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Spring Greetings from The Forest

April 10, 2023
path through snow at The Forest green burial ground
spring snow in meadow
spring snow surrounds The Forest burial ground sign

Yes, this is spring at The Forest this year! We are grateful for the beautiful snow blanket covering the land. The snowy weather and winter road conditions led us to cancel our Spring Equinox Tour and Celebration. We hope that you found ways to celebrate spring that connected you to this transitional time. Please consider joining us for our next group tour scheduled for Sunday, June 11, 2023 at noon. Register for tours here. We’re looking forward to inviting the community to our Memorial Day Picnic on Monday, May 29. We will be onsite to visit and picnic with you from 1-3pm.

This year’s Summer Solstice Celebration is special. We will be honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Lanita Witt who died in December. This community celebration is open to all who want to celebrate with us. Join us on Wednesday, June 21, 2023 at 5pm. Carpooling is a must.

We invite you to come up for self-guided visit to the farm any day of the week between 11am and 5pm. Remember to follow directions on the website and contributions to The Crest are always welcome from visitors.

Thank you for your ongoing support of The Forest Conservation Burial Ground and our shared commitment to land conservation and community building. Our mission is alive and well:  providing a space to reconnect our experience of life and death with land conservation.

Lastly, we have some exciting news to share! We are honored to have recently received our official certification as a ‘Natural Burial Ground’ from the Green Burial Council! The certification process required an ecological assessment and a management plan to ensure that this land is cared for to the best of our ability and knowledge. We are grateful to Marty Main for crafting and updating the Forest Management Plan over the past 3 decades and to Tuula Rebhahn for her technical writing expertise and love of the land.

April snow at The Forest green burial ground

Seasonal Shifts
and Climate Observations


It’s snowing again. 

I have kept sometimes-detailed, sometimes-brief notes on the weather outside the kitchen window and across our land for nearly 40 years. It’s easy to generalize about the dramatic changes affecting the forests, wetlands, plants, and animals that live here, but changes are subtle as life goes on around us. The weather for our location regularly forecasts snow…and I often ignore it as snow has rarely accumulated in the past 5 years. Until March this year. I’m looking out over ~3’ of snow on April 1. Ten students from OSU spend their Spring Break volunteering in environmental restoration projects on preserves and parks in our area. They’ve stayed at our Meadow House since 2017. This year the ranch’s project was removal of teasel from the wet meadows…and shoveling snow! The students needed snowshoes to get to the meadow; first time on snowshoes for nine of them and first March to need snowshoes for access!

Lanita’s sister Pauline died in February 2022 and is buried in our cemetery. In past years Lanita and I walked and talked and commented on the appearance of each new wildflower or returning songbird throughout the winter, spring, and summer. In her last year we walked to the cemetery daily, at a much slower pace; I took the time to photograph each native flower as it emerged. In the March snows this year I am revisiting the wildflower photos from 2022. Red-winged Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, Purple and Cassin’s Finches, Western Bluebirds and others have returned, but no flowers have emerged from beneath the snow this spring. There is quiet to a snowy landscape, of course; the exuberance of ‘spring’ will appear soon enough. I vacillate between impatience for spring and the relief of an extended quiet season; this will be my first growing season without Lanita…I can wait.

–Suzanne Willow


Species Spotlight

Sandhill Cranes in snow at The Forest burial ground

Sandhill Cranes

This nesting pair of Sandhill Cranes made their seasonal return to Willow-Witt Ranch on April 2nd – just one day after their April 1st arrival in 2022. The cranes peacefully meander the wet meadows and their unique, rolling call fills the soundscape during their morning flights.
Sandhill Cranes are tall and gray bodied with crimson skin at the crown of their head. Their wingspan can reach 200cm, and their slender legs and neck help them reach a length of 120cm. Their long, straight bills are suited for foraging grains and invertebrates. These cranes usually travel in large flocks, numbering up to the tens of thousands.
Sandhill Cranes mate for life and may reach the age of seven before first breeding. Last year, these cranes spent a full breeding season at the ranch. We’re ecstatic that they’ve returned and graced this landscape again.

More News!

The Crest - cultivating connection to farm, forest, water and each other

Save the Date!

Turtle Trot 5k Kick-Off, Saturday, July 1, 2023

Community Education Opportunities

Apr. 18, Green Burial: The Greenest Way to ‘Go” (Zoom)
OLLI Boise
10:00am-12:00pm MST, registration required

Apr. 23, Your Last Hurrah: Death and Funeral Ritual and Ceremonies (In-person)
Ashland Parks and Recreation
3:00-5:00pm at North Mountain Park Nature Center, registration required

Apr. 26, Green Burial: The Greenest Way to ‘Go”
Ashland Food Co-op
6:00-8:00pm, Free Class

May 3-17 (Wednesdays), Death and Funeral Ceremony: Stories and Guidance (Zoom)
11:00am-12:30pm, registration required

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Green Burial Council certified member
The Forest Conservation Burial Ground is certified by the Green Burial Council