Intern & Work-trade Overview


Welcome to the Strawbale Studio Program! 

1) Read through this whole page to get an Overview of the program to see it if sounds like a fit.

2) Check out Intern & Worktrade Program Details for specifics on this years’ activities and the expectations for each month.  See the brief application and descriptions of Internships, 1/2 Pay Worktrade & Wwoofing. 


dscf9858Intern & Worktrade Overview

Immerse yourself in an intensive, hands-on learning experience open to students 18 years and over, with all experience levels. A one or several month stay will give Interns a variety of hands-on learning opportunities with the goal that graduates leave with increased skill and confidence to help build a more restorative future.   During your program participate in all workshops, as well as activities on site, which will vary by season.  Participants are also included in community gatherings, such as the Full Moon Potlucks, regional Permaculture Meetup, and can visit local farms. We are co-creating with the natural world and learning to come together in community … joyfully becoming more skillful in living & building in deeper harmony with the greater whole (and having fun!).

Located on 50 acres of wooded rural land in S. E. Michigan, 1 hour north of Detroit, the Strawbale Studio program provides an unparalleled range of Natural Building and sustainable living experiences.  The infrastructure includes several existing natural buildings (like the world-famous Strawbale Studio), functioning demonstration projects (like the Eagle & Turtle rocket mass heater and the Smiling Sun wood-fired pizza oven) and indoor and outdoor spaces for comfortable year-around living and learning. Our hostess and lead teacher is Deanne Bednar (illustrator of The Hand-Sculpted House, by Evans, Smith & Smiley). She brings love, generosity, a vast curiosity, and many years of experience as a teacher, artist, Natural Builder and workshop facilitator. Other amazing teachers, crafters and artisans occasionally visit and augment the program. These have included Christina Ott (cob builder) Chris McClellan (codes, rocket stoves), Jared Bogdonov-Hanna (permaculture teacher), Mark Angelini (woodworking), Paul Angelini (mushroom cultivation), Ruth Hoyt (goats milk and fermentation).

We work as a team where collaboration and cooperation is valued. While Natural Building is our curriculum focus, we consider communication and community networking skills to be vital sustainable living skills, and perhaps the most important take-aways of the programming. Learning to listen and communicate are essential parts of our process. Group discussions and circles help us.   Our curriculum also includes community outreach/networking activities such as the Full Moon Potluck, the Permaculture Meetup, and connections with local farmers, food artisans & friends. During your stay of one or more months, you receive hands-on learning by working on the ongoing projects on site, and by helping prepare for and attending weekend workshops. Although projects vary from season to season, they generally include stone foundation work, round pole framing, strawbale, cob & other wall systems, earth plaster & sculpting, thatching and living roofs. (2019 focus is on plasters, sculpting, earthen floors, and detailing on living and thatched roofs.) Additionally, this program is an integrated living situation with an ever-expanding Permaculture garden and wild woodland that provides an increasing percent of our food, fuel and building materials. Tending the land, foraging, gardening, cooking in the solar cooker and rocket stove cooker, composting, fermentation, vermiculture and other sustainability skills are staples of life here, and we all lend a hand.

Lodging & Living: Participants have a variety of places to stay. There is a main house that has a kitchen, 3 bathrooms, places to sleep in a dorm setting, and possibly a bed room. There is also an intern cabin and plenty of place to camp.  Lodging will be worked out when you arrive.  Cats and dust are part of life here. If you are allergic, this place may not be a fit.

Meals are shared, as are general house duties.  Our schedule is usually about 30 hours a week on sustainable living activities/worktrade, and 10 hours on household, cooking & upkeep of the main house.


We generally work a total of 5 days a week, including attending any weekend workshops, with 2 days off for renewal and personal time — although sometimes there are “weather” & other demands that bend this rule a bit.  There is time though for walks or enjoying our extensive library or your own projects.  Your “off hours” are respected so you have time to explore and renew.

We have daily check-ins to review the day and 2 days upcoming.  Once a week we plan for the next two weeks. Feedback and improvements are welcomed along the way.


Work Ethics    We value good communication and the joy of working as a team, as well as the ability to do some activities on your own. Previous experience working with your hands, farming, and other skills where you are used to working physically hard is appreciated, but not necessary.  It is hoped that you are an eager learner, and a collaborative worker, and love to say “What’s next?”



Daily Living     Interns share in the cooking, dishes and other regular household chores that a person would regularly do as part of daily living.  These activities are in addition to the 30 hrs of work discussed above. It is expected that interns able to be neat, as this is a place that functions as a center with guests who come by to tour.




