Friday, May 1, 2020
Eager, enthusiastic, energetic, and enterprising are qualities which personify the affable identical twin farmers of Never Dun Growing Co. The Never Dun Growing brothers – Levi and Jacob - started vegetable farming with only a small backyard plot of 100 x 100 feet. And although the initial dream started with Levi’s interest in microgreens and naturally grown vegetables, the farm has expanded over the years to include radishes, arugula, onions, spinach, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, beets, turnips, sunflowers, zinnias, tomatoes, green beans, pumpkins, garlic, zucchini, butternut squash, and sweet corn – a cornucopia of delicious foods.
Understanding the relationship with the environment, the soil, and growing is second nature to Levi and Jacob who have helped run their family’s 3000 acre commercial grain farm all their lives. One might say, “Farming is in their blood,” as the Henry county family farm was originally founded in 1938 by their grandparents. Jacob’s favorite crop to grow is purple top turnips, whereas Levi loves to grow tomatoes.
Growing vegetables following natural organic processes requires many skills. It also requires many trials and results in some unanticipated experiences. But as farmers, who are forward thinking and optimistic, failures are simply new opportunities. For example, the first little greenhouse structure Levi used to start plants in succumbed to the weight of a heavy snowfall one midwinter day. So they constructed a new one with stronger reinforcements. And the structure they first used to start their amazing microgreens, affectionately known as “The Coop,” was grandpa’s old workshop. It wasn’t quite the optimal growing environment for microgreens, so Levi and Jacob simply made it into a great little nursery for plants starts of all shapes and sizes.
All the vegetables grown on their farm are tended by Jacob and Levi and Levi’s wife and their two young children. Since they do not use artificial chemicals or post emergent herbicides, the challenges of tending to the “Never Dun” tasks of farming are always relentless.
One of the tricks they use to help them grow is the use of a paper pot transplanter. Like most farmers, there are challenges. Deer and raccoons always seem to be a force to be reckoned with. In particular, the raccoons seem to think that those delectable mouthwatering sweet corn kernels should be gobbled by them just prior to picking time. To guard those ears from critters, Levi and Jacob use a raccoon fence made up of 4-5 lines of medium tensile wire 4-5 inches apart on T posts with an electrical deterrent. Safe and secure.
You can find Never Dun Growing’s delicious and fresh produce at their new farm stand at the corner of Wolf Road and State Route 82 in Geneseo, the Freighthouse Farmers Market, and the Geneseo Farmers Market.
Friday, May 1, 2020
by Chris Nordick
So your baby chick isn’t so cute anymore? Those fluffy little creatures over a few short weeks have feathered out, grown taller, gotten personalities all their own, and are eating like a horse? Well then, it’s time to move up in the world!
After your baby chick is fully feathered and is acclimated to the ambient temperature, it is important to give them leg room—room for scratching, running, and even chest bumping (if you have a couple of cockerels -baby roosters). Using their legs and claws to look for food is a natural scavenging method for chicks. What do they eat? Chickens are omnivores – they eat just about anything - greens, grasses, grains, beans, corn meal, clover, fruit, insects, toads and frogs, and even snakes. But in order to digest these foods they need grit. In nature chickens get grit from foraging in sand, pebbles, and dirt. The grit is stored in their gizzard – and is used in the digestive process. It works like this: Food first enters through the chick’s esophagus and then rests for quite a long time in the crop (kind of like a storage area). From the crop, the food slowly enters the gizzard. The fine sharp materials stored in the gizzard act like little chicken teeth to help breakdown the food. From there the broken down food enters the intestines…. And well, you know the rest of the story. But why belabor this? If adolescent chicks or adult chickens don’t have access to sand or gravel, you will need to provide this for them. Otherwise, they can’t digest their food. Mineral grits like oyster shells or grits like crushed cherry pits can be purchased at supply stores. Use oyster shell grit at the teenage and egg laying stage of chickens and provide the inert grit to elderly chickens or roosters who do not need the extra calcium found in oyster shell grit.
