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

Earthwatcher / Flickr Creative Commons

In his book, The Unforeseen Wilderness, Wendell Berry describes what happens when a person steps away from familiar ground, enters a wilderness or ventures “alone into a new place.

Negative emotions like “the ancient fear of the unknown” that come from a lack of familiarity are, he says, not the experience of the new place itself, “but of yourself in that place.”

Madeline_ / Flickr Creative Commons

In 1982, I started keeping track of the time the leaves turned on the maple tree next door, and I continued for over two decades to note when its leaves turned and fell. The caretaker of the tree died some time late in the last century, and the maple declined quickly as the millennium approached. My notations from 2004 were the last I made of its leafturn and shedding trajectory.

sethstolls / Flickr Creative Commons

Shyly, Carol admitted her anguish about the moon.

"I'm so embarrassed," she said. "You know I always thought the moon made its own light, and that, well, it shone from inside."

Then she told me how she had just read that the lunar surface actually reflected light from the sun. We talked for only a few minutes, but I was struck by her emotion and by her need to share her very real disillusion.

Flickr Creative Commons user Dieter Thau

The deepening of early winter draws down the last pigments of the year past. December spreads across the summer with accumulation of loss.

Instinctively and naturally, there is a taking stock of what appears to be no longer present, an inventory of emptiness, cued by a search for the truth, and by nostalgia and by the fragmentary reminders that bind the seasons into memory:

Flickr Creative Commons user GenBug

My windows look out onto a new geometry of bare locust, hackberry, mulberry and walnut branches. The houses next to me intrude again, the hermitage barrier of forsythia and honeysuckles thinned. The sounds of the cars (and the sounds of time between the cars) become clear, unfiltered by foliage.

When I go out to walk Bella, my border collie, in the middle of the morning, I find bittersweet fruit fallen to the sidewalk. When I look at its vine tangled above me in the maple, all the red berries appear inside their spreading hulls.

Flickr Creative Commons user pamramsey

In the great collapse of the year, I have found an anchor in noting and recording the details of the world.

And I think maybe the best part of that practice is knowing I will never understand the significance of those details.

Now I suppose it is possible I may be victim of a certain kind of nihilism that keeps me from find any meaning in acts or objects or people.

But, it also may be that I find in my observations the kind of exclusive attention that blots out ultimate concerns.

Flickr Creative Commons user Sidereal

The other day when I emerged from the brown late-autumn woods, I came across two marble angels, taller on their knees than I was standing. They were gray and weathered, their heads bowed, their palms together in prayer, wings poised high.

Milky Way
Flickr Creative Commons user indeliblemistakes

The sun enters Sagittarius on November 22, having traveled three-fourths of its way from autumn equinox to winter solstice. Two hours before midnight, the sky carries the forms of early winter. The Pleiades, Taurus and Orion are rising. The Milky Way cuts across the sky from east to west,.Andromeda lies directly overhead, and the Summer Triangle is setting.

Rain on Window
Flickr Creative Commons user Jackie Kever

I am up at six thirty in the morning sitting in the greenhouse. Middle November, at the end of leaf drop. The sky half dawn, light and dark equal through the fast gray nimbostratus clouds and the storm. The wind is hard from the southeast. The pattern of the gusts and rain creates a shape of its own, harsh like pebbles or hail, then soft, sweeping and blending, retreating.

Flickr Creative Commons user HuronPines

In warm late autumns, garlic mustard has grown four or five inches tall, its leaves wide and bright. Chickweed has come back all along the paths, and cress has revived in the pools and streams. Skunk cabbage has pushed up all over the swamp, some plants even opening a little. The low sun sets the new plants glowing like they glow in April. At the river’s edge, the water is rippled blue, black, green, and brown, bare tree branches tangled in reflections.