• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Objections to straw bale construction: shipping bales

 
Matthew Nistico
Posts: 269
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This post is directed primarily to Paul Wheaton, but of course I am just as eager to hear everybody else's input and reactions as well.

Paul, I have listened to nearly every single one of your podcasts, and more than once you have expressed the sentiment that straw bale construction is overrated. In support of this opinion you've noted several points, but chief among them seems to be the idea that straw bale builders falsely brag about the low embedded energy in the bales they use. I say "chief among" your points simply because I've heard you repeat this one several times, most recently in podcast #218 conversing with Art Ludwig. Since straw is an agricultural bi-product, the proponents would tell you, there is next to no embodied energy in it to begin with; the energy expended in growing and harvesting was expended in order to produce the grain. The straw is simply what is left over and, all too often, put to no productive use whatsoever (i.e. burnt in the fields). The main energy embodied in bales used as a building material, then, is that used to transport them to the building site. And there, you point out, is the alleged flaw in the argument: straw bale builders will ship in their bales on trucks from 700 miles away, yet fail to recognize or admit that in doing so they have effectively negated any advantage those bales might have had over other building materials, at least in terms of embodied energy.

This is the part that I don't understand, and I am really hoping that someone can explain it to me: why would anyone desire to ship bales across the country to build a straw bale home? I feel like I must be missing something. I am currently trying to wrap up construction of my own straw bale home, and my bales came from all of 15 miles away at the most. There just cannot be that many places across all of North America - and I know because I've traveled much of it - where you are any farther than one county away from somewhere that people are growing grains. They grow grains everywhere! So why the need to import straw from a great distance? Do the builders believe that some special straw from some special source, either in terms of the type of grain grown or the type of baling equipment used, will be superior for their purposes? If so, then I missed that bit of info among all of the straw bale books I read while designing my own home.

Very confused here...
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 8975
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
132
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So far I have not been able to source straw in my county. Oats are one of the few crops grown in this county. I have no idea where the straw goes, if it is not put back into the fields as it probably should be if people insist on growing grains....

I personally see straw bale building as a "less bad" use of straw which should probably be returned to the field a la Fukuoka. Straw bale building may be "less bad" than some other kinds of building. I'm not totally convinced it's "good" except in particular circumstances....

 
Matthew Nistico
Posts: 269
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Tyler - Excellent point about the wisdom of growing grains Fukuoka style! Unfortunately, though, there are a lot of years before that wisdom is going to take root on a large scale, and in the meantime a lot of combines are going to be cutting a lot of straw.
 
Dennis Mitchell
Posts: 48
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My straw bales came from less than two miles away. The lava rock came from less than 200 feet away. The earth bags came from feeding cows and the dirt I dugout of the hole. The logs I cut from beetle killed pines about 100 miles away. Every thing was dirt cheap. My opinion after this is that we "over think". Keep it simple. Course what has me scratching my head is importing bamboo from china to build "green".
 
Matthew Nistico
Posts: 269
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
14
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Dennis - LOL! You have hit on one of my own pet peeves (sp?). This is off-topic, but who cares. Both here in the South and in the mid-Atlantic where I was raised, the "running" varieties of bamboo thrive without any care at all. They are weeds, for all intents and purposes. I have cut a lot of bamboo off of the sides of the roads or out of somebody's back lot for use in my house construction and in my gardens; the reaction I always get when I ask permission is "may you cut my bamboo? ...hell, I'll pay you to come cut it!" People have such a hard time keeping a bamboo thicket from encroaching into wherever they don't want it to be. It is relentless. So, since it is obviously well adapted here - and since, as you pointed out, the market for "green" bamboo products is expanding rapidly - why the hell aren't people starting domestic commercial bamboo plantations?!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 8975
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
132
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Matthew Nistico wrote:why the hell aren't people starting domestic commercial bamboo plantations?!


Get on it!

 
Matt van Ankum
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Straw is quite useful, I use it to bed down my cattle and pigs, it is the carbon in my compost ratio. It is a by-product but it has value , a large square is worth around $30 and a small square around $2.50. Nobody I know is burning it in the field. If some one is trucking it 700 miles it is likely compressed 3 wire bales that are extra good for straw bale construction. It does lead to a little confusion why a commonly available product has to travel so far. ....
I haven't built a straw bale house, a have built a wall, I think it is a really cool wall . I was able to supply the wood frames , the straw and the labour. Compared to conventional building I spent less at home hardware. Just my thoughts.
 
