WYSO

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.

Ways to Connect

penerik / Flickr Creative Commons

A month ago, I took a long drive to see the trees of Middle Fall, and as I traveled, I paid attention to the way I missed home and summer, and I thought about what caused the discomfort at leaving both behind.

Since my wife died five years ago, I have tried to understand how to come to terms with home. I have become overly attached to the place where I live and to my story contained in its rooms and gardens. It is hard for me to go away.

oatsy40 / Flickr Creative Commons

November is getting pretty far along now. Most of the leaves have come down throughout the northern half of the United States, and the likelihood of frost and snow flurries becomes stronger.

The Pleiades are well up in the east in the late evening, followed by Aldebaran and Taurus.  Orion and winter aren’t  far behind them.

Martin LaBar / Flickr Creative Commons

When I am sitting on the porch, I hear two Osage fruits fall into the great open palms of the Lenten roses near the west fence. At the pond, my koi lie low on the bottom, subdued by the autumn. Pale grape leaves streak the honeysuckle hedge. Even though the hummingbird food slowly disappears, it seems that the yellow jackets are the only ones drinking. One white bindweed has blossomed near the trellis, and Ruby’s white phlox have a few new flowers. All the finches at the feeders have lost their gold and are ready for winter. 

CarrieLu / Flickr Creative Commons

Standing at the end of October, I hold fast to remnants of the year and to the emotions that stick to them, feelings that reflect the things I see, spun from the tilting of the Earth toward solstice.

From the alley: the last two apples still hanging from the apple tree, the wilting of the final purple fall crocus, the blackening of the tall goldenrod, a handful of milkweed plants, pods splayed, silky seeds shining in the low sun.

Erik Drost

Early in the afternoon of the recent solar eclipse, I was cutting back zinnias in my garden.

Sparrows  chirped off and on and cicadas buzzed and cardinals and crows called once in a while.

A friend had called the day before. And he said he had heard that birds stopped singing in the middle of a solar eclipse as though they thought night had arrived.

Nicholas Erwin / Flickr Creative Commons

I left for New York in the fog and mist, and then an hour later, I drove into low, dark stratus clouds, and the wind came in strong from the northeast against me. The colors of middle autumn that would have been so rich and bright against the blue sky seemed dull and ominous to me. I looked for murmurations of starlings spinning together over the brown fields, but there seemed to be no life at all in the landscape. Traffic was loud and heavy all the way across Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

oak leaf
Wayne Noffsinger / Flickr Creative Commons

Everything is telling time, revealing the arrival of middle autumn.

The Pleiades, and the Hyades of Taurus, outrides of winter’s Orion, lie on the eastern horizon after dark, promising December.

The Big Dipper on the fall sky
Frank Boston / Flickr Creative Commons

The Big Dipper at midnight tells the progress of the year. When its pointers, Merak and Dubhe, point north-south, and the Dipper lies tight against the northern horizon, the northern hemisphere has left summer behind. Leaves are turning, birds migrating, wildflower time closing, the farm and garden take their harvest. The seasons of early, middle and late autumn pass through your habitat.

Noel Pennington / Flickr Creative Commons

Between full summer and the final leafdrop of early December, many separate micro seasons blend with one another, the flowers of August sometimes lasting into early fall, the flowers of September sometimes blooming out of turn before late summer, sometimes the trees keeping their green and leaves well toward middle autumn.

autumn leaves
Heliosphere / Flickr Creative Commons

When autumn leafturn starts near equinox in the Midwest, the deciduous trees are bare in northern Canada.  In Oregon and Maine, foliage colors are approaching their best. In the Rocky Mountains, bull elks are mustering their harems, and snow is falling.  Along the 40th parallel, the smoky tint of last week’s canopy quickly becomes clear and bright.

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