Archive for the ‘workshops’ Category

Upcoming Spring Workshops!

We have a couple of natural building workshops planned for this May, during the peak of our beautiful North Carolina’s spring season!  I am especially excited that these workshops are being held at the site of our future home, in the rural town of Snow Camp, NC.  Greg has been building us a permitted straw bale home on our 11 acres, as well as creating some infrastructure to accommodate the beginnings of The Mud Dauber School of Natural Building, which will be sharing our 11 acre home space!


Greg and Mike will be teaching two workshops this May, one is a 7 day cob building intensive, and the other is a 9-day permitted straw bale workshop!  Here are the details:

7-Day Earthen Building Immersion:

May 4-10th

7-Day Earthen Building Immersion
May 4th-10th, 2014
[20% off for full payment 90 days in advance, 10% off for 30 days in advance, 10% for family and friends participating together]
20-student maximum, to ensure a good instructor:student ratio.

Join us at the future site of the Mud Dauber School of Natural Building, in Central North Carolina, for a natural building immersion! Instructors Greg Allen and Mike McDonough will guide participants through the creation of a cob and strawbale cottage at the edge of a small pond. We will be harvesting clay from beneath our feet and grasses from around the pond, and mixing them with human power right on site! Strawbales from a local farmer will be built into the building as well.

You will learn all of the basics about mixing and applying cob. Strawbales will be integrated into a “balecob” hybrid wall system, which we will discuss the thermal benefits of. We will add a door and windows into the building, with accompanying carpentry experiences. The final days of the workshops will be dedicated to roofing the building with a living roof. Natural plastering opportunities (mixing and applying) will be available for those interested. Most of the week will be completely hands-on – this will be supplemented with sit-down discussions and presentations about foundations, siting a building, roofing options, building permits, and more.

9-Day Permitted Natural Home:

May 17th-25th

The 9-Day Permitted Natural Home
May 17th-25th, 2014
$1,000 [20% off for full payment 90 days in advance, 10% off for 30 days in advance, 10% for family and friends participating together]

Join us at the future site of the Mud Dauber School of Natural Building, in Central North Carolina, for a unique permitted natural building workshop. Instructors Greg Allen and Mike McDonough will guide participants through the creation of a stick-framed cottage, with strawbale and straw-clay walls, natural plaster finishes, and cob details. We will be building with rough-sawn lumber from a nearby sawmill, on-site clay, local strawbales, and as many salvaged materials as possible. The small building we construct will provide the necessary learning experience to go on and build your own permitted building of the size you want.

We will spend most of the week doing hands-on building, covering a mix of conventional and natural techniques: masonry foundation, carpentry, strawbale walls, cob mixing, plastering, roofing, and more. In addition to hands-on work, there will be plenty of time devoted to sit-down discussions and presentations. Each participant will receive a copy of the building permit application to take home as reference. There will be discussion about how to minimize the effect that your local codes/inspectors might have on your ideal natural design.

The building will have a concrete pier foundation, a wooden framework, and a metal roof. The walls will be insulated with straw, and the ceiling and floor with dense-pack cellulose. The finish floor will be earthen, and the walls and ceiling will be naturally plastered. There will be opportunities to sculpt cob into a window seat bench, around corners, and to create an arched doorway.

Some of the techniques you will have the opportunity to learn:
– plastering on bales, drywall (for ceiling), and cob
– framing a floor, walls, and roof
– pouring cement piers
– installing a metal roof
– building up strawbale infill walls (stacking, re-shaping, trimming)
– simple wiring
– installing windows and doors
– mixing natural plasters
– earthen floors (if we have time left)

*We will be focusing on the use of hand-tools for this workshop. Power tools will be used infrequently, and by instructors only. A handsaw can be as fast as a circular saw if it’s maintained and you practice!

Three meals a day will be provided, and will be mainly vegetarian, with a couple meat options throughout the week. Most any dietary restriction can be accommodated, and participants are welcome to bring their own snacks. Camping will be available on site, as well as toilet and shower facilities.

Both Greg and Mike graduated from the Cob Cottage Company’s apprenticeship program in 2008, and have teamed up to teach natural building skills on the east coast.

To sign up, or ask questions, e-mail Greg at muddauberschool@gmail.com, or call at 315-657-3980.

photo by Natalia Weedy

photo by Natalia Weedy

Greg and Mike are both apprentices of the Cob Cottage Company, and together have taught many natural building workshops here on the east coast.  Here are some lovely photos taken by one of the participants from last year’s springtime cob workshop, Natalia Weedy.  Natalia’s photographs capture what I love the most about cob…the satisfaction of working with one’s hands, the joy of creating something together as a community…


Cob2013_0232Cob2013_0565 Cob2013_0291 Cob2013_0608 Cob2013_0517 Cob2013_0144 Cob2013_0909 Cob2013_0958 Cob2013_0876Cob2013_0936 Cob2013_0904 Cob2013_0996

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Upcoming Workshops!

