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

Cam Miller / Flickr Creative Commons

In this fifth week of late summer, the final tier of wildflowers starts to open.  White and violet asters, orange beggarticks, burr marigolds, tall goldenrod, zigzag goldenrod and Japanese knotweed come into bloom, blending with the brightest of the purple ironweed, yellow sundrops, blue chicory, golden touch-me-nots, showy coneflowers and great blue lobelia.

cricket
Nicolas Winspeare / Flickr Creative Commons

In matters of global economics, the concepts of millions and billions and trillions seem disconnected from day-to-day budgeting. Who knows, I wonder, what all those zeros at the end of whole numbers really mean

As I watch the season progress, I realize that my sense of numbers in the world around me is equally as confused. In the middle of May, the hundred days of summer feel like a zillion days to me. My body senses a limitless promise in that span of time.

monarch butterfly
Peter Miller / Flickr Creative Commons

I settled in to watch like I used to do when I went fishing. I used to sit for hours then,  focused on my bobber and fingering the tension on my line. The bites or strikes were signs that I had understood something of the river’s mystery and its creatures.

Liz West / Flickr Creative Commons

When the lilies were still in bloom a month ago, I went counting lily blossoms every day.  I knew that my practice had almost no socially redeeming value. I knew that no one else cared  about the number of lily blossoms in my yard, and that the actual number did not interest me so much as the counting itself.

I recorded the results of counting in my daybook, but  the record did not support theories of climate change. In fact, it supported nothing at all.

So why did I do it, really?  

Scott Butner / Flickr Creative Commons

The Perseid meteors bring starfall to the northeastern portion of the sky on the nights of August 12 and 13, and the arrival of those shooting stars marks high tide of the Dog Days. Rising out of winter’s Taurus and Orion, they cut across Perseus and Andromeda, Cassiopeia and Pegasus, piercing the illusion of endless summer.

Throughout the countryside, Queen Anne's lace, chicory, goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, sundrops, bull thistles, mustard, black-eyed Susans, wingstem, mullein and ironweed arein full bloom along the roads.  Soybeans are deep green, corn lush.

Crow
Lucinda M / Flickr Creative Commons

Crows are usually silent during their mating time and the time they raise their young. Now, the fledglings are almost grown, and the crows come back together in flocks, and they begin to converse near my house before sunrise.

The singing of robins and cardinals grace the spring and early summer, but as middle summer warms, the songs of those birds grow quiet. The crows, though, are the most faithful morning sky-talkers throughout the late summer, fall and winter.

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.

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