Killing Two Birds with One Stone
About a month ago, a fishing boat was ordered, and its skeleton was being constructed on a sandbar near Taehwagang River.
In modern times, it would take only 2-3 days to receive a large wooden order, but in this era, it took a long time to prepare for building a ship.
It took two weeks to find a lumberyard in Eonyang County, purchase high-quality wood for the ship, and transport it to the shipyard.
It also took a few more days for the carpenters living in the village to gather their apprentices.
However, once everything was prepared, dozens of carpenters began building the ship.
Kang Cheol and I visited the shipyard every day to watch the ship being built.
It was truly amazing to see the ship take shape day by day. An ordinary novel protagonist might have upgraded the ship by incorporating modern technology, but since I had virtually no knowledge about shipbuilding in this era, I could only watch the ship being built.
In a small village like this, building a ship was a big issue.
Grandpa used this occasion as an excuse to release fish into the village pond and hold a feast.
In historical dramas, noble families are often portrayed as exploiters who take from the people, but, in reality, many noble families gained people’s hearts by engaging in relief activities like these.
Our family had been earning the villagers’ trust by sharing and living together on this land for generations.
“How is it? This old man specially requested the governor of Eonyang County to build the largest fishing boat in Joseon.”
“I’ve seen the boat that Su Dal has at the pier before, but this boat looks twice as big.”
“Hehehe! This old man is something, huh?!”
“Ahem, Father, building one boat cost us 50 bags of rice and 40 pots of spirits.”
“Hehe! My son, how could I, as a father, stop my child from carrying out his ambition when he wants to go out to sea? And didn’t we have a good harvest this year because we’re building the boat?”
Indeed, that’s my Grandpa.
Was he planning to create jobs for the villagers who had nothing to eat in the winter by using the boat building as an excuse?
However, my father’s expression seemed a bit off.
He must not be pleased about the family’s wealth draining since he has to manage it.
“So, Sangseung, what made you request to start with building a boat to go out to sea?”
This is undoubtedly a test from my father.
If I fail the test, I might get in trouble.
But the answer to this test is all in the conversation we just had.
From my father’s perspective, who had to manage our family’s fortune, he might be testing whether I’m the right person to carry on the family legacy.
I have to show him my smart side here.
“First of all, it’s winter now, so we can’t farm, right?”
“According to Kang Jik, this year, the frost came early, and it’s a poor harvest. So, to win the villagers’ hearts, I thought about hiring them to help build the boat, while providing them with grain in return.”
“…Is that all?”
That was the hint Grandpa gave me.
But who am I? I’m an author who wants to wield the power of penmanship to entice demanding readers, challenging not only the top 500 but also the top 3 writers, right?
Of course, to those demanding readers, it may look like I’m barely making it into the top 50.
To persuade Father, it couldn’t be just a simple calculation of profit.
“Why not build a new boat and put the surplus crew on it to catch fish? We can then share the catch like Su Dal and his crew.”
“Naturally, when a new boat is built, more job opportunities are created.”
Though boats are facilities that require a foundation, more boats mean more profits to be made.
It’s hard enough to develop just one village, how can I make Joseon a strong nation within ten years? The future seems bleak.
“Um, tell me more.”
“With each household getting more side dishes, our family will lend boats and gain small fortunes and great popularity. Not only that, but I’ve heard that a fish called herring is being caught in nearby waters these days. I’m thinking of using their innards to make fertilizer.”
In fact, around this time in Japan, herring was caught and used to make a fertilizer called gold dust.
The exact method of making gold dust fertilizer is not known, but I used the story of how it increased crop yields as the background for my novel Joseon Defense (tentative title).
With so many herrings caught, fishermen boiled them to make gold dust, and from this story, I came up with various items.
The first of these items is soap made from oil, and the second is fertilizer for agriculture.
Catching fish alone cannot solve the food problem.
To be precise, it cannot solve the food problem of Joseon.
Does building just one boat improve Joseon’s food situation? That’s nonsense.
The important thing here is “hope.”
People, when they see hope, are willing to passionately change without giving up.
There’s also the next step for this.
Father stroked his beard, deep in thought about my business idea.
“Fertilizer? Fertilizer, huh.”
Set Sail, Fair Wind!
In the still chilly winter, a festival unfolded in the village.
Our family released food to celebrate the completion of the boat.
The villagers received food from us and blessed the boat for a safe fishing operation.
“Oh, is that Fair Wind?”
Since Fair Wind was my first step in protecting Joseon, it resonated deeply with me.
“Yes, elder! It’s a big boat with a total length of 48 cheok, a lower deck length of 36 cheok, and a central deck width of 9 cheok. It’s one of the few boats this size in the Ulsan area.”
By eye, it looks about 15 meters long and 3 meters wide, but in this era, it seems to be a fairly large boat.
One impressive thing is that it was built not as a flat-bottomed boat, which was commonly used in the Joseon Dynasty, but as a pointed-bottomed boat.
I heard that in this era, fishing boats had to go as far as Ulleungdo, a distant sea area, so most of them were built as pointed-bottomed boats.
“Indeed, up close, it has an extraordinary presence!”
“The only other family that owns a boat of this size in Gyeongsang Province would be the Gimhae Kim clan.”
With the boastful words of the boatbuilder, Grandpa’s shoulders rose even higher.
“Hmm! What do you think? Do you like the Fair Wind, Su Dal?”
“Sigh, why even ask, elder? With Fair Wind, at least 30 crew members can comfortably fish.”