Peter Ehlert
Posts: 1
Location: Ensenada, Baja California, Mx.
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Matthew Nistico wrote: straw bale builders will ship in their bales on trucks from 700 miles away, yet fail to recognize or admit that in doing so they have effectively negated any advantage those bales might have had over other building materials
<snip>
This is the part that I don't understand, and I am really hoping that someone can explain it to me: why would anyone desire to ship bales across the country to build a straw bale home?


for most of us I believe it is Basic Economics.
Most of us don't really care exactly where all the materials come from, just the cost on site.
In my area baled straw is nearly non existent, the only baled material is high quality feed (expensive)... the straw is is not baled and is consumed on site.
For me to build with Straw and be cost effective the bales would be coming from a distant location... probably well over 200 miles.
Conventional stick frame or cinder block construction is far more cost and energy effective.
 
Matthew Nistico
Posts: 269
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

@Tyler - LOL, yes maybe I just will invest everything I've got into bamboo. Still, no matter how much bamboo I plant, I doubt that my 1-acre suburban lot is ever going to qualify as a "plantation" by anyone's definition ; )

@Matt - You make a good point about 3-string bales. They are good for bale homes, and my understanding is that you generally only find those west of the Mississippi. So if I wanted to use those I would have had to ship them in from afar. But the 2-string bales that are ubiquitous here on the East Coast are still perfectly suited for natural building. Again, I have never read any straw bale book nor spoken to any experienced bale builder who suggested that there was enough of a difference between the two to necessitate shipping in out-of-state bales. Just the opposite: although it is important to inspect the quality in person before buying (mostly to check the storage facility for signs of water leakage), all of my sources stressed the point that just about any bale right off of the farm should be perfectly suited to bale construction. Most agree that it doesn't even matter from what type of grain the straw comes, though I have read somewhere that rice straw is optimum if you happen to live in Louisiana or California.

@Peter - "consumed on site"...? Are you perhaps confusing straw with hay? I am also wondering about your claim of "energy effective" cinder block construction. Generically speaking, any concrete product - including, unfortunately, the foundation of my own house - is about as energy intensive as you can get, regardless of how close by it is manufactured!
 
Brad Vietje
Posts: 66
Location: Newbury, VT (Zone 4)
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Matthew:

My bales came from about 80 miles away, in southern Quebec. We live in a hilly to mountainous area, and there is no grain production in the area at the moment. There is a farmer in northern VT close to the border who collects the straw "waste" from wheat and barley farmers in PQ, and custom-bales it for builders. While some farmers probably still burn the straw, I believe most now sell it as bedding or mulch straw to have a second income. As I understand it, you specify 2 or 3 string, the dimensions, as well as how densely (tightly) you want them baled, and he gives you exactly what you want. We ordered 600 bales (~475 for our house, plus extras we sold for a class at a nearby natural building school), which came in a single 53' box trailer -- about a 60 mile trip from the farmer who baled them.

While we're putting straw bales under the magnifying glass, how about dimensional lumber? If I go to a lumber yard or Home Despots, the 2x4's and 2x6's and such typically come from British Columbia or Idaho -- and by truck, not by train! That's great if you live in Idaho, but that's ~2,500 miles or more from here! Some lumber sold in the USA is cut in Washington, Oregon, or British Columbia, shipped off to Japan or China, and milled into lumber along the way, kiln dried (well.. ha-ha...sorta!), planed and such who-knows-where, and then shipped back to the US! The result is damp wood that can squirt you in the face when driving a nail, and curls into propeller stock as it dries. Those carbon feet need their own zip code -- or area code!

We used some KD lumber from whereverville, North America (?), but most of our frame was re-purposed from an 1852 house being demolished about 35 miles away, and some from a barn built in the 1890's about 18miles away, so all the trees probably grew within 40 - 50 miles of here, and most of the new stick-built interior framing was ordered from a sawmill about 25 miles away.

The stuff WE had to import was a pallet of bagged clay, since we don't have clay on-site, and bagged lime, which came from Virginia, and the metal roofing, which comes from who-knows-where -- so don't let me get too high and mighty about how sustainable our house is -- better'n most by far, but by no means truly sustainable!

Your original question is a good one, and my best guess is that if there were enough natural building in a given area, someone would be able to make some part-time income by sourcing the materials locally. If not enough straw bale construction, then not so much. It might take a green builder -- or an advocate like you -- to go talk to the grain farmers about a second income stream, but they would have to have time to do it, and be able to bale to spec's for builders to be happy customers.
 
christian emmel
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Brad

I live here in Los Angeles county and I find it very difficult to get straw bales at a reasonable price, I am looking at $6.50 on the cheap end to $17.00 at the high end, and these are not all 3 string either. Most of the agriculture happens in central California and that is about 200 miles north from where I live. However I do agree with the comment made about timber bought at local "Home Depot" kind of places does come from many more miles away. So it boils down to cost effectiveness, is it really worth building with straw?

