Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack

Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack


Bill Felker's almanack for the WYSO listening area, Southwest Ohio and beyond.More from Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack »

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Poor Will's Almanack: August 16 - 22, 2016

The Katydid Moon is waxing bright and gibbous these evenings. It will be full on the 18th dominating the sky sky and tides this week. The full moon is always overhead in the middle of the night, and if you walk under its glow, you might see the high bloom of velvetleaf, jimsonweed, prickly mallow, wild lettuce, ironweed and wingstem. You might pick soft elderberries and blackberries. You might see rows of tall great mulleins gone to seed, pokeweed the size of small trees, great, white puffball mushrooms growing among spring's rotting stems and leaves, late silver umbels of Queen Anne's lace all ghostly gray in the moonlight. You could walk to the coarse growls of the katydids and the shrill chorus of crickets, perhaps the descending whinny of a screech owl, the gruff conversations of frogs. If you walked until moonset, you might hear the first robins of the morning. The stars complement the moon and the creatures around you. The house-shaped star group, Cepheus, lies right into the

Poor Will's Almanack: August 9 – 15, 2016

The pieces of late summer fall into place, creating the season. The heat stays, but the rhythm shifts, the tones of the leaves are different, colors and sounds and scents all pointing to September. Cottonwood leaves are becoming pale near my house. In the park, black walnut, sumac, wild grape, sycamore, elm, box elder, and redbud are turning yellow. The katydids, which started to sing last week in my neighborhood, are in full chorus after dark. The cicadas have finally all come out and fill the afternoons. Patches of red Virginia creeper outline tree trunks, some buckeye trees are almost completely bare, some wood nettle leaves turning white. The lanky Joe Pye weed is going to seed. Summer apples are lying all about the yard. Leaves trickle to the undergrowth. The smell of the wind is becoming more pungent, sweeter, sharper as the vegetation evolves. Cardinals sang just a little this morning, and a few doves eventually joined in, but both doves and cardinals are sleeping late now that

Poor Will's Almanack: August 2 - 8, 2016

Just before sunrise, I went jogging at the edge of town: I heard the loud rattle of tree crickets; chirping of field crickets; doves calling; I saw a cluster of robins scouting the pavement and yards, but there was no robin chorus, just the steady chirping of the sparrow flocks; a cardinal sang toward the edge of town, but he was the only one. When the sun came over the tree line, a song sparrow, a red-bellied woodpecker called in the woods, and a kingfisher screeched across the pond. Near pasture fences, the dawn brought color to late yellow moth mullein and field thistle flowers. Across the town gardens, there were purple and golden coneflowers, daisies, late-July hostas, Russian sage, butterfly bushes, phlox, rose of Sharon, a rich display of the season's moment. When I got home, the town crows were settling into the back trees and were talking about something important. And I found a katydid resting on the front screen door. Looking back over my notes, I saw that a katydid had been

Poor Will's Almanack: July 19 - 25, 2016

The year is 200 days old this week. Between the one-hundredth day and the two-hundredth day of the year, the land completes middle spring, passes through late spring and early summer, then enters middle summer. By the two-hundredth day, the cardinals sleep late. Katydids and crickets call in the damp, warm nights. The field corn is tall, the sweet corn and tomatoes are coming in, and the wheat harvest is complete. Only a few varieties of wildflowers bloom now under the dense canopy: leafcup, tall bellflower, wood nettle, touch-me-nots. The fields and fencerows show most of the color: bouncing bets, St. John's wort, teasel, milkweed, gray-headed coneflowers, white vervain, wild lettuce, heliopsis, germander, skullcap, great Indian plantain, blue vervain, wingstem, bull thistle, black-eyed Susans and small-flowered agrimony. In town, phlox and coneflowers have replaced the daffodils and tulips and lilies of the first one hundred days. Rose of Sharon is flowering instead of pear and

Poor Will's Almanack: July 12 - 18, 2016

Before eight o'clock this morning, crows and grackles were screeching in the mulberry tree. Sparrows were feeding heavily, black-capped chickadee weaving in and out of their flocking. Cicadas began to whine as the sun came up over the trees, hummingbirds came to the feeders. Spicebush swallowtails, skippers, cabbage butterflies, hummingbird moths, tiger swallowtails all explored the garden.Bundled in these and so many other events, the yard, the neighborhood – and, I suppose, my life – have passed some kind of high-timber line of summer beyond which the greener treasures of the center of the year grow thin. Looking about, I see that leafturn has started now in the undergrowth. At the park, hemlock, parsnips, and many dock plants are withered and brittle. June's clovers and grasses are past their prime.The astilbes are about gone; the ditch lilies are done; the Indomitable Sprit hydrangea's large, pink blossoms are browning; the spiderwort still blooms, but its foliage is discolored and

