WYSO

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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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.

Katja Schulz / Flickr Creative Commons

On November 23, the Sun entered the sign of Sagittarius, and Sunset reached to within just a few minutes of its earliest time throughout the nation.

In the dark, Orion becomes unmistakable now as early winter approaches, and Sirius and Procyon follow him out of the southeast after midnight. Cygnus, the swan of the Northern Cross, the gauge of autumn's progress, is disappearing south. October's Pegasus and Andromeda fall away behind it.

penerik / Flickr Creative Commons

A month ago, I took a long drive to see the trees of Middle Fall, and as I traveled, I paid attention to the way I missed home and summer, and I thought about what caused the discomfort at leaving both behind.

Since my wife died five years ago, I have tried to understand how to come to terms with home. I have become overly attached to the place where I live and to my story contained in its rooms and gardens. It is hard for me to go away.

oatsy40 / Flickr Creative Commons

November is getting pretty far along now. Most of the leaves have come down throughout the northern half of the United States, and the likelihood of frost and snow flurries becomes stronger.

The Pleiades are well up in the east in the late evening, followed by Aldebaran and Taurus.  Orion and winter aren’t  far behind them.

Martin LaBar / Flickr Creative Commons

When I am sitting on the porch, I hear two Osage fruits fall into the great open palms of the Lenten roses near the west fence. At the pond, my koi lie low on the bottom, subdued by the autumn. Pale grape leaves streak the honeysuckle hedge. Even though the hummingbird food slowly disappears, it seems that the yellow jackets are the only ones drinking. One white bindweed has blossomed near the trellis, and Ruby’s white phlox have a few new flowers. All the finches at the feeders have lost their gold and are ready for winter. 

CarrieLu / Flickr Creative Commons

Standing at the end of October, I hold fast to remnants of the year and to the emotions that stick to them, feelings that reflect the things I see, spun from the tilting of the Earth toward solstice.

From the alley: the last two apples still hanging from the apple tree, the wilting of the final purple fall crocus, the blackening of the tall goldenrod, a handful of milkweed plants, pods splayed, silky seeds shining in the low sun.

Erik Drost

Early in the afternoon of the recent solar eclipse, I was cutting back zinnias in my garden.

Sparrows  chirped off and on and cicadas buzzed and cardinals and crows called once in a while.

A friend had called the day before. And he said he had heard that birds stopped singing in the middle of a solar eclipse as though they thought night had arrived.

Nicholas Erwin / Flickr Creative Commons

I left for New York in the fog and mist, and then an hour later, I drove into low, dark stratus clouds, and the wind came in strong from the northeast against me. The colors of middle autumn that would have been so rich and bright against the blue sky seemed dull and ominous to me. I looked for murmurations of starlings spinning together over the brown fields, but there seemed to be no life at all in the landscape. Traffic was loud and heavy all the way across Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

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