Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Lifetime of Learning (L.O.L) Program?
One of the advantages of taking a 10-day or 21-day workshop here at Cob Hill Natural Building School is the Lifetime of Learning (L.O.L) Membership. Once you have successfully completed a full 10-day Natural Building Basics or 21-day Certification Course, you become eligible for the program! The L.O.L. membership allows you to return for workshops of equal or lesser value in the future for life, paying only the daily food and facilities (F&F) fee. The F&F fee adjusts for inflation every season and is reflected in the workshop registration portal under the L.O.L tuition tier. There are typically only two spaces for L.O.L. registrants in each workshop so be sure to register early! This drastically discounted admission enables you to continue growing your natural building skills with the support of the Cob Hill team and extended network. It also makes you eligible for consideration as a future volunteer or intern. We look forward to welcoming you to our Natural Building Family!
What does primitive camping mean?
Workshop attendees are strongly encouraged to stay on site for the duration of a natural building workshop not only because this helps to ensure that you get the most from the experience possible, but also because commuting in and out over the one-lane dirt roads morning and night is rough on the roads and your vehicle and we are unable to provide in and out shuttle service. The sites we have available are for primitive camping only, meaning that they have no electricity, no running water or laundry facilities, no wifi and you may not even get a phone signal. Workshop participants must provide their own tents and gear. Workshop fees include access to healthy well water, hot camp showers, and 3 mostly plant-based meals per day right there on the build site so that you need not worry about cooking ( no fires are allowed on in the camping area). There are compost toileting outhouses and hand-washing stations near the build site, but because they are quite a hike from many of the campsites, workshoppers typically create a private composting area near their tents for night visits. (You can bring your own bucket or a shovel and TP if you prefer, and for those new to compost toileting we will provide instructions on that during orientation.) We invite you to tune-out technology and tune-in to the natural world during your stay! Tent camping on the land is an invaluable part of preparing you to be an effective natural builder and affords workshoppers time to fellowship and bond outside of class time. Workshoppers must come prepared to defend against mosquitos, chiggers, ticks, horseflies, wasps, fire ants, poison ivy, heat, cold, heavy rain, humidity, and being covered in cob from head to toe daily. Natural building is tough. Natural builders must be tougher.
We can offer upgraded accommodations at Cob Hill. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 817-812-4909 for details.
A cabin at nearby Daingerfield State Park or a nearby airbnb would require a 20-30 minute commute to and from Cob Hill at 7:00am and 8pm daily, but this is not recommended because the one-lane dirt roads can rut up and hold folks captive after a rain.
What is Cob?
Despite the name, it has nothing to do with corn. It is a fireproof, earthquake resistant, eco-friendly building material composed of clay, sand, straw, and water. Cob is a Welsh word for “lump”—as in the wet lumps of clay sand and straw with which we build as opposed to dried adobe bricks. Cob is a strong, beautiful, sculptural, and ancient building technology that is dirt cheap! Well-built cob structures that are constructed with a good “hat and boots”—roof and drainage/foundation—can be resilient in almost any climate.
What do I bring for a workshop?
Supplies for Comfort and Self-Care (labeled with initials or name)
o All personal camping gear to camp in HEAT or COLD: waterproof tent, tarp(s), sleeping bag, mattress pad…
o A reusable water bottle
o A personal mess kit (plate, bowl, utensils, mug)
o Plenty of comfortable work clothes that will get muddy and stained with red clay cob
o A towel & washcloth & all toiletries (biodegradable soap & shampoo, avoid strong scents that attract insects)
o Clothing for ALL weather conditions (rain gear, sweater, jacket, sandals, boots, etc.)
o Flip flops or other shower shoes
o Good flashlight, or headlamp with extra batteries and a tent light
o A sunhat and sunscreen
o Insect repellent
o Ear plugs for quiet rest as needed
o A water-resistant watch (so you don’t need your phone with you getting wet and cobby)
o Any prescription or medicine you may need
o Basic first aid supplies (lip balm, allergy meds, band aids, salves, unscented lotion)
o A small shovel and toilet paper (if you want a private loo near your tent)
o A positive, can-do attitude!
o Recommended: A battery powered or rechargeable fan
o Recommended: A small solar-powered charger for your devices
o Recommended: A popup canopy or overhead tarp and rope to help shade and waterproof your space
o Optional: Quarters for a trip to the laundromat (but you can hand wash on site)
o Optional: Musical instruments are welcome! Even if you do not play, someone will.
