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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Scott Branson / Flickr Creative Commons

As May grows and moves toward June, the leaves darken and mature and age. The latticework of April flora disappears.

The eclipse of the land beneath the closing canopy erases the dapples of late spring. Under the full crown of the woods, only shade plants blossom: the leafcup, the enchanter’s nightshade, the tall bellflower, the wood nettle, the clustered snakeroot.

hcriswell / Flickr Creative Commons

When ragweed has grown two feet tall, and cow vetch, yellow sweet cover, wild parsnips, poison hemlock, wild roses, and blackberries are flowering then locust blossoming season and mock orange, iris blossoming season and rhododendron blossoming season and peony blossoming season - all those seasons - sweeten the winds, then the last leaves of the high canopy come out for summer.

Chris De Jabet / Flickr Creative Commons

This week brings blooming season for sweet Cicely and May apples. Mayflies hatch at the water’s edge.. Weevil season spreads throughout alfalfa fields. Thrush Season, Catbird Season and Scarlet Tanager Seasons reach the bushes. Bullfrogs mate in the swamp and spitbugs form in the parsnips.

Mountain maple and buckeye and wild cherry tree flowering seasons spread cross the countryside. Leaves of poison ivy – like the leaves of Virginia creeper and wild grapes ginkgoes, sycamores, witch hazels, and sweet gums – are just about half as big as they will be in June.

Mr.TinDC / Flickr Creative Commons

The week ducklings and goslings hatch on the shore of rivers and lakes, the week daddy longlegs crawl up into the undergrowth and orchard petals blow away as the moon turns full. It is the week that northern spring field crickets, the first singing crickets of the year, begin to sing.

Golden seal, sedum, golden Alexander, and Solomon's seal seasons show in the deep woods. Peony buds are an inch across. Orange poppies flower, and ruby-throated hummingbirds reach syrup feeders.

Kristy Johnson / Flickr Creative Commons

The end of middle spring calls out bumblebees and carpenter bees all along the 40th Parallel. American toads keep on mating, and tadpoles already swim in the backwaters. Mosquitoes bite, and new hummingbird moths come out to sip the annual mass flowering of dandelions.

Liz West / Flickr Creative Commons

In the time of autumn recollection, the absence of spring and summer sometimes leads to melancholy, a nostalgia for things that have disappeared. Decay is a reminder of the brevity of fulfillment. Past time may seem like betrayal or like illusion. The the falling of fruit and foliage seems to be a terminal condition that only leads to a cold conclusion void of color.

A. Birkan ÇAĞHAN / Flickr Creative Commons

In a cold spring, when the daytime offers few markers for the new season, the stars of midnight continue to tell the time of year. At the hinge between morning and night, winter’s Orion, followed by Sirius, the Dog Star, are setting in the west, taking away the cruelest time of winter. Behind them, Gemini and Cancer promise the blossoms of fruit trees.

Trina Alexander / Flickr Creative Commons

Throughout the eastern half of the United States, middle spring often arrives with storms, and I remember a cruel evening of hard wind and snow on the raw border between March and April.

Just before sunset, the sky turned black and the storm hummed in the bamboo outside my window. I had brought in enough logs for the wood stove that afternoon, and the fire was hearty and radiant. I hunkered down.

Andrew Fogg / Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for the very edge of middle spring, in the second week of the Cabbage White Butterfly Moon, the first full week of the sun in Aries, the seventeenth week of the new year in nature.

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.