Gardens: Permaculture gardens and greenhouse and paths will be further developed and maintained. Other features include a little faux waterfall, a swamp with a boat launch, bench and firepit, meadows and woods with lanes and paths.




Meeting people:  There are a number of gatherings, presentations and classes at which you can learn as well as meet many like-minded people, network and share information.

Library:  Access to Natural Building and Sustainability books, videos and resources.

What to bring:  Clothing for the weather, including rain.  For winter classes include wool sweaters and sox, and boots that are waterproof on the bottom few inches, if possible.    Tools: You don’t need to bring any tools, as we have them here, but if you have them, a variety would be useful, such as hammer, level, draw knife, pocket knife, chisel 1/2″ to 1 1/2″ , drill, and others if you like. Bring a Flashlight, notebook.  Please label everything 🙂 Optional: camera, computer, musical instruments, yoga mat.

This is a healthy environment and a smoke-free, drug-free space and alcohol is very minimal.  

Those with cat or dust allergies will not find this a comfortable place to be. Give serious consideration to this. 

Conserving Resources   We value (and enjoy!) living lightly on the earth, so we compost our kitchen waste (food), try to buy in bulk, and if not, recycle our glass, plastic, paper, etc. We consciously conserve on burning fossil fuels, finding ways to meet our needs while reducing our use of propane & wood. We insulate ourselves, rather than turning the heat up high. For campfires we try to use wood gathered from the woods, and enjoy a smaller fire. We hang our clothes outdoors to dry when possible, minimize water usage and cook with solar or insulating boxes when possible.


Participation Options:

Intern: Contribute $950 per month ($850 if paid 1 month in advance) toward education, room and board. Interns are invited to participate in all building, classes & natural living projects.*

½ price Work-trader scholarships are usually available. A number of tasks are required to keep things going here: gardening, grounds-keeping, repair & maintenance, workshop prep, office assistance, data entry, web development, grant writing etc. If you have special skills in any of these areas we may be able to offer a better arrangement. 1/2 Pay Work-traders participate in all normal projects, classes and activities while additionally contributing about 10 hours a week to infrastructure support.*

Wwoofers are also welcomed, and like the above, help out with infrastructure. Wwoofing positions contribute 20 hours a week to support the infrastructure.  You will get to attend all workshops and classes. Also participate in other projects as time permits. See the exception below.

*The exception:   Occasionally Strawbale Studio hosts a Week-long Intensive or an extended Natural Cottage Project Workshop. Paying interns have access to the workshop, and there is no wwoofing category of payment at this time. This includes the January Winternship.  During and around such events our schedule is quite concentrated as we host an additional students  on the site.  Interns & 1/2 Pay Worktraders participate in the Intensives, and serve as support staff to help the program run.

APPLICATION form  Click here to fill out the brief application and send by email.

Deanne Bednar at 248-236-5432

or Chris McClellan at  440-682-0502





Work hours:   Interns will be provided with the programming, workshops and classes outlined for that session.  There will be other enriching experiences and opportunity to work on your own projects during your own time.  All will help with sharing household duties.   After filling our internship openings, individuals would be considered for  worktrade & wwoofing positions.  Wwoofers would contribute significantly more to the maintenance and backup work for the Strawbale Studio grounds and program.

Interns will be actively involved in hands-on and classroom learning 40 hours per week – which would include hands-on natural building on our current projects, classes and presentations, and some contribution to helping things run here.  You will have time off when you can pursue your own studies & projects as you wish.  $950 ($850 if paid 1 month in advance)

1/2 Pay Worktraders  contribute at least 10 hours a week to helping this place to function as a center where people can visit and learn.  These kinds of activities might include helping with the grounds, repairs, office work, organizational work and the like. Interns also help with presentations, exhibits and demonstrations. Wwoofers will also take part in activities & classes as a learner and helper.$475 ($425  if paid 1 month in advance)

Wwoofers* would contribute 20 hours a week to helping this place to function as a center where people can visit and learn. These kinds of activities might include helping with the grounds, repairs, office work, organizational work and the like. Interns also help with presentations, exhibits and demonstrations. Wwoofers will also take part in activities & classes as a learner and helper.  (* There are no Wwoofing positions available during the Winternship, or the Intensive 1 and 2 week classes during the year. But Internship or 1/2 pay Worktrade Positions are available during these intensive sessions. )  No money is exchanged when wwoofing or pooshing 🙂

Intern & Worktrade
Program Details

Past INTENSIVE WORKSHOP ~ an example of what to expect !