Sonoma, CA Hands On Straw Bale Workshop


Are you excited about the idea of living in a straw bale house but unsure of how to make your dream a reality (or are flat out terrified to even get started)? Join us at our Sonoma, CA seven-day, hands-on workshop!

Our workshops are designed to meet the needs of both the novice builder and experienced contractor. Andrew’s grasp of construction technology, with over 20 years as a professional builder, comes through in his ability to explain each detail in a way that benefits all participants. Our goal is to prepare you with a truly well-rounded educational experience so when it comes time for your build, you have the confidence to handle anything that comes up from construction hiccups to personal stress management.

So, come and join us…we would love to have you with us! Our workshops are rewarding, engaging, highly informational, and an absolute blast! Truly, much, much more than just a workshop!!


Welcome!  We’ve been preparing for this workshop for years, literally, and we are so excited to invite you to join us. Paul and I are hosting the Sebastopol, California straw bale workshop located in Sonoma County, near Santa Rosa, Napa, and the Russian River Valley. We can’t promise every workshop day will end with a glass of wine, but there’s a darn good chance, given our location!

The workshop site has a stunning array of old growth fruit, nut, and olive trees

The 100-acre property, Purrington Ranch, was settled and farmed by Italian immigrants and as its current stewards, Paul and I are continuing that connection with the land through our rehabilitation of the 80-year old Gravenstein apple orchard, for which the Sebastopol area is known. The build site is nestled amongst old growth redwood, chestnut, apple, and olive trees, looking out and across to Mount Saint Helena near Calistoga near the Atascadero watershed.

We first contacted Gabriella and Andrew three years ago in the fall of 2017 to host a straw bale workshop. That fall, Sonoma County was hit hard with wildfires and the local construction industry and county permitting was inundated and overwhelmed with people who’d lost everything, trying to rebuild their lives and their homes. We realized that we needed to rethink our plans and so we put our straw bale dream on hold until we could be sure that what we built would be up to the challenges of the ever changing climate.

The wildfires continued in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and it has become increasingly clear that we no longer have a wildfire “season”, at least in California. We now live with the risk of wildfires year round. This is a scary and sad reality, but it focused our resolve on designing a home that can handle those risks with the best chances of success.

As you likely already know, straw bale construction does an AMAZING job of resisting flame spread, i.e. fires, and has proven itself extremely resilient in the recent fires around the state: often being among the only surviving structures in an area that has been leveled by wildfire.

I won’t forget the day I emailed Andrew to tell him that we had a builder lined up and that we had a set of plans stamped with county approval…in red ink! The workshop, after three years of planning, was on baby!

The goal of our project is to build a 1,500 sqft straw bale home for our parents in their retirement. Paul and I have had this vision for our multigenerational family homestead for over twenty years, always on the lookout as our military careers took us to new locales, ‘climes, and places. Nine years ago we found the perfect site and we would love to share it with you during the workshop in September 2021.

Our parents’ house we will be building during the workshop

Our straw bale home will be simple and adaptable; it will be a part of the land without dominating it; and it will minimize site impacts and preserve natural habitats. A dogtrot breezeway is designed in the center of the house, integrating the outdoors and extending the enclosed living area to create a strong connection with the environment.

You may make all kinds of friends at the workshop. These sweeties visit the orchards daily.

Workshop camping will be in and among our apple orchard which may still have apples to pick for a morning or afternoon snack. The deer trek through the orchard at dusk and at dawn, so don’t be surprised if they’re staring back at you.

To get the blood flowing you are welcome to hike on the property which has quite a bit of elevation created by the Purrington blue line creek, or feel free to bring along your road or mountain bike to the workshop and go for an early morning ride with the local cycling club before everyone wakes up. A mile from the site is a quaint town called Occidental, put on the map when the railroad came through, with several outstanding breakfast options. That said, we intend to provide delicious fare during the workshop and you may never want to leave!

World famous Napa and Sonoma Valleys are just minutes away if you want to extend your trip!

The Sonoma and Napa Valleys are quite close and of course known for their wines and wine tasting experience. Many wineries are within a few minutes’ drive and we are happy to offer suggestions or even host folks who wish to stay a few days on either side of the workshop to experience this wonderful area. San Francisco is about 90 minutes south via California State Route 1 and on the way, one could visit the majestic Muir Woods and Golden Gate Bridge. The hiking, cycling, craft beer, and hard cider scenes are also very well in swing this time of year and we’d be pleased to recommend the “local” hang outs. Of course, COVID may impact the availability of these places, but by September, we have hope that the US will be rounding the corner and our amazing local establishments will once again be open to welcome you in.

We invite you to share our love of this area, our true connection with the land, an honest day’s hard work, and camaraderie at the Sonoma, CA straw bale workshop. It will be a week of learning, of fun, and one you’ll remember for many years! We can’t wait to meet you!

Nicole and Paul McAdams

What’s Included in Your Tuition?

All workshop participants receive the following with their registration…









Is This Workshop Right For Me?

It is if…

You don’t want to be that person that says “How hard can it be?” and then becomes the cautionary tale amongst your friends and family.

You’re an experienced builder but want to learn all the nuances & ins and outs of straw bale construction.

You’ve already designed your home, or even started to build. Now you’re running into a lot of questions and challenges and aren’t sure how to move forward.

You want to save money by building your own straw bale house but also want to make certain that you avoid costly mistakes.

