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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Martin LeBar / Flickr Creative Commons

The first stage in the progress of spring brings the sighting of “firsts”: first bluebird, first robin, red-winged blackbird, first crocus, first daffodil, first tulip and so forth.

Now with as middle spring approaches, quantity matters as much as novelty.

Firsts are easy now: first hepatica, first violet cress, first Dutchman’s breeches, first twinleaf, first spring beauty, first lungwort, first bluebell, first cabbage white butterfly.

And the discovery of firsts lasts as long as a person might look or listen.

Julie Falk / Flickr Creative Commons

More and more things are happening, the plot of the story of March becoming more and more apparent as the month comes toward its climax.

Bright aconites and snowdrops and snow crocus have reached full bloom. Hyacinths and daffodils and tulips and pushkinia are inching up, sometimes budding, sometimes opening in the sun.

Martin Kenny / Flickr Creative Commons

Bluebell growing season begins as its first dusky foliage emerges from the hillsides. Daffodil, chickweed, purple deadnettle, and dandelion blooming times unfold slowly just as clumps of nettles, shepherd’s purse, cress, clover and lamb’s quarters reach the spring tipping point and spill across the waysides, fields and gardens.

Mitch Groff / Flickr Creative Commons

When one thing happens, something else is always happening, too. The flowering of snowdrops and early crocus and aconites bears witness to the blossoming of silver maples and the red maples along city streets, the blooming of weedy henbit in the garden, the increasing flow of maple sap, the full emergence of pussy willows, the appearance of honeybees and carpenter bees in search of the new pollen, the full bloom of snow trillium along the rivers, the final bloom of skunk cabbage in the wetlands, the time for killdeer and woodcocks and red-winged blackbirds to arrive from the South.

Scott W / Flickr Creative Commons

The tracking of leafturn and leaf fall from specific trees throughout the autumn offers a semblance of control to the tracker. And an annual record of the gradual transformation and shedding of those trees, often reveals the character of an entire year.

Like counting fallen leaves, however, the practice of recording the progress of autumn with such landmarks may be simply an exercise in fantasy, a comforting pretense of lay scientific observation, as though the state of Mr. Danielson’s beech or Lil’s maple really mattered.

jasmic / Flickr Creative Commons

When I am restless in the winter, the landscape around me doesn't seem enough. These few acres of woods and homes are just a taste, only a promise of the great world.

But when I go too far away, I gather my landmarks of home around me. Distant locations only make sense against my private gauge.

Time benefits from a master point like Greenwich; from that arbitrary set point, we can know the sun throughout the world, and even plot the instant and the physical place where the past and future blend to a single day, balance in a temporal vacuum.

Blossom Vydrina / Flickr Creative Commons

The seasonal clock has advanced by the span of three moons since the last leaves fell to the ground. The first weeds and wildflowers of 2015 were already rising slowly through November and December: hemlock, lamium, garlic mustard, creeping Charlie, sweet rockets, sweet Cicely, dock, skunk cabbage, wood mint, watercress, mouse-eared chickweed. And now, the tips of snowdrops and snow crocus and daffodils have emerged.

John Kennedy / Flickr Creative Commons

Late winter is the anteroom to early spring, growing the birdsong, rousing small mammals to courtship, drawing the first bulbs from under the snow.

Now comes the close of winter berryfall: the red honeysuckle berries have long ago fallen or been taken by birds. The orange fruit of the evergreen euonymous vines and the bittersweet vines has completed its planting. Overwintering robins eat and seed the crab apples.

Sam Leech / Flickr Creative Commons

By the end of January, deep winter moves to its close, and late winter is carried into the nation by the lengthening days and the relentless south winds that always follow each cold spell.

The sun approaches a declination of 19 degrees on the 25th, putting it at its mid-November noontime height, and marking more than 20 percent of the way to spring equinox.

John Winkelman / Flickr Creative Commons

Now when the nation lies exactly in the middle of its peak snow period and average temperatures are the lowest of the year, then the advance of spring quickens, and the night starts contracting by two to three minutes each day all the way into June. Crows know all about the expanding daylight. Their migration cycle typically starts at the early edge of the night’s retreat. Junco movement begins in mid-January, too, just as the sun comes into Aquarius.

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