Farming by Numbers
Many had come an afternoon where the biggest problem Pete faced was deciding what he was going to have for dinner.
Today was not one of those days.
Elli had invited him to have dinner with the family. She wanted to try out a new recipe for cheese and onion pie, and since Pete was supplying the ingredients, Elli had very kindly asked if he'd join them. What a great Friday. The sky was clear, the animals were happy and he was going to have dinner with a super-cute nurse and her family. Life was great.
As he walked down the street, Pete felt a song in his heart and a growl in his stomach.
He turned onto the high street of Mineral Town. He gradually started skipping and singing "Knowing I'm on the street where you live".
When he reached Elli's house, he straightened his cap, fixed his posture and held down the doorbell.
Elli opened the door and Pete took in the view. Mousey brown hair, just reaching the neck, framed a fresh, round face, with large brown eyes and a small nose. Elli's features made her look younger than she was. Pete was usually happy to see her pretty face, but she looked depressed for a second. When they made eye contact, Elli forced a smile.
"Oh, hello Pete. I wasn't expecting you this early."
"Well, I finished work ahead of schedule, so I thought I'd come around and see if I could help with anything."
She brought a finger to her mouth as if contemplating something. It was as if there was something she needed help with but didn't know if Pete was the right person for the job.
"Oh, it's nothing! Please, come in!"
Pete couldn't help but feel that this was one of those times when, "Nothing" translated to "A big problem that I'd rather keep to myself and let it eat away at me until I'm a mere shadow of my former self", but Pete figured that if there really was something serious and soul shattering, it would come to light sooner or later. So he shrugged it off and followed Elli inside.
Pete was shown into the cosy living room and he said hello to Elli's grandmother Ellen.
"By the way, where's Stu."
Elli dropped a plate in shock. She was busted.
"They had a fight." Said Ellen.
"It's no good saying 'grandma!' my girl. He would have figured it out sooner or later, anyway. Besides, Pete isn't going to judge you, are you Pete?"
"Of course not." Pete nodded his head in agreement. Then again, after announcing to the villagers that he dreamt of building a fence out of gold, who was Pete to judge anyone? "Come on. Elli You can tell me."
Elli sat down opposite Ellen.
"We were arguing over a videogame."
That was odd. Elli didn't seem the type to blow up at her little brother just because he beat her in a fighting game.
"Stu wanted to play on a new game that he just got, but I wouldn't let him until he finished his maths homework. He stormed out of here a few minutes before you came."
So that was it. One of those kinds of arguments. And Pete was starting to like the idea that Elli was a closet video game nerd. Pete got up out of his chair.
"I'll go and look for him." He said "I might be able to convince him to come back."
"Oh no, I couldn't ask you to do that…"
"Actually, you could." Ellen chirped. "Because kids usually don't hear these things from their parents. Or even their immediate family.".
So Pete set out on his mission to locate, engage and retrieve the wayward boy. Now, where would Stu go? Well, it was almost dinner time, kids get hungry more easily than grown ups, so maybe Doug's restaurant? No, kids didn't usually have that kind of money. Maybe…Stu once said that the church minister Carter was a good cook.
After walking down the street for a while, Pete eventually found Stu loitering by the church.
"Oh, hi Pete."
"So, I heard you had another fight."
"Well, yeah. Elli won't let me play on this new game I got! I've been saving to buy it for months! I was looking forward to playing it all week but Elli says I can't until I finish my homework! It's not fair! I've been doing schoolwork all week! Friday night is for having fun!"
Pete could sort of see where Stu was coming from. There days when all Pete wanted to do was go fishing, take walks with his dog or just go to the bar, chugging beer and staring a the walls. But homework was very important.
"Well, it's true. Sometimes on Fridays you just want to sit around and not have to do anything. I can relate. But you need to do your homework if you're ever going to get a decent job when you finish school."
"But it's just maths! You don't need to be good at maths to get a job!"
"Maths is actually one of the most important subjects in the curriculum. If you're no good at maths then you're going to have a lot of trouble finding work."
"Nah-ah! I've already got it all figured out! I'll just save up my allowance and buy a farm, like you!"
Pete's first instinct was to be flattered that little Stu wanted to follow in his footsteps and become a dairy farmer. But it occurred to him, only the next day, that cheeky Stu was really implying that Pete couldn't count.
Well, he wouldn't be the first one to think that. Pete did have a rather clueless look about him. Maybe it was the backwards way he wore his baseball cap?
"Well, I'm flattered, but maths is just as important on a farm as it is in an office. Maybe even more important. Come on, let's go to the store and I'll show you."
They went to Jeff's store and walked over to the dairy produce. Pete picked up a bottle of milk and pointed to some numbers.
"See where it says 70cl? Milk is sold according to litres or pints depending on where you get it. So you're going to need maths to measure how much milk your cows are giving."
Stu thought for a moment.
"I'll save up a little more and hire a milk maid to do that for me!"
Okay…but a milk maid can't do everything for him.
Pete then took Stu to the vegetables. Jeff's attractive daughter Karen was polishing a set of scales. She stepped to the side as Pete picked up a large potato and placed it on the tray. The scales showed the potato's weight. Pete turned to Stu.
"Now, look at this. If you want to run a farm, you're going to have to weigh the vegetables." He explained "Remember, things like potatoes are sold according to weight. Your milk maid won't be able to do that for you. It's not in her job description."
Stu thought. His face was blank, as if he wasn't expecting having to weigh things. Pete thought that finally he had gotten through.
