Chapter 24: Work in Spring
Volume 1 — The Temporary Snow Country Life of the Northern Nobleman and the Raptor Wife
Today, I went out with Sieg early in the morning. Riding on a reindeer sleigh, we went to a nearby lake.
The lake was still faintly covered with snow.
“Is it okay?”
Sieg was worried about walking on top of the lake. Although the ice did thin from the temperature rising, it’s not yet thin enough for it to crack from a person walking on it.
However, just in case, took one step and checked if it was safe. Since it was the thawing season, the snow on the surface was wet now. This was something I experienced every year.
I took my still worried wife’s hands and started walking on the frozen lake.
“Ritz, what about the reindeer?”
“It’s a smart one, so don’t worry.”
“Is that so.”
I separated the reindeer from the sleigh to let it move freely. It won’t be going too far off, and bears, lynxes and wolverines don’t live around this area, I explained to Sieg.
Sieg was at first worried about the ice, but once she started walking on it, she strode confidently. However, she kept holding my hand. Though it was over the gloves, my face became loose from the fact that I could touch her.
Because she was looking at my profile interestedly, I quickly brought up a new topic.
“Have you ever done ice fishing?”
“It’s the first time.”
Ice fishing is done by punching a hole through the ice and fishing there. In winter, the ice too thick to break to it’s done in early spring.
“In the cold season, arctic chars are the best.”
They have a pink shade, and taste nice. Now, their fat has risen so it’s tastiest now. Because I also wanted to salt and smoke some, I hoped to catch many of them as I prepared to drill a hole in the middle of the lake.
While I was bringing out the tools from the bag, Sieg wiped away the snow from the surface.
I’m using an ice pick. Aiming the blade at the ice, I softly struck down to create a hole. If I did it too hard, there is a possibility that all the ice in the surrounding area will collapse, so I must be careful.
The ice was thicker than I expected. Taking shifts with Sieg, we finally made a round hole in the ice.
I made a hole big enough for a large arctic char to pass through, and made another hole some distance away.
Now that the preparations were over, all that was left was to fish.
The lures are handmade fake baits. I put that on the string and lowered them in.
“Sieg, are you faring fine against the cold?”
“Aa, I’m fine.”
Though the extremely cold season was past, white breath still comes out and the exposed face feels pain.
However, the sky was clear and blue so I did not feel depressed.
Sieg caught the first one. The best fisher in the village indeed, I praised her in my mind.
“A perch. Be careful of the spike on its tail fin.”
Sieg caught one that had black stripes. Since there is a sharp spike on its tail fin, it has to be cut with scissors. Though it’s past its tasty season, it still is very tasty if it’s grilled with spices until its surface is crispy.
Then, for an hour, nothing was caught.
I offered Sieg alcohol (that I couldn’t drink) to keep her body warm.
“Sieg, I don’t think we can catch more~. Shall we go back?”
“Let’s stay for a while longer.”
“Really? Are you fine with that?”
“Aa. I feel that I can catch some if I do it a little more.”
While we were talking like that, my body protested that it was hungry. Checking the time with my pocket watch, it was already well past noon.
Lunch was the black barley bread Ruruporon made with smoked meat and cheese.
While we were eating, Sieg suggested that we use bits of bread as bait, and that worked great.
Right after that, I was able to fish up five arctic chars.
“It really doesn’t catch well sometimes. It’s hard to keep watch sometimes.”
Sieg caught a small perch, a loach and an arctic char. It was great for being her first try.
I filled the bag with snow to keep the fish fresh and returned home.
When I blew the whistle, the reindeer trotted back here.
When I gave the fish to Ruruporon upon returning, she gladly received it. I could somehow convey to her that she should take three arctic chars back to her hom and that we will be using the rest for dinner.
Dinner. The dish today was made using fresh fishing, signalling that spring has come.
