Life at Penn Forest – Quarterly eNewsletters
JULY/AUGUST/SEPTEMBER – 2022
We’ve been busy working in the gardens, tending to trees, installing markers, and taking people on tours. The native wildflowers and grasses meadow is in full bloom and full of insects. It looks amazing! Come check it out.
In this newsletter, you’ll learn about the Summer Solstice event, learn about a presentation we are doing for the Green Burial Council Conference this fall, meet our summer interns, get an update on the farm animals, meet a member of the Penn Forest Family, and more!
APRIL/MAY/JUNE – 2022
Happy Spring! The daffodils and spring beauties are blooming, and the May apples will be right around the corner. It’s been a pretty wet spring, so we are a bit late to get started on grave cleaning and marker installations but are ready to go as soon as the weather decides to cooperate.
In this newsletter, you’ll learn about our upcoming Summer Solstice Festival, Nature Walk and Talks, the restoration of an old house on the property, the newest babies at the barn, and more!
JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH – 2022
We had a sad start to 2022 with the unexpected death of Pete, one of the cofounders of Penn Forest, its first manager, and an essential force in the Pittsburgh green burial movement. This newsletter includes words from Nancy about Pete’s death, a link to his obituary, and information on how to donate to the Remembrance Garden in Pete’s memory.
In this newsletter, you’ll meet our new interns, learn about our winter solstice event, as well as the upcoming summer solstice gathering, the latest farm new, and more!
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER/DECEMER – 2021
Happy Fall! We’ve been busy bees all summer, and it is continuing into the fall as we get ready for the colder months. The leaves will begin changing soon, and it’s a really lovely time to visit!
In this newsletter, you can watch a pitch video that we worked hard on this summer, learn about upcoming events and presentations, see what’s new at the farm, learn about a memorialization project that you can participate in, meet Helen, and read Maria’s corner which teaches about the changing of the leaves. Grab your pumpkin pie spiced latte and enjoy!
JULY/AUGUST/SEPTEMBER – 2021
It’s summer! Everything is green, and the native meadow is beginning to bloom – come admire it! Summer continues to be busy for us. We are working on planting trees, leveling graves, installing markers, taking people on tours, and having burials.
In this newsletter, you’ll hear about our Summer Solstice Festival, some farm updates, we’ll introduce our new volunteer and summer intern, and you’ll get to read a lovely article on tea in Maria’s corner. Grab a cup of tea or coffee, and happy reading!
APRIL/MAY/JUNE – 2021
Spring has arrived at Penn Forest! We’ve had lovely weather recently which has made working outside wonderful! We are busy getting gardens ready, leveling graves, installing markers, picking up sticks, and enjoying this beautiful time of year!
In this newsletter, you will find information about the upcoming Summer Solstice Celebration, some tabling events, news from the farm, how the flower picking garden is doing, and what the soil was doing over the winter.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH – 2021
We hope that you are all doing well and staying healthy through this COVID-19 winter. We are staying warm and enjoying the little snowfalls that make the grounds look like a painting.
In this newsletter you will find a recap from our Winter Solstice event, as well as news for the upcoming Summer Solstice event in June, a link to the exciting release of the Squirrel Hillbillies green burial song, news from the farm, as well as some interesting information about how dirt helps people be happy.
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER/DECEMBER – 2020
We hope this newsletter finds you well and able to get out and enjoy nature. This time of year, the grounds light up with color as the leaves turn from green to yellows, oranges, and reds. In this newsletter, you can sign up to join us for the Winter Solstice celebration in December, learn about our new sheep, meet our new part-time employee, and much more!
I am proud to work with such dedicated and committed people – Nancy, Laura, Maria, Annette, Mary Pat, and all our many volunteers. And I’m glad we can be here for our customers when they need us.
JULY/AUGUST/SEPTEMBER – 2020
We are starting to adjust to our new standard of operation since the Covid-19 pandemic began. In this newsletter, you can find how we’ve been staying busy by expanding our gardens, adding kids to our herd of goats, adding social distancing spaces, and more! We hope you enjoy some of the beautiful photos of the property taken by Nancy and Maria.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Penn Forest.
APRIL/MAY/JUNE – 2020
With the coronavirus situation changing daily, we have been struggling to put this newsletter together to provide accurate and up-to-date information for you. We’re only providing recent news and information here; for more timely information, check our Facebook page.
