Translator: Kenar, Lox Editor: Nara, Myoe Proofreader: Nara
Arc 1 – Eight Year of Eiroku Era, Fateful Encounter with Lord Nobunaga
Year 1565, Late August.
Late August, Shizuko and the villagers harvested all of the crops except sweet corn and sweet potatoes. There was a reason why they left the sweet corn over the season. The corn would ripen if left untreated and the seeds could be collected. It meant that Shizuko thought about making the next year’s seeds.
(Thank god, it’s not F1)
There were two varieties of seeds for corn. The first one was the original corn seed called native species or purebred variety. The second one was an F1 hybrid(first cross) made from two different kinds of purebred, better known as F1. F1 fruits were big and resistant to disease but on the other hand, the same corn couldn’t be harvested in the following year.
Fortunately, the corn seed Shizuko had was the original native species that had been selectively bred by her grandfather. Because of that, even if they planted the seed again in the next year, it would grow into exactly the same variety. They were strong against diseases, have an extremely soft kernel, tasted refreshingly sweet taste, and could be harvested multiple times. The demerits were that they needed a lot more water than normal corn. However, since Shizuko didn’t have to worry about water bills here, the demerit was basically non-existent.
(Hmm, I will split 2 hectares plot of land that will be used for crop rotation into eight sections. 1 section for sugarcane, another 1 section for sweet potato and 2 sections for the rice since it is our staple.)
Repeat cultivation meant cultivating the same crop in the same field repeatedly. Crop rotation is a technique for cultivating crops with different natures in the same field in one cycle in years. By periodically rotating the cultivated crops, nutritional balance in the soil could be attained and the yield and the quality were improved. Also, it could prevent the problem of the declining harvest amount and quality due to pests and pathogens from the repeated cultivation. Shizuko planned one cycle to be per four years and decided to move two sets of 0,5 hectares of plowed land.
(We do repeat cultivation in spring and autumn, and then we’ll change the plowed land every one year, then improve the soil nutrition with compost. This way, the productivity will be increased rapidly.)
Shizuko planned to completely organize the current farmland and remodel it to a land that was suitable for crop rotation and repeated cultivation. Fortunately, if all of the current farmland was prepared, it could be made into the same 2 hectares as planned.
But it was not enough if it was only to that extent. The needed land were 1 hectare for sugarcane, 1 hectare for sweet potato and 2 hectares for rice. The total of current farmland did not even reach 4 hectares. The fifty farmers from Mori Yoshinari were ordered by Nobunaga came next year. There was a need to prepare the least amount plot of land until that time came.
(Uhmm, it can’t be helped then. Let’s ask Mori-sama for more temporary manpower for help )
Because Shizuko didn’t have enough manpower, she had no choice but to request Mori Yoshinari to provide additional manpower. Mori Yoshinari would be willing to accept Shizuko’s request since Shizuko’s agrarian reform plan was being implemented to national policy. However, she couldn’t ask for help excessively. And of course, an excessive expectation was not allowed.
(Well, that is for a half year later… will it be possible to do soil preparation till then?)
Shizuko, who thought that no results would come out of it even if she thought long and hard about it- stopped thinking about difficult things.
(Well then, I have to work hard today as well)
In order to finish the work before her, Shizuko carried the work tools and left the house behind.
A week later.
“Today, we will start harvesting the sweet potatoes for the first time”
They planted sweet potatoes in early May and it was ready to harvest approximately four months later which meant that the first harvest for sweet potatoes came around early September. The villagers were in high spirit since the morning of that day and they gave a lively reply. It was expected since sweet potatoes were the most popular among the trial harvests. What made it popular was that sweet potato was able to fill one’s stomach; which made it different than the rest.
“They were fairly large when we did a trial harvesting last week so for today we’ll dig in this area up to the place with the signboard”
The planted sweet potatoes in this vast plowed land had varied growth because Shizuko and co planted the seedlings once a week. In order to make it easy to understand, Shizuko planted signboards telling the planting time. If they have a boundary around that area, they could avoid digging early.
“First of all, for harvesting sweet potatoes, we have to cut its stem. We can start the harvest after we do that.”
“Village chief, what should people who do the harvesting do?”
“Please bring back the soil-filled wooden bucket to the village. We will dry the potatoes in the sun for a day and then dry them in the shade for one week”
At that moment, boos and jeers came out from the villagers. The villagers naturally thought that they would be able to eat the potatoes immediately on the spot.
“Shut up! Outright eating the potato after the harvest isn’t delicious at all. Because the potatoes will taste sweeter after we dry them. Between sweet and fluffy potatoes and simple potatoes… which one would you want to eat?”
Shizuko declared so while pointing the wooden shovel in her hand at the villagers. The villagers didn’t want to eat normal potatoes as expected so they decided to go silent with an awkward expression.
“Then, let’s get started~”
Shizuko who felt good after succeeding in convincing the villagers lightly spoke with a smile of satisfaction.
We brought back the harvested sweet potatoes to the village as they were. There, we gently brushed off the dirt and left them to dry in the sun. Gathering up all of the inedible parts, it would all be used for compost and mulch. We returned the soil that was dug up back to normal.
Such a harvest can only be done once a week. In the meantime, I spent time maintaining the arable land. The job was to divide the cultivated land into 8 different parts. The length is 200 meters and the width is also 200 meters wide. The calculation is made so that each crop gets 0.5 hectares of arable land each. Thinking of 2 groups of arable land as a set, we’ll rotate them in a 4-year cycle. One big point of the crop rotation strategy is because of the poultry farm that shouldn’t exist in this era yet.
