Tennessee Apprenticeship

Barefoot Builder Natural Building Apprenticeship

March 17- May 31st 2014

Woodbury, TN

Instructor: Christina Ott (www.barefootbuilder.com)


Work as part of a student natural building crew guided by an experienced professional cob builder. This is an unusual opportunity to learn to do high end finishing work on a cob building, something that few apprenticeships and workshops get around to. If you already have a little experience mixing cob and building walls, but want the learn the rest of the process to make a finished building, then this may be the right program for you. If you have no experience with natural building then finishing a building is a great place to start. The program is limited to eight students and the instructor will be attentive to making sure that each person gains the experience and skills needed for each step of the building process.


Apprentices will get experience with the following skills:


  • Installing earthen floors
  • Framing interior walls in cob houses
  • Building an indoor cob shower
  • Plumbing and electric installation in cob
  • Living roofs
  • Doors and windows
  • Earthen plasters
  • Lime plasters
  • Cob benches and window seats
  • Trim and custom woodwork
  • Using a wide variety of power tools


Food and Facilities:

Apprentices will have the use of our “CobVillage” facilities, including an option of camping or sharing a bunk house cabin. There is a simple indoor cob kitchen available for cooking, with a nice deck for eating and hanging out.  The kitchen will be stocked with staple foods and seasonal produce, but if you have any special dietary needs or just want more variety, then plan to do some of your own grocery shopping as well.


Facilities Include:

  • Cob kitchen with deck and patio for eating and hanging out
  • Indoor cob shower house with on-demand hot water
  • Outdoor showers
  • Cob composting toilet with fully plumbed hand washing sink
  • Woodland campground with prepared tent sites
  • A one room bunk cabin near kitchen and other facilities
  • Campfire circle
  • Purified rainwater and natural spring water
  • Wireless internet
  • Swimming hole a short drive away


Daily Schedule:

Our schedule is flexible and will of course be subject to weather and other circumstances, but we will usually work Monday-Thusday 7:00am-4:30pm at a building site about five miles from our home base. We will meet up after breakfast in the mornings and ride to the building site together. Apprentices will be responsible for packing a lunch or preparing something to put in the crock pot on site while we work.  Your time will be your own after normal work hours most days, although there may be a few times when we’ll have to put in additional hours at home to prepare for the next day on the site.

After the first two weeks of basic skill building, we will select projects at home in our cob village for independent creative work. Every Friday will be set aside for work on these projects. Independent projects are intended to give you the chance to be creative, experiment and refine your skills individually and as part of a team. The purpose of these projects is to give you practice with independent problem solving, one of the most important skills for natural builders. Christina will be available to orient everyone to the projects and help out as needed.


Cost and Work Trade Options:

The cost of the apprenticeship covers basic food, utilities, and general use of the facilities. This is a high quality apprenticeship at a much lower cost than most. We are striving to offer an affordable opportunity for new natural builders to gain real trade skills in something closer to a traditional apprenticeship format. You are trading your labor for professional training and only paying the costs of living while you are here.

The work schedule allows for plenty of time to visit other nearby natural building sites or enjoy recreational and educational opportunities in the area.

We are also offering a few work trade discount options to further reduce the cost of the apprenticeship.

Work trades can involve arriving a week early to help us set up for the season, staying a week late to help clean up, and/or helping out one hour per day and one day per week with gardening and general farm maintenance (also a fairly interesting learning opportunity, we think) in exchange for a discounted fee.


Basic Apprenticeship Fee:


Discount for arriving a week early to early to set up (limited to 2 spaces available)


Discount for staying a week late to clean up (limited to 3 spaces available)


Discount for 12hrs per week of farm work. One hour a day four days a week, plus one full day per week.  (limited to 2 spaces available)

- $350

This would usually mean watering gardens and tending plants in the greenhouse before and after work, totaling about one hour per day. On the full day of farm work, chores might include gardening, mowing, animal care, loading and unloading materials, assisting in general repairs and maintenance, etc.


Total Possible Discount: $575.00


How to apply:

Start by contacting our office manager, Chris McClellan info@naturalcottageproject.com or 440-682-0502..

Chris can answer most questions about the program, email you a registration form and more details about the program, and put you directly in touch with Christina (the instructor) for an interview.   You will be required to have proof of health insurance and sign a waiver of liability in order participate in this program.


What you can expect when you apply:

1) We will respond to your initial inquiry within 48 hours. You will get a letter with additional details about the apprenticeship and we will talk with you and answer any questions.

2) If you think the apprenticeship might be a good fit for you, we will set up a time for you to talk directly with Christina.

3) One you have talked with Christina you can make a deposit through our office and we will confirm your registration by email within 24 hours of receiving your deposit.



Who should apply:

Anyone with a serious interest in natural building is encouraged to apply. We have designed the program to be an intensive real world training opportunity for people interested in becoming natural builders or intending to build their own cob homes.  If you fit into either of those categories then there is likely no better way to spend your time than gaining the skills we’ll cover in this program. If you have a more general interest in natural building and a strong work ethic you may also enjoy this program. We will be happy to talk with you and help you figure out if this is the right learning opportunity for you.

The most successful apprentices:

-     Enjoy team work

-       Like working outdoors

-       Are self motivated

-       Pay attention to detail

-       Are thoughtful and safety conscious

-       Are willing to cheerfully participate in a group living situation and to do their part in maintaining a shared space.

-       Are comfortable with fairly rustic living conditions

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