Christian
 
Brad Vietje
Posts: 66
Location: Newbury, VT (Zone 4)
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow, Christian, that's a lot to pay for bales!

Could it be that building with straw is so exotic -- or even trendy -- in or around L.A. that the price is that high, or is it just a very rare building method? I think bale construction has many benefits in terms of insulation, thermal mass, and eco-friendliness, but I have not thought about straw bale construction in an urban environment. Also, what are the temperature extremes in LA ? My sense is the hotter or colder it gets, or the larger that range, the more straw bale buildings add comfort to our lives. If your temp's don't swing very widely (or wildly), maybe straw bale buildings are overkill (?)

We have roughly 8,000 heating degree days here, with typical summer highs of up to about 95F (@~90% humidity), and typical lows to about -25F. Most houses do not have air conditioning; I've never lived in a house or an apartment that did, so the energy load has historically been almost 100% heating, and 0% cooling here. We tend to deal with hot days with fans, but it generally cools off enough at night that we can cool off, and use "night flush cooling" by opening all the windows at night, then closing them all in the morning. Once in a while we will see 100 degrees in summer, and I have seen -44F just once. Coldest so far this winter was -22 at the front door, so probably -26 in the hollow down at the bottom of our driveway. With those extremes, the high R-values and thermal mass of the bale walls can really help moderate the temperature peaks and valleys.

I'm really not a city boy, and I think cities are going to face some enormous challenges in a post-petroleum age, so I'd be inclined to locate my domicile where there is water and where food is/can be grown. For my personal preferences, that would not be near a major city, but then I'm just a hick from the sticks of rural Vermont, so what the heck do I know?

Good luck with your plans, and in finding lower-priced building materials. At those prices, it's worth renting a big moving van and driving out to the valley to get 'em!

Clear skies,

Brad Vietje
Newbury, VT
 
Jeff McLeod
Posts: 95
Location: New Hampshire
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Probably a stupid question. But why straw instead of hay? I can't speak for everyone but at least in my neck of the woods hay is way cheaper on a per bale basis than straw.
 
Brad Vietje
Posts: 66
Location: Newbury, VT (Zone 4)
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi All,

Quick response to Jeff's question:

Straw is usually seen as a "waste" product after the seed heads are harvested, and in some areas, it is simply mounded up and burned (!)

Hay, on the other hand, has food value for livestock, which could mean that its "higher purpose" -- if there is such a thing -- would be to nourish critters. Even more importantly, the inherent food value makes it much more attractive to rodents, or even deer and moose! One fear a lot of people have about a wall system made of straw is that small fuzzy woodland critters will want to either eat your walls, or nest in them. Nesting is still a serious consideration, but not using an attractant such as hay can help avoid this problem.

The walls are coated with thick, hard plaster on both the inside and outside -- usually in excess of 1" thick -- so critters have to really want to get in to gnaw and/or burrow through that. In dry climates, that plaster can contain Portland cement, so it's more like adobe. In moist climates like here in New England, cement is a serious no-no, because it doesn't allow moisture out of the wall very well, and it tends to crack more when the timber framing expands and contracts with seasonal humidity changes. For wet climates, a natural earth plaster is preferred, which is composed of clay, sand, chopped straw, and cow manure. The plasters on the outside also contain lime, so they are harder, and crystallize to form a more concrete-like plaster that still allows moisture to escape. Earthen plasters are usually applied in 3 distinct layers, and the composition in each layer can be fine-tuned to meet the local climatic needs. Thus, the exterior plaster has increasing amounts of lime as you go out from the bales, and then 3 lime washes, before an outermost layer of lime paint.

We also set our bales on an 18" toe-up of insulated concrete blocks to keep them away from back-splash from rainwater, and also help deter any ambitious rodent. This layer is coated with a thin layer of fiber-crete, and pretty tough. When properly built and sealed, there should be very little oxygen inside the walls (though this can be really tough to achieve!), so the little mousies might not like it very much, anyway. The bales are also tied with higher tension than typical hay bales, and in our case, bound together with binder straps like those used in pallet loads of stuff, so it's pretty firm stuff. So far, we had a cute little Red Squirrel try to jump in the front door once (and thankfully failed), and try to get in the vents for the root cellar (hardware cloth!), but so far, at least, no signs of mice.

There are a number of straw bale homes in VT & NH, so if you want to go see one and visit the owners, send me an e-mail off-list, and I can ask the folks I know who build with straw, and they should be able to find one somewhere near you. I'm up in the greater Woodsville area, north of Hanover & Lebanon, if that happens to be anywhere near you.
 
