Come “Touch the Earth” This Spring

The Centre for Ecological Learning (CEL), in partnership with Tallowwood Sangha of Bellingen, is excited to be offering its “Buddha Touched the Earth” workshop for the third time this coming Spring. The three day/three night workshop will be guided by Lisa Siegel (local Work That Reconnects facilitator), and Will James (lead teacher of Tallowwood Insight Meditation group), along with guest facilitator John Seed from Sydney, one of the founders of the international Deep Ecology movement. The workshop will run from Thursday afternoon through Sunday, 13-16 October, 2016, at North Farm, Bellingen. Registrations are now open on our website (

It is said that Buddha called Mother Earth to be his witness on the night of his enlightenment 2500 years ago. The reverberations are still being felt as many look for deeper and more connected ways of facing our many environmental crises. The “Buddha Touched the Earth” workshop is essentially an exploration of what it means to be alive in this time of immense challenge for our planet. As one of the past participants said, “Dharma study and Deep Ecology – it is such an obvious combination!” Some of the previous workshop participants had been following the path of meditation and Dharma study for many years, some had been part of previous Deep Ecology retreats and workshops, but many were new to both Deep Ecology and Buddhist philosophy. The age range too is varied – from 22 years old to 69 years young.

There are three levels of intention for “Buddha Touched the Earth”. On a personal level: for each individual to explore how the Dharma and deep connection to the planet can be tools for personal sustainability. On a community level: to build connections amongst people who are interested in the study of Engaged Buddhism and in working together towards the healing of the Planet. On a global level: to investigate how the Dharma and Deep Ecology work can help create the radical shift in consciousness needed in these times of planetary threat.

Local Insight Meditation teacher Will James will gently and knowledgably facilitate meditation sessions and share his love of Engaged Dharma through talks and discussions. Lisa Siegel will coordinate the workshop and guide group processes using her training in “The Work That Reconnects” and her passion for caring for Mother Earth. We are pleased that John Seed will be joining us from Sydney again, bringing his humour, sharp mind, and world experience in facilitating Deep Ecology exercises and sessions.

The workshop is being held at North Farm, just five minutes outside of Bellingen in the stunning bushland south of Coffs Harbour. Accommodation will be in tents, with a few rooms available for those in need of a bed. All meals will be provided, with organic and local produce being used as much as possible. Special dietary needs can be accommodated.

We look forward to you joining us on the journey. Contact or Lisa on 0423 362 844 for more information.

Charcoal Cookers Available

Andrew Turbill reports that he has finally received a small shipment of stock of charcoal cooker stoves.  He has the standard size (24cm diameter) and a very cute smaller sized (20cm) cooker available.  The cookers cost $35 and $26 respectively.  Andrew also has hand forged steel trivets available (for balancing smaller pots on the cooker) for $15 and bags of charcoal made from local sustainably harvested hardwood scrap timber.

Also, for those lucky enough to have attended the charcoal making and cooking workshop which Andrew and Bruce Teakle ran in the Northside Community Gardens last year, it would be GREAT to hear some stories about cooking with charcoal on your new stoves!  Please email us with your experiences and if possible send a photo too and we’ll put it on the CEL website to encourage others to join our growing community of sustainable charcoal users!!

For all charcoal cooker or charcoal orders please email Andrew on

The Bello Young Naturalists Club

Andrew Turbill (Local field naturalist, National Parks education ranger, Bellingen EYE Mentor, and Chrysalis parent) is starting a Bello Young Naturalists Clubfor budding young nature-lovers in Years 5-8.  The group would meet one Sunday morning per month for a couple of hours to explore a variety of local environments and engage in birdwatching, animal tracking and other naturalist observations.  We will also take field notes on our discoveries. Andrew will lead and provide mentoring for the group, but participants should be self-motivated  and be willing to mix easily with a smallish  group of like-minded students.

Participants will need to move quietly and patiently through the bush in order to observe wildlife.  This is imperative to the success of the outings.

Parents will need to arrange transport to each location.  A small charge of $10 per session will cover the cost of administration. Andrew is volunteering his time to make this group accessible to all interested young people.

Please email Andrew on for expressions of interest to join the Bello Young Naturalists Club and to receive further details on dates, locations and other relevant info.

Seeds of Change for Bellingen Seed Savers

For many years Irene Wallin has tirelessly and pretty much single-handedly organised our events and activities and has built the BSS into a happy and sizeable group of gardening and seed saving enthusiasts. A massive thank you to Irene and also to her husband David for their hard work. Irene is now looking forward to being “just a Seed Saver” and we look forward to showing our gratitude to her with a big working bee in her garden! We love you Irene, you’re awesome!

