Arc 2 – Ninth Year of Eiroku Era, Owari Province Agricultural Reform

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Early June, 1566

The bandits were extremely panicked at the sight of their missing fellow bandit.
One was looking around for the clue as to why their friend disappeared.

“Hyiiii!”

“What… what the hell is this?! What is this monster?!”

All the bandits shot a glance toward the direction of the man’s scream.
And then, they were filled with dread in the same way as the first man.
While frowning at the pain, Shizuko cast a glance at the direction the bandit was seeing.

There was a wolf with a big frame with nearly 140cm body.
And the bandit from before who had been standing before Shizuko’s eyes lay near the wolf.
His neck was twisted the wrong way and was bleeding profusely.
It bit the man from the side and broke the man’s neck easily with its massive jaw strength.
Human bones in this period were chewable due to malnutrition and the wolf had a bite power of 180 kg to boot.
The monster in question was none other than the wolf and Shizuko didn’t feel strange or dread at it.
She knew that wolf’s name.

“… Wittmann?”

She had a hunch that that wolf was hers.
Although there was no definite proof, she couldn’t stop thinking so.

Then, as if answering her question, the wolf howled once.
The bandits dropped their weapon after hearing that.

People’s height at those time didn’t even reach 150cm.
Even if they have a relatively good condition under the general, the most satisfactory result was 160cm.
If a wolf with the height of its shoulder about 80cm alone came out, it would scare the life out of the man.
Moreover, the vicinity was in pitch darkness which was the same as having no visibility.
Winning against a wolf which can still move in the dark was a next to impossible task.

The wolf howled loudly at the panicked bandits.
Hereupon, along with rustling bushes sound, another wolf appeared from another direction.
It was a size smaller than the first wolf but it was still magnificent enough.
There was an x-mark scar at the wolf’s forehead as its stand out characteristic.

“Hi-Hyiii!”

When the second wolf came out, the bandits instantly decided the next course of action was to scatter in all directions.
The wolf didn’t chase after them.
They didn’t see any worth in chasing the escaping bandits.
It was easy to understand which one was the winner.

“Welcome back, Wittmann”

Wittmann quietly howled as if answering Shizuko’s soft mutter.

♦♦♦♦♦

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Naturally, there was a clamor when Wittmann entered the village with his mate.
If there were two magnificently-sized wolves enter a village, ignorant people would panic at the situation.
To not be surprised was an unreasonable request for them.
However, it were only the newcomers who were surprised, the villagers who originally lived in that place just thought “The village head must have done something again”.
It was thanks to being trained by Shizuko for a year, they weren’t perturbed by things easily almost to the point of being insensitive.
It was already night but she couldn’t ignore the newcomers’ anxiety as expected so it was necessary to explain the matter regarding Wittmann.
After explaining for about an hour, she finally was able to convince the newcomers, even though she couldn’t completely ease their anxiety.

(Should we endure it for a while?)

She was almost delusional thinking she could convince everyone right away, that’s asking for the impossible.
There was no choice other than to let time handle things.
She understood that, though that couldn’t be helped and there was no use mulling over things.
However, little did Shizuko know, the newcomers changed their evaluation of her.
She seemed like an unreliable girl to them.
Her figure leading two wolves made them start to think that she might be a big-shot.
As they would be executed if they fail anyway, the newcomers thought that they would entrust their last chance to her.
That made them feel more motivated than ever.

It was a little bit after the newcomers changed their thinking.
The next stage which was sowing the was seeds carried out because the rice seeds were ready to sow after the preparation for its forced budding was completed.
The land that was prepared in early February would be used for this.
The plan was for the raised seedling planted at the original paddy field afterwards.
The newcomers had a strange expression as expected but they obeyed Shizuko’s order.

She could spend some time until the seedlings grow.
She started preparing the paddy field for rice planting to make good use of that little time.
First, she started by plowing the soil shallowly named as coarse plowing.
After the coarse plowing, she carried out taking in the water to the soil or coarse puddling.
After the coarse puddling, the finishing touch was the final puddling which would be carried out after a few days.
When these works were done, the seedlings grew to sufficient size.

