It’s already Gyeongchip, the day when frogs wake up from their hibernation.
Of course, it’s just the starting point for the awakening, so sleepyhead frogs haven’t woken up yet, it seems.
However, hearing that Gyeongchip has passed among the 24 seasonal divisions means the farming season will soon arrive.
But thanks to me, our family was already waking up earlier from its winter slumber and becoming livelier.
“Young master, we’ve got a full catch today!”
“Su Dal, you released the smaller fish back into the sea, right?”
“Yes, even without small fish, our fishing boat is overflowing with fish.”
“Anyway, those little guys will grow and be caught again, so raising and catching them later is more beneficial.”
“Ahaha, that’s true! I just follow your wise words, young master.”
Su Dal had now become my fan completely.
Every day, Fair Wind brought in a huge catch of fish, and we used our family’s vast land to produce various dried fish products, including gwamegi.
Since herring was caught in abundance daily, making dried fish was a big task.
But it’s an era when cheap labor can be easily exploited for the price of a single herring.
With the promise of herring, the process of making dried fish was achieved effortlessly.
Moreover, we could experiment with making compost from the leftover herring.
As we have caught so many fishes, our family’s finances gradually recovered.
“There must have been a lot of ingredients today.”
“One jar is filled, so there should be no shortage.”
Su Dal’s answer satisfied me.
During this time, Su Dal had been supplying me with herring innards daily, enough to fill a large jar.
And I conducted experiments to make fertilizer using these innards.
At first, even my father, who was half-skeptical, allowed me to test the fertilizer I made on one section of the rice paddies.
One field, while vast, was too small to fulfill my dreams.
But I had to be grateful to my father for allowing me even this small piece of land.
Our family’s farmland was vast, but we couldn’t risk ruining a year’s harvest just by trusting my young words.
From now on, I had to continue overcoming such doubtful gazes.
Today was the day my father and I would visit the land to be used for my experiments.
“Father, I’m ready.”
“Hehehe, scholars don’t usually rush their steps.”
Father, when war breaks out, scholars and slaves alike will have to work hard at running away.
Well, this is something my father doesn’t know, so I can do nothing about it.
“Son, I’m just so excited that I apologize.”
“No, I’m ready now, too. Let’s go check the land before the farming season begins.”
As I held my father’s hand and stepped outside the main gate, the slaves bowed their heads toward my father.
“Master, have you been well?”
“Yes, Gaetteoni, your face looks much better these days!”
“Thanks to the herring the Kim family sends us, I’ve been eating well and gained some weight on my face.”
That face gained weight? It’s so thin that I’d believe it belonged to a zombie from The Walking Dead.
This country of Joseon is just too poor.
“We need to sow seeds soon; is everything ready?”
“You’re asking about that? Don’t you know how strong Nureongi is? Ahaha! We’ve already plowed all the fields.”
“Good, you’re really diligent. Keep up the good work this year too.”
“Yes, master. Young master, please take a look as well.”
“Yes, sir, take care.”
As my father and I walked away, he quietly gave me a piece of advice in a low voice.
“Sangseung, make sure to remember their faces well. In the future, you’ll have to manage the family’s assets.”
Is this what a Joseon-style successor’s class looks like? It feels barbaric that people can be considered assets in this era, but even in modern times, office workers sometimes have to act more servile than Gaetteoni’s father just to make a living.
Considering such things, it seems like there’s not much difference between the past and the future when it comes to where people live.
“But remember that they are living people too. There’s nothing good to be gained from exploiting them. However, corrupt officials always try to plunder them and fill their pockets. You’ll have to fight to protect our family’s assets from those corrupt officials.”
Father, whether it’s corrupt officials or crooks, in just nine years, the foreign invader will steal all our family’s assets anyway.
I held my father’s hand and walked for a while.
As we passed through the village and headed towards the fields, a vast expanse of farmland came into view.
“From here all the way over there, all this land is owned by our family.”
At the end of my father’s finger, there was a wide field that seemed to reach the horizon, with a bit of exaggeration.
Wow, is all this land ours? No wonder our family is doing well!
“It’s really amazing. There’s a huge difference between hearing about it and seeing it firsthand.”
“That’s right; it’s said that seeing once is better than hearing a hundred times.”
“Sangseung, I know you’ve spent time with the slaves in that smelly fertilizer heap. Tell me which land you want. Should I give you a first-grade field?”
For reference, the area of a Joseon-era field was graded differently, with grades ranging from first to sixth.
