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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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.

lcm1863 / Flickr Creative Commons

It is the time when the high foliage finally becomes complete, when tea roses bloom in gardens, when clustered snakeroot hangs with pollen in the shade, and parsnips, goat’s beard and sweet clovers take over the fields.  Grasses along the riverbank are waist high and seeding. Poison hemlock reaches chin high, angelica over your head in the wetlands.

Scott Branson / Flickr Creative Commons

As May grows and moves toward June, the leaves darken and mature and age. The latticework of April flora disappears.

The eclipse of the land beneath the closing canopy erases the dapples of late spring. Under the full crown of the woods, only shade plants blossom: the leafcup, the enchanter’s nightshade, the tall bellflower, the wood nettle, the clustered snakeroot.

hcriswell / Flickr Creative Commons

When ragweed has grown two feet tall, and cow vetch, yellow sweet cover, wild parsnips, poison hemlock, wild roses, and blackberries are flowering then locust blossoming season and mock orange, iris blossoming season and rhododendron blossoming season and peony blossoming season - all those seasons - sweeten the winds, then the last leaves of the high canopy come out for summer.

Chris De Jabet / Flickr Creative Commons

This week brings blooming season for sweet Cicely and May apples. Mayflies hatch at the water’s edge.. Weevil season spreads throughout alfalfa fields. Thrush Season, Catbird Season and Scarlet Tanager Seasons reach the bushes. Bullfrogs mate in the swamp and spitbugs form in the parsnips.

Mountain maple and buckeye and wild cherry tree flowering seasons spread cross the countryside. Leaves of poison ivy – like the leaves of Virginia creeper and wild grapes ginkgoes, sycamores, witch hazels, and sweet gums – are just about half as big as they will be in June.

Mr.TinDC / Flickr Creative Commons

The week ducklings and goslings hatch on the shore of rivers and lakes, the week daddy longlegs crawl up into the undergrowth and orchard petals blow away as the moon turns full. It is the week that northern spring field crickets, the first singing crickets of the year, begin to sing.

Golden seal, sedum, golden Alexander, and Solomon's seal seasons show in the deep woods. Peony buds are an inch across. Orange poppies flower, and ruby-throated hummingbirds reach syrup feeders.