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

fall leaves
Jay Joslin / Flickr Creative Commons

The canopy of leaves appeared solid throughout the hot summer, its entire nature dense and uniform, its shade thick and deep. Within a few days, that canopy will shatter deep into the jug of autumn. That jug, that earthen container takes it all.

Everything from the whole year past goes into the jug of October. Events and objects get mixed up in the tumble. The smooth wall of June is torn apart. The heat of July and August is filtered and cooled. All of the long green horizon crumbles.

The best sense of what we are in this place dissolves.

cardinal on bird feeder
Scott Thomas / Flickr Creative Commons

One summer a few years ago, I spent so much time sitting on the back patio just looking out into the garden. Every few days the blossoms of the shrubs and flowers changed. I filled the bird feeders every morning, and the birds rewarded my care with their presence.

Lounging on the patio, I saw more butterflies than I ever had before,  watched more bees than I had ever watched before – hover bees, carpenter bees, bumblebees, bee flies, and even a few honeybees.

I loved it.

crab apple
Heather Kaiser / Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday, I went walking, found seed heads everywhere, dry rose petals, red rose hips I should have pruned, withered hydrangea blossoms covered in spiderwebs, Joe Pye weed bushy and brown like the burdock beside it, three blue spiderwort flowers blossoming out of season, hops heavy across the euonymous, oodles of black redbud seeds like manes in the branches, the soft green seeds of the fierce wood nettle, new waterleaf leaves, mottled grape vines, red crab apples bigger than I'd ever noticed before, stiff and prickly burrs of purple coneflowers, the unusual brightness of honeysuckle berr

Theo Crazzolara / Flickr Creative Commons

This past weekend, I drove south through the full range of early fall, its different subseasons depending on the progress of the soybeans or corn or goldenrod or tobacco, depending on whether harvest complete or pending, depending on which trees were turning and how far.

fall leaf
compassrose_04 / Flickr Creative Commons

The time of early fall is an ambivalent time, a time of being on the edge. Summer is not really gone, but foliage is aging quickly and flowers are disappearing. The days may be warm and humid, but the sun is a March sun and could rise to frost on any morning.

I experience a vague excitement now, am in suspense as to just when the wind will change, look forward to the cold, feel relief at the end of the Dog Days, but I also wish that the season did not have to change so quickly.

monarch butterfly
Renee Grayson / Flickr Creative Commons

My Sunday  morning is quiet and lazy. Clear sky, the air soft and mild. An occasional breeze follows the butterflies: a giant swallowtail, two monarchs, three yellow tiger swallowtails, four cabbage whites.

The butterfly effect seems to move the floppy leaves of the castor beans and push the drifts of zinnias and cannas. The sidle of the flowers and foliage soothes me, and  I allow my ultimate concerns to settle into the deep time of wings and blossoms.

Goldrod in front of an old barn
Don O'Brien / Flick

The change of season always changes me. Weather and landscape, seem to be the obvious parts of that transformation.

I read a little about how other people react.

Ohio Sea Grant / Flickr Creative Commons

In his natural history of east-central Ohio, Idle Weeds, David Rains Wallace writes: “If time is a story, the present is merely a hiatus between the significant events that were and will be.

"If time is an ocean, however, the present is not less important than other moments, which stretch away on all sides, any more than a single water molecule in an ocean is less important than the others.”

Nick Olejniczak / Flickr Creative Commons

It seems that the same day never returns, that any act is done when it is done. It seems that at the end of August, summer is over. It seems that this summer can never come again.

Memory easily shows, however, that events do not end when they take place. Like the waves that form the Butterfly Effect, all happenings ripple time. And instead of receding from a present tense, this infinity of instances spins far out and then returns over and over again like a shower of shooting stars, shining children of comets.

perseid meteor shower
Steve Ryan / Flickr Creative Commons

I stayed up to watch the Perseid meteors, but the moon was too bright for me to see more than a few shooting stars. And now that gibbous moon is setting, the sky is getting light,  and I am still awake. The morning is windless, misty and cool. Crickets are chanting never pausing, cardinals competing with them, blue jays give their bell-like calls, crows caw a few blocks away