Skill Sharing at EcoDharma

The EcoDharma community are looking for skill-sharers to help develop resilience in:
• Food growing.
• Wild food foraging and preservation.
• Traditional stone building.

They are looking for people to go and stay at their community in the Catalunyan Pyrenees in Spain for up to 3 months. They are particularly interested in people with experience and/or interest in skill-sharing. In return for helping them develop these aspects of their land-based learning centre and community you will benefit from the opportunity to learn new skills and be nourished by spending time living in our wild and remote community setting.

They are hoping to be able to cover your travel costs and some pocket money (and additional finance is negotiable for skilled builders) — pending funding.

Traditional Stone Building

When? September—November 2013, or end of March—July 2014.

What? They are looking for up to 8 skill-sharers to join their building team to renovate a traditional Catalan stone building. The work will be focused at Cal Victor, an old peasant Catalan farmhouse abandoned since the early part of the last century.

This is a vital piece of work in terms of the future of the Ecodharma community as it will provide the main communal space for the community including; a living area, kitchen, office, herb drying room and accommodation.

The project will involve renovation using traditional building techniques and materials, integrated with eco-building and other contemporary elements.

Who? We are looking for people who either:
• have general building experience, or
• are experienced or interested in learning about building with stone, or
• are experienced with carpentry.

Food Growing

When? Mid-August to mid-November 2013 or April—July 2014.

What? They are looking for 3 skill-sharers to support Liam who has held responsibility for growing our food since autumn 2013.

EcoDharma’s organic annual garden was established as four raised beds (each some 30 metres long) four years ago. The long term vision is for it to become a perennial system with vegetables growing below the existing fruit trees. Their forest garden was very recently planted by a wonderful team of volunteers who planted 100 fruit and nut trees this March.

You will be supporting Liam to produce as much food as possible from the annual garden using organic techniques and permaculture principles. There will also be work helping to establish and maintain the fruit and nut trees in the forest garden.

Who? We are looking for people who:
• have plenty of practical common sense
• have some basic gardening skills and experience
• are physically able.

Wild Food Foraging and Preservation, Bread Making and Creative Cooking

When? Mid-August to mid-November 2013 or May to July 2014.

What? They are looking for 2 skill-sharers to join them foraging for and preserving the abundance of wild foods growing in their wild and remote mountain valley.

Throughout the summer and autumn they are blessed with a wide variety of wild fruits, berries and herbs as well as the food they are cultivating ourselves. They need help to preserve as much as they can for the coming year, which will include:
• Harvesting and transforming an abundance of damsons, mulberries, elderberries, figs, pomegranates and blackberries into jams, chunteys and other culinary delights and medicinal tinctures
• Foraging for, for example, rosemary, thyme, sage, yarrow, nettles, lavender and savoury to make teas.
• Baking sour dough bread and experimenting with other baking
• Using produce in the garden creatively, for example green tomato chutneys, pickling vegetables for saur craut etc.

You will join Claire and Nikki who have been wandering the valley discovering the rhythms of the land and turning them into culinary and medicinal delights; and Lou who has held responsibility for the kitchen, food preservation and baking for past 3 years.

Life at Ecodharma

Life at Ecodharma is very communally spirited and is largely shaped by a collective yearning to move more and more towards simplicity, low impact living and just being with the land. All this provides the context for a rich and nourishing learning environment and a strong sense of being very much alive …


Depending on your skills, experience and/or future aspirations you may be eligible to apply for funding to pay for your travel and some pocket money and to reimburse Ecodharma for your food and accommodation costs. There may also be scope for additional finance for skilled builders. We will discuss possible funding with you on receiving your application.

How to apply

Please email for more information and to request an application form. Please state which role/s you are interested in and please be sure to meet the deadlines below. These deadlines have been set to ensure you are able to meet external deadlines for funders in good time – which vary depending on the placement period.


30 April 2013 for placements starting in August.
30 May 2013 for placements from September 2013-July 2014.

10 Memories in 15 Minutes


One of the best ‘get to know you’ exercises I have come across is one that Vidyadasi introduced me to at the Buddhafield Broadhembury work retreat on the 6th to the 10th of December. The retreatants were a handful of cafe crew and a handful of retreats crew so it was cosy and I have come away with a greater understanding and greater respect of each person that I work with.
The idea of the exercise is that in 15 minutes you must write down 10 memories starting from that very moment and work backwards throughout your life and note down the first 10 things that pop into your mind. Then each person involved has 45 minutes to talk about their memories starting from the earliest. Not only does this give you 45 minutes of of beautiful stories to listen to but also an insight into the state of mind of that person and as to why they chose those memories to talk about.
So background over, here are my 10 memories to give you a shapshot of the Broadhembury work retreat and all the joys it gave me.
Frost Crystals
It was cold at Broadhembury. The snow hadn’t melted from the flurry the week before and everything was freezing anew each night. Even the most delicate things were standing up strong to the cold as each blade of grass to massive oak in the exposed areas of the land had at least 5mm of ice crystals parading themselves along each each twig, along each stem.

Being Back the in Woods
I love being in the woods, I remember as a child taking our dog for a walk in some woodlands near where we lived and always being overtaken with a sense of adventure and discovery but from that point until last October my passion for woodlands and its many inhabitants was hidden from view. It wasn’t until I immersed myself in outdoor life and farming through wwoofing and found myself living and working in woodlands that my passions again were found. Now I can’t wait to spend time in woodlands.

