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Natural Building

Tonasket Workshop : July 24th - 30th 2022

"A proper building grows naturally, logically, and poetically out of all its conditions."

- Louis H Sullivan

Learn the techniques you need to build a low-carbon, energy-efficient home in any climate. This workshop teaches the hands-on skills needed to construct both high-insulation (straw bale, light straw-clay, slip-and-chip) and thermal mass walls (cob), using low-cost, locally available materials including clay soil, straw, and wood. These wall systems are easy to learn, inexpensive, beautiful, durable, and fire-resistant. Which one you choose depends on your climate, design, and local resources – or build a hybrid home utilizing multiple wall systems to maximize efficiency and design flexibility!


Most of each day will be spent constructing an actual hybrid home. Hands-on building will be supplemented with daily lectures and slide shows that provide the theoretical understanding you will need to design your home: finding and testing clay soils and other local resources; foundations, drainage and moisture protection; passive solar design; structural and thermal properties of different natural wall systems; how to develop your own successful recipes for cob and natural plasters, and more! 

For more information about the daily flow of learning, check out the syllabus below.


Meet the Instructor: Michael G. Smith

Michael has taught hundreds of hands-on workshops ranging from one-day earthen oven workshops to three-month professional trainings, and has designed or built close to 100 natural-building projects using many different techniques, including cob, straw bale, straw-clay, wattle-and-daub, rice-crete, earthen floors, natural plasters, and many more. Energy efficiency, passive solar design, empowerment of people through simple, accessible techniques, and the regenerative use of locally available materials are always the focus of his work. He finds writing and teaching about natural building to be an excellent way to empower people to make positive changes in their lives and for the planet.  

Learn more about Michael by visiting his website:



Join us in the Okanogan Highlands  

Tonasket, WA

“Tirth”, which means “place of pilgrimage” in Sanskrit, is a beautiful 120 acre wildlife refuge and home located in the Okanogan HIghlands, around 3200 feet in elevation, in a land of timbered forests, canyons, mountain lakes and meadows.  Along the creek that runs through the middle of the land, a series of beaver ponds have created a vibrant wetland habitat, and during any season, one can observe almost all the wildlife, flora and fauna native to this unique area of Washington State.  Over the years, people have lived, worked, played and gathered at Tirth, attracted to its quiet, joyful, and peaceful energy.  The land has hosted small music festivals, several healing gatherings, and two barter faires.  The Tirth family and friends are excited to make preparations and welcome you to this fun and unique workshop opportunity — to work together, forge new friendships, soak up the magic of the highlands, and learn the skills of natural building.  


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Camping on-site & all meals included!

Registration Information

Enrollment is limited so please register early. 50% deposit required to reserve your spot. The remaining balance is due upon arrival.



The base fee is $840 per person. Our aim is to provide the most enriching learning experience possible that is accessible to everyone.  We have many discounts available in addition to work-trade opportunities.  If you want to join us, we want you to be here so let's make it happen!  Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions. Natural building sites are family friendly and we welcome all ages (inquire about rates & special circumstances for minors).

  • Family and Friends discount 10% off: Register together and each person gets a discount.

  • EARLY BIRD Discount 10% off: Pay in full by June 10th to receive discount.

  • BIPOC price 20% off:  We acknowledge that many techniques of earthen building have been learned and adapted from cultures around the world that have been marginalized and even destroyed. May this be a way to include people who have been systemically isolated from ancestral knowledge and hereditary wealth.

  • Discounts are cumulative up to a maximum of 25% off.

  • 1 Economic Hardship/Full Work trade available - includes arriving before the workshop to set up and staying after to clean up.

  • Partial work trade for partial enrollment discount is available (please inquire).

Cancellation & COVID Policy



If the workshop is canceled for any reason, you will be refunded any money you have paid towards the workshop. If you choose to withdraw from the workshop, refunds are available only for sincere health/life related reasons until July 17th.  After this date, partial refunds can be discussed on a case by case basis.



We honor freedom of choice and do not require individuals to be vaccinated to participate in the workshop.  Thankfully the majority of the workshop will be outdoors so time spent indoors with others will be very minimal.  In general, we will be following the recommendations and requirements of the CDC and Washington State during the workshop.   We will send any relevant updates/ reminders about COVID protocols a week before the workshop.

We recommend that you try to reduce your exposure to COVID for a couple of weeks prior to the workshop whether or not you are vaccinated. We want everyone who comes to the workshops to feel safe and to feel that we are taking adequate precautions to greatly reduce the risk of anyone bringing COVID here or spreading it while here.


Please take a rapid COVID test before you  leave home to travel to the workshop. If you get a positive result on your rapid test, or if you have any symptoms of illness compatible with COVID-19, please do not attend the workshop. You will be given a full refund if you need to cancel for this reason. Thank you.

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