Like us, I am sure many of you are worried about the possibility of sickness or death for you, your family members or friends, and the future of our country. And many of you are fearful about what things will be like after the pandemic is over. We want to help however we can with your concerns, so please don’t hesitate to call us with your questions.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH – 2020
We’ve had a wonderful autumn at Penn Forest. The foliage of the trees was full of vivid fall colors, and now as autumn shifts to winter we prepare for the colder months. In this newsletter, you can read about the colorful send-off of one of our local Pittsburgh artists and musicians, and how we’ve been helping to expand the knowledge of green burial – including a visit from two Dutch sailors.
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER/DECEMBER – 2019
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.
JULY/AUGUST/SEPTEMBER – 2019
This is a busy newsletter. There are articles on our new mapping options, our flower picking garden, photos from the picnic, Yoga with Goats, the sheep, and Kathy’s Native Wildflower Meadow. There are several upcoming events: a green burial presentation September 12, a birds and bees walk and talk October 5, and our memorial tree-planting October 19. On September 28-29 from 10-5, we will be tabling at The Mind Body Spirit Healing Expo at The Monroeville Mall Convention Center. We will have the labyrinth there to walk. If you would like to learn how to facilitate the use of the labyrinth, we are offering a training at Penn Forest on Saturday, September 7. I hope you can attend some of these events.
APRIL/MAY/JUNE – 2019
If you’ve been thinking about visiting Penn Forest, this spring and summer we’re offering two popular events that should have you planning a trip here. We will also be out and about making public presentations. And if you don’t follow us on Facebook, this newsletter offers a list of recent Facebook posts including photos and videos of recent arrivals at Returning Home Farm. Enjoy!
JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH – 2019
We’ve recently removed so many dead ash trees from our property that we’ve need to have two memorial tree-planting events this year to start replacing them. The date for the first one is below along with the annual picnic date. Please think about including these events on your 2019 calendar.
Meanwhile, our best wishes to you and your family for a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER/DECEMBER – 2018
With winter on the way, we’ve begun to shift our focus more to indoor activities. We’ve been invited to make several presentations and workshops in recent weeks. Check out our Facebook page to keep up with our schedule for future events.
JULY/AUGUST/SEPTEMBER – 2018
Summer is such a beautiful season at Penn Forest. Everything is especially lush because of all the rain we’ve had. If you’ve been thinking of visiting us, now is the perfect time.
APRIL/MAY/JUNE – 2018
Penn Forest is a labor of love for all of us: Nancy, Laura, MaryPat, Dave, me and a host of others, mostly volunteers. At no time is this more evident than when we prepare for our annual picnic. Usually more than 100 people show up for good time fun and to celebrate what we’ve accomplished: another year of serving the local and national community by providing environmentally friendly burial.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH – 2018
We are tired of the cold weather, but we feel spring is on the way. In this newsletter, we’re looking forward to spring and summer events: our eighth annual picnic, setting up a remembrance garden and yoga with goats. We’re also celebrating the completion of the first phase of the Park House restoration by thinking about its history since 1862. Nancy and I just moved into the house; the cemetery office will remain down the street at 227 Kansas, where it’s been for the last four years.
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER/DECEMBER – 2017
Thanks to the availability of a new GPS system, we now have the capability to find the exact location of any point on the Penn Forest property with surveyor accuracy (within a half-inch). We’re using this system to determine the exact latitude and longitude of our new Treemation service for instance, but we can use it to map anything on our property—trees, benches, buildings, gardens—anything! So, we can quickly expand any of our existing burial areas and precisely locate the new graves on our maps without having to hire a surveyor. Penn Forest is going high-tech!
It’s still summer, but it’s time to plan for our annual memorial tree-planting event on October 14th. We hope you can participate.
On June 24th, we held our seventh annual Penn Forest picnic. Over 100 people attended this year. We had bluegrass music, property tours, grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and veggie burgers and a great collection of potluck offerings. We dedicated our new memorial scattering garden. We had entertaining goat races. And unbelievably, for seven years in a row we managed to avoid rain on picnic day.
APRIL/ MAY/ JUNE- 2017
There are many reasons to visit us this spring. We are so pleased with how our enhanced Penn Forest landscaping is shaping up. We’ve included some photos in this newsletter, but come out and see for yourself after the wildflowers bloom. With the addition of Bitter Ends Garden, Returning Home Farm is now a part of the Pittsburgh area farm-to-table movement. And for those of you interested in yoga, sign up for our “Yoga with Goats” classes.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH – 2017
Please welcome John Davis, our new assistant manager. He’ll be covering a lot of things for us now and in the future.