Matthew Nistico
Posts: 269
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Brad - A very nice summation of the bale building basics, and a nice explanation of the difference between straw and hay in an architectural context.

@Christian - Damn! That is some pricey straw. You raise a good point: if one lives in a massively sprawling urban area like L.A. then one will have to ship in bales from a couple of counties away. In terms of carbon footprint, that is still minor compared to buying lumber that was possibly shipped from across the continent, not to mention that we are quickly running out of trees to begin with. Still, even though the real cost of building is labor rather than materials, one would have to consider carefully if the $/bale becomes prohibitively high.

I am still surprised and confused by the growing number of references on this thread to people arranging for custom-made bales. As I wrote before, I used totally generic, straight-off-the-farm bales and had no problems with them. Moreover, every experienced bale expert I have either spoken to or read seems to agree that there is no need to use "special" bales for sound straw bale construction.
 
Jeff McLeod
Posts: 95
Location: New Hampshire
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Brad Vietje wrote:Hi All,

Quick response to Jeff's question:

Straw is usually seen as a "waste" product after the seed heads are harvested, and in some areas, it is simply mounded up and burned (!)

Hay, on the other hand, has food value for livestock, which could mean that its "higher purpose" -- if there is such a thing -- would be to nourish critters. Even more importantly, the inherent food value makes it much more attractive to rodents, or even deer and moose! One fear a lot of people have about a wall system made of straw is that small fuzzy woodland critters will want to either eat your walls, or nest in them. Nesting is still a serious consideration, but not using an attractant such as hay can help avoid this problem.

The walls are coated with thick, hard plaster on both the inside and outside -- usually in excess of 1" thick -- so critters have to really want to get in to gnaw and/or burrow through that. In dry climates, that plaster can contain Portland cement, so it's more like adobe. In moist climates like here in New England, cement is a serious no-no, because it doesn't allow moisture out of the wall very well, and it tends to crack more when the timber framing expands and contracts with seasonal humidity changes. For wet climates, a natural earth plaster is preferred, which is composed of clay, sand, chopped straw, and cow manure. The plasters on the outside also contain lime, so they are harder, and crystallize to form a more concrete-like plaster that still allows moisture to escape. Earthen plasters are usually applied in 3 distinct layers, and the composition in each layer can be fine-tuned to meet the local climatic needs. Thus, the exterior plaster has increasing amounts of lime as you go out from the bales, and then 3 lime washes, before an outermost layer of lime paint.

We also set our bales on an 18" toe-up of insulated concrete blocks to keep them away from back-splash from rainwater, and also help deter any ambitious rodent. This layer is coated with a thin layer of fiber-crete, and pretty tough. When properly built and sealed, there should be very little oxygen inside the walls (though this can be really tough to achieve!), so the little mousies might not like it very much, anyway. The bales are also tied with higher tension than typical hay bales, and in our case, bound together with binder straps like those used in pallet loads of stuff, so it's pretty firm stuff. So far, we had a cute little Red Squirrel try to jump in the front door once (and thankfully failed), and try to get in the vents for the root cellar (hardware cloth!), but so far, at least, no signs of mice.

There are a number of straw bale homes in VT & NH, so if you want to go see one and visit the owners, send me an e-mail off-list, and I can ask the folks I know who build with straw, and they should be able to find one somewhere near you. I'm up in the greater Woodsville area, north of Hanover & Lebanon, if that happens to be anywhere near you.


Thanks for the concise explanation Brad. Makes perfect sense.
 
Jon Atkinson
Posts: 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been fascinated with strawbale buldings for a long time and I plan to build one if I ever get a little piece of land.

Anyway, I wanted to relay a story that some of you may have heard. In Minneapolis in the late 90's an architect and builder decided they wanted to showcase strawbale construction. They built a beautiful 2-story post and beam with bale infill. The interior was well finished, tongue and groove pine ceilings, hardwood floors, it was really nice. And it was all donated to an under privileged family.

I was touring the site just prior to completion and I noticed they used EIFS panels for the exterior. I thought, that in itself isn't so bad if it's implemented properly, except there were huge gaps between the panels, no waterproofing or vapor barrier underneath, and many of the panels had corners broken off with straw actually poking out. I pointed this out but nothing was ever done about it, I didn't have any official capacity. In four years time the house was infested, mold-ridden, condemened and demolished. All because of a simple fix that would have prevented all of that.

I'm all for strawbale buildings but it requires common sense. There have been a few other locally built buildings that have met with better success.

BTW: bales are going for anywhere between $4 and $7 each within 10-50 miles of downtown. Square bales are getting increasingly harder to find around here as the big rounds become more prevalent.
 