If night time temperatures aren’t too low, your new feathered friends can safely go out to their chicken home. Chicken houses need to provide a roosting area with a minimum of 2-3 square feet per bird, but more is better as space will improve ventilation. With this, you will also need a minimum of 8-10 square feet of chicken run (here too, more is better). Design your chicken house so that it is weather tight, has ample light, has a sturdy roost, good ventilation, has at least one nesting box / 5 chickens and is easily cleaned. A 1 x 1 inch hardware cloth floor with a removable tray underneath the floor is an easy method to keep the chicken floor free of droppings. If that is not an option, provide dry bedding frequently and periodically clean the coop in order to prevent disease or toxic ammonia vapors from accumulating. Compost those droppings somewhere handy and let them sit for 3-6 months prior to mixing with your garden soil. Those droppings are full of nutrients but placing it on too soon may result in disease transmission or too much nitrogen and may injure your plants.
So now that your baby chick is on pasture and is comfortably enjoying her new home, you will want to be vigilant to watch for lice, fleas, mites, ticks and flies. These insects can infest your chickens and make them irritable and unhealthy. Diatomaceous earth sprinkled in their nesting boxes every thirty days can help eliminate many of those buggers. But those nasty gnats which seem to invade every early summer in the Quad Cities? Those can actually choke and kill chickens – especially young ones. When those gnats are particularly thick, allow your birds to remain indoors if they desire (summer gnats prefer the sun). One easy preventive measure for gnats is to hang dryer sheets with drops of lemongrass and lavender essential oils hanging throughout their house. If there is a window, a light breeze which moves the fragrance through the house is helpful. Replace or refresh daily. (Continued Page 4)
We’ve all heard terror stories of roosters attacking children or people. Roosters are hard-wired to protect their flock and when they perceive a threat will use those long talons on their legs and sharp beaks to repel predators. You can prevent or change aggressive behavior towards people by coaxing your rooster to eat right next to you (even out of your hand in some cases). Place some grain at your feet and squat down about 4-6 feet from it. Be still. Allow the rooster to peck and eat. Again, be still. Do this every day for about a week. Each day get a few inches closer and a few inches higher to the food. Eventually, stand right up and throw the food near your feet. Mr. Rooster will realize that someone who gives him food is not a threat. Then, add another person next to you. If at any time he is getting antsy (you’ll know), just back up and give him more room. He’ll learn. You’re no threat. Soon your friends and neighbors may call you the rooster-whisperer.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
by Chris Nordick
“Peep! Peep! Peep!” Spring has sprung and that means it’s baby chick time! Whether you hatch your own, let your mother hen do it for you, or you order online or through a local store, day old baby chicks are adorable. Fluffy, talkative, and entertaining, those first few days of chick raising are quite the adventure.
The time to prepare is now… not when you are scheduled to get your chicks (or when they are on their way home!). So, as soon as you order your chicks and you get your chicks home, they will need housing, heat, feed, and water.
Housing for baby chicks is pretty easy. Choose an area that is secure from anything that might like to sample chicken for dinner. Depending on where you are feathering out your chicks, you will want an area with at least 1-2 feet of height (or a vented top) and ample enough room from the heat source to move if they get too warm. Drafts should be eliminated but ventilation is helpful. The corners of the brooder should be rounded because sometimes those little chicks huddle up in the corner and trample each other. You will also want to place clean shavings on the surface – both for scratching-practice and to absorb droppings.
Baby chicks need warmth. In nature, the mother hen keeps them close and huddles them under her body. Unless you have a mother hen handy, you will need to provide another source of heat. Traditionally, heat lamps or incandescent lamps have been used. These need to be hanging or fastened in such a way as to not come into contact with flammables. You can also purchase heat plates or even make your own. One day old baby chicks need a room temperature between 95-100 degrees F for the first 2 weeks. After that, the temperature can be lowered 5 degrees each week until ambient temperature is reached or they become fully feathered and filled out. If they are huddled all together under the heat source it’s a good bet that the temperature is too cold. And if they are scattered away from the heat, you can be confident that the temperature is too warm. For an excellent, inexpensive, effective, and easy to build chick brooder, visit Practical Poultry Tips.