The next step was the most important, that was, rice planting with rice bran and seedling.
This was a crucial moment because it largely influenced the crop yields depending on whether they carry out rice planting elaborately or not.
All of the seeds would be for naught if someone cut corners, resulting in a drop of crop yields.

Of course, none of the villagers knew that the technique of planting the rice seedling which, introduced by Shizuko, became standard practice in modern times.
Shizuko used a technique of planting rice seedling with vertical and horizontal lines aligned which was referred as checkrow by her.
Because of the old planting technique called “random planting” when compared to the one used by Shizuko, the crop yields was always bad and there were times where the plant didn’t grow at all.
However, the crop yields were remarkably raised by only reforming that random planting technique.

Reason being, the sunlight would be sufficient, the air would flow easily, removing weeds and pests would be easier and those were the merits of the said technique.
Furthermore, technically speaking, this technique was implemented in the late thirty years of Meiji era so it could be said that it was a technique about 200 years ahead of this period.
However, its effect was tremendous and the planting technique became a matter of common sense and one could even say that this technique became the foundation of rice planting.

Of course, there wasn’t only merit but also demerit.
To begin with, there was no mechanism for planting seedlings in Sengoku period.
But implementing checkrow required accurate alignment vertically and horizontally.
Regarding this problem, Shizuko had a solution, that was using a tool called “Rotating Frame”[1] which was used to determine the planting point in advance.
If you roll the “Rotating Frame” like the letter you read, you could make a planting point for the seedling in the paddy field.
However, if you roll the “Rotating Frame” immediately in the middle of the paddy field, the water will get dirty because of the mud, and we have to find the painstakingly created points.
As the solution of that problem, she prepared a long rope extending from one end of the paddy field to another.
And then, the planting points will be determined by “Rotating Frame” and tie straw in the place where the rope overlap after that.
By doing this, It became a mechanism where it was easy to see which place to plant without looking around in the water if you use the straw as a landmark.

But it didn’t end only with planting the seedlings.
It was necessary to scatter the rice bran around the seedlings.
There were three reasons for scattering around the rice bran.
That is:

To suppress the germination and rooting of the weeds using the organic acid produced by organic fermentation process. To propagate the microbes. The propagation of the microbes will supply the nutrients needed by the rice plant.

After finishing rice planting, the next step is spraying organic actinomycetes[2] and doing weeding work.
Organic actinomycetes is a fermented fertilizer made from a mix of soil, rice bran, deer and chicken intestines, bone meal, rotten meat, rotten vegetables, rachis of chicken feathers, and EM (Effective Microorganisms)[3].
This will make the microbes in the groundwork more effectively.
This is the most suitable fertilizer as a naturally controlled release fertilizer for paddy rice initial fertilizer.
However, as it needs to look at the situation of rice plant for a suitable time to do the spraying, how much and often to do the spraying depends on the paddy field.
Spraying the fertilizer sporadically based on experience can be said to be still better.

The next work after rice planting is weeding work which requires effort.
Moreover, it forced people to do harsh manual labor with relatively hard to see the result.
Which was why Shizuko thought about using the rotating weeding tools[4].
It’s a tool to uproot weeds growing in the rice field by rolling it in the space between the rice plants[1].
As there was no tool like that in Sengoku Period, which was natural, Shizuko talked with the village’s crafter to create it.

Actually, the prototype for the rotating weeding tool was created in Meiji Period but it began generally used around the beginning of Taisho Period.
It’s an excellent weeding machine that can perform intertilling as well with the working efficiency of about 20 acres per day.

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The purpose of intertilling is to till shallowly the topsoil of the crops’ field during the crops’ growth so they will grow nicely.
By doing this, the soil will be stirred and loosened(?) allowing the oxygen to be send to the root and stimulating plant’s respiration.
It also stimulates fertilizer absorption.
Furthermore, harmful gases like methane gas and hydrogen sulfide are able to escape from the ground and the growth of the weeds can be controlled.

