Past Projects/Events

»See photos from many past projects – on Facebook

Here are a few of our favorite past projects:

  • During the summers of 2006 and 2007, Mollie and Steve led two natural building apprenticeships (6-8 weeks long) at Lama Foundation, constructing their Cottage Industries building and a straw bale sauna!
  • We led the hands-on straw bale part of the 2007 Texas Natural Building Colloquium, in which we directed the construction of the main volunteer office for the Kerrville Folk Festival.
  • In 2008, we led the Builders Without Borders team to construct a small load-bearing “Straw Bale EcoHouse” on the grounds of the U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) on the National Mall in Washington DC. The adorable demonstration structure was part of the summer USBG sustainability exhibit “One Planet – Ours” and was such a hit that it remained after the exhibit ended, until after Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Read more about the BWB Ecohouse.
  • During the summer of 2009, we designed and led an apprenticeship to build a 2-story, 3400 s.f. straw bale home for a lovely family in Davidsonville, MD.
  • During the summer of 2010, we led an apprenticeship to build a high-end, off the grid straw bale home in Dover, DE, working with Heliconworks, a collaboration of designers and builders.
  • During 2011 and 2012, we led an ongoing crew training to build another high-end straw bale home in Roanoke, VA, again working with Heliconworks.
  • We co-taught at the Ashevillage Building Convergence and Natural Building Extravaganzas held in the summers of 2008, 2013 and 2014 at the Ashevillage Institute.
  • We co-taught at the 5-month Natural Building School at the Ashevillage Institute during the summer and fall of 2013.
  • We have led yearly workshops since 2009 for the Natural Building School at Earthaven Ecovillage.



Asheville, NC
July 28-30, 2017

Building a straw bale house

Bales make great sustainable building blocks for many projects, from dog houses, to courtyard walls, to large multi-story houses and public buildings. This workshop offers both informed instruction and practical experience building the straw bale walls of a two-story private house.

Learn the ins and outs of building with bales from fun teachers with decades of experience and keen eyes for detail. Steve Kemble has been building with bales since 1990, and Mollie Curry dove into cob and other natural building techniques in 1996.

The instructors will explain and demonstrate each step and then you will get to learn by doing. We will prep bales before they go in the wall, stack the walls, split bales into tow pieces for custom sizes, shape window and door openings, notch bales to go around posts, and make and apply cob (mud) “chinking.” Each step needs a certain level of completion to move to the next logical step. We will discuss other important issues to consider such as design considerations, plumbing, electrical, and permitting. We also include the crucial steps for prepping the walls for successful plaster. Later in the summer, there may be opportunities to learn about plasters on this project.

The project is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 10 minutes from downtown Asheville! The structure of the house is post and beam with Hempcrete and straw bale infill for the walls. We will only be working on the straw bale section, but we will briefly address the Hempcrete walls. We will be working under the cover of the roof some of the time. Steve and Mollie will share an inspiring and informative slide show Saturday evening. Dinner that night will be pizza cooked in the owner’s on-site cob oven!

Rocket Mass Heater Workshop
Introductory Fire Play Evening

April 7-9, 2016

Rocket mass stoves burn a quick hot fire from wood–even scraps or bamboo! They produce little smoke (reduces pollution) and most of the heat goes into the mass bench instead of up the chimney. Then the warm bench radiates gentle heat into the room/house for hours after the fire is out! Radiant heat feels very healing–like warming your bones. And rocket mass stoves can also be built to cook on!

Invest in this workshop, then in building a rocket mass heater and you will be cutting down on pollution, fossil fuel dependency, heating bills, furnace repair, etc. Cozy warmth will bring you comfort for years to come!

Get practical hands-on experience as well as a basis in theory of constructing a rocket mass Heater/Stove. The full hands-on workshop will cover the basics of sourcing materials, design/layout, construction and testing of the combustion chamber and radiant heat bench. We will work with sand, clay, gravel, firebricks and more to give participants the experience of mixing and using the various materials in construction of a real heater!

Intro to Straw Bale Building and Plastering

A series of one day workshops designed around a very sweet natural building project near Asheville, NC in which we add on to an existing structure. The resulting straw bale building included curved and linear walls, with lime plaster on the exterior and earthen plaster on the interior, wall niche as well as living roof.

  • June 28, 2015: Intro to Straw Bale Building (Including Cob): Practical hands-on experience as well as a basis in theory of straw bale building (non-load bearing type, aka in-fill). The basics as we prep and stack bales, trim them, install external pinning, make cob and “chink” large gaps. The project is a small structure, which will include a curved wall.
  • July 19 2015: Intro to Lime Plaster (Exterior Grade): Learn to mix powdered hydrated lime into lime putty, make a plaster mix with lime putty and sand, and make an adhesion coat. Get experience applying this adhesion coat and base coat of lime plaster to the straw bale wall built in the previous workshop. Learn the ins and outs of lime–pros and cons, what prep, techniques, and follow-up are needed to have a successful project, and what you need to know to stay safe.
  • July 26, 2015: Intro to Earthen Plaster (Base Coat): Mix and apply an adhesion coat and base coat of plaster made from clay, sand, and straw, with possible other ingredients. Gain a basic knowledge of pros and cons, what to look for/how to source correct materials, how to mix, and how to apply an earthen plaster base coat to straw bale walls. Other substrate techniques, and many aspects of earthen plaster.

Basics & Beyond

May 2 AND May 3, 2015
At our Asheville-based urban homestead
Hands-on learning, slide shows, discussion, hand-outs. Learn techniques and tips to do your own house, retaining wall, arch, and more! Easier than cob, cheaper than concrete.



Saturday, October 24, 2014, 9:00 am-5:00 pm
$50/person, $90/couple
Asheville, NC


July 26 thru August 2, 2014
Ashevillage, Asheville, NC


July 4-6, 2014
Earthaven Ecovillage, Black Mountain, NC


July 21, 2014
Warren Wilson College
Swannanoa, NC


June 30, 2014
Warren Wilson College
Swannanoa, NC


May 8, 2014
Sacred Soul Sanctuary
Todd, NC


Spring 2014
Earthaven Ecovillage, Black Mountain, NC


January 23, 2014
Pittsboro, NC


Sponsored by Builders Without Borders and the US Botanic Gardens, this demo strawbale was part of the One Planet exposition in 2008.
»See photos from the DC Strawbale Demo – on Facebook