If your chicks came through the mail or you picked them up at the hatchery, the first thing you need to do is dunk their little beaks into some water - each and every one. Do this as you lift them out of the box and gently place them into their new home. Give them room-temperature water, sweetened with a little apple cider vinegar (1 Tablespoon/gal of H2O), placed on a platform so that they cannot fall in or else consider hanging the water with the use of a brooder bottle cap waterer. They will also need starter feed. Starter feed is a specially formulated feed to help grow bones and muscle for baby chicks. Do not start with layer feed – as the calcium in that feed will damage their little kidneys. Change the water daily and make sure they always have food. You’ll be surprised at how much they can eat and drink.
It’s always good to be on the lookout for diseases or disorders. Marek’s disease is a viral disease which affects many types of poultry but chickens in particular. If you are adding to your established flock, it is worth considering having your new chicks vaccinated as Marek’s disease can decimate a flock. In addition, many, but not all, starter feeds are medicated against a parasitic disease called coccidiosis. The last condition to be on the lookout for early in your baby chicks is a condition commonly known as “pasty bottom”. This is a relatively common problem which, if not treated, will result in the death of the baby chick. Pasty bottom (pasty butt, pasty vent) occurs when the vent (the hole where droppings and eventually eggs go through) becomes clogged with excrement when baby chicks droppings stick to the fluff at their bottom. It is more prevalent when temperatures are too high or when baby chicks get dehydrated. Making sure your chicks get water first before eating any food helps prevent this. You should monitor your chicks for droppings sticking to their bottoms regularly and gently brush or wash their vent area with warm water if pasty bottom develops. Happy chicken raising!
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
by Sarah Ford
New to the Port Byron Farmers’ Market as of May this year is Hillbilly
Hollow Woodworks of Cleveland, Illinois. The business was started
eight years ago by Russ and Tammy Quillin when they decided to start
selling handcrafted wood products at local craft fairs. Their
furniture display is an eye-catcher at the Sunday market.
The Quillins sell a large variety of handcrafted outdoor furniture
constructed from Western Red Cedar, as well as whimsical bird houses,
custom routed signs, buck board wagons for display, rocking horses,
palm crosses, cedar chests, toy boxes, and custom woodworking. They
have a wood-mizer bandsaw mill at their home, and offer custom sawmill
services and milled lumber for sale.
Tammy and Russ both grew up in Henry County and were educated in the
Geneseo schools. Russ spent 38 years working in the automotive
industry, first as an auto mechanic then as an independent auto
inspector for the last 12 years in that career. Tammy is currently
employed at Unity Point Health Systems. They have three grown
daughters and five grandchildren.
Russ wanted to continue working with his hands in a different
capacity, and carpentry was something he’d been interested in for most
of his life. In his youth he built soap box derbys and tree houses
with his brothers and neighborhood friends. “Those first projects were
very crude and trial and error works in progress, but it was a cool
thing to a kid, in the days before cable TV and the internet. It
sparked a life long interest in carpentry and building things with my
hands and imagination,” said Russ.
He further developed his skills while taking wood shop classes in
school. After high school, he borrowed his dad’s tools and equipment
to build furniture and picture frames for his first apartment. “Back
then, 2×4 pine furniture was the popular style and wasn’t too hard to
build,” he reminisced. Some of those first pieces of furniture are
still around in the Quillin home, with Russ adding they’re “out of
style perhaps, but still useful.”
Tammy and Russ married in 1982 and shortly after they bought their
house in Cleveland, which had been vacant for over two years. It was
in need of a lot of repairs and updating, with Russ mentioning that
the previous occupants had left a Ford six cylinder engine on the
living room floor. After fixing it up they sold it and bought their
current Cleveland home. Russ learned to make house repairs as the
years went on, and his interests and skills continued to grow.
In 2013, Hillbilly Hollow Woodworks grew when they made a major
investment in shop equipment and purchased proprietary rights to build
the outdoor furniture that they build and sell today. In late December
2015, Russ left his automotive career to chase his dream to build the
woodworking business. They’ve been expanding ever since, even
purchasing a sawmill in 2018.
“We’re now able to salvage and repurpose timber from storm damaged
trees and from local home owners and businesses removing trees on
We’re passionate about reclaiming and recycling timber from trees that
might ordinarily end up as firewood, go to the landfill, or be left on
the ground to rot,” stated Russ.
As for their unique business name, the Quillins say they often get
asked how it came about. Their reply? “One only needs to visit
Cleveland, Illinois and the answer will be clear. It used to be a “one
horse town”, and Tammy and I owned that one horse. The grinning horse
on our company logo represents “the one horse,” Russ said.
