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

marcin ejsmont / Flickr Creative Commons

Each season is the sum of its parts, and deep winter is defined by five major cold waves in much of the country. The first of these weather systems arrives this week, and the second usually by January 5th or 6th. The third and fourth systems, crossing the Mississippi near the 10th and 15th, redouble the cold and bring the lowest temperatures of the year. A fifth system near January 20 is often part of the January thaw, and the sixth and final cold wave of January is statistically the first of late winter, and it gradually leads into the Groundhog Day thaw early in February.

Stephen Little / Flickr Creative Commons

Today is the winter solstice. Well, it actually occurred at 11:48 last night where I live, and so I know the from astronomers the exact minute that the sun stood still and then began to move again toward summer.

Only the astronomers can actually see and measure that shift, of course, and I trust them to tell the truth. I take it on faith that the sun really will rise higher a little each day until daffodils flower and green leaves spread across the trees. Besides that, I have plenty of experience in such matters. I’m old. I know what always happens to winter.

Tom Kelly / Flickr Creative Commons

Not so long ago, I took Bella, my ancient border collie, for a short outing to a pond close by my village. The wind was quiet and the water smooth at the approach of a storm. Bella wandered a little then stopped suddenly and looked over toward a nearby cornfield.

And then I saw the geese. Out of the field they emerged, two or three abreast, solemnly waddling at about the speed of walking meditators, their plumage like monkish habits, gray and white, all the same, forming a long, formal procession.

Shooting Star
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes / Flickr Creative Commons

The sun now reaches slightly more than one degree from its lowest position in the sky. Its declination stays within a degree of solstice until January 8, producing a period of solar stability similar to the one between June 4th and July 8th.

Martin LaBar / Flickr Creative Commons

No one suspects the days to be gods, says Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay Self-Reliance.

Here in the last days of late fall I look for the divine. Each day is only the sum of its parts. The gods are not only triune but plentiful. They lie out before me out as far as I can see. Each object and each event, present or past, literally creates the sacred day in my mind.

Chris Pawluk / Flickr Creative Commons

Sky clear: 55 degrees: Walking slowly through the wetlands, the ground green with chickweed and garlic mustard. You see the squat spears of skunk cabbage a hand high but not open, Moss is long, often gilded with bloom, on stumps and fallen branches. Red berries shine in the barberry. The river is blue from the sky, and sunlight flashes on the water.

November rain on window
Lisa Risager / Flickr Creative Commons

After almost six weeks of energy and planning, which is my typical response to the close of summer, my mood is quickly changing. It could be the rain and the cold outside my window.

Along with a shift in emotional priorities, I experience twinges of guilt and frustration. What about the projects outlined in early fall? What about the excitement of getting ready for winter. What about the sense of purpose that I had just a short time ago.

Nagaraju Hanchanahal / Flickr Creative Commons

Remembering back and forth from autumn to autumn, I watch the critical, pivotal events of November come to converge in space and time.

On November 5, 1992, the first snow covered my yard at 5:00 a.m. with heavy, fat flakes..

fauxto_digit / Flickr Creative Commons

I walk through the gateway to late fall. There is still time, the landscape tells me.

The last crickets still sing in the warmer evenings, and the last daddy longlegs huddle together in the woodpile. Mosquitoes still wait for prey near backwaters and puddles. Woolly bear caterpillars, most of them dark orange and black, still emerge in the sun.

Danny Plas / Flickr Creative Commons

The sun is bright. I shut the blinds against the day, pulling in, keeping myself from being taken outside by the clear sky, by the relentless turning and shedding of the maples.

I pull back to watch myself, to see how my body remains here, momentarily invulnerable in this room. I pull back to watch my feelings before I let autumn in, to see myself the way I was in summer.

Pages