Intensive Workshops ~ what to expect.

An example of what to expect for an Intensive Workshop:

In general, our Intensive Workshops range from 1 week to 2 weeks long.  Here is an example:

The Strawbale & Cob Natural Cottage Project   July 19- Aug 1, 2014

This is a practical hands-on opportunity to give you building skills through first-hand experience and practice. Be prepared to get dirty! We will be spending most of each day doing enjoyable but physical work. Participants in our workshops usually range widely in age and physical ability. Take breaks and pace yourself until you are accustomed to the work. We usually start fairly early in the morning and take an extended lunch break. There will be lectures and demonstrations during breaks in the building and slide shows and campfires at night. One of the principle joys of Natural Building is the ability to enjoy each other’s company while united in a common task. Our curriculum is designed to take maximum advantage of this opportunity.

Typical Day (summer schedule ~ we may adjust this slightly – for winter)

7:00-7:30 Breakfast

8:00- 8:30 Morning Gathering
(bring your supplies needed for the morning activity)

8:30 -12:00p  Morning Activity

12:30 – 2p Lunch Break (nap time, possible run to swimming hole)

2p – 3p Lecture/Class

3:00- 6p  Afternoon Activity (cleanup site 5:30ish)

6:30 – 7:30 Dinner

7:30 – 9p Evening Activity or Open Time

Days Off:  2 per week. Break day for laundry, local sight-seeing and rest. The idea is for everyone to take a breather from the fairly intensive schedule,  so be prepared to amuse yourselves. Meals will be self serve ~ and take care of your own dishes and cleanup.


The day the workshop ends is a time for a dinner and a special evening gathering to celebrate our time and accomplishments!  You can leave the following morning. Many of the most exciting parts of the building process happen at the very end, so please plan to stay right to the end if at all possible. You won’t want to miss out on important learning and last minute “burning questions”! A light breakfast will be served the next morning followed by goodbyes and camp breakdown. We will again offer a shuttle to the airport and bus station so please let us know your itinerary as soon as you can.


Some people have expressed a desire to know when we will be doing specific activities.  We will be doing scheduled workshops on the days posted.  Weather and the speed and energy of the group as well as numerous other factors greatly affect what we will get done in a particular day, so our day to day progress will be dependent on that. We will be working in small groups alternating tasks to give everyone the chance to gain the experience they want.

What we’ll about learn hands-on will vary throughout the year and include

* Straw bale construction   * Cob    * Stone masonry   * Clay plastering  * Window, door, and roof carpentry for straw bales & cob. * Living (planted) roofs  * Thatching and Reed Collection * Round Pole techniques *  *aspects of Permaculture and Sustainable Living Skills such as Fermenting, Cording, Foraging.

What topics will be covered in a classroom setting according to the time of year.
Foundations for natural buildings
Choosing materials
Site selection
Designing a home
Passive solar design
Thermal mass and insulation
Rocket Stove, Earth Oven, Strawbale Construction, Framing for Strawbale and Cob.

Accommodations, Weather, Meals and Electronic Access

Cell Service and Wi-Fi: Mobile phones work moderately well on site. Wifi access is available on site, but we hope that will be kept to a minimum. There is free access at a couple of places in town.

Meals: Interns will be preparing simple hearty meals of fresh whole foods and we will eat three meals a day together. The food will be vegetarian with a gluten free option. We have found in the past that what people like when it comes to food varies so widely that it is nearly impossible to provide everyone’s favorite types of foods. We try to offer a reasonable range of foods with the greatest emphasis on simple healthy eating. You may want to bring your own sweet treats and comfort foods. There is limited refrigerator space for personal items.  If you have any allergies or special dietary requirements please let us know ahead of time and we will try to accommodate you.

Camping, Indoor and Cabin accomodations: There are a number of options on a first-come first serve, as well as “need” basis.  The Strawbale Studio  is located rural land about 10 minutes from the small town of Oxford.  The Strawbale Studio is a homestead with a variety of outbuildings made from natural materials in rural  Michigan one hour north of Detroit. Accommodations available are fairly rustic but comfortables. There are private outdoor showers and several swimming lakes 10 minutes away by car.

Weather: Weather changes so we could have anything from very hot to quite chilly weather. For camping bring a tent and ground tarp, good sleeping bag, ground pad, and warm pajamas. It is almost certain that we will have at least a little rain during the workshop, so you’ll want to prepare appropriately for that as well.

Vans and RVs: We have a parking meadow to park your RV or van. Electrical and septic hookups for RVs are not available. If you plan to bring your RV please contact  Deanne (our host) 248 628 1887 well ahead of time so that she can plan for adequate space and access .

 What to Bring:

* If Camping, bring  tent, rain fly, sleeping bag, ground pad or cot.  Bring your own bedding & toiletries if that makes sense. We also have them on site that you can use.

* Flashlight

* Water bottle

* Work clothes for warm and cool weather (long pants for bugs and tall grass.)

