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Is it good, bad or ugly straw?

 
                                    
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Hi everyone, What a goldmine this forum is. Wish I had found it sooner. Found pauls rocket stove videos on you tube and hey presto found the best link in years. Well done and onwards with world domination!  

So I done a shake bottle test last week, found some dirt next to construction that looked clayish.  made my first cob brick (clay and sand 40% to 60% ish) which is solid and my baby Today I got a straw bale from a farm whilst apple picking and I am on my way to building a small dog home a la cob style.  If it works I plan to donate it to the rescue animal shelter I got my shih tzu from. However the straw bale was dry on the outside but was a bit damp on the inside so I split the bale and slowly kept just what felt and looked dry. Was about half the bale. Should I have chucked the lot or will it be safe enough when used in cob?

I wasnt sure as it was my first time and all so I protected and wore a mask. Read about straw getting wet and mold being a big issue, I didnt see any mold it was just a bit wet from rain a day or two ago I guess. Should I always wear a mask when working with straw indoors with no windows open? Figure its just like wood, being cellulose. Project will take a few weeks so how should I store the straw? Is a box ok? I guess not in a bag incase it gets sweaty.

Anway thanks very much, you are all superheroes! I'm off to get some more dirt

Enviroman
 
ronie dee
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I just want to make sure you know that there is a difference between straw and hay. The farmer should have kept either dry though.
 
                        
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As far as I know the only time mold becomes a problem is when the straw can't dry out (or hasn't been able to do so for some time).   Any straw that was damp on the inside for any length of time WILL have mold spores on it but if it's still bright and seems clean and is allowed to dry entirely before being used my best guess would be that it will be fine. However, I am no expert on cob by any means!

While waiting to use it you can keep it anywhere that the air can at least to some degree, circulate, again with the idea of keeping it dry.

If the straw isn't moldy or dusty then imo no need for a mask unless the room is really tiny; straw isn't like fiberglass. If it IS dusty enough to need a mask,or if it's faded and grey or brownish rather than being a bright gold colour (for cereal straws)  then I would use it as mulch or compost material and find a better bale to use in your project.
 
                                    
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Thanks for the replies already from Pam and Ronie. I just went and looked again and I think I might have a combo of straw and hay. I took a couple of pictures what do you think?
first straw 001.JPG
[Thumbnail for first straw 001.JPG]
 
                        
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Personally, I would use that in my garden as it looks to me as though it is either showing the effects of too much moisture for too long or is old (at the very least). In either case it appears to have started to break down.  Any  grasses put up dry as hay ought to be a soft but definite green not grey and the straw should be bright yellow. Grey is not a colour I want to see in either unless it's going into the garden, when it doesn't matter. 

I am only offering my opinion fwiw and I did mention that I am not the person to tell you about cob..I just know about straw and hay for animal use purposes.
 
ronie dee
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I agree with both of you. That is a mix of something old and something newer or less old.

Pam has excellent advise. I'd add that I would not trust that farmer that sold you that and look for a different farm to deal with.
 
                                    
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I think you are both right. I might just keep a handful and make a few bricks to practice., This is my first time playing with recipes and I do remember reading you should ask many questions before buying your bales. Well I didn't ask anything really. Next time I will.

Going into the country next week to test the soil for clay at a place I can build on. Will look around for some straw again and see if I can make something bigger than a block. I am a carpenter so my goal is a straw/cob cottage up their too but will make a few mistakes like this one on the way I am sure, which is part of the journey I guess.

Thanks once again too you both, think I shall post another question soon on foundations,hmmm...

 
Dale Hodgins
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      It looks like you might have oat straw which is not one of the better building straws. Find a farm that has good southern exposure and look for fields containing wheat or barley. I think I read you were in Québec and you're pretty far north to get good stiff straw. Fields with southern exposure will tend to dry out better so you won't be purchasing deteriorated bales. A crop of this which is able to fully mature is likely to have more woody stems which make for better straw building.
 
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