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Hi Everyone,

We had a beautiful summer here. Kathy’s wildflower meadow was in full bloom, and the local wildlife flourished. In this newsletter read about how one family found healing through natural burial, how we get ready for winter at the farm, as well as how we handle winter burials. We are highlighting recent events and promoting upcoming events. These include: Forest Bathing and QiGong on November 2nd, a coffin building workshop in later early November, and a Winter Solstice Celebration on December 21st.

As fall turns into winter, we hope you will be able to join us during one of our events and see the beauty of Penn Forest.

Natural Burial Helps Family with Healing. On June 9, 2019, Stephanie Edwards’ life changed forever. That was the day her beloved husband, Tom, died. Like many couples, she and Tom hadn’t discussed what kind of burial he would like, but once Stephanie started to research her options, natural burial became the obvious choice for them. It fit perfectly with Tom’s life. 
Tom loved nature and trees. He chose a career that allowed him to be close with the natural world. It was during his time with the South Carolina Forestry Commission that he and Stephanie met. Together they lived a life that honored nature. They enjoyed hiking, organic food, and natural healing. Stephanie explained, “I believe that Tom would have appreciated the ecologically friendly process of this burial.” she said. The burial at Penn Forest also helped to fulfill one of Tom’s lifelong wishes, “Tom always wanted to live on a farm, and we were never able to make that happen. It is very meaningful to our family that there is a farm with farm animals at Penn Forest.”

The natural burial wasn’t just a final resting place for Tom, it was also an opportunity for Stephanie and her family to heal. In preparation for the burial, Stephanie and her family had a home visitation, where they were able spend time with Tom before he was clothed in his shroud and returned to the earth. Everyone was able to say their goodbyes as they wished and without the commercial pressures of many modern burials. “I was able to hold my husband for several hours after his death,” she said. Without the embalming and cosmetic work that is done on bodies in modern burials, Stephanie and her family were able to see Tom as he actually was.
Stephanie chose to have Tom buried in a clearing in the woods that she thought he would have liked. It was on the day of Tom’s burial that the family experienced a spiritual healing through his burial. Stephanie and her family were joined by Laura and Pete (Penn Forest staff) during their intimate service. Unlike many modern burials, they were able to take as much time at the grave as they wanted. She and her family lowered Tom into his grave. Afterward, they took handfuls and shovels of dirt and buried Tom. They each expressed how that process gave them a sense of healing, “Funerals have always been traumatic for me, but this was a beautiful, healing experience.”

Stephanie and her family are able to make visitations to Tom’s grave a family event, “We love going to Penn Forest to visit Tom’s grave because we can cut flowers for his grave, interact with the farm animals, hike the trails and have a picnic.” Through Penn Forest’s park, life is able to continue for not only Stephanie but, in a way, it continues for Tom through the nature that surrounds him.
Winter at Penn Forest. How do we handle burials at Penn Forest in the freezing temperatures of winter? Winters here never get too cold for us to dig a grave. When snow falls, we clear the roads, and paths to the grave site to give families and loved ones access to the burial. However, we do recommend that everyone dress warmly for the ceremony.
Winter and the Picking Garden. During the winter months, our garden goes dormant. This year, we will leave the sunflowers to winter and provide food to the wildlife. But come spring, you can expect to see the flowers blooming and ready for you to pick for your loved ones.
Returning Home Farm News. We recently added four beautiful ducks to the farm: Mike, Helen, Sam, and Janet. They have learned to make themselves at home on the farm. Each morning they line up waiting for Pete to let them out of the chicken coop so they can play in the pond for the day. Mike and Helen are an older pair who came to us already named. We decided to keep with the people names, and went with Sam and Janet from this joke:
Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Sam and Janet.
Sam and Janet who?
Sam and Janet evening (sung to the tune of “Some Enchanted Evening”).
Jingles has been up to her typical antics as of late. Most recently, she managed to get the carabineer hook off of the door and snuck her way to the hay barn. We found her standing outside of her stall with the emptied feed bucket over her head. She always keeps us on our toes! 

