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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westpark / Flickr Creative Commons

Middle August brings the sun almost halfway between summer solstice and autumn equinox. It is a time that lies halfway between the chorus of birdsong that characterizes the first part of the year and the chanting of insects that marks transition to the second part.

eyeweed / Flickr Creative Commons

In my capacity as Poor Will, I was once called to the house of a woman who had probably grown the fattest tomato of the season in all of my village. Unfortunately, my visit was delayed several days, and when I arrived, the prize had decayed to a wad of mush.

But the lady had preserved it for me anyway in a plastic bag. She pulled it from the refrigerator, and held it up for me to see.

Brad Smith / Flickr Creative Commons

Markers for the transition week to August along the 40th Parallel include the blooming of purple ironweed, the ripening of the first blackberries, the beginning of the passage of monarch butterflies, the start of late-summer’s night cricket song, the flocking of starlings, the loud calls of the katydids at night, and elderberries darkening for wine.

palomelca / Flickr Creative Commons

Since I started my record of the weather and natural history, I have kept all my notes daily notes together - for example, all the July 20ths from 1979 through 2014 in one place. With that organization, I've been able to see how, in spite of the separate character of each 12-month cycle, the progress of the seasons remains nearly identical from one year to the next.

Leonora Enking / Flickr Creative Commons

Deep in July, the tide of summer reaches as far north as it can go then starts to slip away back toward the Gulf of Mexico. The rate of advance or retreat varies with each year, but the balance has always shifted by the middle of the year’s seventh month. The day's length becomes one to two minutes shorter every twenty-four hours, and countryside responds with changing color and sound.

Liz West / Flickr Creative Commons

My interest in gardening began with a few lettuce seeds and then progressed to a minor manifestation of voyeuristic back-to-the-landism. And now it has taken on a life of its own.

And of course, nothing is as simple as it seems.

What starts out as a pleasant journey into food or flowers can quickly become complicated by the addition of just a small amount of neurosis and self-doubt.

Bob Muller / Flickr Creative Commons

Look at this beautiful world, and read the truth In her fair page;
wrote the 19th century poet, William Cullen Bryant,
See every season brings
New change to her of everlasting youth—
he writes,
Still the green soil, with joyous living things
Swarms -- the wide air is full of joyous wings.

Nate Swart / Flickr Creative Commons

It seems this time of year that the garden weeds always get out of hand. They follow their own mind, jump the boundaries I've established, and the heat convinces me to let them do it.

And I believe that there are more weeds than there used to be. Since no one ever actually does an annual weed count, I can't prove there are more, but experience leaves no doubt in my mind.

Terry Dunn / Flickr Creative Commons

From the middle of May until early July, the days are the longest of the year.

And the abundance and the lushness of these days may have us wonder if life is not actually measured in quantity, measured like the longest days.

Cindy Cornett Seigle / Flickr Creative Commons

Walking the path that follows the cliffs along the river near my home, I often think about the people who lived here thousands of years ago.

They must have found this place an oasis of shelter, water, fish, and game in the middle of the harsh virgin forest. I imagine them making camp along the limestone outcroppings, keeping their fires and defenses close to the stone, bathing and playing in backwaters, picking berries, hunting deer.

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