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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Mike Deal / Flickr Creative Commons

Tonight, when Earth crosses the vast remains of Halley’s Comet, it reveals that debris as the Orionid meteors, shooting past the post-midnight sword and shield of the constellation Orion in the southeast.

Then on Thursday, October 23rd, the dark Toad and Frog Migration Moon replaces the Hickory Nutting Moon, calling the last of the toads and frogs to find their winter habitats, often the same location in which they emerged as tadpoles.

Peppysis / Flickr Creative Commons

The sun seems to move lower and lower these days, rising further in the southeast, setting further in the southwest, about to abandon its residence in the boxy constellation of Libra.

Now the Summer Triangle with its brightest stars, Deneb, Lyra and Altair, has moved deep into the west after dark, following the lead of Mars in Scorpius. From the eastern horizon, the Pleiades, the seven sisters of the winter, are rising, leading on the red eye of Taurus and Orion’s vast shield.

Christoph Kummer / Flickr Creative Commons

These days, I’m a little more confused than usual. Instead of feeling invigorated by this October, I'm feeling lethargic.

pontia / Flickr Creative Commons

When the milkweed pods come open, then frost season is on the way, and Canadian geese, great-crested flycatchers, blue-gray gnatcatchers, ruby-throated hummingbirds, eastern wood peewees and bank swallows move down their flyways toward the Gulf of Mexico. Buzzards gather at their roosts. Crows are the only birds to call before dawn. Monarch butterflies become more numerous, still visit the late phlox and the zinnias in the afternoon sun; other insects, however, become less common in the field and garden as the number of pollen-bearing flowers dwindles.

Carmen Eisbär / Flickr Creative Commons

In the final weeks of September, a rapid deterioration of all the wildflowers except the goldenrod and asters occurs. And after these last flowers go to seed in early October, there is no new generation of blooming plants to replace them. Except for the few varieties that open during second spring (the warm days in late fall), the final species that grow to maturity within in most of the United States and Canada are in the process of bearing fruit.

Jeffrey James Pacres / Flickr Creative Commons

I often think about an old notebook my friend Diana loaned me decades ago, the journal of a man, long deceased, containing notes in pencil for almost every day between September 1950 and December 1952.

The entries placed weather statistics and baseball scores side-by-side with phrases about marriages, anniversaries, election results, births, deaths, fishing and digging for worms. I assume that some of these things were more important to him than others, but the journal gives no clues.

Celina Massa / Flickr Creative Commons

Catching late summer in its great circular web, the giant arabesque orbweaver spins its patterns in time with the last wildflowers and the first dusky shadows on the high trees. In the woods webs of the smaller but more common micrathena spiders often block your August paths.

lcm1863 / Flickr Creative Commons

It is the last week of late summer. Toads and frogs have begun migration. You may see them hopping through your grass or across your walkway. Showers of apple leaves, locust leaves, black walnut, hackberry leaves come down in the windier afternoons. All the peaches are ripe. Yellow jackets seek the windfalls.

The chiggers have gone for the year, so have the fireflies. Goldenrod is turning. Once in a while a monarch butterfly defies the environmental odds, flies past you south. Streaks of gold appear on the silver olives.

nicholas_gent / Flickr Creative Commons

Caring for the zinnias in late summer, I cultivate next to their roots, gently cut the bindweed that has curled around their stems. As I work, I think about my mother’s petunias and the rhubarb in my back yard in Marshfield, Wisconsin, and the raspberry patch where I gathered gallons of berries. I think about Jeanie’s rose garden of twenty years ago and her collection of lilies (they’re all done blooming for year..)

Nick Ares / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week’s Perseid meteor shower paralleled the onset of late summer. At this point in August, the pause between robinsong and insect calls is ending. July’s Dog Days never really materialized this year, and now the nights are dense with the ebb-tide chanting of crickets and katydids.