For reference, the boat he used to drive could only accommodate about 20 crew members.
I don’t know the exact tonnage, but the fishing efficiency must have increased by at least 1.5 times.
Of course, considering the previous boats that had gone fishing, the amount might be more than expected.
“Ahem, Sangseung, do you like the boat?”
“Yes, Grandpa! I really like this boat. Su Dal, can we try riding this boat?”
“Ahaha, of course! My young master! It might be difficult to go to the far sea, but you can see the sea you want to see enough.”
“Let’s try riding it too, son.”
I held Grandpa’s hand and boarded the boat named Fair Wind.
As expected from its name, the Fair Wind caught a favorable wind and went straight towards the sea.
The refreshing sea breeze made my stuffy heart feel a little refreshed.
“My grandson, I haven’t seen you laugh like this in a long time!”
“…The sea breeze feels really nice.”
Su Dal, who was next to me, also seemed to be in a good mood.
“Indeed, the new boat is so big that the sail can be bigger. So, it seems to catch the wind well. With this speed, the travel time will be reduced, and more fishing will be possible.”
In the sea, bigger is indeed better.
It’s not for nothing that the age was dominated by big ships and big guns.
“Sangseung, now that we’ve made such a big boat, fish will become common in the village. Do you have a plan for this?”
“Well? First of all, I should see how much fish we can catch, but from what I’ve found out, if you dry the fish in the sea breeze, you can preserve it for a long time. And although right now we can’t trade with fish because we have to eat it right away, if we catch enough fish, won’t the footsteps of merchants naturally increase?”
“Hmm, your words make sense. However, our family has spent a lot of money to make this Fair Win boat. But what our family gets is just fish and fertilizer that we may or may not be able to make. It’s really worrying.”
I should warn the eldest son of the family to be thrifty and frugal because his ambition is not ordinary.
Certainly, this business has a high initial investment cost and high uncertainty.
But didn’t I plan this business without thinking it through?
I explained my thoughts to my father as simply as possible.
“Father, don’t we have to give grain to our people in order to command them?”
“Yeah, it’s important for people to eat and live, so we need the power of grain to move them. To do this, the family’s granary should always be filled with rice.”
Yes, the economy of this era is very different from the economy of the time I lived.
The current Joseon has a primitive economy that does not even have the common currency called Sangpyeong Tongbo in historical dramas.
The only financial industry we have is lending rice to families, and then getting it back when the harvest comes in the fall.
The problem is that these grains, which can be called currency, naturally incur losses.
Grain rots and can be eaten by animals like rats.
With such grain as currency, the economy cannot develop.
It’s because capitalists who feel the risk of losing their capital at any time block the flow of capital.
I have to somehow make the clogged capital of Joseon flow and prepare for the upcoming disaster.
“Yes, so I will fill the family’s granary. No, I won’t be satisfied with just one granary, so I’m planning to become a grain trader.”
“When you open a granary like this, the family might be at risk, not just the grain trader. Do you know why the family is important?”
“Our family is known to have over a hundred slaves. It’s our duty to take care of them.”
Hmm, my son is really smart!
My smooth response seemed to satisfy Father, as he smiled slightly at the corner of his mouth.
“That’s right, farming isn’t always as one wishes, so we must prepare for crises to fulfill our responsibilities.”
Father, I’m more prepared than anyone for the crisis that lies ahead.
It seems like the screeching noise I’m hearing right now is constantly warning me that a crisis is approaching.
“Although ships can’t rot or be eaten like grains, I believe they will certainly make our family more prosperous.”
“When I think of the money spent on building Fair Wind… I can’t imagine how many years of fishing it would take to make up for this loss.”
“If we can produce fertilizer, the investment in Fair Wind will be quickly recovered.”
“Making fertilizer is not an easy task. If done incorrectly, it could ruin the land.”
To be honest, I’m worried about that too.
I know the historical fact that using herring to make gold fertilizer was used as compost.
But I’ve never made gold fertilizer myself.
Who would try making compost with herring guts just because they wrote an article?
But if I had, I wouldn’t have been stumped by Father’s objection.
In a novel, the protagonist only needs to write about the result of making gold fertilizer from herring, but now I have to experiment with making compost from herring.
If I succeed in making gold fertilizer, it could lead to an agricultural revolution if not in the whole Joseon, but at least in the Ulsan region.
“I will try my best. To do that, Su Dal must catch a lot of fish for us.”
“Ahaha! Is there any doubt? Not being able to catch many fish on such a large and wide ship would be a disgrace as a fisherman.”
I trust you, Su Dal.
“Sangseung, come here for a moment.”
Grandpa is calling my father.
Does he have something specific to say?
“Puhaha! Look at him! That smart kid is our family’s eldest son!”
Baekgyeong burst into laughter.
On the other hand, Hyeonmyeong’s face remained stoic.
“That boy is going to make our family great, so you’ve basically received a great blessing in your later years.”
“However, Father, a bird that flies too high will fall even harder.”
“Just a 10-year-old boy is this clever; as he ages, he’ll know how to hide his talents.”
“Yes! The saying ‘life is full of ups and downs’ is really true. I thought he would have some serious side effects from falling off a horse earlier this year, but instead, he became even smarter.”
“But his personality has completely changed, and that worries me.”
“Has he become a complete scoundrel? From now on, don’t mention this matter anymore.”
“Understood. I won’t mention it anymore.”
 1 척 is equivalent to roughly 30.3 cm or about 1 feet.
 Issued in 1678, after the events of the novel and during the reign of King Sukjong
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