Cunjin thought more thoroughly than his wife and quietly asked, “Cao’er, is it expensive to make this pesticide? How much would it cost to use enough pesticide to cover one mu?”
Yu Xiaocao glanced at her maternal grandmother, who was somewhat excited, and quietly replied, “There are two ingredients in this pesticide that are quite expensive. It takes at least five taels to make a catty of pesticide, which is enough to cover four to five mu!”
When Xiaocao’s grandmother found out that one mu required one tael’s worth of pesticide, she immediately backed off and said, “A mu of soybeans can only be sold for a couple hundred copper coins. No point in using this pesticide, we’d end up losing more than we gained ah! This business is completely not worth it!”
Yu Xiaocao laughed, “We can’t afford to plant too much but we can still plant a few autumn vegetables and other crops. That way we’ll at least have vegetables to eat come winter. Grandmother, Grandfather, I brought over a pitcher of pesticide over for you. You can take a few drops out every day and dilute it in water and use that to water the plants. I guarantee that all of the locusts that come over will die in spades!”
Madam Han’s youngest daughter, Liu Feiyan, exclaimed in admiration as she looked at the pitcher in Yu Xiaocao’s hands. She then quietly said, “Is it that powerful? Mother, can we go prepare the vegetable gardens now? The earlier it’s done, the faster we’ll be able to plant vegetable seeds.”
Madam Bian, who had a gentle and sweet personality, lightly shook her head, “We can’t plant them in our vegetable garden! Just think, no one else is able to grow food at this point. If our family is able to, we’d end up attracting thieves. In my opinion, we should prepare the rear courtyard and plant some radishes and cabbage. With the addition of our dried vegetables, we should be able to get through winter!”
Second Maternal Uncle’s youngest daughter, Liu Feiyan, blinked her large eyes and said, “Anyway, all of our chickens were slaughtered earlier, so we should tear down the chicken fence and plant some green vegetables there. That way we’ll have green vegetables to eat during autumn!”
Eldest Maternal Uncle, Second Maternal Aunt, Youngest Maternal Uncle and Second Maternal Uncle’s eldest son, Liu Zhiwei, were all out working and not at home. Other than the people who were missing, the rest of the Liu Family surrounded Xiaocao and started a lively discussion on what vegetables they should plant.
Madam Yao pushed aside some people and rescued Xiaocao from within. She rebuked them all with a smile, “Whatever you all need to do, go do it now! We can all discuss what vegetables we need to plant in the evening! Cao’er, come inside with Grandmother so you can wash your face with some nice cool water!”
Xiaocao’s two maternal aunts took their children back to where they were previously sitting and continued to rub the green wheat. Second Maternal Uncle, Liu Han, went along with Yu Hai and carried all of the grain from the cart into the family’s cellar. Liu Cunjin and his wife watched them as they repeatedly said, “Why did you give us so much grain? You’re not going to have enough at home ah! Maybe you should take half of this back home ah?”
Madam Liu pulled both her parents into the room and laughed, “Father, Mother! We, your daughter and son-in-law, are showing our filial respects to you two! Can you just take the gift as it is? If there still aren’t any fairly-priced grain available in a couple of months, I’ll bring more over.”
The two men in their prime only had to go back a few times to move all of the grain into the cellar. Liu Han rubbed his hands and spoke to Liu Cunjin, “Father, Younger Sister only gave us fine grains. There are seven bags of white flour and three bags of well-polished rice. Just look…”
Yu Xiaocao hurriedly interjected before her grandfather could speak, “Grandfather, the young royal prince only gave us fine grains. If you want to ask if we have any coarse grains, I’m afraid my family really doesn’t have any ah!”
When Liu Cunjin heard this, he swallowed down the words he was about to say. His entire face was wreathed in smiles as he looked at his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren as he said, “Then I won’t bother saying polite gratitudes! In the future, if your family has more work than you all can handle, just remember us. Our family doesn’t have much but we definitely have lots of bodies to do hard work! Even that youngster, Zhimin, is almost able to do half a grown man’s work!”
At this time, he suddenly recalled his son-in-law’s ten mu of corn that they had planted for the imperial court. He asked, “Ah Dahai, how was the harvest of your corn? Did you lose any of it? Aish! Who would have thought that right before it was ready to harvest, we’d encounter a plague of locusts! If it wasn’t for the old immortal warning us, there absolutely wouldn’t be any corn left, and then the court would blame you…the heavens are looking after us! They truly left us a living road!”
Yu Hai sheepishly smiled, “Our corn’s output was quite good and the royal prince was quite pleased. He came over earlier and took away more than a dozen carts full of corn. He even said that he would ask for a reward for us!”
Liu Han was an expert at farming. He calculated silently. More than a dozen carts full of grain and each cart had to be at least five to six hundred catties. That meant that his younger sister’s husband’s family had to produce at least ten thousand catties of grain from their ten mu…a shocked expression spread on his face, “More than a dozen carts? Then, each mu must have produced at least a thousand catties ah! Corn is such a high yielding crop? One mu of corn produces as much as six to seven mu of our regular crops!”
Yu Xiaocao grinned in delight, “Second Maternal Uncle, if corn becomes a widely planted crop, it could only be considered a coarse grain! It’ll be very similar to millet and won’t be very expensive!”
Liu Han caught onto the main point very quickly, “The price of coarse grains is usually a half or a third of the price for fine grains. Judging from that, planting corn is still quite profitable! Furthermore, wouldn’t planting a high-yielding crop mean that we no longer have to worry about starving? Even if we ate our fill, we wouldn’t be able to finish the entire crop!”
Yu Xiaocao’s head bobbed up and down as if she was pounding garlic with it, “Mhm, mhm! If we can’t finish it, we can even use it to feed chickens and pigs. Once the animals get plump, we can slaughter them for meat. In the future, we won’t have to wait until the New Years to eat a meal with meat in it anymore!”
Liu Zhimin’s eyes glistened with light as he stared at Xiaocao, “Younger Cousin, from what you’re saying, our family will be able to eat meat at least a couple times every week!”
Madam Bian laughed as she tapped her son’s head and said, “You’re such a gluttonous little cat that you’re not afraid of your younger cousin laughing at you. Haven’t you eaten enough meat in the past year?”
The Liu Family’s circumstances were now considered one of the best in all of Xishan Village. The two eldest brothers of the Liu Family had followed their younger brother-in-law in selling watermelons and earned a whole lot of money. The third son was a skilled craftsman and had been hired by Prince Jing’s estate to build their manor on the West Mountain. Every month he had a salary of twenty taels, so he had quite an income after a year. The family’s meals and conditions continued to rise. Although they couldn’t eat meat every couple of days like the Yu Family, they were definitely able to eat meat a few times a month.
At lunch, Madam Liu’s two sisters-in-law had used the dried duck and preserved meat that Xiaocao had brought over to make a few dishes. They also used all of the eggs that were left over in the house for a stir-fry. In the end, they crafted an entire table full of food. There were a lot of people at home, so the adults sat at one table while the children had their own. Everyone ate and chatted happily.