“What kind of land is a first-grade field?”
By the way, did Ulsan have first-grade fields? Aren’t those top-tier fields usually found in the Honam Plain?
“Fields near Taehwa River are rare first-grade fields in Gyeongsang Province!”
My father proudly introduced the first-grade field.
Even though I was ignorant about farming, I could see that the soil was fine, and the color of the field soaked with spring rain was dark, making it look different from the fields in the distance.
“Um, first-grade fields are relatively smaller, so you can get a lot of output with less labor.”
“Ahaha, that’s right. Well observed. What do you think? Do you want to spread your fertilizer on this land?”
No, why would I waste precious fertilizer on a first-grade field?
Farming is needed because most of the Korean Peninsula’s land has lost its nutrients because of long-term farming.
Spreading fertilizer on such fertile land would not yield dramatic results.
“Spreading fertilizer on a first-grade field might degrade it, so that’s not an option.”
I need a sixth-grade field rather than a first-grade field to test the fertilizer on a larger piece of land.
He’s really just like my son! I didn’t intend to give you a first-grade field anyway.
“Really? Then how about giving you a third-grade field?”
Father, why do you have such a satisfied look on your face?
“No, Father. What I need is a sixth-grade field as wide as possible. Where can I find a sixth-grade field?”
“A sixth-grade field? That’s the land near Yeomposan. Let’s go and see it first!”
I held my father’s hand and walked for a while toward the area near Yeomposan.
The fields were terraced, unlike the flat first-grade fields, probably because they were carved out from the mountain, and I could see pebbles here and there.
The yellowish soil color made me understand why it was a sixth-grade field.
“Look at this, the land is uneven, and it doesn’t hold water well, so we don’t know if the crops will grow properly. It’s just like a gravel field with no maintenance. Do you really want to spread fertilizer on this land?”
The sixth-grade field, boasting a size almost twice that of the first-grade field, was certainly desolate, from its location to its soil quality.
But the more barren the land, the greater the effect of applying fertilizer might be.
“I’m sure this place is the best.”
“Hmm, if you say this land is good, then let’s do the experiment here. I’ll let Kang Jik know about it.”
Sometimes frustration can help a man grow, so it’s not bad for him to taste failure at a young age.
I then held my father’s hand and looked at the busy farmers preparing for farming.
“Master, how are you? Oh my! Has the young master come too?”
“Samhyeon, you’ve been working hard. This time, we’ll use Sangseung’s compost on the field near Yeomposan, so please take good care of it.”
“Oh, no, sir. Do we have a chance? I will do my best to farm.”
Before the farming season began, Ulsan still looked peaceful.
It was hard to believe that a war would break out here in nine years.
In the 21st century, I did receive military training, but I never experienced war living in a peaceful world.
But war will surely happen, and this peaceful scene will instantly change into chaos.
This annoying screeching noise is just like my reader tormenting me again!
Yes, I remember.
The fact that this peace will disappear like a bubble.
“Spread it evenly! Ah, be careful not to mix the fertilizer in the jar as the young master said!”
“Oh, we understand, young master!”
The next day, the darkened fertilizer was spread on my field.
I made compost using five methods with the herring innards that Su Dal sent.
I don’t know which compost will be effective, so I need to experiment and make records to find the most effective one.
Maybe this year, the land could be ruined because of the wrong use of compost.
The failed compost can become a poison for the land, hindering the growth of crops.
“Please, I hope it’s successful.”
“Young master, you’ll definitely succeed. They say wisdom begets fortune.”
“Well, if everything went well just by trying, why would the saying ‘true human beings make a great world’ have been created?”
“Our young master is so brilliant! The future of our family is indeed bright.”
“Hmph, praising me won’t get you more persimmons.”
“…Is that so?”
You reader-like rascal! Why are you disappointed!
Praise is a professional disease that makes the writer addicted.
But all I have left to give him is a persimmon I saved.
I handed Kang Cheol a persimmon I had secretly brought.
“Hehe, thank you.”
“Sigh, it’s a shame that a foodie like you will follow Kang Jik’s footsteps. The future of our family looks dark.”
Hehe, looking at the young master, the future of our family seems bright.
 One of the 24 seasonal divisions in the traditional Korean calendar, marking the day when frogs wake up from hibernation.
 In Jeolla Province
 Yeomposan can be literally translated as fertilizer mountain.
 The idiom is “진인사 대천명,” which roughly translates to “A person’s destiny or fate is determined by their inherent qualities and virtues.”
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