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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luschei / Flickr Creative Commons

Although late summer occurs at different times and at different increments in different places, the first week of that season is almost always ragweed season. In the Deep South ragweed time may occur in July, and in along the Canadian border later in August.

Whenever it blooms ragweed goes with ripe blackberries in the brambles and grapes on arbors. Spicebush Berry Season, Privet Berry Season, Greenbrier Berry Season, and Poison Ivy Berry Season complement the ragweed, too.

colinsd40 / Flickr Creative Commons

Everything in nature continues to converge as middle summer moves to a close, the coincidences becoming almost phenological laws, dictating that when one thing happens, something else is happening too.

When spiders start to increase their building of web, then yellow jacket season begins in the windfall apples and plums.

When honeysuckle berries ripen, and hickory nuts and green acorns and black walnuts drop to the ground, then gardeners dig their potatoes.

Hickory Nut
Laurie Hulsey / Flickr Creative Commons

I watch the history of July unfold, approaching its climax: yellowing locust and buckeye leaves and the browning garlic mustard, reddening Judas maples and Virginia creeper leaves, shiny spicebush, boxwood, greenbrier, and poison ivy berries forming, wild cherries darkening.

David DeHetre / Flickr Creative Commons

One of the basic tenets of phenology, the awareness of what happens when in nature, is that comparisons almost always begin at home.

Since seasonal time depends on a combination of location and climate, natural history in any familiar location provides a kind of central point from which to estimate the advance or retreat of the year toward or from one’s home as well as toward or from other places.

superbatfish / Flickr Creative Commons

It is common in today’s counsel about meditation that one should not focus on any of the ideas or feelings that surface during the session but rather to allow them all to simply pass through the mind. And when the meditator clings to one thought or emotion, that lapse is sometimes called “monkey mind,” a mind that jumps from one image to another, foiling the whole purpose of the meditation.

Henry T. McLin / Flickr Creative Commons

In the time of aphelion, when Earth is farthest from the sun:

When timothy forage is bearded with seeds, when almost all the lilies bloom, and the first rose of Sharon and butterfly bush, bouncing bets and water plantain, woodland ginseng and the gray-headed coneflower and the small-flowered agrimony and the spotted touch-me-not come into flower.

When summer peaches summer apples ripen and elderberries set fruit. When blueberries turn blue.

Samantha Durfee / Flickr Creative Commons

The Firefly Moon is waxing it calls out the fireflies when the grass is moist in the night and the humidity is high and thick. As the moon waxes, it draws a vast high-pressure system down from the northwest, sometimes chilling the last days of June, offering cool but deceptive respite before the Dog Days of July and then inciting the turbulence of the Corn Tassel Rains that lodge the uncut wheat fields and turn the new corn lush and fertile.

Alias 0591 / Flickr Creative Commons

Under lunar darkness, robins begin their pre-dawn chant, just as the constellation Cepheus moves due south of the North Star; when Delphinus, the Dolphin, passes overhead between Pegasus and Lyra; when the Pleiades show on the eastern horizon; and when Sagittarius follows Scorpio into the far west.

It is an easy step to connect the position of these morning stars with the state of the landscape, with, for example, the greening winter wheat across the nation’s midsection or the ripening of pie cherries throughout the East.

David DeHetre / Flickr Creative Commons

The land and sky bring us deeper and deeper into early summer.

The litany of procession of blossoming continues: It is the time that purple coneflowers and pokeweed and queen Anne’s lace and Hollyhocks begin to flower.

Today is the 160th day of the calendar year, and the length of the night has been reduced to just a few minutes from nine hours all along the 40th Parallel. The evening sky is full of Leo and the Corona Borealis and Hercules. Cygnus is rising the east.

Matt Gibson / Flickr Creative Commons

In my living room are two wooden eight-day clocks, wind-up clocks complete with pendulums, that once kept time in the school where my wife’s father taught during the first half of the last century. Long ago (well, about in the 1980s), one of wooden clocks stopped working at 6:03, and then the other at 10:49. Each clock now tells the correct time only twice a day.