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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hieronymouspidgeon / Flickr Creative Commons

In the long cold of the last few weeks, I have withdrawn into a fetal, psychic hibernation, reminiscing about childhood and about other retreats I have made from the weather and the world. This morning, while I was working alone in my attic bindery, listening to the wind and watching the snow, a memory mood from my hermetic high school years at Holy Cross Seminary came back and settled around me.

Paul Reynolds / Flickr Creative Commons

Despite the cold veneer of Late Winter and the power of tomorrow’s Supermoon, the natural year quickens. Nighttime excursions of skunks, the occasional appearance of flies, an increase in opossum activity, the prophetic calls of overwintering robins, and the disappearance of autumn seeds all offer counterpoint to winter silence and days of snow.

No matter the cold, beavers strip bark for food along the rivers. The tufted titmouse has begun its spiral mating flights. Blue jays give their bell-like calls. Male cardinals have started to sing before dawn.

through-the-eyes-of-g / Flickr Creative Commons

Sometimes the arrival of  Late Winter, carries a great thaw. One day I went out to the river in the warmth of such a thaw, when cumulus clouds tumbled across the sky in gusts of the southwest wind, and the water of the river was shining with low, brisk waves of silvers, then blues, then grays.

The oaks of the far bank were black against the bright sky. On hillsides of Osage trees, patches of their yellow wood glowed like the flush of expanding spring buds. Below the Osage hardy green chickweed,wild onion, garlic mustard, henbit and hemlock lay akimbo across the melting snow.

Will Montague / Flickr Creative Commons

The Frolicking Fox Moon is new today, and it waxes crescent throughout the coming week, entering its second quarter next Tuesday. This is the Moon that carries the Northern Hemisphere deep into the final days Late Winter, tantalizingly close to the first days of Early Spring. This Moon bodes well for the seeding of bedding plants and the earliest tomatoes under lights. It is a pruning moon that encourages making way for new growth. It is a moon that invites me out into the land to try to find the first pieces of the spring.

perry-pics / Flickr Creative Commons

It seems that the world lies too still and too deathly quiet in the middle of Deep Winter, but the Sun finally starts to rise earlier this week, finally cutting away at the length of the nights, complementing the sunset times that have been been occurring later just a little every few days since the middle of December.

The Bedding Plant Moon, weakens the meteorological tides as it reaches apogee (its position farthest from Earth) on January 14.

Mark K. / Flickr Creative Commons

“Different atmospheric conditions – different kinds of weather- are, precisely different moods,” writes the phenomenologist,  David Abram.  “Wind, rain, snow, fog, hail, open skies, heavy overcast – each…affects the relation between our body and the living land in a specific way, altering the tenor of our reflections and the tonality of our dreams.

What might that mean this week? Maybe a little optimism, in spite of the arrival of Deep Winter.

Thomas Cizauskas / Flickr Creative Commons

This week, the Bedding Plant Moon waxes and waxes, coming closer and closer to Earth. And the New Year will arrive as that Moon becomes completely full and reaches perigee, its position closest to Earth, becoming what many people call a SuperMoon because of its tidal strength.

Carl Thomasson / Flickr Creative Commons

The Sun reaches its winter solstice declination on December 21, and that same day it passes from early winter’s prophetic Sagittarius into Capricorn, the fulfillment of the archer’s promise. Capricorn is the sign of the year’s end and of its beginning, the fulcrum on which longest nights of the year balance and fall into January and then turn toward June.

Logan Ingalls / Flickr Creative Commons

If you go outside an hour or so before Sunrise, look up to find the Big Dipper high overhead, its winter position before dawn Like the hands of a great clock, the Dipper's motion around the North Star tells the time of year.  When it lies in the west before Sunrise, daffodils will be in bloom. With the Dipper deep along the Southern horizon in the early morning, lilies and roses flower. And when it has moved to the eastern sky, the first leaves are starting to turn for autumn.

criana / Flickr Creative Commons

The dark sky sets the stage for the arrival of Early Winter. The Paperwhite Moon, bringing more holiday paperwhite bulbs into bloom, wanes gibbous into its final quarter on December 10. Rising late at night and setting near midday, this Moon passes above you before dawn.

In the east Mars and Jupiter are the morning stars together in Libra this week.  Arcturus, the most prominent star of Bootes, precedes them toward the center of the sky, chasing the Moon. Low in the northeast, Vega is rising.

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