Jiang Zhen had been gone for more than twenty days and had not come back yet. Zhao Liu was actually very worried about what happened to Jiang Zhen outside.
“Xiaoshan, when do you think Jiang Zhen will come back?” Zhao Liu asked Sun Xiaoshan, who was helping her feed the ducks in front of her.
Sun Xiaoshan had been fishing with Wang Haisheng all these years. Although they had no fishing boat at present, he could still catch some fish by using a fishing net and a bamboo basket. Today, for example, he brought back two special bamboo baskets containing fish. The bamboo baskets had a big opening, which got smaller and smaller. It was filled with earthworms, and the fish that went in to eat the earthworms wouldn’t be able to come out.
Hearing Zhao Liu ask this, Sun Xiaoshan paused and whispered, “I don’t know either.” As he spoke, he took out the fishes from the bamboo basket and started chopping them.
Sun Xiaoshan would rather eat porridge from wild vegetables than fish. These days, he went to catch fish and snails only to feed the ducks. However, Zhao Liu was often reluctant to feed the fish to the ducks. Every day, she picked a big fish and cooked it.
Their family had been eating like this for more than twenty days. Although they were all tired of fish, their health had improved a lot, especially Zhao Jinge’s.
He thought that Jiang Zhen always asked him to eat fish in order to improve his health. Now that his family had no shortage of fish, he tried to eat as much as possible and looked much better.
“They shouldn’t be in danger, right? Jiang Zhen is very strong, even if he is in trouble, he should be able to resolve it,” Zhao Liu kept on talking.
Sun Xiaoshan was silent and threw the chopped fish to the ducks. Two of the ducks bought by Jiang Zhen died of illness in the past few days, but the rest were growing really well. They were no longer small. They could eat anything and looked very lively.
In the countryside, when chicken and ducks were raised for a long time, they were allowed to roam freely. By that time, they could find their way home, but the chicken and ducks that were still too young generally would not be released outside. Even if they were let out, they needed to be watched over, so that they would not get lost.
As Zhao Fugui didn’t go to work these days, Zhao Liu asked him to build two enclosures from wooden stakes behind their house. She kept the ducks in the larger enclosure and the five chicken in the smaller one together with the egg-laying hen that Jiang Zhen got from the Jiang family.
That hen ate well, and the weather was fine again, so it laid eggs almost every day. Zhao Liu saved those eggs per schedule. Only after laying eggs for more than ten days would they be cooked for the family to eat, and the fresh ones would be stored and kept for Jiang Zhen to eat when he returned.
She was very upset after seeing Jiang Zhen climb in through her son’s bedroom window before, but now, she couldn’t help thinking about it. She hoped Jiang Zhen would come back earlier to let the villagers know that she wasn’t lying.
Jiang Zhen didn’t come back early, but Zhao Jinge did. Now that he was eating well, he possessed inexhaustible strength. He could finish the farm work quickly every day and then go home early.
His family did not have much money and could not afford to build another house, but he carefully cleaned up his own courtyard. He also used some mud and painted it all from the outside to make his place look like new. Today, after he came back, Zhao Jinge looked inside and outside and couldn’t find anything to do. Finally, after thinking about it, he simply tossed his earthen stove outside. He cleaned all the ashes in the stove, moved the iron pot out of the stove, and started scraping the bottom of the pot.
After cooking in an iron pot for a long time, there would always be a thick layer of ash underneath. In the future cooking would be much slower, so every once in a while, people in Hexi would remove the iron pot from the stove and scrape the ash off the bottom of the pot.
Zhao Jinge was scraping the bottom of the pot with a piece of bamboo when, suddenly, an old lady came to the Zhaos’ residence. Zhao Jinge glanced up and then frowned. The old lady who showed up was old lady Jiang, Jiang Zhen’s mother.
According to customs, he should go up and entertain her, but Jiang Zhen and old Madam Jiang were at odds after all, and he certainly didn’t want him to curry favor with old Madam Jiang.
“What a shameless little bitch, ugly and seducing!” old lady Jiang, who saw Zhao Jinge coming over, immediately said. “I’ve never seen such a shameless ger like you before. I said before, why did you have to rescue that debt collector when he fell in the river? It turned out that you had already taken a fancy to him. You really have no shame at all!”
Old lady Jiang said a lot of things for some time, which kept Zhao Jinge from responding. At this moment, old lady Jiang continued scolding, “But you are also so ugly, that no one wanted you except for that jinx! I think you would break your own legs just to make people look at you!”
The Jiang family were having a hard time these days, and old Madam Jiang had it even worse. The reason was . . . that Eldest Jiang ran away. Without the strong and agile laborer, the work in the Jiang family’s farm had been piling up. However, both Jiang Chengwen and Jiang Chengxiang refused to go to the fields.
Jiang Chengwen refused to go to the fields because he was too lazy, and Jiang Chengxiang . . . he said he would go to the county town to check if there was anything he could do, so he would leave early and return late every day.
At first, even though Jiang Chengwen often refused to work, he would still go to work in the field for half a day. But now, when Jiang Chengxiang didn’t work, he was even more reluctant to work. Finally, all the work in the field had to be done by Butcher Jiang and old lady Jiang! They really weren’t able to do it by themselves and had no choice but to call Jiang Xiaomei to the fields! This way, although it took them a long time, they could still finish their work, but in the end, something happened again at their home.
In the past, old lady Jiang always cooked with Jiang Xiaomei. Now both of them had to work in the field. Old lady Jiang asked her two daughters-in-law to cook together, feed the pigs, and also take care of the vegetable garden in front of and behind their house. For the first few days, Huang Min and Zhu Shufen at least prepared the meals, and the pigs were fed, but after a few days . . .
Edited by : Faro