Brad Vietje
Posts: 66
Location: Newbury, VT (Zone 4)
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Jon: That's a sad story -- doesn't do justice to straw bales as a building option! Without a doubt, the bales have to be protected from weather and critters, but they seem mighty durable when built with "good hat, good coat and good shoes" -- a paraphrase of something Ace McArleton says all the time, referring to a good roof, wall protection (plaster, lime wash, etc..), and a way to keep out moisture from below.

@Matthew: Since there is a very active group of straw bale builders in north-central Vermont, they went to a farmer and told him what they wanted, and that's how he bales them. I don't believe they have different spec's for various builders, but more likely one established size and density that all the bale folk in the area use. Might be what he would have done anyway (?), but a few of them went up to meet him and see his operation, and make sure the quality would be up to snuff. I'm probably over-thinking the customized baling part of it in my zealous over-enthusiasm!
 
Kathy Burns-Millyard
Posts: 75
Location: Arizona low desert
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I suspect the price has more to do with drought. In southern Arizona the squares have been $15 minimum for over a year now.
 
Matthew Nistico
Posts: 269
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow, I can't get over how expensive that is! All the bales in my home were had for between $3 and $4/bale.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This has more to do with one of the earlier posts. I work in a print and bindery shop in Toronto, Canada. This is relevant because the other day, I say an industry pamphlet (agricultural machinery) advertising a brand-new harvester attachment that chopped the straw up into little bits in the same pass as the grain is harvested. The straw is left chopped up in the field, reminiscent of Fukuoka. I'm guessing the idea is that the less you take out of the field, the less you need to put back in, whatever your method of ammendment. All you'd need to do is follow with green manure seeding, and you're harvested field is on its way to soil-building. Believe it or not, I think some aspects of alternative agriculture are catching on with the mainstream, for the simple reason that low-input is cheaper, and sustainability (when I use that word in this context, it should be interpreted to mean "practices that result in the buildup of healthy soil") is cost-efficient.

As to straw bale construction as a whole, I fear a whole generation has forgotten about the Three Little Pigs. I would rather build out of stone (lots of places with cheap land seem to grow rocks real well, go figure). Those places I'm looking for land that aren't on the Canadian shield (granite) usually contain a mix of both sand and clay. If I don't build out of mortared stone, which is my second choice, I will build out of compressed earth block and/or rammed earth. The structural benefits seem obvious to me, and the fact that I will be digging holes for a foundation and for ponds leaves me with lots of building materials that will have travelled a great many feet to be where they will be used.

Why would one build out of something that will just rot anyway? And why not build to last? What's more permie than a generational dwelling that will outlast your grandchildren?

-CK
 
Matthew Nistico
Posts: 269
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Chris - A mulching harvester? How excellent! It is always good to see some aspect of sustainable/intelligent/common sense horticultural practice seeping into mainstream agriculture. As you pointed out via your Fukuoka reference, such practices have been proven effective. And I agree with you that, as Paul has also said in many a podcast, the inevitable adoption of more and more sustainable practices by the mainstream will come, sooner or later, not because of any belief in their philosophical righteousness but because they make better economic sense in the long run. Maybe even in the short term!

Let me say that I both agree and disagree with the message implicit in your first paragraph. In the future neo-horticultural economy of my dreams - when permaculture IS the mainstream, and this nation is again populated by homesteaders and small farmers, and our network of towns and villages has been revitalized - I agree that there will be a lot less surplus straw laying around. First of all, we will be growing a lot less grain to begin with. Second, the average farmer, being a permaculturalist, will not be inclined to view the left-over straw as "waste" but will see it as a product of his operation to be recycled to feed his soil. Third, by that point we may be digesting the cellulose in the straw into biofuels. In such a future world there may well come a debate as to whether or not it is proper to divert straw from its other valuable roles for architectural uses. Actually, there would really not need to be any debate; rather the straw, no longer being viewed as surplus, might eventually rise in dollar value to the point that it was no longer attractive compared to other building materials. Or it might not. Either way, I disagree in that this point is not terribly relevant. We are decades away from the day when bale builders will not have copious amounts of inexpensive straw at their disposal. In the meantime, I see no sense in not using a good material that is readily available.

And if I am wrong, if everyone starts growing grain a la Fukuoka tomorrow, nobody will be happier than I will.

As to your second paragraph, I will skip past the tired Three Little Pigs reference and address your main point. Indeed there are many different routes to natural materials building, and all have their various strengths and weaknesses. Based on one's available resources - financial resources, time, ability to commit oneself to the physical labor, and local materials - one's design goals, one's aesthetic preferences, one's personal values, and the degree to which one is restrained by building codes and market factors, one or another type of natural building method might be the obvious choice. Stone is a fine building material. So are earth block and rammed earth. I cannot speak with too much authority about the last two because I have not built with them myself, only read about them. But they ALL have their pluses and minuses.

