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Under Rocks

What’s so great about the Midwest? WNIJ’s Under Rocks podcast isn’t afraid to dive into that question head-first every month. In fact, our team won’t leave a stone unturned when it comes to hunting down the most interesting people, places, and events in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

What are you excited about? We’re always looking for a shove in the right direction, so send us on our next adventure by messaging us at Rocks@niu.edu.

Latest Episodes
  • Lustron Houses. They're in your neighborhood. You just have to look for these mid-century metal marvels. You Under Rocks team heads to Mt. Morris to check out a cluster of Lustrons.
  • We go at it hammer and tongs during a visit to the Phineas Vaughan Blacksmith Shop at the Glidden Homestead in DeKalb. Will Dan be able to upset the steel in time to open his beer before it gets warm? Or does he have too many irons in the fire?
  • In a rural corner of northern Winnebago County, right up near the Wisconsin border, you can find one of the country’s most important bird research centers – and one of the most dedicated teams of volunteers you’ll ever meet. So as spring migration started ramping up, we sent our own dedicated team to investigate the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory and banding station.
  • Step into Founders Memorial Library on the campus of Northern Illinois University and you’ll find yourself in a colorful dream world. Between the bookshelves are 22 towering sculptures by five artists from Mexico City. “Alebrijes – Creatures of a Dream World” is free and open to the public through November 8, 2024, and artist visits and other special events will be planned throughout its stay.
  • Sure, you have a rock collection. Who doesn't? Meet Jon Barnhart, whose rock collection was started by a Civil War veteran, and every stone has a story. Not to mention his collection of bikes, outhouses, out-buildings, signs, sleighs, vintage cars... Well, you're just going to have to listen.
  • It has been five years since The Librarian, a.k.a. Dan Libman, stepped into a wrestling ring in Oregon, IL. No, there won't be a rematch. But he will catch us up on what his fellow wrestlers are doing today.
  • Under Rocks wraps up another year of adventures by bundling up and heading into the woods to find the perfect pine. Actually, it’s more of a farm than woods, as these rookies learn what’s so great about a real Christmas tree. Sinnissippi Farm and Forest co-owner Doug Conroy schools them on the real vs. fake debate. The Clauses even weigh in -- and it’s M-A-G-I-C.
  • Hi, this is your Under Rocks podcast team. We're excited about our final episode of 2023 and even more pumped about what's in store for 2024. So please leave a message at wnij.org or rocks@niu.edu. And starting now, you can find a fresh episode every third Thursday of the month!
  • It’s a dance as old as humanity itself: Bees make honey, humans steal it. And for the most part, we get away with it with nothing more than an occasional sting. But over time, we’ve learned we must do more for the honeybee, which is propping up our fragile ecosystem. The Under Rocks team managed to get itself invited to peer into the process of stewarding bees and harvesting honey with Tim Benedict of Orion Organics. It’s his farm in Lee County where bees roam with the bison among the wildflowers of Nachusa Grasslands.
  • Take a stroll through your nearest downtown and chances are you're going to see some big bold public art on at least a few buildings. Cities and towns are embracing murals as a way to support artists and show some civic pride. We sent WNIJ's Under Rocks team to downtown Rockford to learn more, starting in the studio of muralist Brett Whitacre. (We'd love to see your favorite mural! Send a photo and location to rocks@niu.edu)