Earth Home

the Natural Building School

~ learning to build naturally ~


Earthaven Natural Building Intensive
Basic Workshop

Learn to build with cob, clay straw, straw bale and other materials! Students will receive theoretical instruction with a focus on direct hands-on building. In the course, students will gain knowledge in:

The only prerequisites you need are the willingness to get muddy and the desire to learn and build!

  • The fundamentals of natural building and appropriate materials
  • How to find and source natural building materials
  • How to successfully mix cob, clay straw, and other materials to build walls and supporting structures by both hand and machine
  • How to use cob and earthen plaster to remediate existing walls
  • How to integrate passive solar design and timber framing

Instructed by Steve Kemble and Mollie Curry

Basic Workshop Tuition (Sept 14-16 Fri-Sun): $295
Extended Workshop Tuition (Sept 14-18 Fri-Tues): $445.
Tuition includes food.

How to connect and register:
Call Arjuna at 828 669-0114, or send an email to


See flyer


Natural Building Workshops and Internships

For 2012 the Natural Building School continues work on the Village Arts Building at Earthaven Ecovillage.

Mollie Curry

2011 Update. Arjuna has moved into Leela house, so the focus of the Natural Building School has moved to the Village Arts Co-op. Last year interns felled trees, built the foundation for the circular staircase and started the timberframe joinery.


2008 Update. 2007 was the most creative, satisfying year in Leela’s life! “The Crew”—Jenne, Mana, Bob, Tom and, later, Cameron—started in early May and had the distinct pleasure of bringing many things others had started to completion. Mollie came back in time to help with the interior plaster work, which is absolutely exquisite (and not yet at finish level). Tom had to go back to Antioch College in August. Jenne stayed through most of September. Mana and Bob finished out the year (they’re actually going to settle at Earthaven, along with their partners). Mollie will be back in June for the finish plaster stage.


Mollie's smiling because she's doing one of her favorite things in the world of mud—stomping in the mortar pit!

Shorter Visits.          
If you’re eager to get involved but the timing is a challenge, get in touch anyway. Especially closer to the dates, we may be able to accommodate a few folks for shorter periods if the project is in a particular phase where more folks is better.


2007 Photos of building the Leela house

Getting Restarted


The crew arrives on the job for the first time, May 2007. This view centers on the southwest of the house.

Just about every conceivable way to use earth and straw has been used on Leela. Corbels rolled on burlap worked wonders. Here Jenne rolls a big one.

Tom stands by as Steve-o gives “exact measurements” for the next corbel.

Tessa came to help Jenne put up corbels.

Here Tom is laying cob on the curvy southwest “corner.”

Interior Shots


Compressed earth blocks were used to build the interior arched walls, and are expected to become the downstairs subfloor. Here’s an early picture of the setup.


The block wall curves into the bathroom wall.

We dreamed about the day the arches would go up.

Right to left: archway to kitchen/dining room, arch over future hearth space, bathroom.

Beginning to plaster the arches.


Plastered arches (base coat).

Plastering the bathroom. The grayness is lime plaster, which was put on the strawbale wall at the end of the 2006 season.

The bathtub will nestle under this window.
There’s a base coat of plaster on this decorated niche now that looks fabulous.
South Wall, Finally  

The window design for the upstairs took all this time (years!) to come into focus. It was another one of those down-to-the-wire, “they’ll be here tomorrow” episodes, when it all just fell perfectly into place. Folks from Kleiwerks in Asheville came out to make a party of it.


The bulk of this upper wall is insulative light clay-straw, which is stuffed densely between removable plywood forms.

Mika from Kleiwerks


Four Directions  

This exterior series brings us practically up to date, except that we’ve got most windows installed now.  Here is an east view of the kitchen wall.


This is one of my favorite views—the western wall.
Decorative detail has been added to the upper wall, but this is pretty much how it looks now. Mana’s standing  outside the north bedroom window.



What should we use? What can we afford?

          This project is an opportunity for owners, builders, consultants and anyone aspiring to greater ecological responsibility to discover how best to integrate a growing body of knowledge into systems that will work for us, sustainably, over the long haul.

          Most of the wood being used to build Leela came from Earthaven's forest, as did all the clay and much of the sand. The roof is (red) tin, ideal for rainwater catchment. We have to bring in straw from the surrounding piedmont, and we used gravel, cement, concrete block, rebar, rip-rap, vermiculite and heavy-gauge black plastic in the foundation. We'll further insulate the interior of the foundation with hard foam board. The potential for moisture wicking and heat loss through air spaces are the two driving factors in all of our decisions about materials. Our intent is to use the least amount of embedded energy wherever we can. Some of our windows and doors are discards from other projects, and many will be bought brand new for the job. (Habitat for Humanity's Home Stores are a good resource for new and used materials.) We keep walking the line between affordability and durability, and sometimes the savings are fantastic—other times not!

          While we are deeply devoted to a style of green building that makes it accessible to folks with limited cash resources, we're hoping our gifted instructors will be paid for their contributions to the project with revenues from workshops. Thus, while we are open to barter arrangements and have already made some work exchange commitments, and are offering significant discounts for participants who want to attend more than one of these fun and inspiring events, we know what is offered here is worth much more than the low-end prices we've held ourselves to. If you are a person with limited funds, please consider asking friends, family and your immediate community for help in attending the workshop(s) of your choice. You'll have plenty to share with them (e.g., build a cob bench, an adobe arch, freshen interior walls with luminous earthen paint, etc.) afterwards!


For more information, to register for a class, or to come by for a tour, call me or send me an email.

Arjuna da Silva: ~ 828-669-0114 ~
1041 Camp Elliott Rd., Black Mountan, North Carolina, USA 28711