The Birds of Penn Forest

Birds of Penn Forest

Jeff Giles, our friend and cemetery next-door neighbor, has gone above and beyond once more in creating “The Birds of Penn Forest”  (we have mentioned previously for all of the help he has volunteered at Penn Forest).

Well, we caught up with Jeff a few weeks ago to ask him a few questions about the birds of Penn Forest project…


1. What inspired you to start this project? 

I have been watching birds for most of my life.  Because of this interest in birds, I bought a book from the Audubon Society so that I could learn more about these fascinating creatures.  I can now recognize most birds by site and some even by sound.

As a part of the project, I have created a few visual displays that Penn Forest can use to show visitors.

2. How many birds have you catalogued? 

Roughly between 35 and 40 birds.  There were 34 or so on the project board, but I have spotted a few more since then.

3. What is the rarest bird that you’ve seen on the property? 

Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the rarest birds I’ve seen. Before I moved here I had only seen one other in my life and that was out in Ligonier.   These birds are not often seen in densely populated areas.  Penn Forest does not have that much Middle Eastern Bluebirdhuman activity, so I think they like it here.  I once witnessed their mating dance and boy was that cool.  They are very unusual birds.

There are Middle Eastern bluebirds are hanging out at Penn Forest too.


4. Do you think birds are drawn to Penn Forest?  If so, why? 

For one the lack of humans is a factor that draws some of the birds to Penn Forest.  Another is the availability of water.   Also, the various different kinds of trees and berries available at Penn Forest attract them.  The trees provide insects and birds eat insects.

5. What else can you tell me about the birds of Penn Forest?

I witness all sorts of beauty when I’m sitting on my property at night.  And one of my favorite things is that the robins know me and follow me around when I mow the grass!  I love that.

Thanks Jeff Giles for being such a great friend and neighbor to Penn Forest!


A Will For The Woods

We recently caught up with the folks responsible for the first green burial documentary – A Will for the Woods.  Here is what they shared with us…
Will-for-the-woods logoOver the last three years, we have been producing this documentary on the green burial movement, A Will for the Woods.  Initially, the topic of green burial intrigued us due to the environmental issues surrounding contemporary funerals, and the potentially vast and significant environmental benefits of green burial.  However, over the course of producing the film, we have been equally inspired by the cathartic and spiritual power of connecting to nature that one might experience in a green burial.
We have noticed that there is a lack of frank dialogue around death in the United States. We have a culture that is seemingly obsessed with death but frequently treats honest discussions of mortality as taboo. In starting to move the focus away from fear and toward a sense of connectedness with nature, community, and the cycle of life, the green burial movement has begun to shift the paradigm and culture around death. We hope our film will do the same in its intimate portrait of the movement and our main characters, Clark Wang and Joe Sehee.
Clark, battling lymphoma, is fighting for the right to be buried in a natural way and to make his story known to others, in the hopes of changing the culture around death. Meanwhile, Joe, head of the Green Burial Council, is fighting to establish and uphold the standards and environmental aims of the broader movement, as well as advocate its cause to policymakers and the funeral industry. These two story arcs will be delicately woven together to offer a direct encounter with dying and death-care, and the catharsis that green burial can offer, as well as, a window into the trajectory of this movement.
We believe our film, the first feature-length documentary on this topic, will help to further empower this grassroots movement and Will-for-the-woods-teamreach a large audience. Americans are fascinated by death, but looking for new ways to approach the concept. We hope this film can be a tool for discussion. Over the three years making this film, we have watched the growth of this deeply personal and meaningful environmental movement. It has inspired a broad and diverse group of advocates, and we are hopeful that this green burial movement will impact our cultural ideas around death and dying and also our respect for the natural world.

— Amy Browne, Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale, and Brian Wilson

Watch the new trailer!

You can learn more about the film by visiting:

Sharing The 2012 Penn Forest Picnic

Last month we hosted our annual picnic at Penn Forest.  We welcomed over 90 people – friends and family – for food and fun at Penn Forest.  And it was a lovely day!  Below are a few of the pictures from the event.  If you were at the picnic and have pictures you’d like to share, send them our way.  We’ll add them to this post!