Soon we will be preparing the farm for winter. We’ll be adding in more hay and straw for warmth and making sure all of the animals stay safe and comfortable during the colder months. We’ll also be plugging in the heated waterers for all of the animals. The goats love to play in the snow. Here’s MaryPat and pals playing in the snow.
Bird and Bees Walk and Talk. We had a crowd of 22 people join us for the bird walk and bee talk on Saturday, October 5, 2019. Attendees came from all over the Pittsburgh area to take part in the events. The fall morning air was nice and crisp while the sun shined beautifully through the trees during the nature walk. Linda Croskey, Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania Master Birder, led a group of over 20 people through the woods and meadows at Penn Forest. She showed us 15 different species of birds, including three beautiful woodpeckers and a mourning dove.  
After the walk, beekeepers Dr. Adele Towers and Patric gave an informative talk on beekeeping. They showed us the equipment used for keeping bees, explained how bees run their hives, and they passed around samples of pollen and a variety of honey. Here are a few photos from the two events:
Bird Walk:
Labyrinth Facilitators Workshop. Penn Forest is the custodian of a 36’ x 36’ hand-painted labyrinth. Before we loan it out, we like to make sure there is one trained facilitator on hand. Our fall Labyrinth Facilitators’ Workshop drew 12 participants. The weather was perfect for setting out the 36-foot hand-painted canvas labyrinth upon the meadow lawn. The three-hour course, led by Patricia Brown of Spirit Works, introduced trainees to the labyrinth in an articulate, knowledgeable, and effective way. The training addressed both meditative walking and ceremonial use. It focused primarily on the 13-Circuit Medieval Labyrinth but also introduced other forms. 

The next Labyrinth Facilitators Workshop will be announced in the late spring.
Yoga with Goats. We had a wonderful summer and fall season for yoga with goats. The yogis and goats alike loved to be in each other’s company while relaxing and meditating. Though, the goats may have thought of it as more of a social hour than a time to relax. Based on all of the positive feedback received, we plan to resume Yoga with Goats next year. Be sure to check out our website in the late spring for classes in 2020 at
Memorial Tree Planting. Please join us on Saturday, October 19th, from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm for our second memorial tree planting event this year. We will be giving lot owners and their families the opportunity to help with our forestation efforts by planting trees or shrubs. Even if you are not a lot owner or family member, you are still welcome to help us in our efforts!
Forest Bathing and QiGong. We will be hosting a forest bathing and qigong workshop on November 2, 2019, with Moshe Sherman. Forest bathing is a meditative practice that was developed in Japan as a way to balance the stress of modern urban life by immersing ourselves in the forest environment. 

In Japanese, the name for this practice is Shin-rin Yoku, which translates as “bringing in the forest energy.” To help assist the process of “bringing in the energy,” we will practice simple movement and breathing exercises known as QiGong (Chee-Gong). 
Moshe will also provide individual QiGong sessions to those interested at a cost of $10-$20 on a sliding scale. 

Moshe Sherman has lived in Pittsburgh for over 20 years. Since 2016, he has been a practicing Medical QiGong Therapist at Cloud Gate Pittsburgh in Edgewood. He has been teaching QiGong and Forest Bathing in Frick Park for over three years and looks forward to the event in November.
Home Funeral Workshop. More and more people tell us they aren’t interested in a funeral home funeral and would rather have a simple service at home. There are a number of ways that can happen with or without the body present.
If you’d like to know more. Please join us for a free workshop presented by Colleen McGonigle, a home funeral educator, and Jamie Hahn, a funeral director, who specializes in helping families with the logistics of home funerals. 

The tentative workshop date is during the week of November 10th, but we need to know who is interested before we finalize the schedule and venue. If you’re interested, please contact Colleen at Also see the National Home Funeral Alliance website for more information.
Coffin building workshop. A group from Green Burial Pittsburgh will be conducting a coffin building workshop at Hahn Funeral Home in Millvale, where you can build your own coffin with minimal woodworking skills in an evening from a kit supplied by our woodworking expert, Wade Caruso. You will leave the workshop with your own assembled green burial coffin which you can use as a coffee table or bookcase until you need it for your burial.
The first workshop will be held in early November at Hahn Funeral Home in Millvale. 
The cost of the coffin kit and the workshop included is $480.00 for a standard size coffin. There will be a slight upcharge for an oversized coffin. Wade requires a deposit of $200.00 up front to purchase the materials. Please send Wade an email at to reserve your spot. The workshop is limited to 8 participants.
Winter Solstice Celebration. Come join us at sunset on Winter Solstice on Saturday, December 21st, at 4:55 p.m.  Winter Solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years. This start of the solar year is a celebration of Light. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel.   

We’ll begin the observance at 4:55 p.m. by following the path of lights to our circle of light.  Amid music and drums, enjoy the outdoor fire circle, burning a Yule log to mark the day and to remember those who have gone on before us.  It will be a time of both remembrance and celebration.  

