Children’s Tool Shed Project – Elkhart, IN. Wellfield Botanical Gardens

Children’s Tool Shed Project – Elkhart, IN. Wellfield Botanical Gardens

Children’s Tool Shed Project – Elkhart, IN. Wellfield Botanical Gardens 768 768 Strawbale Studio

We had some wonderful building adventures at the Childrens’ Garden ~ within the awesome, awesome Wellfield Botanical Gardens in Elkhart, Indiana ! Over 10 days, in June and July, Tyler Schaeffer and Deanne Bednar lead the construction of the “Clay-Straw” Wall system on an enchanting little structure built by artistic woodworkers from Elkhart.



Using natural materials from the region, the walls were formed of a mix of clay, sand and straw, pushed into wooden forms on the interior and exterior, which was later removed. A wall system was created in this way, then covered with earth plaster, sculptures, and interspersed with colored glass bottles. This strategy is in the Michigan Code ! The work was done with a team that also included Robert O’Neil, Shannon Malburg, Paul Beaudet, Justin Trombly, Greg Lehman, and Ann Gentry. We also did a class for the public, on Natural Building Materials which included demonstrations of earth mixes and applying plasters. In the Treehouse at the Children’s Garden an interpretive slideshow was presented featuring the instructor’s past projects, plus a delicious dinner from The Moringa Tree, and time for Q&A and socializing. We also visited Greg Lehmans’ Strawbale House in Goshen, Illinois for pizza made in his earth oven !




Meet the instructors:


  • Deanne Bednar studied natural building with the Cob Cottage Company in 1996 and since then has been involved in co-creating numerous small buildings using a variety of construction techniques: strawbale, cob, light clay straw and compressed earth block. She is the coordinator and teacher at Strawbale Studio in Oxford Michigan, where you can experience enchanting structures with both thatched and living roofs and learn about natural building and sustainable living skills. Background: middle school Art teacher & Sustainable Futures teacher. Degree in Social Ecology. Illustrator of The Hand-Sculpted House, the Natural Plaster Book and the Cobbers Companion. Loves to forage and use natural local materials! For more information visit:


  • Tyler Sheaffer gets excited about creating beautiful structures with simple, local, and natural materials. He studies traditional ways of creating human habitat and spends much of his time experimenting and adapting folk building wisdom to meet our current needs. He believes natural building is an important step for moving into a life-sustaining paradigm and away from an industrial exractivism paradigm. Natural building is a great forum for human connection, connection to the earth, and connection to our ancestors and where we’ve come from. Through natural building we can become more powerful, resilient, and harmonious.