Tools for Work and Learning (labeled with your name or initials):these tools are only necessary when attending a 10-day or 21-day workshop.
o Gloves (Carhartt recommended
o A pencil and notebook or sketch pad
o Cameras are ok, but please ask permission before you include anyone in your photos
o Extra pair of shoes or rubber boots if you plan on using them to mix cob
Sub-surface soil samples (at least 8 inches down) from various locations on your build site.
Level (preferably 4ft)
WHAT WE PROVIDE For 4+day workshops (unless otherwise stated in the workshop description):
Food and Water:
Mineral rich drinking water from the well will be available along with coffee and tea options in the mornings. We will serve three mostly plant-based meals a day that accommodate any food allergies participants listed on the registration form, with vegan/vegetarian meal options only for those who have requested it. Please feel free to bring your own food/beverage supplements in a cooler to snack on if you so choose, but be advised that although we make ice runs every 2-3 days, we are unable to provide refrigeration and no campfires are allowed. There are numbered hooks in the Cob-eteria (common meeting space) that correspond to your camp site for storing your clean mess kit, notebook, and other small items.
Hygiene and Sanitation:
We offer composting toilet outhouses near the worksite for "sit-down" business, and ask that campers maintain their own private waste composting area near their campsite. Guidance on this will be provided during orientation. If unsure about protocols, ask Cat or Margaret. For your comfort (and that of those working beside you) we also offer private outdoor showers with hot water, a hand-washing tub, and clothesline space.
Are RVs able to park at Cob Hill?
There are currently no RV-hookups available on site and parking space is limited. We are able to accommodate a very small number of van campers and/or 1-2 small towables; however we are unable to offer any plug-in services at this time. County Road 2913 leading into Cob Hill is nicknamed “Roller Coaster Road” for good reason, and heavy vehicles must downshift to get up the hills. Please communicate in advance via email if you plan to bring a camper van or small towable so that we may advise you on your best options. Large RVs must be housed at a nearby RV park or Daingerfield State Park. Workshop attendees are encouraged to take advantage of our primitive tent camping sites.
Are there dangerous animals in the area?
Cob Hill Natural Building School is located in the Pineywoods of NE Texas and boasts an abundance of trees and spring-fed ponds that attract rabbits, armadillos, deer, raccoons and a variety of birds. You will also be working alongside the horse corrals which house Cob Hill’s rescue horses. There are coyotes that hunt in packs in the area after dusk; however, these generally steer clear of humans, posing the greatest dangers to small children and pets. There are rattlesnakes and copperheads in the area, although worm snakes and rat snakes are the most common ones spotted. Very occasionally, black bears or mountain lions are observed in the area, though they have never disturbed the residents on Cob Hill and neighbors communicate about sitings on game cams. Common sense practices such as not leaving food in tents help ensure that our sites remain undisturbed. By far the creatures that pose the greatest concern to guests are on the smallest end of the spectrum—mosquitos, horseflies, chiggers, ticks, wasps, spiders and scorpions.
What About Laundry if I am Primitive Camping During a Workshop?
Cobbing is definitely dirty work, so we have a clothesline by the showers, and a washtub and soap is available by the hose on site by request. Some folks jump in the pond or shower in their clothes to make them stretch. Others just wear the same muddy clothes most days. You may want to bring extra line or borrow some if you need to hang a few items near your tent. Washing on site is much more convenient than going into Hughes Springs, something we do not recommend. For 21-day courses, some folks like to go into town every 5-7 days, but it is a one-lane dirt road for the first 5 miles and takes 20-25 minutes one way to get all the way to the laundromat. We generally work/learn from 8ish-6ish with breaktime around lunch but not enough time to go for laundry, so most folks don't go at all or do so after dinner. There is sometimes a day when work knocks off early enough so there is a long enough break to go into town before dinner. One of the challenges with natural building is that so much of the pace of projects depends on the weather, so it is difficult to say exactly when down time will be.
What about ice?
During most workshops, the meals and snacks are provided as part of your tuition. Staff make ice runs every 2-3 days and you can bring cash to drop in the kitty if you need a bag for your cooler. Unfortunately we do not have enough fridge space available to share. Due to the critters big and small in the area (ants most of all) we do not recommend keeping food near your tent unless it is well sealed in a cooler.