However, you are wrong to declare so definitely that one detractor to bale architecture is the inevitability of it rotting away. That is just not accurate. All available evidence indicates that well-built bale walls WILL outlast your grandchildren. In fact, the very first straw bale structures ever built, some of which are still going strong, will likely in just a few years literally have outlasted the grandchildren of those who built them. Wood rots. Cheaply built modern wood homes can begin falling down after only a couple of decades, some even sooner; I have seen them. Yet the world is also full of wooden buildings that have survived many centuries. Earthen structures can melt back into the earth within a year or two, as do the mud huts of a thousand different aboriginal peoples all over the world every day. They are built quickly and rebuilt just as fast. Yet there are also centuries-old examples of mud block buildings on several continents that I can think of. Even stone structures can crumble before their time if poorly built or poorly sited (for example, in areas of geologic instability where a more resilient building material might have been better chosen). The key factors in most of these cases is how well the building is protected from the elements and what type of maintenance is applied. To this point it is important to add that some building methods lend themselves to regular maintenance better than others.

Sure there are some examples of inherently self-destructive building materials. Combining different metals in direct contact can cause their spontaneous corrosion, for instance. But it seems to me that in the cases of most commonly used building methods - both conventional and natural materials - the difference between disaster an longevity is always how well thought out is the design and how well detailed is the construction. For you to have skipped past so many caveats and summed up one method as inherently inferior is gross oversimplification on your part.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Matthew, if I wish to oversimplify to illustrate my point, that's my business. If you actually read the words I wrote as opposed to imposing your own meaning upon them, you would have noticed that I was stating the superiority of masonry and any building system that acts like it. I didn't say that building with straw bale was a stupid thing to do. I didn't say that building houses with conventional dimensional lumber was stupid, inefficient, and won't last twenty years. I didn't, in fact, say I wouldn't make use of straw bale as infill should it prove appropriate, or of lumber, for that matter. I may think some of these things, but some things are obvious and don't need saying.

My observations concerned where I was looking for land, and the resources readily available on-site, and that would be made more so due to activities like pond-digging and earth-moving that I will be carrying out anyways. What choice of building material, then, would be superior to my present suggestion?

As to the value of straw going up, as soon as it's widely accepted that the less organic matter you take out of the field, the less of anything you need to put back, it will cease to make sense to spend any energy at all on straw beyond mulching in situ . Think of the cost of gathering the straw from the harvested field. To make what, a pathetic amount of ethanol? A fraction of what was spent to harvest it mechanically? What would be the point? To power the machine you have to send out to add organic matter? Will it be worth the added time the field will need to spend growing green manures to recoup the loss of organic matter?

Sometimes permaculture means doing more, but oftentimes it means doing less.
 
Dave Hanson
Posts: 9
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Matthew,

I'm completely new to this forum but I have many objections to strawbale houses. I've been building houses for 50 years, mostly stick framed, low end to very high end, but also some strawbales. First, the embodied energy issue is part of it, and straw is not a waste product. In a small unit, diversified agriculture, there are many uses for straw right at the place it is produced, and of course there is the question about whether it should be produced in the first place. From the environmental perspective alone, I can make a case for building with trees, rather than straw. Forest practices have not done as much damage as agriculture. But there's more. Most people do not realize that when they have their house framed, roof on, windows and doors in, they have spent around 25% of the total cost of the building. Yes, if you can get good bales (something that is harder and harder to do), keep them bone dry and get them up and covered and do it all correctly you may have cheaper walls and if so, you've saved around 5% on the cost of your house for the same heated space. Of course if you build with code approval you'll need a post and beam structure which will raise the cost well above the cost of traditional stick framing, unless you happen to be building in one of the rare places that allows load bearing strawbale walls.

There is something inherently beautiful about thick walls, nicely plastered. There are also some real design drawbacks. That extra 3 feet of straw wall has to be covered and supported but you don't get to live in it.

When comparisons are made between stick framed and strawbale houses, they are usually between oranges and apples. If you make hard nosed, critical comparisons, costing all aspects of the project, include embodied energy, long term energy savings with high R value walls, the same plumbing, wiring, heating, finishes, heated space, labor, etc. etc., straw will lose every time. (The cost of plastering alone will cause bales to lose.) This doesn't mean one shouldn't build with bales, it just means we should be clear about what it costs, in comparison with other methods.