The Quillins say they have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the
other vendors and the wonderful folks who visit the Port Byron
Farmers’ Market on Sundays. “The close proximity to the Mississippi
river and downtown adds to the charm and character of this unique
community. It has a laid back resort town atmosphere and it’s nice to
see how much the community supports the farmers market,” stated Russ.
“We strive to exceed our customers expectations with the products and
services that we offer, built right here in the Quad Cities, USA,”
You can find Hillbilly Hollow Woodworks at the Sunday market, now from
10 a.m. - 1 p.m. on Sundays in the Blackhawk Bank & Trust parking lot.
They can be contacted at www.hillbillyhollowwoodworks.com, which also
offers online sales, or by calling 309-912-0640. They also set up at
the Moline Farmers’ Market located in the Younker’s parking lot at
Southpark Mall on Saturdays from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. now through October.
Monday, March 30, 2020
by Chris Nordick
Cindy Heilmann, a vivacious, easy going, and quick-to-laugh farmer, runs Heilmann Hawkeye Acres with her husband Dave. Rolling hills and native timber comprise most of the 45 acres on their small Iowa farm. Approximately one acre of land, with two high tunnels and a small greenhouse, are used for growing fruit, flowers, and vegetables. Delicious red raspberries, white peach trees, and hardy Reliant peach trees grace their farm with mouthwatering juicy fruit.Rhubarb, asparagus, lilies, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, green beans, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and peppers are grown either in the high tunnel or in long 400 foot rows.
Cindy grows all her fruits and vegetables organically following sound, healthy, soil building practices since every farmer knows that without good soil, you cannot get great vegetables. Each year in early September, turnip seed is planted on soil which was harvested all summer long. These turnips help reduce the growth of unwanted or invasive weeds in late summer / early fall and provide a nutritious treat in mid-November for her ten “spoiled” Angus cows. The cows clean the field before the snow flies and the soil is ready for planting in the spring. Little to no tilling is required which then leaves the nutrient-rich soil filled with beneficial worms and critters.
And speaking of those cows, each year the cows give birth to adorable baby calves in mid-April. Cindy learned years ago from an old Amish veterinarian, to feed kelp to her Angus mothers in order to improve their health and strengthen them for calving. She uses about 250 pounds of kelp/year for her cows… that which doesn’t get absorbed by the cow gets spread across the fields by natural processes. The calves are weaned and then sold to a farmer friend who raises them on large green pastures and gives them a happy healthy life.
Cindy is a wise and experienced farmer. For those starting out in fruit and vegetable growing she has many great tips. Tip #1 –grow two things you like to eat and add two new things every year. That allows you to enjoy what you grow and learn the nuances of growing new fruits or vegetables before overinvesting your time and energy. Practice makes perfect. Tip #2 –Every week, whether it looks like it needs it or not, roto-till the top ½ to one inch of soil between and around every row. Stay on the surface –that’s where most of the weeds and weed seeds are. Then all you need to do is pull the occasional weed between plants. Great tips!
Cindy’s scrumptious fruit, vegetables, and beautiful flowers can be found at the Clinton Farmers Market and the Freight House Farmers Market from May through October.
Saturday, February 29, 2020
by Chris Nordick
Nestled behind a winding blacktop driveway with hundreds of maturing fruit trees framing the idyllic road is Craver’s Little Red Barn. A family owned, operated, and produced, work of love, filled with overflowing dedication and abundance. Jill and Jeff Craver are the minds and muscles behind the 25 acres of fertile soil which are nurtured on their family farm. Apples, peaches, cherries, pears, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries fill the yearnings for fresh, naturally grown, fruit.
“Our children love fruit… They can’t get enough of it.”
The Cravers have six children ranging from four years old all the way to 21. Their youngest bundle of energy, Bode, often can be found alongside Jill picking berries in the long, 500 foot, neverending, wellmulched blueberry rows. Jill’s pickings go into the bucket. Bode’s? Well, those amazing plump berries go straight to the tummy. And who could blame him?
