Chapter 73: A Busy New Year
The pleasing warmth of the sun unraveled the curtains as it shined down on the Country of Dahui’s first day of the new year.
After he finished making three different flavored sweet dumplings from the sesame, bean, and jujube fillings, Lin Si Yao got up and out of the kitchen into the southern yard to harvest the matured crops from the garden.
After three days of good weather, most of the snow in the south yard had melted. There were just some small corners that had some thin sheets of ice, but it did not hinder Lin Si Yao in his following actions.
With the waterproof cloth folded and put to the side, Lin Si Yao left the wooden stands in place, just in case they were needed to be used again for any predicted snowfalls during the early spring.
All of the matured cabbage, baby bok choy, sweet potatoes, and radishes are dug out and placed into a large bamboo basket. As for the rotted leaves, it was left in the soil to turn into fertilizer. And for the yet to yellow leaves, they were thrown in the chicken and sheep coop.
For the large harvest of cabbage, some were picked out to be eaten in a few days, the rest were taken out to be dried in the sun by the water to be pickled later. The small batch of bok choy harvested was to be eaten fresh, so it was left on the kitchen counter.
Some of the sweet potato and radish were left on the counter by the bok choy to be eaten soon, while the rest were placed in the newly built storage area by the chicken coop. This small storage area has a stone foundation, with the doors made of wood. There is a brick outer layer and finally covered with a oil lined cloth. This way even with rainy weather, the food inside the storage could stay dry and last for quite a while.
After he finished these activities, Lin Si Yao realised it was no longer early, so he went into the kitchen to take a quick bath. As for the now mostly cleared garden, he will think of what to plant in it later. It is almost spring, so the two acres of farmland should come of use soon. Although a part of it had some winter wheat planted, those seeds were just sprinkled on the ground and needed no further attention, so he had nothing to really work on.
While was brainstorming on what to do, Lin Si Yao also busied himself with some other work. As a former assassin, now with only thoughts about what to plant, harvest, and eat everyday, it was really hard for him to get accustomed to it at first. However, as the days pass by, looking at his home, the same annoyance was synonymous to the feelings of sweetness and satisfaction. At times, he even had the urge to thank Feng Qingya for the relentless chase that had led him here.
“Village elder, Aunt Lao, Aunt Tian……” Su Shulian counted the number of gifts on the table to match the number of people she had to give, before putting them away.
Fan Hua Town has sort of a small custom, which is: If a family has an elder, he or she could not leave the house for the entirety of the first week of the new year.
As such, families like the couple Su Shuilian and Lin Si Yao could freely do new year’s visitation as they did not have an elder.
Su Shuilian and Lin Si Yao decided to walk around Fan Hua town to visit and wish everyone who had helped out, no matter how big or how small, a happy new year.
As for the gifts, it was being carried by Lin Si Yao, in two large fruit baskets.
Each one was wrapped with a red cotton cloth, making a cute gift bundle. A fine black thread was weaved through the edge of each red cloth, so with a light tug, the cotton could easily be opened. The bundles were filled with surplus food, such as wild chicken eggs, dried and salted fish, fruit flavoured flower-shaped cakes, crispy layered biscuit …. To top it all off, A cute chain of a dozen copper coins held by a thin piece of string wrapped around the cloth bag.
Of course, the price of each gift didn’t differ too much. This was an area that Su Shuilian thought through more thoroughly. Or else, if people were to engage in casual chatter and found out that there were differences in value of the new year gifts they received, wouldn’t it result in a misunderstanding? They might even think that they are showing favoritism.
On the other hand, ever since they moved to the corner of Fan Hua town less than half a year ago, there were a few shrewd and calculating farmers envious of her lifestyle. For example, those who had seen Lin Si Yao carry back the dead wild animals he had hunted home, ran straight to the village elder to report it. Even though they themselves didn’t dare to go into the mountains by themselves, they still went to the village elder to complain, wondering if all the animals in the mountain would soon be hunted by Lin Si Yao.
There also was another poniang that upon knowing Su Shulian’s embroidery works outperformed the He House’s poniang Lin-shi, taking up the title of the best embroider in Fan Hua Town in a single leap, even becoming the chief embroider of YueYun Embroidery Floor, decided to bad mouth Su Shuilian whenever she was with Lin-shi. Although the words were like a stabbing knife trying to cause a rift between Su Shuilian and Lin-shi, she (Ls) could only laugh and brush it off. Lin-shi did not at all blame Su Shuilian. She admits that Su Shuilian really had superior skills in embroidery.
And so after filtering out those people from the list, Su Shuilian and Lin Si Yao was able to fill the basket with the gifts for the people on the list. This way, they even got to save. Haha Su Shuilian giggled in her heart. However, this was the reality of living in Fan Hua Town. If you give me a foot, ten feet will be given back. If you bully us, then we would not tattle, but we wouldn’t even notice you at all. Or else it would seem like we are easy to pick on.