The perch and the loach are filled with herbs and grilled with salt. A char is served in a soup of reindeer milk, potato and herbs. There is also a grilled one, that we sprayed citrus juice over. They all went well with bread.
“I’m want to smoke some fish tomorrow, so can I go out again tomorrow?”
“Aa, I don’t mind.”
Thanks to my magnanimous lady, tomorrow’s schedule was decided on.
The next day, maybe because we lowered the strings on top a school of fish, we had a big haul of eighteen fish with just two people.
However, since we can’t take of all that fish by ourselves, we sold half in the village before we smoked the rest.
First, the fish is gutted and cleaned, then split into two pieces. Then salt is applied all over them and then they’re left. After that, it’s left to sit in a soup of herbs and alcohol. The fish is then left to dry before they’re smoked.
I’m using a method called cold smoking to preserve them for a long time. I’m using a handmade smoking racks. Since the temperature has to be controlled, it’s done at a separate smokehouse.
Using birch chips and herbs that have been dried for half a year, it’s smoked for a month.
“Sounds like it will take a long time.”
“Yeah. We’re doing this to get food over the winter.”
Since we don’t hunt in spring, this is the kind of work we usually do.
Now that the ground has thawed, we now have to get to farming.
We usually grow root vegetables like potatoes, turnips and carrots, along with onions, rapeseeds, rye and barley.
The crops are planted in spring, then are harvested in summer or autumn. They’re then put in snow in winter. There was the fact that it allowed for long-term preservation, but the cold snow also sweetened the vegetables.
After the thawing, all the men in the village help in the fields. The fields outside the walls become a terrible sight after winter, so there is hard work waiting for us to till the field from the beginning.
It’s not as though we planned on it beforehand, but we villagers naturally gathered around to wipe of the snow and till the fields. From the pressure from the piled up snow, the soil became hard so it’s hard manual labour.
We silently continued to remove the stones, roots and caterpillars from the soil.
While I was working, an inquisitive village boy talked to me.
“Hey, my lord, you’re not with the big wife today?”
“Big wife, that’s harsh.”
“But she is about the same height as you.”
My big wife Siegnlinde working in the village to prepare for tourists. While men work in the fields, the women are preparing to greet the foreigners.
They clean the inn, wash the beddings, make snacks and craft souvenirs.
Sieg said that she wanted to help with work in the field because she thought she wouldn’t be of much help in the village. However, since farming blisters one’s hands unlike hunting, I persuaded her to help the village women.
“What about my wife?”
“No, my mum was being envious.”
“That you’re always together.”
“Ah, stuff like that.”
In the village, men and women’s work are divided. Usually, men work outside and while women work inside or in the village. Since I have servants taking care of household chores, I had the fortune to work together with Sieg.
“Ah, speak of the devil.”
The boy pointed to the village entrance. There, Sieg was coming over this way.
My wife brought me lunch.
It was afternoon now. Since I was planning on returning home about now, I was surprised at this sudden turn of events.
The surrounding villagers were quietly eating bread they brought form their homes. Since the village women are busy, they eat in the fields to not disturb them.
“Thank you, Sieg!”
Sieg wanted to eat with me too. To not get her wet, I laid down a leather bag for her to sit on.
I enjoyed warm bean soup, freshly baked bread and freshly brewed coffee as I chatted joyfully with Sieg.
As I was having my second cup of coffee after finishing my meal, Sieg said something while flashing her eyes sharply.
“By the way,”
“I can feel gazes.”
There were no women in the village that came to visit like Sieg. Without a doubt, the men were munching on the cold breads while thinking, ‘This guy, I hope he explodes.’ Thinking that, I smiled wryly.
“Are women forbidden here?”
“No, no. They’re just envious.”
“That I’m having a meal with my wife.”
After that, we resumed work.
It was a very exhausting work, but surprisingly after lunch all my fatigue had gone.
I spent the days contently, thinking that spring this time was much warmer than usual.