The varieties of vegetables grown on the farm seem endless. “We grow everything from apples to zucchini.” Asparagus, beans, okra, carrots, beets, lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, and some of the best tasting scrumptious sweet corn one can find in the Quad Cities can be found throughout the growing season from Craver’s Little Red Barn (among many other varieties). One of the first vegetables of the season for Jill and Jeff is asparagus. And after a long, cold winter, the richness and flavor of fresh asparagus is like no other.
But there’s more! In addition to fruits and vegetables, Craver’s Little Red Barn raises Suffolk meat sheep and lambs, Black Angus beef, and horses for barrel riding and competition. The children have the primary responsibility for feeding and caring for the animals. And then, each year a few of the cattle are sold and all the profits of the sale go into one of the children’s college savings account.
The soil on the farm is tended and cared for in an environmentally friendly manner. Manure, cover crops, light till, mulch, and crop rotation keep the earth filled with nutrients and that soil health is then integrated into the happy and healthy plants. Pollination is enhanced through honeybee hives and pollinator friendly practices are followed for pest management. The end result? Luscious green plant growth, nutritious healthy produce, and happy taste buds.
All this harmonious environmental living and farming comes at a cost. Farming fruits and
vegetables is labor intensive. The “easy” part is tilling, planting, and harvesting. The day in and day out maintenance of watering and weeding is always a challenge. Jill is the “weeder extraordinaire” and hand pulls each and every weed growing close to the thousands and thousands of
plants. However, the Craver’s have an ingenious tool they made from an old pull behind 5 foot rototiller. Inspired by a farmer friend, Jeff removed the center tines of the rototiller. By creating a 12 inch space for the row plants within the middle of the tiller itself, Jeff is able to clear two feet on each side of the row easily and efficiently. Such a time and back saver
Craver’s Little Red Barn, located in Taylor Ridge, IL, is an amazing example of a small family managed, and labor of love farm. Some of life’s best, hardest, and most soul filling lessons are discovered on a family farm. Quiet meaningful conversations while tending the soil and caring for animals result in a family with strong bonds of love and respect for one another and the environment. And the Craver’s certainly epitomize these qualities.
One can discover Craver’s Little Red Barn through Facebook, purchase fresh, beautiful grown local produce at the Freight House Famers Market, the Quad Cities Growers Market, and at their cute family farm stand in Taylor Ridge, IL May through October.
Friday, February 28, 2020
by Sarah Ford
Cyndy Pollentier of DCP Naturals started her home based business to make natural and nontoxic products after doing years of research on commercially made synthetic ingredients. Her first products were soy wax melts and candles, lotions, perfume, lip balm and bug spray. Cyndy started making organic coconut milk soap “out of necessity” after her husband Dave would get dry and cracked hands and fingers. They tried everything, including natural soaps, but nothing seemed to help. One day while grocery shopping, she happened to see coconut milk and wondered if she could make a soap out of it. “I wanted to make a good quality soap, using as many organic ingredients as possible. I used the best oils I could find that were not only pure, but had healing properties. And I wanted essential oils to use for the fragrance. After much trial and error, I made the coconut milk soap. And we were amazedhis cracked and bleeding fingers healed after a few days of using the soap. I know I had something special,” Cyndy said of the origins of her organic specialty.
After her discovery, she started making the soaps with a few different scents and it just “grew from there.” She realized how family and friends loved the moisturizing properties of the soap and decided to incorporate it into her business. “I introduced the soap at our local farmers market in East Moline in 2016, and as customers tried the soap, they couldn’t get enough,” she stated. “We now sell the soap at the East Moline, Moline and Port Byron Farmers’ Markets. We also sell at a variety of craft fairs including the Antique Working Farm Show and Country Tyme craft show.” Soap scents include honey and oatmeal, sage, 60’s love child, and lavender. She also offers fragrance free for those who prefer unscented.
Cyndy has also expanded her product line to include muscle rubs, lotions, and sunscreen, as well as her homemade jewelry such as Mississippi River rock pendants and guitar pick earrings. Cyndy said one of her favorite places to sell is the Port Byron Farmers’ Market. “It may not be a huge market, but the people that come are amazing. The vendors and customers are more like family. We all support each other, which makes selling a joy. We have met so many wonderful people who sell and who buy. Many thinks to those who support the market, and to those who organize it. Come on down!””