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

Natt Muangsiri / Flickr Creative Commons

This past spring, I walked, an ancient pilgrimage route in northern Spain. Many of the simple lessons I had learned prior to my trek resurfaced as I went along.  For example, I relearned:

Walking slowly matters.  Anywhere is as good as somewhere. Home is where you choose it to be. Truth comes from the ground up. The horizon is the place to be. Distance is physiology. Nothing is ever the same. Motion is the great teacher. The path ahead is the great teacher.

Now that I have returned home, I relearn other basic lessons, like….

Alexey Sorokin / Flickr Creative Commons

July 19, is the 200th day of the year, and now the tide of summer reaches as far north as it can go, and then starts to slip away back toward the Gulf of Mexico. The rate of the retreat varies with each year, but the balance always shifts during the seventh month. The day's length becomes one to two minutes shorter every twenty-four hours, and the countryside responds with changing color and sound. 

Peter Mooney / Flickr Creative Commons

I have been making notes about the seasons in a daybook since 1978. Each day’s post contains observations of common events in nature in my neighborhood,  village and nearby parks.

I have learned that events in nature occur more or less at the same times each year. Sometimes I see trends, and I enjoy comparing the quality of seasons. I enjoy finding new things the more I look.

Overduebook / Flickr Creative Commons

Now in early middle summer, the days still seem to last forever, the Sweet Corn Moon is waxing, and cicadas soon fill the warm mornings and afternoons with their high buzzing whine. The number of flowers in bloom reaches its peak, and the world is full of color.

Katja Schulz / Flickr Creative Commons

I walked down toward the river in the morning: All around me, leaves were turning a deeper green from the advance of the season. Toward the water, white hobblebush hydrangeas in bloom brightened the undergrowth. Cobwebs of micrathena spiders lay across my way. I found a cluster of webworms on a buckeye tree.. Two luminescent tiger beetles raced in front of me.

Birgit / Flickr Creative Commons

A season ago, I walked over a hundred miles at  what I felt to be the same rate as the advance of spring.

With a pack of about twenty pounds and a sore hip, I moved so slowly that the microclimates of farms and yards and roadsides and woods, closely observed,  altered my previous sense of time and place, a sense that had been based on routine or schedule or obligation.

Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr Creative Commons

On a recent walk, I covered several miles a day over the course of a month. The longer I walked, the more I found it was harder to remember the day of the week or month. The time on my watch was no longer so important as the position of the sun or the temperature or the direction or strength of the wind.

kaysgeog / Flickr Creative Commons

When I walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain a few months ago, I relearned old lessons, lessons of motion and feeling.

I hiked down country roads and byways, my face in the chilly wind, the weight of my pack on my shoulders and lower back, my legs pulling me along, the sky clearest blue – no clouds mile after mile, sun warming my neck. All the time I was heading west toward what is called “the End of the World” in Finisterre, the last outcropping of Europe.

Piotr / Flickr Creative Commons

Recently, I took a walk of almost two- hundred miles across the landscape of spring on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

The vegetation and the emerging leaves on the canopy above me offered a dense background with many markers for the progress of the season as well as for my own progress along the path – on which I averaged about seven to nine miles in a day.

Ewen Roberts / Flickr Creative Commons

When lilies and thistles bloom, mulberries and strawberries ripen, box turtles lay eggs, and winter wheat turns pale gold green, then it is the first week of early summer, and the whole season spreads into June. Catalpas and privets and pink spirea bloom as the first cutting of hay gets underway. Nodding thistles, Canadian thistles, the first great mullein, the first Asiatic lily and the first orange trumpet creepers open.

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