You’ve never built anything before and don’t know if you’re insane for even considering building your own straw bale house.

What Will I learn?

Click HERE for a detailed outline of topics covered

Bale Stacking Details

Create strong and durable walls by learning the techniques used by master balers.

Retying and Resizing Bales

Master the fastest knot tying system to save time and money on your project.

Framing Considerations

Andrew’s framing system speeds your construction and lowers your budget.

Electrical Work

Learn how to simplify the incorporation of electrical wiring in your bale walls.

Shaping Bales

Create gorgeous curves and sexy transitions to create an inspiring home with the art of bale shaping.

straw bale round window

Windows, Doors, and HVAC

Keep your house moisture & mold free with proper ventilation and window/door installations.

Creating Niches

Include pockets of beauty in your home with the installation of straw bale niches or “nichos”.

Cabinets & Special Installs

Master effective strategies to install cabinets, partition walls, and other special installations.

straw bale wall

Plaster Prep Techniques

Build a strong foundation for your home’s plaster and ensure years of protection for your investment.

plastering straw bale wall

Natural Plastering

Learn the art of plastering in order to create a beautiful and durable finish for your home.

Financing and Insurance

Navigate the confusing world of paying for and insuring your straw bale home.

Endless Q & A

Ask me anything related to your personal project or general straw bale construction. ANYTHING!

Your Mentor is Andrew Morrison

Andrew has over 20 years of professional construction experience and in that time has done everything from design and build his own house, work as a licensed contractor and developer, give a TEDx talk (and numerous other presentations), co-author a national building code, to host several step-by-step instructional videos on contracting and building houses, and much more

His greatest passion is teaching others how to build their own dream home and inspiring them to reach the highest level of their own greatness. Since 2006, Andrew has personally taught over 3,000 participants at his workshops. Through his kindness, sense of humor, and ability to teach complex concepts in easy-to-understand terms, his workshops are a mega-hit amongst his graduates. Make sure to bring your questions, curiosity, instruments (if you play any), and let’s have some fun while we build with bales!

Here is what fellow workshop attendees are saying…

Karen Pope says…

“You truly are an inspiring teacher. All who are lucky enough to be your students receive the great gifts of your expertise, your humor, and your belief that we can all make a difference one home at a time. It was such a great pleasure to meet you and to be guided by you. I hope to be able to repeat the experience in the future.”

Mary Bushman says…

“Based on the information on the website and in the resource materials at I came to the Corvallis workshop with very high expectations. After a week of fabulous instruction and wonderful fellowship I am happy to report that my expectations were far EXCEEDED. Andrew is a teacher of rare talent. I will carry the lessons forward and am excited for the opportunity to use the new information to build our own straw bale heaven!”

Sharon Waldie says…

“GO TO THIS WORKSHOP! I’ve been learning about straw bale buildings for years, and I can honestly say that Andrew is a natural teacher. He deals with real issues that any home builder might encounter, and handles it with actual how-to answers. Great motivation to continue in my quest to become a resident of a straw bale home! Thank you so much.”

Reid Heimbeck says…

“What an awesome experience.  It was truly hard to leave and go back home. I realize that this workshop was so much more than just learning about straw bale construction. I met 40 amazing people and gained several close friends from it. You personally are an inspiration to me, a role model as someone who has intentionally created a fun and fulfilling life. Thank you greatly for that. All my best my friend.”

Joy Wagner says…

“It truly was a wonderful week of hard work, hands on learning, and infectious fun. I so enjoyed being a part of the process: making new friends, learning additional skills, and experiencing camaraderie which strengthened as the week progressed. I treasure the overall experience and look forward to having a building workshop on our 5 acres someday. Thank you for being our cheerful and fearless leader!”

Theresa Coleman says…

“It is not only your experience that makes these workshops successful but your spirit and outlook on life.  I was so impressed by how you can get a group of people to work so smoothly on a construction site, then at the end of the day still want to be around each other laughing and sharing. Once again thank you for such a great experience. Best Regards.”

Jim Ogden says…

“Andrew Morrison is an extraordinary teacher, a trusted leader, and a pioneer. It is through his passionate and enthusiastic approach, that he is setting new standards and raising the profile, credibility, and the global appeal of straw bale construction. All while sharing his love of life and his humor with us, the workshop participants.”

Leslie Arellanes says…

“Wow where do I even start? That was one of the best weeks of my life. I think Danielle and I are going to be your Straw Bale groupies. Thank you so much for creating such a magical workshop.  Cheers!!!!”

Doss Palmer says…

“I have you to thank for the monumental shift in my life and honestly attending your workshop has been the best decision I’ve ever made to better myself.”

Clint Pinder says…

“This class literally PAID FOR ITSELF in the first day. The amount of knowledge that Andrew shared along with his ability to explain complex details in simple, easy to understand language made the educational aspect of this workshop amazing. AND, we had a blast!!!”

Jen Paulson says…

“A 10 day break from media and glowing screens, unplugged, submerged in a community of love and support is a life changing event. I am so fortunate to have had the privilege to experience this twice. Thank you.”

Robert Roach says…

“We would not have had the confidence to try this project or to plan our house build with knowing and learning from you.”

To watch a short and fun video of our workshop experience, click the video image below.

Untitled design-9

Read answers to our most FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

and learn WHAT TO EXPECT at our workshops HERE.