Price: Signed by Bill Felker, USPS First Class Postage and Tax Included: $20.00
When I began almanacking in 1984, I wanted to choose a name that was different from the “farmer” associations of the current best-selling almanack. The logical choice seemed to be to reach back to America’s first and most famous almanack, Poor Richard’s Almanack, prepared throughout the latter part of the 18th century by Benjamin Franklin. Ben had many imitators back then, among them, a certain Poor Will. Although it has been almost 200 years since that Will tried to follow in Franklin’s footsteps, I thought it was not inappropriate for William (Bill) Felker to revive the name and the tradition, while making a clean break with the kinds of almanacks currently sold in this country today.
Poor Will’s Almanack is divided into 15 sections, one for each month between October 2003 and December 2004. Each month contains the following sections in the following order:
Almanack essay by Bill Felker
Phases of the moon
The sun’s progress
Weekly weather (October 2003 – September 2004); Monthly
overviews (October 2004 – December 2004)
Frostwatch (April through October)
Seasonal counts (Wintercount – Springcount – Summercount –
Hunting and fishing times
Seasonal calendar of events– all new for 2004
Wildflower calendar (March through September)
Farming and gardening by the moon
Almanack literature (reader stories)
The Almanack Essay
Traditional almanacks often contained commentary by the editor. Sometimes these notes were political; often they were seasonal. I (Bill Felker) am the author of the essays that appear at the beginning of each month in Poor Will’s Almanack. All of the essays have appeared previously in my newspaper columns.
Time of Day
Eastern Standard Time is used for all times listed throughout Poor Will’s Almanack for 2004.
Information on the moon, the planets, the stars, sun and shooting stars is based on Astronomical Phenomena for the Year 2004, U.S. Government Printing Office, as well as on personal observations from along the 40th parallel in the northern hemisphere.
The weekly weather overviews which appear with each month between October 2003 and September 2004 are based on my charts of fractal patterns (see the essay on fractal patterning in the March section of this almanack) made in Yellow Springs, Ohio between 1978 and 2002. They have been used successfully by readers throughout Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Kentucky since 1985. Readers in the East should add 1 to 2 days to specific days mentioned in the overviews. In the Plains, subtract 1-2 days for best results. Temperature ranges given in the weekly weather sections are based on averages in the lower Midwest. In order to estimate temperatures in their own regions, readers should subtract one degree for every 100 miles north of Columbus, Ohio (the 40th parallel), but add two degrees for every 100 miles south of Columbus, Ohio.
The Frostwatch charts, which appear in April, May, June, September, October and November, show the chances that frost will have occurred in the lower Midwest by the date indicated. Calculations are based on average frequency of freezing temperatures in central Ohio and Indiana. The data can be adjusted by adding five percent for each 100 miles north of the 40th parallel (or for each 500 feet above 1000 feet above sea level). Subtract five percent for each 100 miles south of the 40th parallel. Although Frostwatch statistics are approximate, they can serve, with interpolation, as a general guide to the advent of spring or fall.
Major high-pressure systems cross the United States at an average rate of once every five to six days, and 60 to 65 systems cross the Mississippi in a year. The sections of Poor Will’s Almanack titled Wintercount, Springcount, Summercount, and Autumncount enumerate and briefly describe the majority of these systems.
Fronts move more quickly in the colder months; October through March can bring up to eight waves of high pressure every 30 days. The warmer months between April and September are more likely to have six or fewer fronts; June, July and August sometimes only produce two or three significant systems.
This regular pulse that characterizes the planet’s atmosphere was first recorded in detail by 16th-century almanackers. It still forms the basis for annual predictions in most of today’s commercial almanacks, and can be used by anyone who keeps a weather journal to gauge the likelihood for rain or sun, heat or cold on any given day.
Hunting and Fishing Times
Some research and traditions suggest that fish and game tend to feed more when the moon is directly overhead—or directly below the earth about 12 hours later. The monthly keys to lunar position show when the moon is above or below the United States, and therefore the period during which fish and game are typically most active.
Since fish and game are also feed more prior to the arrival of high-pressure systems, a knowledge of these cold fronts becomes a significant key to increasing your chances of hunting and fishing success. Your expeditions should be most successful if scheduled one to three days prior to the arrival of each weather system. Conversely, if you have a choice, you may elect to stay home on days when a cold front arrives. Consult the Wintercount, Springcount, Summercount, Autumncount sections of each month for the approximate arrival date of weather systems.
