Cob Kitchen & Earth Oven: June 1st-7th - $750

We will build a cob outdoor kitchen under an existing roof structure. Students will build a stone foundation and cob walls that will support a countertop, and construct a cob bread/pizza oven in its entirety. We will spend time learning about and working with earth and lime based plasters also.

Natural Building Overview: June 22nd-28th - $850

In this course, we’ll work on finishing an existing straw-bale and cob hybrid building. Students will gain a thorough understanding of building with earth in various forms including building cob walls, earthen floors, as well as making and applying earth plaster finishes. In addition we will learn about green roofs by installing the drainage and soil layers of our building’s living roof.

Earth Plasters & Finishes Weekend: June 29th-30th - $325

Learn to make and apply your own earth-based finish materials as we put the finishing touches on an earth and straw building, and cob outdoor kitchen! We will make our own earth plaster from site-harvested clay, as well as finish plaster from pottery clay, lime plaster, and pigmented plasters and washes.

What to expect:

Our days will be spent engaged in hands-on building and learning with natural materials. Expect a rich week (or weekend) of natural and community building with the group. We'll work, learn, eat and relax with each other in a positive, hard-working, fun atmosphere. Conversation on natural building will provide constant background chatter throughout the week. We'll work on-site every day with a scheduled mid-week rest. Evenings are typically unscheduled so folks have time to enjoy the site, explore quaint nearby towns, or relax around the fire.

We will make time to tour the finished natural buildings, and have a few focused discussions on a wide range of building subjects (foundations, passive solar design, wood framing, roofing, permits and codes, and more). Michael may give a slideshow presentation on a rainy night.

The Site:

Our site is Heart Song Sanctuary, a beautiful 45 acre property with two completely finished natural buildings. The site features many acres of woods, a cleared meadow, swimming creek and pond. Accommodations for camping include an outdoor shower, compost toilet outhouse, and fire pit gathering area.

We will serve three meals daily, cooked on-site by staff. The food will be mostly vegetarian with a vegan option. Many of the ingredients will be sourced from local farms. Please indicate any food allergies upon registration.

Your Instructor:

Michael McDonough is a Troy, NY based building contractor, designer, and educator. His work can be found at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Oxmoor Farm, Vague Estates, and a number of happy homesteads around the east coast.


Tuition includes a week of camping, workshop experience, meals. Group rates, discounts for previous students, or for taking multiple courses are possibilities.

For information and registration, Email or call (919) 685-0123.