The leaves, the mosses, the birds, the flora and the fauna, the skeletal structures of the trees in winter, everything fascinates me and excites me about the woods and as I have never been to Broadhembury before it made this trip even more important to connect with the land that Buddhafield holds many of its retreats on. It is a stunning place to take time out to reflect, the trees are an aid in finding wisdom and tranquillity.

 A Permaculture Approach
The work that we did on this retreat was to prepare the ground for the planting of a forest garden. A forest garden is one of the principles of permaculture whereby the planting of fruit and nuts trees or shrubs exist within the ecosystems of the forest. It creates diversity where  companion plants help each other to grow by fixing nitrogen in the ground or deterring pests / attracting predators to name just a few. The creation of a forest garden is done in layers. These layers consist of large deciduous trees or the ‘canopy’ layer such as chestnuts or oaks, small trees/large shrubs that will be planted in and around the larger trees. Then shrubs that will be alright in the shade, Herbaceous perennials to add to ground cover such as mints, a main ground cover and thereby a natural mulch and the last layer are the roots and fungi. The important part to remember is that all layers consist of edible or medicinal plants thus creating a productive garden containing a wide range of lovely thing to eat or cure or make things with. It is a system that needs to be carefully thought through but after the initial slog to create the garden with all its layers it should be relatively hassle free. So in amongst the a massive patch of gorse (you can just see a bit of it in the picture above) a forest garden will be created.

Meditation Kitchen
As I mentioned earlier the retreat was cosy but that was good for keeping warm. We had one dome which was our kitchen and hanging out space (and knitting space for three of us!). For our meditation we had a simple shine placed in the centre of the dome with all of us sitting in a circle around it. It was a movable fluid space that was kept warm and comfortable for the duration of the week. I have been lazy recently in my meditation efforts but I had decided that being on retreat I would make myself do the full meditation programme. After waking up in a very chilly van on Tuesday morning, I ventured out to a sun on the tip of the horizon and carefully found my feet on the ice and walked the short distance to our dome. There everyone was gathered with our simple white shrine with a Buddha and two candles and I settled into the earth to concentrate on my breathing whilst a robin hopped in and out welcomimg us to his home.  

A Strong Resilience
I have worked outside in freezing temperatures before whilst wwoofing and I struggled to keep warm then whilst sleeping in our van. Our van has gone up market since then we have a burner inside so sleeping inside a freezer this time was not a problem. Working in these conditions is good though, even without a burner and sleeping in a tent, to reaffirm your confidence in being able to work and live in freezing temperatures. It is all about seeing the beauty in each day, in each moment, if coldness sets in go find something warm (our dome was really toasty, thanks to Shantikara being our amazing housekeeper!). Physical outdoor work keeps you warm anyway as you are using all your muscles and generating heat that way. Its about thermals, its about wool, its about absorbing energy for the glorious winter sunshine and staying strong to yourself and the others around you. As you hear the sound of bramble leaves crisping up with frost at dusk, it is surprisingly easy to be and enjoy the outdoors in winter.

Gorse Corridors.
The idea to start our forest garden was to initially make three corridors through the gorse. The gorse patch must have been at least two acres in area so this was a task in itself. It is not a good idea to take away all the trees in one go as the animals that reside there would get confused, having somewhere for them to retreat to for protection is always important when clearing ground. We only wanted to clear enough gorse to make it easier to initially plant and then maintain the trees that will be planted. One corridor that stretches all the way along the bottom of this particular area was to be planted with 100 alder trees which would eventually provide a wind break and protection for the garden. After using hand tools on the first day it was obvious that this would take a while and to make any kind of impact in the time we have so we decided to bring out the chainsaws. By the end of the week there was a network of paths in the gorse for the fruit trees. One of the paths framed a view of two oak trees and the landscape beyond.

Missing Trees Found
Amongst the gorse we came across several birch trees and willow trees that were having to fight for life again the relentless spikes of the gorse. These trees were liberated and being fast growing will provide some of the main structure of the garden.

A Spring Like Day
After the freeze came the thaw. By the Friday the day felt like the first day of spring. The sun was beating down on us and the ice was melting, jumpers discarded and work continued with a renewed vigour

A Bright Star
On the last night in this wondrous place whilst brushing our teeth by the van Tom and I happened upon the brightest star in the sky. I haven’t ever seen a brighter star. As it twinkled the flashed out chards red, blue and green in the dark night sky. Truly a mesmerising sight as the crescent moon rose above.

Buddhafield retreats provide a space where you can really hear. see, smell and touch nature in all its wondrous glory and really connect to the earth you live on. I really appreciate that this is one of the facets of Buddhafield as I love to spend my time working and living outdoors and having the freedom to appreciate this Earth is important to me its about the unspoken clarity about the interconnectedness of us all and the abundance of the place we inhabit.

To read more about Broadhembury please read Hannah’s post on Sacred Landscape Appeal. She has spent much more time there then I have, there will be more posts by Hannah on this subject.

To experience Broadhembury yourself there is ‘Creating a Forest Garden Retreat‘ from the 28th January till the 4th February, there is also a weekend option. Well worth a look especially if you have been inspired this post. For more information about Buddhafield whole retreat programme follow the link.