Baby goats, blacksmithing, willow branches, a picnic invite and much, much more! 
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Hi Everyone, 
This issue of Life at Penn Forest is largely about sustainability. There’s a new video from Chatham University about our sustainability work, there’s an announcement about our June picnic with sustainability workshops, our meadow restoration project is moving ahead, we’ll soon be planting sally gardens, and our blacksmithing classes will begin in May. Spring brings a lot of life to Penn Forest.
Tribune Review, April 17, 2016:   “Simple green burials create serene final resting spots,” 
Tribune Review, April 15, 2016:  “Teen blacksmith will teach craft in Penn Hills,”
Tribune Review, April 3, 2016:  “Goats to tackle landscaping in Penn Hills cemetery,” 
Post-Gazette, December 4, 2015:  “Penn Hills natural burial park celebrates life,”
Chatham/Merton Video. The Falk School of Sustainability at Chatham University and the environmental justice committee of the the Thomas Merton Center sponsored a series of nine short videos in a documentary film project on Social Justice and Sustainability.  Penn Forest was selected by a team of four graduate students for one of the videos. The Penn Forest team consisted of Meredith Benek, Carla Limon, Zachary Schumucker and Kelcy Wagner. The premier of this video series was held at Chatham on April 12, 2016. We think Meredith, Carla, Zachary and  Kelcy did a great job. What do you think? Click here to check it out
6th Annual Penn Forest Summer Picnic!
Hold the date: June 4th, 11:00 to 4:00. Put it on your calendar. There will be the usual food, tours, sustainability workshops; visit Returning Home Farm, meet the goats; and listen to music by Ferdinand the Bull.

Jewish Burial Section.   

Some Jews would like to be buried in a sanctified space but don’t belong to a synagogue, so they often can’t be buried in synagogue-owned cemeteries. We recognize that need and have set aside a consecrated burial ground at Penn Forest for these folks. We had our first burial there this month.

Planting Flowers on Graves.

It’s nice when people plant flowers on graves, but it’s not so nice when the deer eat them. Here’s a list Kathy Raborn gave us of native PA plants that are deer resistant.
Read the disclaimer and proceed at your own risk. (Note: We reserve the right to trim them or remove them if they extend beyond grave boundaries.)
Penn Forest Five-Year Anniversary.

When, in the spring of 2009, Nancy and I visited Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve in Newfield, NY—it’s 6 hours north of Pittsburgh and was then the nearest green cemetery to us—we were daunted to learn that they had spent 6 years finding their land and were only then celebrating their third anniversary, after nine years of work! We had already been searching for more than a year for land for our green cemetery, and we couldn’t imagine such a long process for us. So, recently, when I realized we’d now be celebrating our five-year anniversary at Penn Forest, I thought back to that Greensprings visit and all that we’ve accomplished since. There are lots of dates we could use to mark our anniversary: December 2010 when we signed the agreement to purchase the land; July 2011 when we got our PA cemetery license; or August 2011 when we did our first burial.  But in my mind, our real anniversary date is April 4, 2011. After months of hearings and negotiation, with the help of two attorneys and a large cohort of volunteer experts, on that date we finally got approval from the Penn Hills Council for our project. What a relief!   So, here we are five years later, poking along quite nicely thank you, with many burials and nearly 200 lots sold. And we’re still the only Green Burial Council certified Natural Burial Grounds in Pennsylvania.

Did Someone Forward this Newsletter to You?  

Follow our progress on forest restoration, learn about Natural Burial, see pictures of wildlife, flowers and trees, get the latest updates on Penn Forest and more…Where we share information, resources and education about natural burial cemeteries.

Meadow restoration.

For more than a year, Kathy Raborn, of Raborn Landscape Design LLC, and her team have been working with us on a quarter-acre native meadow restoration project in our burial area. The reasons for this work include improving wildlife habitat, increasing storm water infiltration and providing a more attractive natural landscape. 
A year ago large vinyl sheets (repurposed billboards actually) were laid down to kill the grass. These were removed in mid-March this year. Before the native meadow seed can be broadcast at the end of May, the "weed seed bank" in the ground will be allowed to germinate. Those weeds will then then be cut down with a hoe or other long handled tool to keep them from growing. Using this process, there will be fewer weeds to grow and compete with the future meadow plants. Kathy Raborn and friends of Penn Forest will be at the meadow site every Sunday morning at 11 am through May 22nd, to remove the weed seedlings.

