Natural Building with Clay, Stone, and Wood

Natural Building with Clay, Stone, and Wood

August 18 - 24, 2024

Tan Oak Park, Legget, CA

A week-long immersion in practical skills for developing a healthy reciprocal relationship between people and place. Imagine inhabiting the landscape in a way that simultaneously enhances the health and resilience of the local ecosystem while harvesting materials to build beautiful and energy-efficient human shelters. Such a lifestyle is not only possible but has been the standard practice of many cultures around the world. Learn with us how to re-evolve a regenerative place-based culture.

About 6 hours per day will be spent developing practical building skills under the supervision of instructors with more than 5 decades of combined experience. Hands-on work sessions will include:

• Cob mixing, wall building, and sculpting

• Harvesting, processing and framing with round poles

• Stone and mortar foundations

• Prospecting for and harvesting clay soil, stone and gravel

• Clay plasters to protect and beautify earthen walls

• Installing a durable earthen floor

• Developing and testing recipes for cob, clay plasters and earthen floors

About 2 hours each day will be dedicated to understanding the theory behind sustainable building in order to prepare participants for their own design and construction projects. Lectures include:

• Materials selection and harvesting to improve forest health

• Understanding clay soils and other natural building materials

• Alternative foundations (with little or no cement)

• Fire-resistant building techniques

• Energy-efficient passive solar design for your bioregion

In addition, participants will encounter:

• Epic swimming

• Delicious, nutritious food (as much as possible sourced locally and organic)

• Campfire fun

• Meeting new friends with shared values and objectives

• Positive, practical EMPOWERMENT

Instructors include renowned natural building author and educator Michael G. Smith ( and veteran professional natural builder Colin Gillespie(

Hosted at Tan Oak Park. The accommodations are camping decks. Car camping is welcomed. Showers and flush toilets are available. Three high quality organic meals per-day will be provided.

Email for questions. Inquire for children, work-trades, and scholarships.

Cost $800

Michael G. Smith is a natural builder, trainer, designer, and consultant. In 1993, he co-founded the Cob Cottage Company with Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley, reviving the ancient tradition of cob building. He is also the board president of the Cob Research Institute, where he helped write the first model building code for cob. Smith has led or been involved in over 100 natural building projects in North America and internationally. Over 30 years, he has taught hundreds of hands-on workshops on cob, straw bale, light straw-clay, natural plasters, earthen floors, and many other natural building techniques. His teaching and consulting work emphasize energy efficiency, empowerment of people through simple, accessible techniques, and the regenerative use of locally available materials. He is co-author of The Hand-Sculpted House and The Art of Natural Building and Essential Cob Construction. Find out more at

Colin Gillespie