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

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.

bare trees on a cloudy winter sky
octobergirl / Flickr Creative Commons

I wander into the fields and woods this soft and cloudy morning.

Clover is keeping the paths green, along with some dandelions, some plantain. Wind rustles the dry grass and the brittle leaves. I can hear distant crows but no other birds for the first miles. Then the whinny of a robin as though it were frightened or had been attacked.

Craneflies follow me up into High Prairie. Moss is still bright beside me, becomes the dominant green in the woods. A few red raspberry branches and a bank of honeysuckles keep their leaves.

winter sunset
Magdalen_A_T / Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday, the sun reached its earliest setting time throughout much of the country. When sunset reaches its earliest time of the year, the second bloom of forsythia flowers typically ends, witch hazel blossoms wither, and the last foliage of the beeches, the willows, pears, cypresses and oaks comes down.

Crows on a snow-covered branch
David Meurin / Flickr Creative Commons

By this point in the year, cricket song has quieted, and the silence of Early Winter offers a sound of solitude, an absence that opens space for reflection and renewal.

The Silent Cricket Moon, like all the Moons between Scorpio and Pisces, can be cruel and challenging, but it also offers a context for personal centering, as well as for finishing the work of the year and preparing for the year ahead.

jcc_seveq / Flickr Creative Commons

My interest in the weather began in 1972 with the gift of a barometer.  My wife, Jeanie, gave the instrument to me when I was succumbing to the stress of school in Knoxville, Tennessee, and it became not only an escape from intense academic work, but the first step on the road to a different kind of awareness about the world.

From the start, I was never content just to watch the barometric needle. I was fascinated by the alchemy of my charts and graphs that turned rain and Sun into visible patterns, symbols like notes on a sheet of music.

December Sweet Gum Tree
Martin LaBar / Flickr Creative Commons

Global projections are dire for the decades ahead, and for the region where I live in the Lower Midwest, it is likely that by 2030 summers will be a somewhat warmer and drier, springs a little earlier and wetter, autumns and winters milder. Tornadoes may be more frequent, as Tornado Alley moves east from Oklahoma.