We’re excited to report the Park House renovations are moving along, so come check them out.
Make sure you get our seventh annual picnic date, Saturday, June 24th, on your calendar.
We are looking ahead to spring, having yoga classes with goats and offering pet burial to our lot owners. Remember too, lot price increases are coming March 1st.
We’re seeking your input on the funeral rituals that you’d like to have for your family interments.
Check out the upcoming events you might be interested in. We’d love to have you join us.
Please let me know if you have ideas or questions.
Happy New Year!
There seems to be increasing interest in green burial. We saw a big increase in sales in the past year as did other green cemeteries. On December 11th at 9:00 a.m., I’ll be making a presentation at the Pittsburgh’s First Unitarian Church titled, “Why Green Burial is Growing in Popularity, A Historical Perspective.” If you want to learn why this option is increasingly being preferred over conventional cemetery burial or cremation, you might want to attend.
In this newsletter issue you’ll learn about Jingles our donkey, coming price increases, our new lending library, a Sprout Fund Grant Green Burial Pittsburgh won, a PCTV program on Penn Forest, some home-schooler’s visiting us, a Deco Resources article about our aquaponics project, our memorial tree-planting event and signs now being installed all around our property. I hope you like it.
Summer is a busy time at Penn Forest and Returning Home Farm. It’s a great time to visit us.
We were so sad to say goodbye to our dear friend, Roger Westman. Read about his lifelong commitment to the environment and his love of Penn Forest.
Upcoming events: Saturday, August 20th, Death Café at Penn Forest; Saturday, September 17th, Tree ID Walk; Saturday, October 1st, annual memorial tree planting; and the fall series, “Approaching the Unapproachable: Finding Peace in Preparedness”.
Other news in this issue: We had a great picnic in June; the Steel City Grazers left their mark on our brush; the meadow gets seeded; aquaponics is coming to Penn Forest; and more blacksmith training. Check it out.
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.
JANUARY 2016 eNewsletter:
Pictures! We’ve got pictures!
So much has happened so fast on our Returning Home Farm property that the only way for you to understand what’s new here is through photography. So, in this “Life at Penn Forest” issue we have pictures of the barn, of the chicken coop, of the education shed and of the animals (new and old), which include goats, chickens, ducks, bunnies and an English Shepherd puppy named Sophie. The only thing that’s missing from this menagerie is a needed guard animal for the goats (probably a donkey), and then we can start clearing the cemetery of brush this spring, summer and fall.
This was not the planned schedule. We were thinking we’d build a goat shed and coop now and the barn next year. But through a lucky combination of available construction skills and favorable karma, it’s all done now, a year ahead of schedule. Wow! We’re still taking it all in.
Pictures are good, but a better way to see everything is by visiting us. No need to schedule much in advance, just give me a call to make sure I’m here; then come on out.
And, as they used to say on those late night Veg-O-Matic commercials, “But, wait, there’s more!” Penn Forest won a Sprout Fund grant last month; we had a memorial tree planting in November; Tim Means plans to build a memorial stone wall in our cremated remains scattering area this spring; we’ll be offering classes in blacksmithing; and there’s another Death Café happening next month.
Read on, folks,
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OCTOBER 2015 eNewsletter:
We started out to establish a green cemetery in Pittsburgh so we and other Pittsburghers would have this option locally instead of needing to travel to green cemeteries hours away in other states. We’ve expanded our mission to become a model for sustainable living too by adding hiking trails, bees, forest restoration, meadow restoration, and both educational and community-building events.
Soon we will be getting goats for clearing brush instead of using gas-powered equipment or herbicides. Additional plans include gardens and local food production and aquaculture. Our new Returning Home Farm site will also include chickens for eggs and an education shed where we can offer sustainable living classes, starting with blacksmithing.
You may be asking, “What does Returning Home Farm have to do with running a natural burial park?” We now have thirty-five acres of land, and we only use a little over two acres for burial, so we want to make the rest of the land available for community enjoyment and learning. In other words, we want Penn Forest to be a place for the dead and a place for the living. I hope this idea resonates with you as it does with us. Please enjoy this issue of ‘Life at Penn Forest’ and send us your ideas for other things we might do to encourage sustainable living, and dying, here and elsewhere.
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