Comprehensive Natural Building Apprenticeship


LogisticsAbout the ProgramFeatured Projects


Dates: July 11 – August 12, 2011
Location: White Oak Farm and Education Center
Instructors: Taylor Starr, Tyler Walter, and James Haim
Cost: $2,200
College Credit: Six quarter credits or four semester credits are available through Antioch University for an additional $300.


About the Program

The staff at White Oak Farm is pleased to offer our new and improved Comprehensive Natural Building Apprenticeship program for summer 2011.  Tyler Walter, Taylor Starr and James Haim will lead the program.  The Apprenticeship will span five weeks of fully immersed hands-on experience, as well as field trips, lectures, discussions, slide shows, independent design projects and more.  It will be an excellent opportunity for people looking to learn practical natural building skills for their future career or owner-builder projects, as well as for college students seeking an alternative classroom experience.  The apprenticeship will be very in depth and comprehensive, and will cover all aspects of natural building from site prep and foundations to electrical and plumbing, windows and doors, wall systems, roofs, carpentry and much more.  Design sessions will focus on the use of passive solar, sourcing materials, alternative energy, permaculture,  and more.

The Apprenticeship will be small (limited to six participants), focused, and personalized towards participants‘ interests and abilities. Our style is largely hands-on, so there is ample opportunity to get the feel of the techniques we are teaching. There is also plenty of time for questions, discussion, lectures, slide shows, siestas, and fun.  The program emphasizes the inherent qualities of building with natural materials: they are non-toxic, quiet, human powered, creative, and communal.  Over the course of the apprenticeship, participants will gain the skills needed to successfully complete their own future building projects.

Featured Projects

• Pole Framed Straw Bale Barn
• Cob Information Center with living roof
• Cob Oven
• Clay Painting (Strawbale Sauna, Cob Garden Shed)
• Finish work on Cob/Strawbale/Light Straw Clay Compost Toilet
• Individual/Group Design Project


Week One: Foundations, Site Prep, Forestry
Week Two: Pole Framing, Wall Systems
Week Three: Wall systems (Straw Bale, Cob, Light Straw Clay, Cordwood)
Week Four: Roofs, Windows, Doors, Cob Oven
Week Five: Plasters, Clay Paints, Finish work

8am    Breakfast
9-12    Hands-on Building
12-2  Lunch
2-3   Lecture/Design Session
3-6  Hands-on Building
7-8   Dinner
8-10   Design Session/Slide Show/Movie (2 to 3 Evenings per week)

8am  Breakfast
9-5   Field Trip

Free Day


James Haim of Cob Together
James has experience building with straw bales, cob, paper-crete, and light-straw clay, as well as conventional construction. He co-founded the Wilderness Charter School in 1996 whose mission is to study and practice community, personal empowerment, and ecological connection with the intention of creating a sustainable future. Between 1996-2003 he served on the board of Harvest Built Homes and currently serves on boards for Earth Car International and White Oak Farm. He has been running Cob Together and teaching natural building workshops since 2005. He lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife, daughter, father-in-law and friends. Jim believes that a key element in the environmental movement is creating an example of sustainable culture so others have inspiration to look towards as their awareness of the world‘s environmental and social situation unfolds.

Taylor Starr of White Oak Farm
Taylor is the co-founder of White Oak Farm & Education Center in Williams, Oregon. He has been the Farm‘s Director since 2002, and has been involved in all aspects of the Farm‘s design, construction, management, and programs from 2002-2010. White Oak serves as a working organic farm, children‘s education center, and host for adult workshops in natural building and permaculture. Taylor has spent the last ten years farming, homesteading, teaching, and building. He has worked with cob, straw bale, light straw-clay, earthen plasters and floors, and round wood. Over the past six years he has taught natural building to hundreds of workshop participants from around the world. Taylor believes working in community to grow food and create shelter should be empowering, inspiring and fun.

Tyler Walter of White Oak Farm
Tyler has had a tool belt on since the age of 12 when he began building tables from factory off-cuts. He has been working with White Oak for three years. After completing a year-long natural building internship in 2008 he fell in love with the community and decided to stay. Prior to working with White Oak he apprenticed with natural builders Lydia Doleman of Flying Hammer Productions and Chris Fox of Fox Natural Building. These experiences have allowed him to work on a diversity of natural building projects and gain a great understanding of building with earth, straw and wood.

Syllabus (tentative)

1.   Tools and Books: must haves, uses, care, safety
2.   Intro to Natural Building: survey of styles and materials
3.   Site Prep
4.   Permaculture Design I
5.   Eco-Forestry
6.   Permaculture Design II
7.  Pole Framing I
8.   Pole Framing II
9.   Building Design I
10.  Wall Systems Overview
11.  Building Design II
12.  Cob: attributes, performance, techniques
13.  Straw Bale: attributes, performance, techniques
14.  Light Straw Clay/Cordwood/Adobe: attributes, performance, techniques
15.  Project Planning
16.  Cob Ovens
17.  Carpentry I
18.  Roofs
19.  Carpentry II
20.  Earthen Plasters/Clay Paints/Lime
21.  Plumbing and Electrical
22.  Earthen Floors
23.  Permits/Rules/Strategies
24.  Budgets and Timelines