There's a lot of political correctness driving opinion in the alternative building world. There are some good reasons for code officials and the opinions of people who make their living in the industry. Yes, residential architecture in America is awful. Yes, there are some horribly shoddy building practices. But, studs and plywood have some important efficiencies and are better, in my opinion, than most alternatives, under most conditions.
 
Alice Kaspar
Posts: 70
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I can get straw bales in the Ozarks, where they do NOT grow grains, but they are trucked in from Arkansas.

I can NOT get straw bales on the coastal plain of Texas where they grow rice and some other grains, simply because no one bales the straw after harvest.

 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was just discussing this sort of thing with my brother. It has nothing at all to do with the pros and cons of the material in question, but rather sourcing and availability, as suggested by the thread title. It also has to do with your specific aims. I, for instance, will be building, as I mentioned, where there is either a lot of granite, or a lot of clay and sand for rammed earth and compressed earth block, or both. To be fair, the latter two do require protection from the elements so they don't turn to mud, but my specific aims speak to that; I want to build a WOFATI, but using masonry as structural material rather than timber posts. This takes care of sheltering the CEB or rammed earth from the elements. I have suited my building materials and style to my location, and everything is cheap and easy. The only thing in history that approaches straw bale construction is sod houses on the prairies. Those made sense because you could cut big blocks of sod and stack them right there, and the void left made up the floor of the structure. Very well suited to location.

Straw is essentially artificial, and exists cheaply only where haying is being done. Haying, as detailed by Paul in the podcast where he talks about winter pasturage instead of haying, is ridiculously energy-intensive considering the fact that you could winter pasture your livestock instead. Haying was also described as one of the most ecologically damaging and depleting practices you can carry out. I would go so far as to say that straw is not an appropriate material to use for building, all costs considered. I think straw bale used in less than appropriate locations and situations (most of them) could be as green as CFLs.

Wow. I'm really glad I came upon this thread. I was indifferent at best to straw bale construction, but now I can't see anything good about it. Thanks Matthew!
 
Alice Kaspar
Posts: 70
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rice straw is of minimal nutritional benefit. I speak from experience feeding it to my cattle during a drought. There is little reason to graze cattle on a rice field, unless there is other vegetation that comes up after the rice is harvested.

I do not know the nutrition content of wheat straw.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'll take a slightly different tack. The existence of a market for straw bales helps pay for the equipment of those who make hay and straw. I don't think it is possible to make hay and have it be permaculture, like any byproduct of a non-permaculture practice. By assisting to pay for the equipment and fuel costs of haying, you are supporting conventional agriculture. Monsanto thanks you. This is not rocket science. Which method of alternative building would better benefit conventional ag but one that can't exist without the waste inherent in their practices?
I really wish people would excercise their own intellect instead of jumping on the most kitchy bandwagon. This isn't like CFLs at all; this is much worse. As soon as the cleanup costs of CFLs are made clear, and as soon as their weaknesses are absorbed into the public consciousness, people will use more appropriate technology. We've already seen a shift towards more LEDs on store shelves and advertisements. But straw bale is the kind of insidious greenwashing most dangerous to basic sustainability: it's not just a red herring on which we can waste our money and make ourselves feel good by making "green" choices that don't require us to change our lives appreciably, but a source of income for conventional agriculture that disguises itself as "green." I don't know that it could be made more clear. Straw bale construction supports the use of haying equipment and practices, and thereby supports conventional agriculture. I believe that it is an insidious manipulation of well-meaning but sadly uncontemplative people who would likely be greatly dismayed by the fallout of their building decisions.

-CK
 
Dave Hanson
Posts: 9
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Chris,

I don't disagree with much of what you are saying but I think some of it is ideologically driven, and not completely accurate. Yes, the equipment for baling straw, was the same as that for baling hay, but you somehow connect hay, pasturage and straw, advocate not even producing straw, which would mean nobody would produce dense, commonly eaten grains, and even advocate for winter pasturing which would, in many places remove the animal industry. Would that it was all that simple. ( I should note that we should eradicate industrial meat production for many reasons, but that is not going to happen either.)

First, the plowing back of straw in many grain producing areas is difficult. Straw is cellulose and in the semi-arid grain producing regions (where most of it is grown) plowing back straw will upset the carbon/nitrogen cycle. In other words, the volume of straw is too great. To make it even more complicated, are you sure that the sequestration of straw (carbon) from shipping it for home construction isn't more beneficial from a C02 perspective than attempting to compost it locally.? In the walls of a house it is locked up for a long time. In small unit, diversified agriculture there wouldn't be enough grain grown to produce the volumes of straw that become a problem but much of the world would feel a disastrous absence of grains.

Humans have grown hay (not straw) for winter forage for their animals for hundreds of years, with very good reason. They couldn't keep healthy animals without it in many climatic areas. To suggest otherwise is simply not correct.

