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

summer stream
Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr Creative Commons

The dream of my life,” writes poet Mary Oliver, “Is to lie down by a slow river/and stare at the light in the trees -/ to learn something by being nothing/ A little while but the rich lens of attention.”

Now these are the longest days of all, and if ever one might lie down by a slow river and stare at the light of the trees, these might be the days to do just that, and to learn something by being nothing.

soybean flower
Aerna's Mom / Flickr Creative Commons

So much is going on outside that it’s hard to know what else is going on. And to make matters worse, when one thing happens, something else is happening, too.

When great mullein blooms in the fields, then mock orange petals have all fallen and water willows are blossoming beside the streams.

When elderberry bushes come into full flower and cottonwood cotton floats in the wind, then the first chiggers bite in the woods and garden.

When the tall spikes of the yucca are in bloom, then Japanese beetles invade the soybeans.

Tom Christensen / Flickr Creative Commons

I keep a notebook of things I see around me, and often I see that the past feeds my present and gives me a sense of stability. Reliving certain times in the woods offers me a sense of permanence. I can read that This took place. This was. The experience will vanish with my ability to remember, to read or write, but still, I go back now , making that past the present this time.

Like June 10 of 2017, I wrote: “Throughout the village, the black mulberries are falling so quickly, and I see entire boughs collapsed into yards and streets so heavy with their sweet soft fruit.”

ripe strawberry
David Lenker / Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for the transition week to Early Summer, the  final week of the Golden Buttercup Moon, the second  week of the sun in Gemini

At the doorway to June, strawberries are a single tip of summer.

Daddy longlegs
John Brandauer / Flickr Creative Commons

The Golden Buttercup Moon wanes throughout the remainder of May, reaching apogee (its benign position farthest from Earth) on May 26 and entering its final quarter that same day.

Rising in the middle of the day and setting in the middle of the night, this Moon passes overhead in the early morning, encouraging creatures to feed and mate. This week, lunar conditions are ideal for planting all garden flowers and vegetables, telling the seeds to swell and sporut.

Chris Luczkow / Flickr Creative Commons

The Sun enters the Early Summer sign of Gemini on May 20, and when the Sun reaches so high, then blackberries are flowering all along the nation’s midsection, and the last of the high-tree leaves come out for summer.

Glenn Marsch / Flickr Creative Commons

The Taurus Sun warms the land so quickly that I keep having to watch closely where I am and what is happening. The middle of Deep Summer is not so far away, and I wonder how far, and I measure time ahead in flowers and fruit and seeds. 

spring cardinal bird
Art Jessen / Flickr Creative Commons

When I first set out to learn bird language many years ago, I made the mistake of listening to bird call recordings around the same time that I decided to learn Chinese. And so I drove to work every day listening first to Mandarin and then to Peterson’s Birding by Ear, and ended up mixing the tones of the different languages, that while clear enough to the birds and the Chinese, left me confused and discouraged.

Stanley Zimny / Flickr Creative Commons

Walking through the woods, I sometimes deliberately forget the names of plants that I know. I choose the safety of presence. I cultivate ignorance.

What is here outside my door?

Fat stems, narrow, pale tipped, rusted from frost and with plump, bulging buds. Deep purple-red narrow stems as high as my thumb, the tops serrated but soft. Violet, purple, pale and deep gold, five-petaled once again.

honeybee on flower
kuhnmi / Flickr Creative Commons

A season is always the sum of its parts. The pieces of Early Spring are few and subtle, but Middle Spring, reaching its zenith this week, leaves little to the imagination. The meager inventories of change that characterized equinox quickly fill with new details. Trees leaf and flowers bloom, unmistakable, their numbers catching the eye of almost everyone.