Penn Forest Welcomes Furry Friends

 Picnic Tunes Through the woods we goCapturing Penn ForestDiscussing green burial


Relaxing at Penn Forest

Zero Fossil Setup

Zero Fossil brochure

Friends Laughing

Chow Line

Dogs Like Clean Energy Too

Power Bikes

Birds of Penn Forest

Picnic Tunes

Lovely Banjo Playing


Creating Stories


Tree Inspiration Session Cont'd

Penn Forest Tree


Explaining Green Burial To Friends & Family

I was recently asked my thoughts on how to explain green burial to a family member from my perspective as a psychologist.  So here they are:

  • Assume your family member knows nothing about green burial and that your first mission is to explain it, as in “I was reading an article about green burial and how it is the most traditional way to handle the body after death. Have you ever heard of it?” Remember while green burial has been practiced for thousands of years, burial with toxic embalming fluids and concrete burial vaults is what most people now think of as “normal.” Be patient; changing attitudes takes time and education.
  • Talk about green burial with friends who are less invested in the  end-of-life decisions you make for yourself. This will help you get better at explaining your own reasons for choosing a natural burial when you talk to a family member.
  • Don’t try to convince your family members that what is right for you is right for them. That will put them on the defensive and they are not likely to stay open to your ideas.
  • If your family member is not open at all to this “new” option for burial, accept that and let it be.  Just be sure that this person is not appointed as your “Agent for Body Disposition” because if they are, you probably will not get that green burial that you want. If you put a “Green burial is the way to go” bumper sticker on your car, everyone will know what you want!

If you purchase a plot ahead of time, it increases the likelihood that you will end up in it (it doesn’t make sense for the family to buy another plot in a non-green cemetery when there is a lovely site already paid for).  Remember – it is your body, your choice, but you have to set up the legal structure NOW because you won’t be able to after you are dead.

If you’d like to take steps to pre-plan your burial, a great place to start is the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western PA.

Have you had experience talking to family and friends about your choice for a green burial?  We’d love to hear more about it.  Feel free to leave remarks in the comments below!


Post written by Nancy Chubb, PhD, MBA


Since we had our picnic on June 9th, I’ve had several people tell me how much they felt at home with the Penn Forest crowd—like they’d been friends for years. Comments like these have led me to reflect on my 4-1/2 years working on this project and how all these new friends have enriched my life.

Friends at Penn ForestI’m 67 years old. Before I started working on green burial—starting this woodland cemetery—my friends were few and close. Now, I can easily count more than 100 people I like to spend time with, and the list keeps growing.

Why is this? What is it about green burial advocates that I like?

Well, they’re people who try to walk gently on the earth. Like me, they like the outdoors and the woods. Like me, they think green burial and forest restoration are important for the future of the planet. But it’s more than that.

In short, I would say they are kind and caring. They want to be nice to others. To help, instead of harm. Nice folks.

So, now that we’re coming up on our one-year anniversary of getting our cemetery license next month, I want to say to everyone, “Thank you for your friendship.”

Friends among the trees

Friends discussing green burial

Young friend at Penn Forest

Youngster at Penn Forest

Maritza at Penn Forest

Pete McQuillin at Penn Forest

Post written by Pete McQuillin | June 25, 2012

Penn Forest Photo Contest

Photo contest to be held annual picnic

On June 9, we will hold our second annual picnic and invite friends, family and special guests to celebrate our first full year in operation.  When you visit Penn Forest, you will see a host of picturesque images to capture.  So, we want to put your camera to good use!

Here’s what to do

  • Capture your favorite aspect of Penn Forest. Is it one of the many native species? Is it a buzzing bee on a flower? Is it meeting new friends? We want to see Penn Forest through your eyes!
  • Email your favorite photo to by July 6, 2012 and we’ll upload one photo to our Picnic Photo Contest album on the Penn Forest Facebook Page.
  • Tell your friends and family to Facebook Like the photo on Facebook.

