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

Nate Swart / Flickr Creative Commons

It seems this time of year that the garden weeds always get out of hand. They follow their own mind, jump the boundaries I've established, and the heat convinces me to let them do it.

And I believe that there are more weeds than there used to be. Since no one ever actually does an annual weed count, I can't prove there are more, but experience leaves no doubt in my mind.

Terry Dunn / Flickr Creative Commons

From the middle of May until early July, the days are the longest of the year.

And the abundance and the lushness of these days may have us wonder if life is not actually measured in quantity, measured like the longest days.

Cindy Cornett Seigle / Flickr Creative Commons

Walking the path that follows the cliffs along the river near my home, I often think about the people who lived here thousands of years ago.

They must have found this place an oasis of shelter, water, fish, and game in the middle of the harsh virgin forest. I imagine them making camp along the limestone outcroppings, keeping their fires and defenses close to the stone, bathing and playing in backwaters, picking berries, hunting deer.

David Craig / Flickr Creative Commons

I have recently paid attention to the fact that my solitude is always an accompanied solitude.

Last year, I took part in several group walking meditation sessions in the woods. During these walks, I found that was I flooded with images from the path and the season, and with associated images of people I once knew and events evoked by the trees and plants, and I realized that the group experience only compounded another type of experience, that of being accompanied by other inhabitants of the landscape of my mind.

Erik Paterson / Flickr Creative Commons

The other morning, I was sitting by the garden pond, when the dogs across the street began to bark. Whatever it was that roused them must have been pretty exciting, because they kept up their yapping for several minutes. That was long enough to incite the bullfrog in the water beside me to bark too, to join their chorus. And so, for maybe twenty or thirty seconds, I sat on my wooden bench and listened to the hounds and the frog sing together.

David Slack / Flickr Creative Commons

An ambiguous space between seasons sometimes allows me to break with my lineal mind. I lose expectations and even the tension of hope. I let go like I do when everything is beyond my control.

The fact that the advance of external spring this year is outside of my power gives me an excuse to imagine that I do not have influence in matters of internal spring. Allowing myself to be caught at the crossroads of interseasonal ambivalence, I give up my autonomy for a neutral sanctuary.

Charles Kaiser / Flickr Creative Commons

I have long been aware of the inconsistency of my memory in matters of the seasons and weather, as well as in my relationships with people.

Recent studies in neuroscience seem to support my personal hunch that my mind is spinning the past more than just a little.

jcc_seveq / Flickr Creative Commons

When Torricelli invented the mercury barometer in 1644, he gave a novel gauge to the world of meteorological medicine.

A decrease in atmospheric pressure, the calm before the storm, had been associated with pain since the Golden Age of Greece. Theophrastus, one of Plato's students, knew that "if the feet swell, there will be a change to the south wind."

HUS0 / Flickr Creative Commons

I had been set to name the upcoming new moon the Tulip Moon, which would have presided over the flowering of mid-season and late tulips throughout my village.

However, on Easter Sunday, my neighbor Moya announced over her south fence that she had found a preying mantis ootheca (egg sack) in her spirea bush, the same place she had found one last year.

We talked about the timing of her discovery, and I realized I had forgotten all about oothecas and should have anticipated her suggestion that the May moon really be called the Preying Mantis Moon.

Olaf Gradin / Flickr Creative Commons

By the end of April, the season of middle spring starts to give way to late spring all along the 40th Parallel. Early spring’s crocus and henbit leaves yellow in the grass as the growing canopy turns the hillsides of emerald green. Now the woods are full of garlic mustard, golden seal, columbine, golden Alexander, sweet Cicely, Solomon’s seal, Jack in the pulpit, wood betony, wood hyacinth, spring cress, nodding trillium, larkspur and bellwort. Along the freeways daisies, yellow sweet clover, meadow goat’s beard and parsnips flower. Red and white clover blossom in the pasture.

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