Its Spring!!!

As each season comes to it’s end and the next is waiting new, something inside of me always feels refreshed.  Like letting out a deeply held breath.  But this time of year, right before the trees transform from bare branches, and the landscape everywhere is about to explode into an electric green… it’s my favorite time of year, and I always get a little excited.  There is so much energy and anticipation in the earth, waiting for just the right moment to burst out.  Shouldn’t April be the first month of the year?

The addition has been waiting all winter as well.  We got things to a good stopping point, and then left it for the season.  Greg has kept busy working on other projects, and now that it is getting warmer (tomorrow is supposed to be in the 70’s!) we’ll be planning a time soon to finish the addition.  We’ve also been planning…another house!  The building never ends…

Also exciting…Greg and Mike are teaching a series of workshops nearby this May.  They are going to be hosted at Pickard’s Mountain Eco-Institute near Chapel Hill this April and May.  They’ll be teaching one 7 day intensive workshop, as well as a few weekend workshops.  Plenty of mud and straw is in the near future!  Here are the links:

7 Day Cob Intensive

Earthen Oven 3 Day Workshop

Natural Plaster Weekend

If you’ve been looking for good cob workshop in the southeast, check out one the links above, and then come visit NC!

I also can’t resist sharing a little cuteness.  My sweet guy loves to “mix plaster” in his wheelbarrow, and make a big, muddy mess.  Here are a couple pictures of Leo learning to mix up earthen plaster and then trowel it on the wall.  18 months is a bit young, but I thought he did great job! (Although he always puts his plaster on the wrong side of his trowel..)


And here he is again, plastering his face…


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One of my life-long dreams has been to design and build my own home.  When I was a kid I remember watching This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop with my father every weekend, asking him questions the whole time, about the projects, the tools, etc.  But my main question always was, “Can we do that?!”  And watching my dad build things in the garage was one of my favorite activities, and the smell of sawdust still is comforting to me now, just as it was then.  The idea that we could build all these amazing and beautiful things on our own was completely fascinating to me as a child, I was so inspired.  My dad had a huge wooden drafting table, and an old metal toolbox full of stencils and special architectural pencils, and I loved playing with them.  I spent hours and hours with that drafting table, carefully designing houses.  Houses which always included secret hidden rooms that only children could access- usually behind the kitchen cabinets.  The first thing I was “going to be when I grow up” was an architect (except for any time after I came inside from picking flowers.  Then I always decided I would definitely be a florist.)

After a lifetime of public schooling and television and our culture of “experts”, those ideas and dreams had mostly gone away.  It wasn’t until I had dropped out of college and was living in a barn on an organic farm that all these dreams started to return.  Could we really build our own house?  Could we really create the lives we want for ourselves?

Over the years I had read some books.  The Cob Builders Handbook.  The Hand Sculpted House.  Built By Hand really got me!  I’ve flipped through the pages of that book so many times that they are all falling out.  What I really wanted was to take a workshop, but every time I looked for one, which wasn’t all that often, they were always on the west coast.  A few months after finally moving to the land I had bought with three other people I saw a flyer somewhere for a local cob workshop.  I was so excited and signed up right away!

So, in May of 2009 I helped build this cottage:

That week long workshop was an inspiring experience for me, and gave me the confidence to finally start on my own cob house.  I spent the rest of the year helping out on building projects whenever I could, and started scavenging materials for my own home, which I was sketching over and over again on graph paper.  And then in 2010…

I’m reflecting on all this because…

We’re having a week long cob workshop here in Durham in June!

You can check out the info about it here.  Greg and Mike taught the workshop I took in 2009, and they will be the instructors for this workshop, where people will be constructing a cob and straw bale meditation studio and garden wall.  Mike and Greg both apprenticed with the Cob Cottage Company in Oregon, and are awesome instructors.  I’ll be there with Leo to help out and hang out, and my friend Julia is going to be cooking some awesome food with local produce!  I’m pretty excited, it should be a lot of fun!

Reflecting back, not only did taking a workshop give me new building skills, ideas, and experience, but I also made life long connections and friendships with some amazing people.  And then the following year I taught my own cob workshop and once again got to make connections with awesome people that I am grateful to still have in my life.  I’m looking forward to once again getting to participate in another workshop setting and meet new and interesting people.

Building brings people together!


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