A committee of 8 (!) has taken over the operations of the BSS and it’s “business as usual” and then some: We’ve just had our monthly garden visit at John and Carol Vernon’s luscious food-forest in Fernmount, we’ve been busy packing seeds in a very productive working bee in preparation for the Bellingen Autumn Plant fair on March 12th. Speaking of which, we would love to have you join us there for some seeds/plants/raffle/education and socialising. We’re also planning a visit to Jodie and Michael’s inspirational “Cloudy Cauldron” permaculture farm in Dorrigo in April and to Shelley’s Bellingen hill-side vegetable and garden oasis in May.

We continue to be a welcoming happy group of gardening enthusiasts that deeply care about food security by saving seeds and plant material for all of us and for posterity: ensuring we can all share natural, locally adapted, open-pollinated, (non-hybrid, non-GMO), seeds and plant materials. And having fun while doing it. We’re still looking for some extra committee volunteers, and we’re always looking to welcome new members. Sign up for our newsletter, come visit us at the plant fair and keep on Saving Seeds for the Future!

Transition Bellingen and CEL join the magic

Transition Bellingen started in  February of 2008, as part of an international network of Transition groups that are working to create resilient and strong communities by RE-LOCALISING production of food, energy and other resources, RE-LEARNING old skills that can be used in our modern way of life, and RE-CONNECTING all sectors of the community.
From 2008-2012, Transition Bellingen was very active in the community, holding educational events,  creating a Shire wide visioning process that was included in Bellingen Shire Council’s 2030 Strategic Plan, and supporting many initiatives to flower and grow, such as the Bellingen Seed Savers, the Free Market, and the Bellingen River Festival.
In the past few years, the members of the core group of Transition Bellingen have had a bit of a rest from facilitating major TB events (while at the same time continuing to pursue many other amazing activities), although there were a few wonderful events such as the “Economics of Happiness” workshops. But how to proceed from there was the question!  After quite a bit of processing, it seemed a logical decision that Transition Bellingen fold its “incorporated not for profit” status and become a project of the Centre for Ecological Learning.The Bellingen Seed Savers, who were a project of Transition Bellingen, have also become a project of CEL. A win-win situation for all – less paperwork, but the same opportunity to bring the Transition Bellingen tradition of forums and re-skilling workshops, and the amazing services of the Seed Savers, to the community.
So welcome, Transition Bellingen and Bellingen Seed Savers, we are thrilled you are with us! Watch out for more info about both groups on our website soon.
With heartfelt thanks and huge appreciation to all the Transition Bellingen members, past and present – you continue to be inspirational.

Wild EYE Senior EYE Camp

Taking Permaculture to the Edge Intensive

Sophie raises over $3000 for EYE

This is our favourite bushwalker Sophie, who walked nearly 1000 km of the Bibbulman track last spring and raised over $3000 towards making EYE camps happen in 2016. What a legend! We enjoyed following her adventure via Facebook, and you can relive it too, by reading the blog below and then continuing on here.

Read more

Confessions of a Soil-oholic and International Permaculture Day

What’s not to love about soil? That smell, that feel. Drop in a seed and up pops a plant, as if by magic!

My permaculture teacher, Geoff Lawton, loves to say “All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden” and I’m tempted to go one step further and say “All the worlds problems can be solved by good soil”… but maybe that is just how my simple mind works – reduce all the complexity of this world and its mysteries down to a simple framework – problem, solution, soil.

Anyway, I’m happy being a soil-oholic and I’m hoping the condition is contagious.

When I moved to Bellingen I was infected with the Bellingen EYE ethos of spend time in nature and you will grow to love it. If you love it you will want to do all you can to look after it. It makes total sense to me and I realise that is how I am with my soil. Soil is nature at your doorstep. I get to see kids dig, plant and nurture soil most days of the week. I get to play in my own garden, but not everyone is that lucky. Not everyone feels confident getting to know and love their soil. But there is help at hand!

The Home Garden Soil Health Assessment is a great tool for people who want to get to know their soil better. Useful for begginers or experienced gardeners. Download a copy, give one to a friend, spend some time with your soil and fall in love!

The 3rd of May is also International Permaculture Day, so what better time to get out into your soil and start playing! Check out the Permaculture Day website for any activities that might be happening around you

Or just start playing in your own soil. Start the soil-loving epidemic that we need!


In Soil We Trust.