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

Holly Sparkman / Flickr Creative Commons

I have been thinking that if every aspect of the landscape is predetermined by the spin of the Earth and biological clocks, how similar my own changes and progressions must be, all attached to the sun and the moon, to heat and cold, prearranged as if there were a cosmic map organic to my brain, as though, like some migrating species, I simply did what I needed to do in order to discover and fulfill my purpose.

Andrea Pullicino / Flickr Creative Commons

On a recent trip to the Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, I saw a small figurine: a prone girl of raku-fired ceramic, a glass replica of her rising from her waist.

The work was called “While You Were Sleeping,” and it was created by Christina Bothwell, a Pennsylvania sculptor. The artist’s statement said that the sculpture was “to make visible the idea that we are souls housed in skin bodies.” The medium of glass, stated the artist, “holds light in its mass, just as the spirit is held in the physical body.”

HUS0 / Flickr Creative Commons

Rick came over around noon, excited to find tiny praying mantises emerging out from their nest-like ootheca. The insects were maybe a fourth to three-eighths of an inch long and were scrambling helter skelter into the sun.

Cindy Zackowitz / Flickr Creative Commons

I was gone for a weekend, and the heat and rain pulled the last of middle spring down on top of everything. I look around and try to understand: the changes that have taken place, and I form a litany of events: And I recite the phenomena: the early yellow tulips gone, the mid-season tulips full, the yellow daffodils gone, the bicolor and white daffodils still strong.

Christian Guthier / Flickr Creative Commons

Deep into middle spring, the effects of rising temperatures and the longer days overwhelm the land. Suddenly, the tree line is greening. Mulberry, locust, tree of heaven, viburnum, the maple and ginkgo send out their first leaves. Magnolias, redbuds, lilacs, dogwoods, cherries, peaches, apples, quinces and pears are almost always flowering.

As lawn mowing season enters its second week, wild turkeys mate in the wood lots. Late and mid-season daffodils are at their peak in town, and earlier varieties are gone. Tulip time is here. The delicate fritillaria blossoms.

Chris Vreeland / Flickr Creative Commons

When I was younger, I enjoyed fishing and the excitement of connection and of domination that accompanied it.

Now that I am old, I have a pond and four large koi. The fish have names: Buh buh (orange and white) and Bud (black and white), Princess (silver and black) and Golden Shark (gold and black). Last summer, they produced almost two-dozen fingerlings, kaleidoscopic in color.

pursyapt / Flickr Creative Commons

This week marks the beginning of middle spring and the start of spinach, carrot, beet, turnip, peas, onion and potato planting time throughout the central portion of the United States. Collard and kale and Brussels sprout sets can be set out in the garden. Pansies line the walkways, geraniums sometimes appear on porches.

Middle spring wildflower season gets underway in the first week of middle spring: Violets, bluebells, twinleaf, Dutchman’s britches, bloodroot, purple cress, swamp buttercup and hepatica come into flower.

schizoform / Flickr Creative Commons

In the last days of the Robin Chorus Moon, pollen falls from the on pussy willow catkins, and mosquitos become hungrier. Moths appear at your porch light. The foliage of spiderwort, yarrow, stonecrop, mallow, phlox, columbine, coneflower, waterleaf, snow-on-the-mountain, goldenrod, buttercup, New England aster, Shasta daisy and Queen Anne’s lace has grown up tall enough to promise summer.

goodsophism / Flickr Creative Commons

In this second-last week of early spring, when the robin chorus begins before sunrise, then pollen forms on pussy willow catkins, and the first mosquito bites, then the first spring beauty is budding, and the foliage of yarrow, mallow, phlox, columbine, coneflower, waterleaf, goldenrod, buttercup, snow-on-the mountain, New England aster, and Queen Anne’s lace is coming up.

Tim Lehrian / Flickr Creative Commons

Daffodil blossoms are the outriders of the fourth week of Early Spring, a sign that Virginia bluebells have come up from winter ground and that raspberry bushes are developing fresh leaves. As you drive the freeways or the backroads, you may see wild onions are getting lanky, a sign that the foliage of Middle Spring's wildflowers is growing back in the woods and fields: Jacob's ladder, ragwort, leafcup, spring beauties, wood mint, ground ivy, catchweed, moneywort, waterleaf, hemlock, and parsnip.