It was only till the end of the afternoon, did the two of them carry the two full fruit baskets back into their house.
Twenty five gifts had been given out during the new year. In the process, they too had also accepted the gifts from the other parties that they forced into their fruit baskets. Within those gifts, there was house-reared chicken and duck eggs, self brewed “hot knife” wine, pickled cucumber, green bean cakes… and several branches of budding red plum.
Su Shuilian happily placed the branches of red plum into the wide-mouth vase located in their bedroom.
She then clapped her hands and smiled happily to herself as she left the kitchen to help Lin Si Yao organize all of the gifts that the villagers had given them.
“Shifu~~ Shi Niang~~ ” Tian Dabao’s loud shouts suddenly sounded from afar, it was clear that his voice had reached before he himself had arrived in their house.
“Shifu, Shi Niang, it’s New Years!” Tian Dabao came into the kitchen, but he was not alone, behind him were several children all under the age of 10. Su Shuilian only recognized three of them: six year old Fang Xiaohua from Fang Dasheng, nine year old Sun Qihe from Sun Youmao, and nine year old Shui Fu from Shui Gen. She remembered them because they had tagged along when their mothers had visited.
“Lin Shifu, Lin Shi Niang, Happy New Year.” All six children bowed and greeted as they reiterated what Tian Dabao had told them to say.
Truth be told, they actually called to call her Shuilian jiejie, how could there be such a young and pretty Shi Niang? But Tian Dabao would not let them. He said that if they had insisted on it, then they would have to go to house on their own. Of course, it was also Tian Dabao’s idea to greet each individual by their surnames to differentiate one from another. With all of these, it’s not hard to say that the blood clot in his brain may have already dissipated.
Shi Niang, it was them who insisted on following me, I couldn’t help it.” Tian Dabao shrugged his shoulders and put both hands up as if looking helpless while he explained.
Just as he finished his words, Lin Si Yao threw an air palm at him. Tian Dabao immediately acted like a sensible child.
“Happy New Year everyone. Let’s go to the main hall to play.” Su Shuilian smiled, with a wave of her hand, she signaled the children to follow her into the main hall.
“See, what did I say? Shi Niang’s house is full of snacks.” Tian Dabao said proudly as he flaunted while the other kids all nodded in admiration. With their sights locked on the plate filled with about 7 or 8 different variety of dried fruit snacks. There was even maltose candy and candied hawthorn that their families would always refuse to buy for them.
During the first month of the lunar year, all of the houses are to open their gates to allow all of their neighbors to visit each other. Just incase if anyone were to bring their children to their house, Su Shuilian had Lin Si Yao go to the city during the last day of the last month to get all sort of snacks that were enjoyed by children.
“Don’t be shy, take whatever you want to eat.” Su Shuilian came back with seven small plates of egg custard made by Lin Si Yao from the kitchen. “Careful, it maybe still hot so eat it slowly.” Su Shuilian placed the egg custard next to the table by the seats the children were sitting on. As well as the low table on the Kang that Tian Dabao and two other children were sitting on while they feasted on all the custard in large bites.
“I didn’t lie, did I? My Shifu’s egg custard is the best in the world.” After he was done, Tian Dabao wiped the corners of his mouth with his hand as he proudly stated.
“Mhm” The children all collectively nodded with sparkling black eyes. They then stared at the other snacks on the table, but were too embarrassed to reach for it.
“Dabao, hurry and hand out the snacks to everyone.” From the bedroom, Su Shuilian had brought out six string with ten copper coins tied on each one. When she had heard Tian Dabao’s flaunting attitude, she did not know whether to laugh or cry. She told him to hand out the treats as she passed out the stringed coins to each child, “Here, take this home and buy some fun toys with it.”
All of the children looked at each other. Though they were still somewhat embarrassed, they did not want to miss out; their hands stayed behind their backs, but their eyes stared straight at the coins in Su Shuilain’s hands.
Su Shuilian laughed as she stuffed the coins in their hands. As for Tian Dabao, when they had visited Tian house earlier today, they had already given him the ninety nine copper coins shaped into a rabbit from the zodiac as a new years rite.
“Thank you Lin Shi Niang!” The youngest, Fang Xiaohua thanked Su Shuilian first before the others followed suit.
“You’re welcome. What do you want to eat? Shi Niang can get it for you.” Su Shuilian smiled while she patted Fang Xiaohua’s head and asked.
“I want to eat candied hawthorn, actually all of us want to eat it.”
“Who told you such a thing?”
With the new years greetings completed and when they had finished eating and drinking, Tian Dabao had led the six other children out as they continued to visit the next house.
The children were definitely the most happy during this month. They could go where they want, eat whatever they desire, and even get a few coins to buy whatever. How could they not be happy?
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