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

Thomas Cizauskas / Flickr Creative Commons

In his Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, Jonathan White considers the theories that tides are the result of not only cosmic but of microcosmic forces: “Everything is in flux, he says. “Tides are reactions of the sea to the position of the moon and the sun. Tides are also waves that are formed from the vibration of the cosmos. Everything in the universe has a natural tendency to vibrate: flowers, wind, steel, planets, mountains, the inside of an ear."

summer flower garden
natlas / Flickr Creative Commons

I have grown older with a house and garden in the same place for 40 years. I have outlasted shrubbery, trees, perennial plantings and neighbors.

I have watched the repairs I made on the house gradually deteriorate and need more repairs.

I have observed stability in certain flower beds, like the lilies, spreading. But other things, like weeds the bamboo, the honeysuckles, the trumpet creeper vine and the Virginia creeper are taking over.

Sandy Sarsfield / Flickr Creative Commons

In cultural and geographic attribution statements, people often recognize that the land they occupy has been taken away from other groups.

The land on which I record this almanac was taken from the Shawnee people a little over 200 years ago. The original landscape of virgin forest, the original  inhabitants  and their culture were destroyed. The natural world I navigate is the world my social group has created.

I see trees and flowers with the eyes of an occupying race, a dominant military-social community.

Amanda Emilio / Flickr Creative Commons

Solstice occurs on June 22nd at 4:44 p.m. and before and after that time, the sun holds steady at its highest noontime height above the horizon for four days, June 20 - 23, after which it slowly begins to descend towards December's winter solstice.

Tasha Metamorfosis / Flickr Creative Commons

Lately, much has been made of the concept of a tipping point. Simply put, such an idea refers to an accumulation of matter, events or thoughts that builds until it causes an irreversible change.

While often used in reference to the gradual results of climate change that might suddenly lead to catastrophe, the experience of a tipping point in the change of seasons is often quite personal.

Maciej Lewandowski / Flickr Creative Commons

Early this spring, I was working in my greenhouse, pinching back stalky plants, when I accidentally broke off a long stem of a geranium plant.  I placed that stalk in a tall, clear vase half full of water and put on the kitchen table.

This simple bouquet soon gave birth to a squiggly mosquito larva that added an extra interest to breakfast time.

R.A. Killmer / Flickr Creative Commons

If this were the year 2021 instead of 2020, the seventeen-year cicadas would be emerging  all around the park close to where I live. Sixteen years ago, I found them after work when I stopped by the woods and made my way along the path above the river.

Under the low, two-foot canopy of touch-me-nots and wood nettles I found the elusive insects. They had just emerged from the ground and were resting quietly all around, waiting for me. They were an inch or two in length. Their wings were shiny and gold, their eyes red, their bodies black.

ewan traveler / Flickr Creative Commons

This week brings on the collapse of late spring, the accumulation of leafing and flowering overloading the landscape until it is overcome by summer.

As May grows and moves toward June, there is a darkening and a maturing of the leaves.  The mix of chlorophyll thickens in foliage, and as the sun moves higher in the sky, it strikes the earth at a more direct, less flattering angle.

MrSefe / Flickr Creative Commons

This week brings blooming season for sweet Cicely and May apples all along the 40th Parallel throughout the East and Middle Atlantic Region. Mayfly Season begins along the rivers and lakeshores. Weevil Season comes in throughout alfalfa fields. Thrush Season, Baltimore Oriole Season, Catbird Season and Scarlet Tanager Season come to the undergrowth. It’s Bullfrog Season in the swamp, Gray Tree Frog season in the trees and Spitbug Season in the parsnips.

White Mulberry
Matthew Beziat / Flickr Creative Commons

The center of Late Spring is already thickening the canopy over early gardens. Sycamores, Osage, cottonwoods and oaks are leafing out, and white mulberries and buckeyes blossom.

Along the sidewalks, purple iris, orange poppies, sweet William, bridal-wreath spirea and snowball viburnum have appeared. The delicate Korean lilacs join the fading standard lilac varieties, and bright rhododendrons replace the azaleas.