It’s because if you spread out the rice husks in the chicken breeding grounds, chicken droppings will fall on top of it. When switching the area over to a field, you just have to mix it in with the soil. The feed is made from vegetable scraps, animal and fish bones which are crushed up, or even crushed up shells – things that humans do not normally eat, so it’s not a problem.
On the other hand, since they weren’t given corn, the egg yolk became whitish, not yellowish. Basically egg yolk color varied depending on the fodder the hen eats. The egg yolk would turn into bluish color if the hen fed on bluish fodder. Of course, the egg yolk would turn into whitish if something like bone powder was fed to the hen.
(Well, it seems that I’m the only one who has a knowledge that egg yolk has a bright yellow color… there shouldn’t be any problems~)
Since it seemed that there was no hen’s egg industry, egg as a food surely would become a high-class item. Therefore no one would find it out strange if the egg yolks weren’t yellow.
“But can we get chickens so easily…?”
Maybe I should start with fertile eggs, thought Shizuko who felt a little bit worried.
Just as one thought, Mori Yoshinari gave Shizuko a wondering look when he heard about the chickens. It was regarded as a sacred bird which told them about time, it was treated as an important pet, and they didn’t consider wild bird’s meat and chicken’s egg to be used as food at all. In the first place, Shizuko recalled that the egg industry had originated from the Edo period. She couldn’t obtain one male and female after all. Her initial worries proved to be right, there was a need for fertilized eggs to nurture new hatchlings/chicks.
Since it was a period where there was no incubator, there was a need for creating one from the material on hand, surprisingly this could be solved easily. The solution was a hot spring. Originally the wasted hot water was dumped into the river so she considered making a place for a pseudo incubator using that heat. First of all, she had to build a small hut around where the wasted hot water ran and varnish the floor with lacquer tree to make it waterproof. That could be used for a simple underfloor heating. Soil and rice husk would be used to cover the floor which could be used for a place to easily collect wild bird’s feathers, like ducks.
It was simple if it was put in words but the quickest time needed to build one was a fortnight, even more, it took three weeks to finish including the needed temporary poultry farm. While preparing, regarding transporting the chicken, Mori Yoshinari said a cruel remark saying that transporting the chickens would take two weeks.
Harvesting the sweet potatoes was still ongoing while the poultry farm and the pseudo incubator were being built. The one week dried sweet potatoes became very popular with the villagers with its moderate sweetness. However, since there was a large amount of cultivated potatoes, there was a need to create “Potato’s hole” to preserve them in the middle of harvesting. Dig a deep hole, lay out the straws, and then put the potatoes in, lastly put the rice husks in and put the soil in to keep the heat in tightly. Set up a signboard to make it easy to understand and further decide the sequential order of digestion by writing numbers.
However, that wasn’t all. Simultaneously processing the dried sweet potatoes was a bit complicated but there was a benefit in that the potatoes could be eaten even if there was a bit of mold.
The method to make it was a little bit complex but it got easier once one got used to it. After the harvest, the sweet potatoes were exposed to the cold so, devising a way to saccharify them, we steamed them for an hour or two.. then placed the peeled sweet potatoes in a bamboo mat and sun-dried them for about one hour. Placed them in pots and kept them in cool dark place and there would be no problems.
With this, there would be no problems regarding food until the spring next year, and a considerable improvement in nutrition could be expected. It was no exaggeration to say that they have surplus foods since they kept the pumpkins adequately too.
“The harvest is close to finish… it’s roasted sweet potatoes for the harvest festival!!”
To celebrate a good harvest, Shizuko proposed to hold a roasted sweet potatoes festival using the harvested potatoes. Naturally, the villagers raised no objection.
From now on, Shizuko and co would have sweet potato as their staple food in their livelihood after harvest finished. Although one might say that their staple would continue until the next year’s harvest, their nutritional balance would break in different meaning if it continued for a long time. In the end, the sweet potato was only an emergency ration at that time, still counted as a supplementary food but rice could be used as staple food and regular diet.
(There will be about 12 tons for 2 hectares. If it’s counted in rice bag then it will be around 200 pieces… however, that is when there is an abundant harvest. If it’s simply calculated, around 10 tons maybe?)
In the modern times, the rice yield from 10 acres land was 10 rice bags and 100 rice bags from 1 hectares became the standard. Since a rice bag was 60 kg then the total amount was 6000 kg- in other words, 6 tons was the standard. However, that was about several hundred years later from Sengoku period. Since the farming technique was low, obtaining a ton from the same sized land(an acre) if possible was considered good. If they were using the farming technique from Sengoku period though.
“Well, whatever happens, happens-”
“Is there something wrong, Village chief?”
Yoichi -the former village chief- replied to Shizuko’s mutters.
“Hmm, I was thinking that we should produce rice starting next year”
“That’s right too. That sweet potato is delicious but I want to eat rice as expected~”
“I want to prepare about a hundred rice bags for our offering to our lord”
“A hundred bags, you say!?”
Yoichi showed a surprised face and raised his voice to the Shizuko who innocently said those words.
“Umm… village chief? Do you seriously think that we able to get that amount of harvest?”
“But we have to discard all of the cultivation technique used until now~. We are without a doubt getting an abundant harvest by using my technique, right~”
“Haa… well, if village chief says so then I’ll believe it…”
“Village chief! I burnt the potato-!?”
Kanezou’s voice came from a distant place when Shizuko was in the middle of replying to Yoichi who had a difficult expression.
“I’m going there right now! Well, I will explain it next year”
Yoichi felt a hunch that they would have an abundant harvest for the next year rice yield by looking at the happy-looking Shizuko for some reason.
- Something like this.