The Seasonal Calendar
The seasonal calendar section of Poor Will’s Almanack is a compilation of key events in the progress of the year. These events occur around the dates indicated throughout the lower Midwest, and an attempt has been made to reference natural happenings in other areas of the country, as well. While the number of such occurrences is literally infinite—certainly beyond the power of anyone to list in their entirety—even a partial list can help place the course of the year in linear perspective.
The dates listed between March through September are average times for the first blossoming of each wildflower along much of the 40th parallel (at 1,000 feet above sea level) in an average year. In a cold spring, blooming can be set back as such as two weeks. If April and May are exceptionally warm, flowers can be ten to fifteen days early. Drought and excessive precipitation change matters, too. Despite such fluctuations and the influence of habitat, the general sequence of flowering remains relatively predictable and can serve as a broad guide for floral sequence across the nation’s midsection. At other locations in North America, once the wildflower year begins, it remains close to the progression listed in this calendar, even though the specific dates may be considerably different.
Farming and Gardening by the Moon
Farming and gardening suggestions are based on likely weather conditions and accepted practices for different times of the year. They also make use of traditional lore about lunar phases. Although definitive proof about the efficacy of these phases has yet to be produced, many farmers and gardeners find that combining lunar conditions with their other routines is satisfying and contributes to their success.
The Allergy Index
Average pollen and mold counts are based on average counts made in the central states during the latter years of the 20th century. Data show general trends based on typical weather patterns and floral cycles.
The S.A.D. Index
Current medical opinion suggests that the human brain may need a certain amount of sunlight for maximum wellbeing and that seasonal fluctuation of the body’s natural clock can often bring on shifts of outlook and mood. Sometimes seasonal imbalance can be debilitating; when it is, the problem is often called as S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Knowledge is perhaps the best defense against S.A.D., and the S.A.D. Stress Index contributes to that knowledge by measuring the natural phenomena which are assumed to be related to S.A.D.—the day’s length, the percentage of probable sunlight, the weather, and the phase of the moon. In order to create the Index, each of those factors was given a value from zero to 25, and then the four values were combined onto a scale of one to 100. Interpretation is simple: the higher the number, the greater the stress.
Index readings are most useful in combination with a record of your own moods. Reference to the Index when you feel out of sorts may be a way of getting a feel for how seasonal affective disorders influence your life.
Index of Seasonal Essays by Bill Felker
October 2003 The Secret Rhythm
November 2003 Invulnerable Leaves
December 2003 Waiting for the 17-Year Cicadas
January 2004 Merak and Dubhe
February 2004 The First Fly of Spring
March 2004 Fractal Yin and Yang
April 2004 The Rising Christ of Spring
May 2004 Strawberry Synecdoche
June 2004 Ambivalence
July 2004 The Catbird
August 2004 Late Summer
September 2004 The Inner Garden
October 2004 The Secret Passion of Camel Crickets
November 2004 Promises
December 2004 Early Winter
Index of Almanack Literature
October 2003 Go Back! by E.S.
There’s a MAN in There!! By Mrs. Orville Babcock
November 2003 The Facts of Life by Anonymous
Reader Recalls Ferocious Storm by Oliver P. Walston
December 2003 Speaking With Mice by Janet Stevens
Predicting Winter from the Bark of a Tree by Virden Smith
January 2004 Papa and the Bear by Eunice Hicks
Dyno-Mite-Love by Rick Donahoe
February 2004 A True Chicken Story by Lois Rivard
Outside the Privy Door by Helen Dillon
Then and Now by Earl Zuvers
March 2004 An Outhouse Romance by Anonymous
The Log Chain Swing by Anna Monroe Bruce
April 2004 The Bible in the Outhouse by Mary Ann Bebko
Speaking With Mice II by Janet Stevens
May 2004 Gone Fishin’ by Mike Miller
Olive and the Dough by Pliny Fulkner
June 2004 Prayer Power by Lois Rivard
Phenomenal Weather by Barbara Cook
Crapper Fire by Donna McCool
July 2004 Where There Were No Flies by Mary R. Zigler
Dumb Me by Anna Monroe Bruce
August 2004 Innocent, by Donna Scriver
Talk about Stoopid by Rick Donahoe
The Path to Peace and Harmony by Gene Holder
September 2004 The School of Hard Tricks by Erma Baldwin
An Outhouse Surprise by Ruth Ann Meyer
October 2004 Three Taps on the Wall by Naomi Bliss
Speaking With Wasps by Janet Stevens
November 2004 Outhouse Terror! By Sylvia Gibbons
Chickenpoop by Rick Donahoe
December 2004 A Lesson For the Teacher: A Christmas Outhouse Story By Mrs. Lillie Shaffer
Ping by Mary Zigler
The Cold Toilet Seat Blues by Maggie Felker
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