But Stu just shrugged and said;
"I'll save up even more and hire a farm hand to do that!"
Okay, what exactly was Stu planning to do on this farm? Sit back and let everyone else do the work?
"See? I don't need to be good at maths!"
"Yes you do!" said Pete "Because you're going to have to count the money!"
"Especially if you have people working for you." Karen added "Somehow, I don't think your milkmaid and farmhand would want to do all that work for free."
Great! Pete had some backup! Now Stu had two young adults that he wasn't related to telling him the importance of mathematics!
"I'll just hire an accountant to do that!"
Pete was completely dumbfounded. Ether Elli was giving Stu a much bigger allowance than a kid his age should receive, or he was planning on getting an allowance until he reached retirement age. Perhaps little Stu had yet to learn the true value of money.
"In that case," Pete said in an irritated tone "you're going to be broke."
"What?! How come?!"
"Because if the milk maid can count, the farm hand can count and the accountant can count but you can't- you're going to be broke."
Karen, also irritated turned to face Pete. "Speaking of money, are you actually going to buy something?"
It seemed that Pete's backup had deserted him. Talk about rage-quitting.
Rule number one of going into a greengrocer's- don't window shop when the checkout girl is known for having a short temper. Stu, with a big grin eyed the chocolate bars as if saying "you know that buying one of these for me is the only way out of this awkward predicament"!
Well, something like that, just with a less developed vocabulary.
Pete was now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
If he didn't buy anything, Karen would be mad at him.
If he bought Stu a candy bar, Elli would be mad at him.
Stu slowly reached towards the chocolate. For Pete, it was a no-win scenario. But before you could say Kobayashi Maru, he got an idea.
"Actually, Karen, do you sell calculators?"
"Sure. I'll just get one for you."
Pete glared at Stu and motioned him to put the chocolate back. Stu sulkily did so. Pete paid Karen for the calculator and they left the store.
"So, your allowance- how much does your sister give you every week?"
"About seven a week."
Pete pressed the numbers into his calculator.
"Now, how much do you think it costs to buy a farm?"
Stu was silent. He pressed his finger deep into his forehead, in deep thought. He looked up at Pete.
"I have no idea. How much does it cost?"
Yes, Pete had him now! Just a quick pause for impressive effect and drop the bomb!
"Four hundred thousand."
Stu's mouth and eyebrows shot off his face in opposite directions. He stood speechless for a good while. No time to let him recover! Pete had to pursue!
"And that's just for the land and the house. You need to buy livestock too. The cows I have cost five thousand each, while the chickens cost five hundred each."
Pete punched the numbers into his calculator.
"So that's four hundred thousand to buy the land, plus four cows- five thousand times four is twenty thousand…and four chickens, that's another two thousand…so four hundred and twenty two thousand divided by your seven a week allowance…"
He pressed the calculate button.
"Sixty thousand, two hundred and eighty five weeks. Now, divide by the number of weeks in a year*…"
He finished his calculations and showed Stu the display.
"It's going to take you one thousand, one hundred and fifty nine years to save up enough. And that's before you hire the milkmaid, farmhand and accountant."
After a while, the reality had sunk in. Stu frowned as his eyes went to the floor.
"I guess you're right, Pete. But I just don't feel like doing my homework right now. I was too excited about that new game I got."
"Don't worry." Pete had, patting Stu on the head. "Maths helps with time management too. I'll help you out. We can do a bit while Elli's making dinner and do the rest after we've eaten."
"Oh, okay." Stu sighed.
So they went back to Elli's house. Stu made up with his sister and Pete helped out with Stu's homework by offering adding and subtracting tricks. He also said that math problems were more fun if you thought of them as puzzles to be solved. Problem solving was a skill Stu could carry over to gaming, so Pete said to think of it as practise. Soon it was time for dinner. Elli cut the cheese and onion pie between them all. The pastry melted in the mouth and the cheese filling was smooth as silk.
After dinner Pete and Stu tackled the last of the maths homework. At last, Stu triumphantly raised the papers and said-. "There! All done!"
"See? And it's only six thirty." Said Pete "Plenty of time left for gaming."
Stu showed Elli. Her eyes scanned it and her head nodded after reading each line.
"Good…good…that's right…good…good job Stu!"
Her hand went into the pocket on her apron and she pulled out a video game box.
"Here's your game back. Have fun!"
"Thanks, sis!" he said as he took his hard earned prize. "Pete, do you want to play it with me?"
"Not tonight, thanks. I have a few ends to tie up at home. Maybe tomorrow sometime!"
"Oh, okay. Thanks for helping with my homework!"
So Stu went to his room to engage in long overdue virtual therapy, Pete said goodnight to Ellen and Elli saw him to the door.
"Thanks for everything you did tonight, Pete." She said, with a happy gleam in her eye. "I always have trouble getting to do his homework on Friday"
"Your welcome, Elli." Pete said as he put on his hat "It was worth it for that amazing pie!"
Elli leaned forward and kissed Pete on the cheek. He put his hand to where she had kissed him and felt his lips curl into a big smile. He looked down at Elli's pretty, blushing face.
She closed the door and Pete made his way home. He started to skip along like a love struck idiot. But, who could blame him. He had just eaten a delicious cheese and onion pie, he had taught a rambunctious child the importance of his maths homework and time management, he had just been kissed by a super cute nurse and the only problem he had was wondering what he was going to have for dinner tomorrow.
* Author's Note: In the game, there's actually sixteen weeks in a year, but I wanted to make it a bit more realistic with the calculations used, so I went by a real year of fifty two weeks.