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

Christian Guthier / Flickr Creative Commons

Deep into middle spring, the effects of rising temperatures and the longer days overwhelm the land. Suddenly, the tree line is greening. Mulberry, locust, tree of heaven, viburnum, the maple and ginkgo send out their first leaves. Magnolias, redbuds, lilacs, dogwoods, cherries, peaches, apples, quinces and pears are almost always flowering.

As lawn mowing season enters its second week, wild turkeys mate in the wood lots. Late and mid-season daffodils are at their peak in town, and earlier varieties are gone. Tulip time is here. The delicate fritillaria blossoms.

Chris Vreeland / Flickr Creative Commons

When I was younger, I enjoyed fishing and the excitement of connection and of domination that accompanied it.

Now that I am old, I have a pond and four large koi. The fish have names: Buh buh (orange and white) and Bud (black and white), Princess (silver and black) and Golden Shark (gold and black). Last summer, they produced almost two-dozen fingerlings, kaleidoscopic in color.

pursyapt / Flickr Creative Commons

This week marks the beginning of middle spring and the start of spinach, carrot, beet, turnip, peas, onion and potato planting time throughout the central portion of the United States. Collard and kale and Brussels sprout sets can be set out in the garden. Pansies line the walkways, geraniums sometimes appear on porches.

Middle spring wildflower season gets underway in the first week of middle spring: Violets, bluebells, twinleaf, Dutchman’s britches, bloodroot, purple cress, swamp buttercup and hepatica come into flower.

schizoform / Flickr Creative Commons

In the last days of the Robin Chorus Moon, pollen falls from the on pussy willow catkins, and mosquitos become hungrier. Moths appear at your porch light. The foliage of spiderwort, yarrow, stonecrop, mallow, phlox, columbine, coneflower, waterleaf, snow-on-the-mountain, goldenrod, buttercup, New England aster, Shasta daisy and Queen Anne’s lace has grown up tall enough to promise summer.

goodsophism / Flickr Creative Commons

In this second-last week of early spring, when the robin chorus begins before sunrise, then pollen forms on pussy willow catkins, and the first mosquito bites, then the first spring beauty is budding, and the foliage of yarrow, mallow, phlox, columbine, coneflower, waterleaf, goldenrod, buttercup, snow-on-the mountain, New England aster, and Queen Anne’s lace is coming up.

Tim Lehrian / Flickr Creative Commons

Daffodil blossoms are the outriders of the fourth week of Early Spring, a sign that Virginia bluebells have come up from winter ground and that raspberry bushes are developing fresh leaves. As you drive the freeways or the backroads, you may see wild onions are getting lanky, a sign that the foliage of Middle Spring's wildflowers is growing back in the woods and fields: Jacob's ladder, ragwort, leafcup, spring beauties, wood mint, ground ivy, catchweed, moneywort, waterleaf, hemlock, and parsnip.

Ricardo Camacho / Flickr Creative Commons

The essayist Rebecca Solnit says that The very notion of giving meaning to something is premised on a cosmology in which things don’t have it yet.

So, for example, when I talk about the meaning of spring, I am entering a verbal landscape in which the different elements of that season make no sense – possess no meaning – in and of or by themselves.

Spring, then, and the meaning of spring are not self-evident. They depend on our construction of them.

inger maaike / Flickr Creative Commons

It's time to be paying attention, time to be getting ready.

When you hear mourning doves singing before dawn, then organize all your buckets for tapping maple syrup.

When you hear red-winged blackbirds, then the maple sap should already be running.

When yellow aconites bloom, then spread fertilizer in the field and garden so that it can work its way into the ground before you start planting.

When the first daffodil foliage is two inches tall, then go to the wetlands to find skunk cabbage in bloom.

Lorianne DiSabato / Flickr Creative Commons

By this point in the year, my daybook of events in nature reveals many of the pieces of the fabric which forms, for me, early spring.

On February 16,1983, I noted that cardinals were singing at 7:00 a.m. sharp, something that couldn't have happened two weeks earlier.

On February 16, 1990, I wrote: "Some pussy willows in front of the house have emerged completely. Maple buds are swelling. Tulips are up three inches, daffodils, four, garlic four to six inches, so many things pushing out."

Rebecca Siegel / Flickr Creative Commons

In his essay, “The Landscape of Home,” David Sopher writes how a person  “becomes … a geographer of the micro-region… putting together...a mental composite of features that tell of home: a profile of hillside, the hue and texture of houses, the pitch of church steeples, the color of cattle.”

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