Chapter 52: Preparing for Winter
Time passed quickly and soon it was Da Hui country’s September celebration for a decade of good harvest. And with that, it had been exactly six months since she had transmigrated.
Tian Dabao had been following Lin Si Yao, calling him “Shifu” for about a month and a half. In addition to his routine homework of practicing the horse stance and long fist (长拳) stances, he had finally started to learn the art of qinggong and swordfighting from Lin Si Yao.
The iron sword that Tian Dabao used was made by Aunt Lao’s eldest son, Lao Yongfu, at the request of Tian Dafu. Although it looked dull and crudely made, Tian Dabao cherished it. Aunt Tian had joked that even when he was sleeping, Dabao would hold on to it, not letting it go.
Ever since Lin Si Yao accepted Tian Dabao as a disciple, the morning chores – such as walking the wolf pups and the occasional hunt for wild animals- were all handed over to Dabao to do.
And Lin Si Yao himself would cuddle his lovely and innocent wife until the sun was three poles high in the sky (late in the morning) when Tian Dabao would be dragged back by the wolves. Of course he was uninjured, having just collapsed from exhaustion.
However, that situation started to change within a month’s time. Instead of being dragged back, he was following the wolves from far behind, then he would be right behind them, and soon he was able to make it home at the same time as the wolves, albeit out of breath.
Tian Dabao’s growth was both gratifying and obvious.
He had a good constitution. Lin Si Yao had already known this and that was the second reason why he had taken him in. Without a proper constitution, even with hard work one could only gain a strong and healthy body but wouldn’t be able to attain mastery as a martial artist.
For the main reason, of course it was to have another person protect her. To Lin Si Yao’s knowledge, other than Su Shuilian, he had never suffered a loss before.
If Tian Dabao wanted to learn the Profound Thousand Steps he had used previously, he would teach it. If he wanted to learn the stylish Saint Sword moves, he would teach it. As long as Tian Dabao wanted to learn, he would do his best to impart his knowledge. However, in the future if she were ever in any danger, he would have to protect his Shi Niang at all cost. That was his only condition.
The villagers of Fan Hua Town had been looking forward to the annual Autumn Harvest.
The Village Chief, Wang Gengfa, had visited Lin Si Yao.
The reason was not related to him; after the Autumn Harvest, the two acres of fertile land would be officially transferred to them. Not only that, after the rice paddies, corn, sorghum, and soy had been harvested, the rest of the poles needed to be cleared. The key point was that the winter wheat and also other winter vestibules could now be planted in the fields.
Wang Gengfa was aware that Lin Si Yao was proficient in martial arts and that he could do the work of two people. So he hoped Lin Si Yao could help them with their Autumn Harvest. Of course, his side would help with the clean up and promised to give Lin Si Yao five hundred catties* of millet and one hundred catties of corn.
(Catty, 斤- weight equal to 0.5 kg)
Lin Si Yao raised no objections and readily agreed.
It was not because of reward, but he had wanted to get a few pointers from an experienced farmer.
Yes, Lin Si Yao was clueless when it came to farming.
To ask a man who had been an assassin for more than a decade to be able to plant and make a good harvest without any prior knowledge was just wishful thinking.
He didn’t know anything about it and that was why he agreed so readily. Not only did he accept the Village Chief’s request, but he also went to ask the Lao House and Tian House on his own. There were no other reasons; he just desired to know more about the work involved during Autumn Harvest. He wanted to familiarise himself with farm work.
As for Spring next year, would the Village Chief, Tian House, and Lao House who had received a favor from him just stand idle? No, they would take the initiative to come guide him.
Therefore, Lin Si Yao would not suffer any losses. Sometimes assassins understood the concept of reciprocity and mutual benefits better than businessmen.
Su Shuilian was committed to sewing winter clothes and winter quilts, hoping to peacefully get by the winter weather.
For winter clothes, she had adapted the latest fashion from Republic of China to them instead of making the commonly worn slanted-lapel padded short-jacket from this era.
She made a knee length winter coat, wide at the waist with narrow sleeves and eight identical buttons lined at the front, going up to the collar. And for convenient washing, the inner cotton lining was detachable.
On Lin Si Yao’s black colored winter gown, Su Shuilian embroidered sky blue double-petal hibiscus. This was his choice from the dozen drawings that she had sketched out and it was also her favorite tree flower. A blooming double-petal hibiscus was beautiful but not flamboyant. Their slender branches were abundant, but they did not cluster together. Its subtle image gave it a gentle demure.
She was surprised when Lin Si Yao chose it instead of the lush green bamboo, the meadow of orchids… instead of the winter pine trees or the frozen plum flowers.
She asked him for the reason, but he had only replied with a jaw-dropping, astounding, mesmerizing smile that had once again made his cute dimples visible.
Su Shuilian’s cherry red cotton winter clothes were chosen by Lin Si Yao. Embroidered on it was a cluster of double-petal japanese roses. The dark pink roses blooming in contrast to the dark green shrubs was extremely poise and gorgeous.
This was what she had really liked, but could not do in the past. Wild roses, to the esteemed father of Su House, were not fit to be worn in public.