It can be said that this intertilling is the main work after finishing rice planting until harvest time.
And it is one of the hardest work in cultivating the rice.
As it is the necessary tool to raise efficiency, Shizuko spared no effort in making it include something that can raise its effectiveness.
Intertilling will be started in one week to ten days after rice planting and the first time of doing that is after the seedling is taking root.
After that, intertilling will be done twice every ten days.
Its number may be small but the work for each intertilling is really hard.

It was only a matter of weeding the fields left from that one day back in June.
The female wolf (named Vultee by Shizuko) brought by Wittmann gave birth to five pups.
It was the first time a new life was born in the village.

“So cute!”

Shizuko felt warm and fluffy and smiled from looking at the five pups whose eyes were open.
As one would expect, Shizuko could only take a distance after trying to pat the pups and got glared angrily by the nearby Vultee.
Vultee could only start moving after a week or two but until then she could only restlessly looking around and relax after looking at her pups.

“So cuuuteee”

Shizuko looked forward to the next week.
However, there was someone who didn’t share the same sentiment with her.
It was Wittmann.
It was natural that he didn’t think watching Shizuko’s affection goes toward his child would be interesting because Wittmann who stayed with Shizuko for nearly a year was used to getting her affection only for himself. He brought his body closer and snuggled to Shizuko.
However, it seems his wish for attention hasn’t yet come true.
Usually, Wittmann would howl like a beast, but for this time, he sounded like a puppy.

“Yeah yeah, you’re cute too, Wittmann~”

Shizuko said it as if to answer Wittman plea while excessively rubbed his head.
It was enough to make Wittman shakes his tail happily, but unfortunately, he was large.
When you swing a tail some tens of centimeter long, it was enough to transform it into a light weapon.

“Watch out! I understand that you’re happy, so please calm down~!”

As one thought, she needs to deal with knocked things in their surrounding.
And then, hearing Wittman who whimpered after being scolded by Shizuko, Vultee let out a howl that sounds like a laugh.

♦♦♦♦♦

June ended and changed to July.
The villagers who were bewildered at the rotary weeding tool at first, now have grown accustomed to it and could finish their work in a day.
When July arrived, the weeding works was almost over.
What was left to do were mostly countermeasures against harmful insects.
At any rate, the rice/paddy field had grown nicely, neatly in rows.
Every villager said that they had never seen so much rice paddy lined up like this before.
Certainly, it could be predicted that they would get a big harvest in the future.

Other than countermeasure for insects, there was also something that was needed to be done.
First was making grooves with two to three meters interval for drainage.
This would make it easy to manage the water before harvest; they couldn’t cut corners in this.

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It was said that the length of the rice tillers will be the highest 35 days after planting, so the soil will need to be drained, this period was called mid-season draining.
A gutter was used to drain the paddy at once.

The reason for mid-season draining is to remove overly large or ineffective tillers as well as to supply oxygen to the soil, which will, in turn, transform the remains of microbes/microorganisms into fertilizer.
Another purpose is the solidification of the soil to prevent the rice plants from falling over.
The resulting cracks in the soil create an aerobic environment that prevents fermentation and the formation of methane gas.
Furthermore, the stimulus from the cracking soil causes the roots of the rice plants to change from surface to underground type.
These are the results that can be expected.

(If we can decrease the nitrogen, we can prevent stink bugs and the like.)

When considering insects that are harmful to rice, stink bugs might be at the top of the list, but an outbreak of them is unlikely if no pesticides are used.
The reason for stink bug outbreaks is said to be caused by the nitrogen absorbed by the plant turning it into a feast for the bugs.
But in the warring states period where the likes of pesticides were unavailable, there is obviously only chemical free, organic agriculture around.
As a result, the natural enemy of the stink bug is also present in the rice fields.

(Surprisingly, doesn’t it seem as if there is no big need to worry about harmful insects?)

Even if insects harmful to the rice plants appear, their natural enemies who feed on them will follow suit.
Of course, removing weeds is the most effective measure against these harmful insects.
The weeds were thoroughly mowed down, not only inside the rice fields but also on the paths between them.
And the removed material is then used for creating mulch.
This way, a beautiful cycle is established inside the rice fields, using everything without exception.

