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

Rene Rasmussen / Flickr Creative Commons

Instinctively summer is accepted as the normal condition of the earth,  writes naturalist, Edwin Way Teale.

Winter as the abnormal. Summer is ‘the way it should be.’ It is as though our minds subconsciously returned to some tropical beginning, some summer-filled Garden of Eden

I thought of these lines I drove back to Ohio from a brief trip to the Florida Keys this past month.

Cardinal in tree
Thomas Dwyer / Flickr Creative Commons

I write this from Sarasota, Florida: Complete semi-tropical habitat, no sign of winter. Looking back over today’s daybook from home in Ohio, I see how all the notes reach south, look forward.

sprouting peonies
Lorianne DiSabato / Flickr Creative Commons

Even as the cold breaks the Groundhog Day thaw, many signs appear of the broader scope of the season, reminders of what to watch for and what to do.

When the first fly gets in your house on a warm Late Winter day, then opossums  and skunks wander the back roads at night.

When the red tips of peonies push out just a little from the ground, then blue jays are courting and wild turkeys to are gathering in flocks.

When red-winged blackbirds come to build their nests, then the maple sap should already be running.

pussywillows in February
Eve Fraser-Corp / Flickr Creative Commons

Once the leaves are down in the fall, I avoid looking at winter. I am always looking for spring, for the moment at which all the best of the year still lies ahead.

Sometimes I think anticipation is better than fulfillment. Promises are better than what is promised. Hope is better than than what is hoped for. When dreams come true, they are over. Happily ever after is often better as a wish.

moon on a blue sky
Paul Cooper / Flickr Creative Commons

The Pussy Willow Cracking Moon becomes the new Lambing and Kidding Moon at 1:45 a.m. on January 24.

This moon presides over the period during which most sheep and goats give birth. 

Complementing this surge in the farming year, the first week of the Lambing and Kidding Moon opens skunk cabbage in the swamps.

The second week of this moon brings cardinals into song every morning about half an hour before dawn.

By full moon time, doves join the cardinals, and maple sap runs in the maples.

winter robin
Tom Lee / Flickr Creative Commons

The year seems to pause now, frozen in the middle of deep winter, but natural history and our own hope for  spring continue to be the sum of our observations. 

Since there is no limit to what a person might watch and record, an endless winter is only in the eye of the beholder. Like every other season, winter accumulates, is the product of the sensations it causes, is only what we see it to be, is all that we see it to be.

winter sky featuring orion
Rob Pettengill / Flickr Creative Commons

The rising of Orion after 9:00 p.m. continues to be the most dramatic event of an Deep Winter evening. The seven sisters, the Pleiades, and the constellation Taurus, precede it.

Due north of Polaris, the Little Dipper hangs in the sky overhead before midnight. North-northeast, the Big Dipper hugs the horizon. Due east, Cancer has just come up. Due south, the gangly formations of Cetus, Fornax and Eridanus wander along the tree line. In the far west, Aquarius pushes Delphinus into the Pacific Ocean.

smilla4 / Flickr Creative Commons

Although the  character of an entire season is difficult to predict, particular periods of the winter are subject to lunar forces that affect tides as well as the severity of storms.

The first major storm period of the New Year (after the New Year’s Eve weather)  can be expected to occur between January 9 and 14, when the continent is subject to full moon as well as to perigee, the moon’s position closest to Earth.

The next storm period arrives at the end of the January thaw with the new moon coinciding with the second-last front of the month, around January 24 or 25.

winter moon
class M planet / Flickr Creative Commons

Even as the cold deepens, the promises of the whole year ahead lie out before us in the names of its moons. Flollowing the last of December’s Silent Cricket Moon,

December 26, 2019: The Pussy Willow Cracking Moon cracks the darkness of winter with occasional revelations of its soft catkins

January 24: At the end of January, The Lambing and Kidding Moon starts the year for shepherds and goatherds as most lambs and kids are born.

winter solstice sunrise
It's No Game / Flickr Creative Commons

Almost all the leaves are down, the old year spent and scattered. Even as storms bring wind and snow to close this season, the defiant and prophetic buds of pussy willows grow fat,

A new year is beginning. It is time to watch for spring.