Determining the Winners

  • For each “like” on your photo, you will receive one point.
  • For every person you refer to our email newsletter, you will receive one point (the person has to list your name in the referred by section of the sign up process).
  • The entrant whose photo receives the most Points will win a Flip Ultra HD 4GB Video Camera!

Other Details

Voting on the pictures in the album on Facebook will begin on Monday, July 9 and end on Monday, July 16.  Any ‘likes’ incurred after Monday, July 16 will not count as a point.  During the same time frame, you can earn an additional point for every person that signs up for our email newsletter and lists you as the referrer.

Questions regarding the contest?

Contact Sarah Mayer, Penn Forest Marketing Consultant, at 412-225-2310 or via email at

Why Can’t We Face The Idea Of Death?

A few days ago I tried to talk with a friend about preparing for her death.  This 65-year-old lady is as smart and practical as any I know.  After beginning the conversation, she abruptly interrupted me, saying “But I love life; I’m having a good time.”  She turned and walked away.  I’ve pondered this comment and other conversations I’ve had with people about preparing for death, and have concluded that most people won’t think about it.  How can this be, when it is the one thing we cannot avoid?

I believe there are three [possibly more] systemic reasons for this:

  1. When I was growing up, children’s stories often addressed the subject of danger and possible death.  “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood” to name two.  Thornton Burgess’s “Mother West Wind” series, once popular children’s stories, was loaded with danger and threat of death.  But stories told to children these days, and for the last 30 or 40 years, hardly ever confront the possibility of death.  Most of today’s people are unprepared to consider death as part of living.


  1. Our parents and grandparents lived in a more rural, small-community world.  I grew up in a small town, yet my parents raised chickens and rabbits that were butchered and eaten by us.  I grew up helping to pluck feathers and skin rabbits.  Few today, including myself, are subjected to the killing and butchering of the meat we eat.  Death is exempted from our lives unless we work for some megalithic meat packing company.
  1. Our youth-driven cultural outlook has helped to warp our sense of reality.  Science has been so successful at improving health and keeping us alive that we now view death as a failure of medical science.  There are two sides to this coin.  Improving health is wonderful, but keeping us alive toward an inevitable end when no quality of life is left, seems cruel to me.  What happened to letting people simply go to their final rest?


Even the process of disposing of our dead has become impractical and out of touch with reality.  “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” has been replaced with “ashes to methanol and dust to formaldehyde.” Concrete vaults and waterproof coffins are purchased to stave off decomposition of the remains.


These are expensive items that in reality do not work as advertised; environmentally- damaging items that are costly go into the ground never to be seen again.  Wouldn’t it be better if we were to let the dead contribute their remains to the good earth that gave them their life?



Shouldn’t we older persons, who have grown up more aware of death and are ourselves closer to death, discuss death with our loved ones?  Only then can they be prepared when the inevitable happens, and indeed the inevitable will happen to every one of us.

Penn Forest Maple Tree


This post provided by John Brobst.  John is treasurer and a board member of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization that helps its members plan affordable funerals for themselves and their families.


For more on this topic, check out these websites:


Giving Thanks

Jeff Giles, our next door neighbor, tireless volunteer and dear friend, fixed up our previously ‘not in working order’ tractor and cart. He charged the battery, cleaned the carburetor and filled the tires. And I’m happy to say it now runs like brand new!  We plan to use it for grass-cutting, hauling, even coffin transport as it has a five speed transmission and can go very slowly when needed.

Jeff has been a great friend to Penn Forest and we thank him for being so giving and helpful!


Working Hard On Restoration

We have had two successful work days at Penn Forest so far this year.  Both events were held from 9 am to 1 pm on a Saturday.  The volunteers did a great job, as you can see from the pictures below, removing debris, brush and invasive plants and weeds.

The next work day is scheduled for April 21 from 9 am – 1 pm with a rain date on April 28 also from 9 am – 1 pm.  If you are interested in joining the fun, email or call 412-265-4606.