You may have heard, particularly if you have a few kids, that people used to have a lot of children to help them on the homestead, subsistence farming being a labor-intensive means of survival. This always strikes me as a weirdly mechanistic way to think of children that I hesitate to attribute to our ancestors. Birth, infancy and adolescence are far too much work to gain even a capable draft human anyway.
It is also self-evidently false. There is nothing in the cosmos more disruptive to farming than small children who have a unique blindness or indifference to the importance of working now for a future harvest. Before a maturing age and at a certain quantity (six comes to mind), they make the 'how' of farming inconceivable. It is the definition of beguiling that they are the most compelling 'why'.
Lauren and I discuss homesteading with a family in this week's podcast. This is also the explicit context of our upcoming Family Pig classes as all the meat we don't send home with you will go to our family larder.
I read a story of a Russian girl who grew up with a forest outside her front door. It was free of understory and composed of mature deciduous hardwoods. When she was four, the family felled the trees and planted crops.
This was not exploitation of the land. It was the harvest of a cover crop planted by her grandfather. The peasant in charge of land management two generations prior told her grandfather to plant the trees because the land needed a prolonged rest from row crops. Her father was told when he was a boy to harvest the trees when his first daughter was a little girl.
Today, we are potting Garryana acorns that have been soaking on the sill. Since growing food for generations is the plan, forest succession is no small part. I do in fact need the kids help with this project, but I still wouldn't say that we had kids to help with the homestead. There's nothing like planting the acorns from a mature oak to remind me that we have a homestead to help with the kids.