* A jacket and warmer clothes for the evenings.   * Warm clothes for the Winternship & Reed Collecting: Leggings or snow suit, warm hat, scarf, gloves, wool sox if possible, waterproof boots that are roomie enough to keep warm in.

* Rain Gear

* Sun hat and sunscreen (summer)

* Hand lotion (cob can dry your skin out a bit)

* Paper breathing mask (we will be using some dusty powdered materials)

*  Insect repellent (summer)

* Note pad and pen, camera?

* Gloves for occasional use.  We also have some on site.*                                                                                                                                                                                                                 * Comfortable camp chair for each member of your party (also used for lectures and eating) Not necessary for the Winternship.

* 6’x8’ tarp for mixing cob if you can.
 (if you are flying in then don’t worry about this one) Not necessary for the Winternship.

* Other sturdy shoes or boots. Many people also appreciate a pair of flip flops for showering and wearing after hours, or slippers during the Winternship.

* Musical instruments if you have them.

* Sketches of your ideas for your future building projects.

* If you already have an idea of where you would like to build, bring a few pounds of subsoil from about 1-3 feet below the surface of various locations on your land. We will test them for their suitability for making cob. Label the bags with the location.

* Anything else you will need to be comfortable. However, please do not bring lots of disposable stuff.

* TOOLS: (this is the list for the 2 week workshop – which may apply to other internship settings.  Ask Deanne if they are needed for your particular course.) Bring them if they’ve got them, don’t run out and buy something. Please clearly label and keep track of your tools. We will also have many on site. Framing square, combination square, speed square, tape measure (25′), level, hammer, cordless drill, 5 gallon bucket(s), big carwash type sponge, shovel, hatchet, chisel ½ – 1”. draw knife, level, waterproof gloves for working with cement, gloves for carrying wood, stones, if desired.                                                                                                                                                               * Optional: Comfortable camp chair for each member of your party (also used for lectures and eating)

* For the Kids: Games, toys, special snacks etc. to help your kids have a good experience. Even if they plan on working with us, young people’s perception of time is often different so they may need some sort of entertainment.

What not to bring:

Illegal drugs, Alcohol.   If you require electronic noises to relax in your off time please bring headphones.

Children at Workshops:

Children may fit in during a workshop or internship and usually enjoy it. It depends on a number of factors whether children come – space, time of year, etc.  However, the building site is far from childproof. If it is agreed to bring your children you will need to make sure you can actively supervise them at all times, so it does help to have two responsible adults at the workshop if the kids are coming. The older kids can often work alongside us on the building site, but trying to supervise young ones makes it very difficult to fully participate. In most cases when there are children under 10 or 11 at a workshop, one parent ends up needing to take them somewhere away from the building site for most of the day. We’ve had fairly positive experiences with children attending our workshops and we like to encourage the whole family to get involved. However, you know your kids best so we leave it to you to determine if they and you are up for the challenge. You will be asked to sign a liability release form for each minor child as well as a document stating that you will supervise them at all times.

Getting Here:

By Air: You’ll want to fly into Detroit Airport  which is about an hour away. Let us know if you need a ride from there. Flint airport is another option and a bit closer.

By Bus or Train: You’ll want to come into the Pontiac Station which is about 30 miles away. There is also a Flint Train and Bus station.

By Car:

Directions are at .  Your GPS should get you here using the address: 2691 Noble Rd. Oxford, MI 48370.  If you get lost call 248 628 1887.


Please fill out this page and return it to us. You can copy and paste it into an email or print it and mail it. Feel free to include any questions you have or other things you’d like us to know.

Total number of adults:

Total number of youth:

Name(s) & Age(s):


Phone (home and cell):


Emergency Contact:

How did you hear about this event?

Do you plan to:

(a) Camp on site? If so, will this be your first time camping?

(b) Bring an RV, truck, or van to sleep in?

(c) Stay in a motel or other accommodations off site?

Please let us know if you have food allergies (explain):

Please let us know of any other special needs or medical conditions we should be aware of:

Method of arrival (Plane, Bus, Automobile etc.)

Will you need a ride from and to the Pontiac Greyhound station or from the Detroit or Flint Airport?

If so, please include your itinerary so we can arrange transportation.

If your travel plans change OR IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS please call Deanne at   home 248 628 1887 or cell248 496 4088.

Fine Print:

We reserve the right to make changes to the workshop schedule, events, presenters, installations and locations. In the event the workshop is cancelled for any reason, all parties associated with the Natural Cottage Project and Strawbale Studio shall have no responsibility beyond returning the monies paid to us. We cannot accept liability for personal injury, loss or death that may occur on travel to and from the workshop or caused by any activities or attendance at the workshop. You will be asked to sign a waiver on site before the workshop. Each participant is responsible for their own safety and insurance and for the monitoring and well-being of any minors in their party. All participants will be required to sign a liability waiver upon arrival at the workshop. Your registration fee less a $100 processing fee may be refunded until 2 weeks before the event.