To begin the new solar year with a good work, participants are asked to bring canned food that will be contributed to the local food pantry.  
Annual Picnic: Hold the Date. Please save the date for the Penn Forest Annual Picnic. Our next annual picnic will be held on Saturday June 13, 2020. More details to follow.
Laura’s Corner. I’m often asked about headstone placement and guidelines for markers at Penn Forest. I thought this would be a great opportunity to let you all know the details on headstones at our cemetery. We always want to be as accommodating to families and loved ones, but we also want to make sure that we keep Penn Forest as a natural piece of the Pennsylvania landscape. Headstones at Penn Forest have to be made of stone native to western Pennsylvania. The majority of the headstones we currently have are sandstone or limestone, but they can also be made of river rock or unpolished Pennsylvania granite. We also allow native wood markers that are free of varnish and made of strong rot resistant wood. A good example of a wood marker would be made of iron wood, locust, or arborvitae.
After a burial, we have to let the ground settle for six months to a year before a marker can be placed. This ensures that the ground won’t shift too much and the marker will stay stationary. One exception to this is when a treemation is done. A marker can be placed in front of the tree immediately or as soon as the family would like. 

We do have size restrictions on headstones and markers as well. We require that all markers for a full body burial not exceed 24 inches in any direction, and for a cremation or treemation the markers cannot exceed 12 inches in any direction. 

Recently, this beautiful marker was placed after a treemation. The family did a wonderful job personalizing the stone to mark their loved one’s final resting place.
Recent Facebook Posts:
October 14th: Build your own coffin in Pittsburgh region with help of a green burial organization Tribune Review article. 

October 4th: This article says, "Over half (53.8%) of respondents to a 2017 survey by the National Funeral Directors Association said they are interested in natural, or “green,” burials to reduce the environmental impact of end-of-life rituals."  We see that uptick in interest every day at Penn Forest. Article.

September 27th:  Caskets&Coffins- Why It’s Important to Know the Differences.

September 26th: Jingles (and Pete and MaryPat) enjoying the cooler weather today at Penn Forest’s Returning Home Farm. Photos.

September 23rd: All funeral plans should include at least these four parts:
1. How do you want your body disposed of? Cemetery burial, green burial, cremation (then how to dispose of your cremated remains), burial at sea, donation to science.
2. Who is going to dispose of your body? Funeral home, family, religious organization, medical organization.
3. What rituals or religious services do you want, if any. Spell them out.
4. Where is the money coming to pay for 1, 2, and 3? Insurance, pre-paid lot, pre-paid funeral plan, payable on death account.
That's it.
Pre-planned funerals can ease the burden for survivors.

September 22nd: This is such a gift to give your family. Please take the time to do it. Why You Need to Make a 'When I Die' File—Before It's Too Late.

September 21st: After five days of confinement in the chicken run, Helen and Mike show Sam and Janet where the pond is. So far their friendship is working out. Video.

September 17th: About a month ago two ducks, Helen and Mike, were re-homed at Returning Home Farm. Today, two young Indian Runner ducks arrived, thanks to Jody from Choderwood. Jody’s ducks hatched these two. Here they are arriving. After about a week living in this run we will let them out to meet Helen and Mike and discover the pond. Here’s hoping the pairs like each other. Ideas for names are welcomed. Video.

September 13th: Some tips to consider if you're planning on transporting a loved one's cremated remains by air. Consider security rules when flying with cremated remains.

September 4th: We have our annual June picnic. But, in addition, more and more families are having picnics at Penn Forest. We have picnic tables and other furniture set up for small group picnics. If you have a larger group, let us know. Party Like It’s 1899: Are Cemetery Picnics Making a Comeback?

August 20th: We're mentioned in this article. PIMS students tour Penn Forest once or twice every year. We're training the next generation of funeral directors on the benefits of green burial.
At the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, students focus on the living while preparing the dead.

August 2nd: I can’t resist showing off our bargain “end of season” gladiolus and dahlia bulbs that we put in the Flower Picking Garden. I couldn’t pick that giant yellow dahlia. Photos.

July 28th: There are thousands of family cemeteries across the US that have burials just like this one. Unless a municipality has a specific regulation banning such burials on private property, they are always legal and safe if there is at least two feet of soil cover over the body. Imam buried behind mosque sparks debate in Rockland County village.

July 27th: Wildflower meadow today with a telephoto lens. Photos.

July 25th: If you're interested in family-led death care instead of funeral home death care, we'd be happy to help you plan for that. Family-Led Death Care.

July 16th: The Flower Picking Garden is now clearly labeled and decorated, thanks to Kimberly at Goldfish Marmalade via Etsy. Now it will look great in December too! Photo.

July 16th: If you'd like to visit Penn Forest and take a self-guided tour, now you can. Just park in our lot and take one of these tour maps, which are hanging on this red pine tree. Photos.
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 or remove plants that grow beyond grave boundaries.)
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.

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