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2015 Straw Bale Workshop
Location: Berea, Kentucky
(Update: Workshop Completed!)

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Come join us in July 2015 for a comprehensive 7 day Straw Bale Workshop outside Berea, Kentucky, where you’ll learn valuable skills you need to build your own straw bale home. You’ll get hands-on practice stacking, securing, and pinning bales, and plastering the walls with local clay plaster mixed on-site. Unlike other similar courses, we maintain a high instructor to student ratio, creating a very personalized atmosphere, and ensuring that everyone will be fully engaged. This is much more than a mere introductory course, it is a full immersion in straw bale construction techniques and strategies. Come enjoy the awesome experience of working and learning with other enthusiastic people on an inspiring homestead in the beautiful foothills of Appalachia!

Straw Bale Workshop 2015Workshop Information at a Glance:

  • Workshop Date: July 12-18, 2015
  • Location: Forest Retreats of Berea, Kentucky
  • Cost and Discounts:
    $850 Early Registration Discount (register 15+ days in advance – $100 off savings!)
    $950 Regular Registration (register less than 15 days in advance)
    * Ask about available scholarships & discounts for locals, couples, and groups
  • All-inclusive: Workshop includes camping accommodations, and 3 home-cooked meals a day
  • Homestead Experience: Get a homestead living and natural building tour during your stay
  • Led by straw bale instructor Mark Mazziotti, with assistant Brian “Ziggy” Liloia

Register Now for Workshop

Straw Bale Building Skills You Can Bring Home

Straw Bale Workshop 2015 Students will spend 7 days learning the fundamental craft of straw bale construction, as well as essential clay plastering techniques on a unique off-grid octagonal straw bale house in the Appalachian foothills.

We’ll start the straw bale building process from step one — properly preparing, stacking, and securing straw bale walls, and then we’ll move on to finishing the walls with natural plaster made from on-site clay. We’ll cover essential window and door installation details, and other weatherproofing techniques you need to know to be a successful builder. Finally, we’ll explore and incorporate various artistic embellishments.

What we’ll learn in this 7 day Straw Bale Workshop:

  • Stacking, modifying, and pinning straw bales
  • Installing framed and floating windows and doors
  • Straw Bale WorkshopMaking and installing window trim
  • Trimming bales with a weed whacker
  • Proper weatherizing strategies
  • Making and applying clay slip
  • Proper mixing and applying first coat clay plaster
  • Installing shelving
  • Making niches and other decorative features in straw bale walls

Mealtimes and evenings will be a great opportunity to unwind and enjoy each other’s company. Students often enjoy the social experience of our workshops as much as the learning itself! Evening presentations will expand on information about straw bale building techniques and building with other related natural materials. We’ll also include fun and leisurely community building activities, too.

Register Now for Workshop

We are seeking participants with all levels of experience. Most importantly, applicants should have enthusiasm, a deep willingness to learn, an appreciation for working with their hands and bodies, and a good attitude!

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Workshop Registration and Payment

How To Register

Please reserve your spot by completing the workshop registration. Remember, spaces are limited! Do not forget to apply early to earn your registration discount.

Payments can be made via check or (a Paypal alternative) once your registration is complete. Details will be provided once we review your registration. Thanks for joining! Please contact Ziggy with any questions you may have.

Workshop Schedule

Workshop Schedule

Students must arrive the afternoon prior to the official workshop start date, July 11th. We will start with a leisurely dinner and introductions. The workshop will end the morning after the official posted date, with the departure of students on Sunday, July 19th. Please factor this in to your travel plans!

Travel directions will be provided once students complete their registration.

Food and Lodging

Food and Dining

Workshop MealFood is very important to us, and it’s also a major keystone in providing a quality workshop experience. Unlike other similar natural building workshops, we provide all meals. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be lovingly prepared with fresh, local, and organic ingredients. The meals will largely consist of hearty organic vegetarian dishes. You will not go hungry with us! (In fact, you might have a hard time leaving the table after each meal.) We do our best to accommodate dietary restrictions and food allergies. Make sure to indicate any restrictions/allergies in your application.

It is recommended that participants bring snacks and specialty items only if they wish (think coffee, favorite teas, etc.) to supplement the otherwise complete meal service.

Lodging and Accommodations During Your Stay

Forest Retreats LandWe provide student accommodations including camping space, access to composting toilets and shower facilities. These accommodations are already included in the price of the workshop. Please note: cell phone reception is very poor, and land line telephone use will be available if necessary. There is limited internet access on the property.

For students that do not wish to camp, indoor accommodations may be available very near to the workshop site.

Travel directions and a packing list will be provided to workshop participants.

Workshop Location

The Mountains of Berea, KYAbout the Workshop Location

The 2015 Straw Bale Workshop is located 15 minutes outside of Berea, Kentucky (map) at the working farm of Tim Hensley and Jane Post, located on 200 acres of gorgeous wooded land nestled in the Appalachian mountains. This year, The Year of Mud is helping Tim and Jane to build a small off-grid straw bale home, and this project will serve as the site of our Straw Bale Workshop.

Berea is a small town in central Kentucky, home to a thriving population of craftspeople, artists, woodworkers, musicians, social activists, and homesteaders. Berea has a longstanding tradition of diversity, social justice, environmental responsibility, and community service. The historic Berea College is the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, and its influence on the town remains strong to this day.


The Year of Mud Workshop Testimonials

4 Happy Workshop Participants“This was one of the best experiences of my life.” – Jeff P., Straw Bale Workshop 2012 participant

“In reality, you present so much more than building techniques, although those are important. The weekend afforded me the chance to connect with folks who think alike… getting back in concrete touch with my philosophical roots dating back to times before you all were born. I was truly heartened to be around such a dynamic and motivated and capable group of young folks. It’s easy to get pessimistic when looking at this mess of a world before us. You all breathe hope! Keep up the great work, and many thanks for a great experience.” – Angelo S., Cob Building Workshop 2014 participant

“We have talked nonstop about the workshop. It was GREAT! We learned a lot and are really inspired. I think that anytime I want to learn something I will start with a workshop… I am recommending your workshop to everyone.” – Callie C., Cob Oven Workshop 2013 participant

“The workshop was awesome. Thank you all for coordinating such an interesting timber-frame party. I learned a lot while enjoying myself at the same time. The three of you (Ziggy, April, Jacob) work really well as a unit in order to make a workshop like this one seem seamless. I know that lots of thoughtful planning had to have gone into it beforehand, and for that time and effort I thank you guys as well.” – Jesse W., Timber Frame Workshop 2014 Participant

“Loved learning things I never knew before, working with other folks, accomplishing things together that we could not do alone, [and] seeing something big come together before our eyes. Ziggy and April were wonderful organizers and hosts. Lots of thought and preparation!” – Margaret W., Timber Framing Workshop 2013 participant



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