Many people have expressed an interest in hiking the beautiful property at Penn Forest. If you are free any of these Sunday mornings during the next 6 weeks, come join us to rake down the weed seedlings and then take a hike through the property with us to enjoy a nice spring morning in the forest. No need to RSVP, just show up if you can. A hoe would be an ideal tool but a metal rake or shovel will work as well. In case of rain, we will meet the following day, Monday evening at 6:30. The address is 121 Colorado Street, Verona PA.
Sally Gardens at Penn forest.

Sally gardens are willows planted as hedges, fences, labyrinths or other landscape features like these Google images:
MaryPat Acquaviva has ordered our first batch of eight different native varieties, which we plan to plant next month. In addition to being beautiful and functional, the willow branches can be woven into a variety of baskets, furniture and other items.  In fact, they can even be woven into coffins. Watch basket maker weaving a beautiful Somerset Willow Coffins.  Check out this video 
A few of us plan to take classes on willow weaving. Perhaps you’d be interested too. Meanwhile, just take a short break and listen to this wonderful recording of Down by the Sally Gardens by Maura O'Connell with Karen Matheson. 
Blacksmithing for Beginners Classes at Penn Forest’s Returning Home Farm*.

What will the course cover?
In this two-class intro course, students will learn the fundamental skills of blacksmithing as well as some of the history and science behind this age-old craft. At the end of the course students will have completed several small pieces of their own and learned the skills necessary to attend The Blacksmith Shop at Returning Home Farm open forge times.
Class size will be kept to two students per course for maximum attention and personalization.

When and where?

All classes will be held at The Blacksmith Shop at Penn Forest’s Returning Home Farm off of Return Road in Penn Hills. The same two-class course will be offered 4 times. The first series of class will be held in May, but these are already filled up. Contact Ben to find out about future class schedules later in the summer.

Who will be teaching?

The course will be taught by local blacksmith Benjamin Barron of Darkbird Ironworks. Ben has been blacksmithing for almost three years and working with non-ferrous metals for over four years. He has studied with multiple instructors and is passionate about local production and sustainability.

Why blacksmithing?

Blacksmithing is the art of shaping and forming iron-based metals. Iron and steel are wonderful media because they are so prevalent in society, and so adaptable. The modern day smith is able to reclaim discarded pieces of metal and turn them into functional and beautiful items.
To get a flyer, ask questions or sign up, contact Ben at
or 412-607-7656.
PIMS Tour.

Carolyn Thompson teaches at the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science (PIMS) on Baum Boulevard. Every year she brings her current class of future funeral directors to Penn Forest for a tour and talk. This year’s tour mostly got rained out, so everyone congregated in the RHF barn for a talk by Pete. (He’s standing on a goat milking stand.)
Baby goats.

We’ll leave you with these pictures of some of the goats living at Returning Home Farm that Lillian Dedomenic of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review took for the article mentioned above. In the sixth photo, that’s MaryPat getting some love from Zorro.
Did You Know?

You signed up for this newsletter because you are interested in green burial at Penn Forest, so I'm sure you know that we don't allow embalming with toxic chemicals, we bury people in biodegradable coffins or shrouds and we don't use burial vaults. But did you know.  

You can have a viewing and visitation at a funeral home before a green burial. Or if you don't want to use a funeral home at all, we can arrange that too. By chilling the body, green burial can occur up to 10 days after death. You can be an organ donor and still have a green burial. You can be cremated and have your ashes interred at Penn Forest in a biodegradable container.

The choice is yours. Contact Penn Forest for more information , and other options to help you make the best choices for you and your family.

Green Burial Questions?

You've got questions...we've got answers!  Check out our Green Burial Frequently Asked Questions.  Do you have a question that was not answered in the FAQ's? Email us and we will be happy to answer it for you.
Copyright © 2016 Penn Forest Natural Burial Park, All rights reserved.

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