Momprenuer Monday: Alicia Dodd and Village Homesteading Mundelein

MompofMonthWelcome to Mompreuner Monday, where we introduce you to Mom-based businesses in Lake County.

Today it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Alicia Dodd, a homesteader who lives here in Lake County and cares for a large piece of land that’s slightly tucked away from the hustle and bustle of suburbia.

Alicia has been encouraging and helpful to my family as we have expanded our own simple homestead as well as many other families so it’s no surprise Alicia also serves a a board member for Village Homesteading Mundelein, a free group comprised of residents who want to get back to land and family-based values while incorporating greener technologies, embracing conservation, self-sufficiency and responsibility — and all with only 1/10th of an acre suburban plots in most cases!

Village Homesteading of Mundelein

With April being a month when we generally focus some energy and attention on sustainability when observing Earth Day, I thought there was no better time to introduce you to Alicia and the Village Homesteading Mundelein.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Alicia about the group and about her own homesteading journey!

How did you become interested in sustainable living?

I grew up on a farm. Both sides of the family farmed as far back as we can tell. I always blame my addiction {to homesteading} on that. It’s always been important to me. When I was growing up it was my job to weed the garden. I remember just wanting to do it. No one ever had to ask me.

Before we talk about your addiction, tell us a little about your family.

My husband and I have an 11-year-old daughter who is in fifth grade and we also have a 4-year-old daughter. Both of have grown up with lots of time spent outside in nature. My 4-year-old does everything with me — beekeeping, gardening, caring for the chickens and food preparation.

Village Homesteading Mundelein

Wow! That’s so cool!  So let’s start at the beginning since most of us, no matter how much we wish, probably won’t dive right into caring for chickens! When you first began your homesteading journey in this tucked-away-suburban landscape, where did you start?

The first thing we started with was native restoration in the yard. We removed invasive plants and began sowing native seemingly and planting native species. When we moved here this area had five species of plants, and other than oak trees, it provided no food or protection for creatures. We began making the property environmentally friendly — especially focusing on removing invasive buckthorn, which keeps all the other plants from growing because of the broad shade it provides. Then we diversified the plants by planting what was native to an oak savannah.

Why did you start there?

Without restoring the native plants there wasn’t much food or protection available for native creatures and insects that are necessary for sustainable living.

What did you do next?

Next we began veggie gardening. We started small and as we learned, we found we could extend the season so we could have produce year round. We now have cold frames and hoop houses to help us garden year round. We also start our plants in the basement. I love watching things grow, and I love the convenience of having good in the backyard, plus knowing what’s in the soil of the food my family is eating. I also love that my kids are so connected with the food and seasons. They know when vegetables are in season.

Because many of us are still learning about homesteading and gardening, tell us why the soil is so important.

A healthy soil is full of organic matter, nutrients and micro-organisms, all of which work together to feed plants the most nutrients possible. Conventional fertilizer and even organic fertilizer doesn’t rely on natural microbial life that plants have traditionally relied on. Conventional soil produces food that is void of certain nutrients.

Healthy soil has microorganisms that attack non-beneficial microorganisms that promote disease. Even organics rely on sprays. We can improve the natural ecology by adding compost and not tilling, which allows beneficial funk, bacteria and organisms to be plentiful enough to attack non-beneficial organisms.

Excellent! Thanks for sharing that with us. So after you guys revived the natural ecology around your property and got a handle on gardening, what did you add to your homestead?

We began beekeeping. I enjoy the challenge of beekeeping and trying to understand it as best as I can. Before we got bees I rarely saw them around here.  … One big challenge is finding bees that can stand up to the challenges of the area — cold winters, lack of food {flowers}, mites, GMOs, chemicals — all of these things disrupt the food system. … We are working with smaller operations to get local bees that have stood up to the challenges. It costs more money to get these local bees, but in the long-term it’s the right thing to do.

Right, because bees are absolutely essential for pollinating crops and maintaining a healthy eco-system. No honey bees and we’ve got a big problem. So side tangent because we all need bees — what can we do to help keep honey bees healthy and strong?

Plant more flowers! And be careful where you get your flowers. Big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowes have been selling flowers that use a systemic insecticide called neonicotinide, which neurologically damages the bees and disorients them. Check with your local nursery to get flowers that do no contain neonicotinide.

Ok, back to your homestead. After bees what do you work to incorporate?

Chickens! We shared chickens with our neighbor at first. And then we realized how easy they are to care for and how quiet they are. … They are wonderful pets and great for a homestead. The eat kitchen scraps, you can compost their waste, they provide food, they are very social … the kids care for the chickens and it teaches them a lot about responsibility. Having chickens also helps you understand what a healthy chicken needs and how far that is from the conventional standard of farming. They need greens, bugs and proteins in their diets, not the typical diet of grains. Whenever my husband travels for work, I get text from him saying how much he misses our chickens … there is a difference in taste of the eggs!

So what are you working on these days?

We have been working on expanding our orchard and learning about permaculture. Permaculture is where you look at the conditions that exist in nature and how we can replicate that in our home gardens. I’m learning a lot about plant groupings and more about soil needs.

You are one knowledgeable and inspiring person, Alicia! Many of us are at different places in our homesteading and sustainable living journeys, so what would you suggest people do if they are interested in learning more about homesteading and sustainable living.

Connect with the Village Homesteading Mundelein group on Facebook and attend our free meetings. We discuss quite a bit and share skills with each other. All events are free and most are kid-friendly. It’s a great opportunity to meet others in the community and realize how great the interest in sustainability. Our monthly meetings are at Mouse in the House Interiors in downtown Mundelein.

Join us the THIRD MONDAY of the month because Alicia will be sharing with us how we can create more sustainable homesteads!

She’s got tips for the absolute newbie, the casual gardener, the evolving homesteader and even the hardcore homesteader!

Dance academy of Libertyville
About Hyacynth 33 Articles
Hyacynth Worth is wife to John and mother to two boys and two girls. She writes about motherhood, healthy living and faith at Undercover Mother. She is Little Lake County's managing editor and the author of Homesteading with Hyacynth. She promises to be candid, amusing and only slightly neurotic. Most of the time.

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