Poor Will's Almanack: July 5 - 11, 2016

My wife and I planted dozens of daylilies during the 1980s and 1990s, and each summer morning we counted the plants that were blooming. I still count lilies in the mornings like I have for over thirty years. This morning, there were forty-five plants in bloom. Others have long bud stalks, and I have sprayed them against the deer that love to eat them. Last year, the lilies started at the end of May. The greatest number of them in bloom at one time was sixty on the 10th of July. By the third week of August, only one or two remained. I will keep counting to the end. The trajectory of lilies follows so many other trajectories: the bloom and decline of mid-season hostas, bee-balm, and hydrangeas. It follows the pre-dawn robinsong that fades into silence by the third week of July. Lilies watch the late summer flocking of starlings, the buzzing and rising crescendo of cicadas, the commencement of the cricket chorus, the diminishing of fireflies. If counting one thing is always about counting

Poor Will's Almanack: June 28 – July 4, 2016

The Raspberry Moon wanes throughout the week ahead, reaching perigee (its position closest to Earth) on July 1 and becoming the new Coneflower Moon on July 4. As the Coneflower Moon waxes and wanes through July, it brings on the black-eyed Susans, gray-headed coneflowers, showy coneflowers, and the white, purple and red coneflowers. When their blossoms disappear, early fall will be fast approaching. The 4th of July is not only new moon day but the day on which the Sun reaches aphelion, its position farthest from Earth. Having begun to move lower each day on June 23rd the Sun has already traveled a little more than five percent of its distance to equinox by Independence Day. And throughout the month, the sun drops slowly from its solstice declination of 23 degrees 26 minutes to a late-summer declination of 18 degrees 29 minutes about a fourth of the way to autumn. The Sun may be weakening, if you believe the statistics, but the Dog Days dispute the facts. Sirius, the Dog Star is right

Poor Will's Almanack: June 21 - 27, 2016

Summer solstice is history now, and on June 23rd, the sun begins its six-month descent to winter solstice. Middle summer typically begins this week along the 40th Parallel, and it lasts until the Dog Days weaken in the first of the late summer high-pressure systems, about August 10. In these six to seven weeks, approximately an hour is lost from the day's length and the year turns toward autumn. Even though night lengthens in this middle season, the amount of possible sunshine reaches its zenith, and the percentage of totally sunny days is the highest of the year throughout almost all of North America. And between now and the end of the first week of August, average temperatures vary just one degree.Warmed by the waning sun, the Raspberry Moon wanes through the remainder of June, entering its final quarter on the 27th, ripening raspberries throughout the East, reddening strawberries in the Northwest, turning blackberries black in the South. Coming up late at night and setting in the

Poor Will's Almanack: June 14 - 20, 2016

Having entered its second quarter on June 12, the gibbous Raspberry Moon waxes throughout the week ahead, reaching apogee (its position farthest from Earth) and becoming totally full at 6:02 a.m. on June 20. Summer solstice takes place on the same day, at 6:34 p.m. Now is high tide in the year, and the berries grow fat and sweet beneath the glowing moon. "Taste the sugar berry sugar purple berry," I once wrote under the influence of a little mulberry wine, "sugar wild hot sugar sunning sugar berry, sugar in the sun." And now is high tide not only for the sugar sweetness of raspberries but for making mulberry wine – and pie , the purple berries practically harvesting themselves, falling to the ground across the South, ceding to berry pickers in the North. All across the nation's midsection, high tide is not only sweet but lush with shining yellow sweet clover and parsnips and moth mullein and birdsfoot trefoil and meadow goat's beard, with violet cow vetch and pink crown vetch. Cattails

Poor Will's Almanack: June 7 - 13, 2016

Events in nature generally occur in a fixed sequence, based on precipitation, the declination of the sun, and the effects of warm or cold days. And, usually, if something happens once, it will happen again. Now certainly history and daily life are full of events that did not or cannot happen again. On the other hand, neither human nor beast, fish nor fowl, would venture out into a world in which repetition did not occur. Frozen by uncertainty and unknowing, no creature would risk its existence in constant novelty. Observation would make no sense because who could draw conclusions from what occurs if the occurrence could not be repeated? Scientific method would implode. To the observer, matter would be an endless string of isolated, unreferenced, linear constructs, formed by the witness-mind. Comforted and encouraged by patterns of replication, however, we can make sense, shaping a universe rich in experiences which never occur in isolation, which are parts of the whole and which are

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