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.

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goldenrod in the fall
Bridget Leyendecker / Flickr Creative Commons

I wander into the chilly, wet morning of an old farm on equinox, swallows circling above me, crows, blue jays and cardinals and mockingbirds, ground crickets and field crickets and tree crickets accompanying me on my walk.

Common ragweed everywhere has gone to seed. In patches of soil between slabs of old cement and blacktop grow ancient chicory and Queen Anne's lace, horseweed past its best, pink smartweed in large clumps, blushing wild dogwood, small white asters (two tiny bees huddled- one on top of the other - on one aster blossom), tall goldenrod full bloom.

Sara Björk / Flickr Creative Commons

Now when the nights are cool and the moon is dark, those giant puffball mushrooms swell in the woods,  getting so big...

September fogs, the sliding sun, and one of the most radical weather shifts so far in the season, calls them up from the ground.

As the day moves to within a few degrees of equinox, other creatures tell the time as well as puffballs.

Giant Hostas
Lola Audu / Flickr Creative Commons

Deep in the woods, tall wood nettle, wingstem, ironweed, and touch-me-nots have obscured the web of spring and summer, all the trilliums, the violet cress, the ragwort, the purple phlox, toothwort, Jack-in-the pulpit and bluebells, honewort, waterleaf.

slappytheseal / Flickr Creative Commons

I have fond memories of puffballs and their moon because twenty-eight years ago, a friend called me up with some news.

“There’s a lady out on the street,” he said, “with a real big mushroom.”

I went to see the sight, and there, indeed was a young woman holding what was to become the world’s largest puffball mushroom (calvatia gigantea), 18.38 pounds, 77 inches around.

In our conversation years later, the woman told me that her giant fungus (“Puffy, as she called it,”) had made the 1990 and 1991 editions of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Tyler Sprague / Flickr Creative Commons

Having dropped below the celestial equator in the first week of late summer, the sun has now left the stability of Leo and entered the more volatile sign of Virgo, the first of the most violent periods of change in the second half of the year.

At the transition between Leo’s great plateau of heat and color in July and Libra’s sudden collapse of the forest canopy in early fall, Virgo brings the first turning of the leaves and the first chance of frost.

ozpagan / Flickr Creative Commons

The Katydid Moon is waxing bright and gibbous these evenings. It will be  full on the 18th dominating the sky sky and tides this week.

The full moon is always overhead in the middle of the night, and if you walk under its glow, you might see the high bloom of velvetleaf, jimsonweed, prickly mallow, wild lettuce, ironweed and wingstem. You might pick soft elderberries and blackberries.

Joshua Mayer / Flickr Creative Commons

The pieces of late summer fall into place, creating the season. The heat stays, but the rhythm shifts, the tones of the leaves are different, colors and sounds and scents all pointing to September.

Cottonwood leaves are becoming pale near my house. In the park, black walnut, sumac, wild grape, sycamore, elm, box elder, and redbud are turning yellow. The katydids, which started to sing last week in my neighborhood, are in full chorus after dark. The cicadas have finally all come out and fill the afternoons.

katydid
AFPMB / Flickr Creative Commons

Just before sunrise, I went jogging at the edge of town: I heard the loud rattle of tree crickets; chirping of field crickets; doves calling; I saw a cluster of robins scouting the pavement and yards, but there was no robin chorus, just the steady chirping of the sparrow flocks; a cardinal sang toward the edge of town, but he was the only one.

Liz West / Flickr Creative Commons

The speed of summer seemx to be accelerating with the heat of Dog Days. I rest in my yard, holding the day close, binding it together with what lies around me.

In my garden pond, the three-petaled flowers of the arrowhead opened overnight, a few days before they did last year. The yellow coneflowers are a week ahead of schedule.

The zinnias and the Shasta daisies I planted from seed are finally blossoming, bright oranges and reds joining the white phlox and the pinks of the petunias. The lilies are almost done blooming now.

Nicolas Winspeare / Flickr Creative Commons

The year is 200 days old this week. Between the one-hundredth day and the two-hundredth day of the year, the land completes middle spring, passes through late spring and early summer, then enters middle summer. By the two-hundredth day, the cardinals sleep late. Katydids and crickets call in the damp, warm nights. The field corn is tall, the sweet corn and tomatoes are coming in, and the wheat harvest is complete.

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