She personally loved the thorny japanese roses and wisteria flowers but she had been scolded by the patriarch multiple times. She was not allowed to waste time on these wild flowers, because the annual competition had no place for them.
Now, she could openly embroider them on their clothes, cushions, and tablecloth without being lectured about how it was a waste of time.
And so, after she had completed the two pieces of winter clothing, Su Shuilian made a tablecloth with wisteria on it to alleviate her passion for the flowers.
Afterward, she began to sew the winter quilts, hoping to peacefully get by the winter weather.
Two mattress blankets and two mattress covers.
One of the bed covers was lake blue while the other one was a goose yellow.
On the blue cover were red lotus flowers accompanied by lush green lotus leaves creating ripples in a lake. And for the goose yellow cover, Su Shuilian sewn a colorful variety of winter plums. A beautiful and delicate foliage of seven colors: deep red, crimson, bright yellow, light pink, jade white, lotus green, and light purple flowers beautifully blooming on a branch.
When she was done with the winter quilts, the Autumn Harvest was just about to end.
All of the Village Head’s crops were harvested. Wang Gengfa allowed Tian Dabao to bring a cart to carry the promised 500 catties of millet and 100 catties of corn. Taking advantage of the good weather, Lin Si Yao spread the batches onto a woven mat (that he made) to dry by the riverbank.
After seven days under the sun, the dried millet and corn were about done.
The following days, Lin Si Yao was busy processing the grains. He made Tian Dabao practice the Profound Thousand Step on the quincuncial piles. He had asked the mason to build a millstone for dehulling millets. After the husk had been separated from the millet, he then spread it on the mat to allow the wind to blow the husk away.
And just like that, one was in the embroidery room sewing, while the other was by the riverbank dehulling millet and threshing corn.
After the 500 catties of millet was dehulled and ground, there was about 360 catties left. Lin Si Yao then split it into three portions. Eighty catties to make noodles with, another eighty to make millet nian gao*, and the remaining two hundred catties were stored in a cabinet and should last until spring.
(Nian gao, 年糕 – or Chinese New Year’s cake, is a food prepared from glutinous rice; traditionally it is most popular during Chinese New Year.)
All of the corn kernels, along with eighty catties of millet, were brought to Fan Hua’s only millhouse: Wen House’s MillHouse. It was there that Lin Si Yao had it all grind into corn flour.
Now their food ration should be enough to cover them for winter and another six months. Their clothing for winter had also been completed.
Ah yes, and as for the animal fur that Lin Si Yao had hunted, cleaned, and placed into a cabinet, it had already been used up by Su Shuilian.
From the fur, two waistcoats, two pairs of knee pads, a fur hat, and also a bunch of hand warmers were made. The hat was Lin Si Yao’s, the hand warmers were Su Shuilian’s and they each had their own knee pads and waistcoat.
Although during the whole sewing process Lin Si Yao had strongly insisted that he didn’t need a set of his own. However, Su Shuilian continued to make it according to his size. It was better to be safe than sorry. What if he could not withstand the winter here?
The persistent Eldest Su Miss had forgotten that Lin Si Yao was a native and also a highly skilled martial artist. Unlike her, who has never seen snow filling up more than three inches above ground.
As for the daily ingredients, the vegetables planted in the south wing garden were about ready. Regarding the two acres of fertile land, other than the winter wheat, there was also a section that had been used to plant vegetables. Spinach, Chinese cabbage, potatoes, and other vegetables that were able to grow in winter were planted there one by one.
Protein-wise, Lin Si Yao went out to the forest along with Xiao Chun to hunt for animals that had yet to go off hibernating. If they were caught alive, he would place them beside the newly made fence next to the chicken coup. If the animals were caught wounded, he would kill and then preserve them. The others were made into different dishes, braised or stewed, and were then sent to Lao House and Tian House as thanks for the mutual assistance. Of course the wolf pups also had their fair share as they were able to have meat-filled meals for several days. They were quite happy and excited, and were eager to go hunting again. However, they quickly calmed down with a simple glare from Lin Si Yao and reluctantly went back into their house.
One day, while Tian Dabao was practicing on the quincuncial piles, he noticed that in the clear river, there were a bunch of common carps, crucian carps, and black carps swimming around.
This meandering river came downstream from the west mountains. Su Shuilian’s house was the first house it passed, so naturally there would be many fishes.
And so, after Tian Dabao went back in the afternoon for lunch, he returned with a large fish net.
Under the glittering eyes of Su Shuilian and the two wolf pups, Lin Si Yao reluctantly took the fish net and went into the river to catch the fish.
As one could imagine, the first time the net was pulled up, looking at the large number of bouncing fish, shrimps, and crabs, the shock on their faces soon turned into joy and excitement.
Not only would they have a feast tonight, but beside the thick-scented wild animal meat from the forest, they could also enjoy another delicacy during the winter: fish and crustacean.
After fishing for a while, all of the catches filled all of the containers that the two houses had.
Su Shuilian allowed Tian Dabao to take half and then gave a large tub to Lao House; the rest was theirs. After picking out a few for that night, the rest were immersed in salt water. After being marinated for two days, they were taken out and hung up one by one, dried in the sun for three days before being brought into the kitchen.
Now, the choices of food for winter consumption had just increased by one…
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