Bill Felker

Host - Poor Will's Almanack

Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.

Exploring everything from animal husbandry to phenology, Felker has become well known to farmers as well as urban readers throughout the country.  He is an occasional speaker on the environment at nature centers, churches and universities, and he has presented papers related to almanacking at academic conferences, as well. Felker has received three awards for his almanac writing from the Ohio Newspaper Association. "Better writing cannot be found in America's biggest papers," stated the judge on the occasion of Felker’s award in 2000.

Currently, Bill Felker lives with his wife in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He has two daughters, Jeni, who is a psychologist in Portland, Oregon, and Neysa, a photographer in Spoleto, Italy.

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penerik / Flickr Creative Commons

When winter approaches, I sometimes feel afraid. Often, the feeling is related to dreams I cannot remember, but it is also an old issue with me, something that often appears as a kind of autumnal uneasiness.

The fears, like a kind of stomachache or cramp, dissolve the more awake I become. Exercise and coffee and list-making pretty much make them go away. Still, they lurk at the back of my mind like the effects an insidious seasonal neurotic disorder.

Jereme Rauckman / Flickr Creative Commons

As the last leaves of the year come down, seed catalogs start arriving in my mailbox, and I plan for spring under the Bedding Plant Seeding Moon.  Usually, I order a few packages of geraniums, coleus and petunias, and I start them under grow lights close to the furnace, which happens to be in the attic. 

If I keep the soil warm, well watered and close to the fluorescent bulbs, the seeds germinate within a week or so and then develop steadily throughout the winter.

Carlo Scherer / Flickr Creative Commons

The foliage was still thick and lush when I entered the familiar woods one late September afternoon. I used to know those trails well, but now they had become overgrown, wilder than they were decades ago.

The path was not marked, but I felt I knew where I was going. How could anyone get lost here? It never crossed my mind. I wandered and daydreamed, not paying attention to where I was going.

Peter Stevens / Flickr Creative Commons

A little rain then flurries about noon, then this afternoon, hazy sky, white sun low in the southwest, I walked along the brooks, water higher than it had been in weeks, and all around me the chickweed was rising through the mulch of the last honeysuckle leaves, through the crumbling strata of summer and fall, along the banks of the river, and up the wooded talus slopes, and there was garlic mustard, too, and sweet rockets and fresh wild onions and slippery ragwort leaves and floppy leafcup in between the trunks of fallen trees covered with moss and mushrooms.

John Flannery / Flickr Creative Commons

The first butterflies of the spring are easy to notice. They emerge out of April and May to seek the flowers of middle and late spring, and they are full of prophetic meaning.

ashokboghani / Flickr Creative Commons

With most of the leaves fallen, the countdown for spring is underway. And a person might count in all sorts of ways.

One method is to keep track of the number of precipitation days: across the central portion of the United States about 50 days of rain or snow usually lie between now and April.

Another gauge is the number cloudy days: in most of the country except along the west coast and the near the Great Lakes, there are almost never more than 75, rarely fewer than 60.

Billtacular / Flickr Creative Commons

I went out into the woods and fields this morning: Small cups of gossamer were shining with dew, hanging to the tips of the dry wingstem. In the mist, the grass was yellowing, and the woods appeared like it does in April, bright leaves like new flowers.

Seeds were sprouting in rotten tree stumps, the sweet smell of autumn ground all around me. The low sun rested in the treetops. The silver winding river, the fallen logs invisible in summer, lay below me.

Martin LeBar / Flickr Creative Commons

On October 22, the Frog and Toad Migration Moon comes into its final quarter. The following day, called Cross-Quarter Day, the sun reaches half way between autumn equinox and winter solstice, entering the fertile but chilly sign of Scorpio.

Paladin27 / Flickr Creative Commons

The Frog and Toad Migration Moon waxes until it becomes completely full  October 15. Rising in the evening and setting in the morning, the moon will be overhead around midnight.

Full moon should strengthen the traditional mid-October cold front, increasing the chances for frost and even snow fluries.

And this stage of the lunar orb may affect more than the weather.

Elliot McCrory / Flickr Creative Commons

Under this waxing moon, a major shift in foliage color occurs all along the 40th Parallel. The nights grow colder; the mornings sometimes bring frost. The frogs and toads wander yards and gardens looking the right places to dig in against the winter.  Throughout the fields, aster and goldenrod flowers lose their color. Brown beggartick burs stick to your stockings, and the winged seeds of Japanese knotweed fall.  In urban ponds, water lilies stop blooming.

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