When the work had been reduced to mostly just weeding, on a certain day in August, Nobunaga finally made his move.

♦♦♦♦♦

In August of the ninth year of the Eiroku era (1566 A.D.), Nobunaga crossed the Kisogawa river and invaded Mino.
When this information reached Shizuko’s ears, she couldn’t get the word “defeat” out of her head.

(If I remember correctly, he was hit by flood and lost, so he sent out Hideyoshi to construct a fort at Sunomata, an important location on the border between Mino and Owari.
This fort became the forward base for the all-out attack on Saitou Tatsuoki’s stronghold Inabayama Inokuchi.) [6]

But even though Shizuko remembered this little tidbit, as she already knew the outcome, there was no use in her worrying about it.
After coming to this conclusion, she lightly shook her head to chase these thoughts away.
Switching to more pleasant thoughts, she looked at the rice fields spreading in front of her and nodded in approval.

“Good, good.
The plants are growing well.
If it continues like this, the harvested amount will be according to the plan.”

To be honest, toiling 8 ha of land with only a few dozen people had worried her, but they somehow had made it and were close to being able to start harvesting.
But even when seeing this much rice, she still couldn’t stop worrying.

(It’s the Lord Nobunaga we are talking about, so I fear that next year he might demand something ridiculously difficult…)

Around this time next year, Oda Nobunaga will have brought Mino under his control.
With that, the combined production area of Owari and Mino will amount to 1 million Koku [7].
It was more a necessary outcome than a prediction that he would order Shizuko to increase the amount of produced rice.

(To be prepared for that too, I hope that human-powered planting machine I asked Kinzou-san to build will be finished soon.
After all, when that can be used, planting an area of 10 a will only take a measly 3 hours.)

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What she was not aware of, was that the mentioned Kinzo was racking his brain in an attempt to understand the blueprint (read: sketch on the level of a scribble) of the human-powered planting machine Shizuko had drawn.

The human-powered planting machine, the rotary rice field weeding machine, and the foot-operated threshing machine.
All of them were created to reduce the strain caused by the most arduous tasks of rice agriculture.
The presence of these tools or a lack thereof could change the needed time by an order of magnitude.
Furthermore, the women and elderly can operate them too, so the fieldwork can be done completely by the people who don’t need to go to war.
The difference in workload these machines cause is that big.
This would also allow farmers to split the work on rice fields and the other vegetable fields on a family basis.

“Well then, let’s try to get a wide stretch of land with an area of around 60 ha next year.”

The size of the fields for vegetables and sweet potatoes is fine as it is right now.
The harvested spring vegetables were a hit, not only with the farmers but also with Nobunaga whom they were presented/given as a tribute.

But on the battlefield, the thing that counted the most, after all, was still rice.
After Nobunaga got a hold of Mino, he went to war more often, so he will most probably order to increase production.
The abundance or lack of rice had a large impact on the food situation of the foot soldiers.

“The poultry farming is also going well… but I worry that Kaiser and the rest might attack the chicken”

Kaiser, the wolf cub born from Wittman and Vultee.
Since he is already two months old, he has become aware of his social standing and has been weaned off his mother’s milk.
It should be around time for him to leave the den that was Shizuko’s house.

A pecking order had already established itself between Wittman’s children, so Shizuko named them Kaiser, König, Adelheit, Ritter, and Lutz in turn.
They were literally the ranks of emperor, king, noble, knight, and warrior.
Since the parent’s name already was German, she simple mindedly named them with something German as well.

“Well, if it happens, it happens.
If they don’t hunt from time to time, they will get out of shape/lose their edge.”

Although they were close to being domesticated, there was obviously the possibility that the wolves would go hunting once they got a family.
She wouldn’t mind if the hunted wild dear, but it would be a problem if they started attacking the chicken of the poultry farm.

“No choice but to teach them from a young age.”

Imagining that in the future, despite her best efforts, a couple of chicken would still fall victim, made Shizuko release a heavy sigh.

Footnote:

↩ https://www.britannica.com/science/actinomycete↩ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorganism↩

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