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

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.

Julie Kertesz / Flickr Creative Commons

The first seasons of the year are already gone now, bloodroot season, violet cress season, twinleaf season, snowdrop season, snow trillium season, so many more seasons. I've only watched a few of them, and I am wondering about what I've missed. They are fragments of a story, the meaning of which has always set me wondering.

I wonder about the meaning of the seasons of the landscape because I am wondering about my own seasons and what they mean. I watch them, and I am in suspense because I don't know exactly how they will turn out.

~windy~ / Flickr Creative Commons

The effects of the steady retreat of the night and the increasing temperatures of middle spring are always cumulative. By the year’s one- hundredth day (that’s just two days from now), the resurrection of the landscape has a reached a point of no return.

All across the nation’s midsection, the blooming of silver maples and red maples merges with the blooming of the sugar maples and box elders. Honeysuckles are greening the roadsides, breaking the gray and dun of the winter undergrowth.

Peter Roome / Flickr Creative Commons

Sometimes, my religious background gets the better of me. I went to a seminary many decades ago, and I was filled with all kinds of liturgical practices. One of those practices that has stayed with me and keeps appearing in my brain is the genre of the litany. Now the way I learned litanies, the priest would call out the names of saints or different names for the Virgin Mary or Jesus, and the congregation would respond with “Pray for us.”

Katerha / Flickr Creative Commons

March 5th was the first day of Lent, and on that date practicing Christians began a six and a half week vigil for Easter. The Lenten landscape always takes me back to my childhood and to the gray and cold days of waiting for the season to be over. It brings on reminiscence that not only crosses the boundaries of years and snow and the space between winter and spring but also the boundaries of my spiritual or religious upbringing and rebellion and reconciliation.

sussesimis / Flickr Creative Commons

All of natural history is in my favor today, March 18. If I compress my daybook notes from that day, going back to 1983, I can fabricate a quilt of events, webs of color and sound and warming winds to weave into the frame of a twenty-four hour span.

Then, a circadian shape appears, a four-dimensional psychic set, the radius of casual observation cutting through thirty years, cross-sectioning time – albeit with bias against winter – and I fill in the empty spaces of my imaginary structure of backyard natural history, requiring only this one day to make spring arrive.

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