I admire your attitude about using local products and agree that they are often cheap, but "easy?" That is debatable. Building with rammed earth, earth blocks, stone, granite, or anything else has its place, but it is not easy. Well, walls are easier than anything else in a building. Over and over I've seen people get excited about the walls they are planning to build without a clue about how to cover the building with a good roof. I actually went to a workshop a few years ago that was supposed to be about cobb but turned out to be about strawbales and the leader did not have a clue about how to put a roof on the little building we did.

Too much ideology, not enough science. Every building product has its pros and cons. And by the way, materials do drive design to some degree. Massive materials tend to favor big buildings. I visited one of the most beautiful rammed earth houses I have ever seen. Every wall, inside and out was so beautifully striated in earth colors, it was like walking through a painting. Beautiful home. So beautifully integrated into the landscape it felt like it belonged there. About 5000 feet. 2.5 million bucks. All local materials. except for the glass.

If you are in an earthquake zone,as many of us are, I hope you are not going to build unreinforced. If you reinforce your earth, or block, or stone, or whatever, how do you reconcile the cement and steel? It is never as simple as we would hope. Good luck with your project.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks, Dave. Ideology is what you need when planning into the future. According to many of the ideas present on these forums and on the podcasts, excesses of specific types of waste indicate an unhealthy practice. All it takes is a bit of imagination to see work-arounds.

If certain breeds of cattle don't do well in winter, perhaps they are ill-suited to the climate, and other breeds must be chosen.

If growing grain in fields of acres squared creates (likely due to monoculture) an excess of a specific type of biomass, perhaps it would be a good idea to try alleycropping (alleys just large enough to accommodate existing machinery for now) and an eventual switch over to the growing of mixed grains, such that either a mixed grain product is produced, or such that the harvested mixed grain can be mechanically sorted. Perhaps this won't work as stated, but the point is that the way things are done now don't work, and it seems misleading to call straw bale construction appropriate to green building.

One question that seems to be asked by lots of small scale farmers is what happens when the size of equipment decreases. One answer is that the way we farm will change. I would love to know what Paul's opinion is.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
And as to concern over structural reinforcement, how is steel appropriate? There are organically derived fibres that do arguably as well with only minor differences in implementation.

My observations have a few real-world obstacles, and that's fine. I feel that an ideological stance is a good one for making sure that, with all the tiny little compromises to course we must make in order to survive this world, we are still going in the right direction.

I should hope that anyone building by themselves has the sense to consult a qualified engineer before construction.

To be honest about the grain issue, I try as much as possible to avoid grain, choosing fruit and veggies as a healthy alternative. I think that if the real cost of grain agriculture was examined, some people would take the same stance as I.

I do appreciate constructive criticism, please keep it coming.

-CK
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Okay. So instead of trying to edit my previous posts, I'm going to clarify just a little.

I don't like it when people latch on to an idea and refuse to give it up when it turns out to be not as good as originally thought. I also don't like it when people sieze on a permaculture tool and act like it can do anything. Not all tools are right for all jobs or situations. Just try hammering a nail with a paintbrush. Or building a whole house with a hammer. Or using straw bale walls to hold up a roof and seasonal snow load.

I think that the long-term viability of straw bale construction as a green alternative is doomed. I think that when society begins to demand the full cost of damaging agriculture be accounted for in the pricing, the shape of agriculture will change. Inefficiencies will be trimmed in new and innovative ways. Straw, should any be taken from where its grown, will likely be used for soil building somewhere else on site. Perhaps different strains of grain will be selected, perhaps it will be possible to breed (naturally over time, not GMO) grain crops that grow less high, with less energy spent growing inedible material like straw. I don't know if its a GMO or not, but NASA developed one. Short wheat. Faster-growing, less straw.

I think that change will spread throughout the rest of the food-producing world. I believe people operating on a smaller scale will prefer breeds of livestock that are best suited to their specific climates, to the point where, as many already do, people will develop new breeds that have better year-round forage skills and tolerance to cold for those in northern climes (or heat for those in hotter).

I think that "too big to succeed" will be the new "too big to fail." I think that the smart money will chase those individuals and groups setting up food systems that are cost-effective because of their lack of necessary inputs and their perennial nature. For that reason, I don't expect to be able to rely on any current waste streams, as I don't think businesses that expect to survive will leave them untapped as resources. As an example of the kind of trend I'm describing, has the price of straw gone up or down with added demand? Or another example, is it as easy as ten years ago to source free used fryer oil?

Lastly, the original issue. Choice of appropriate building material should be selected by structural necessity and proximity. If your neighbour grows grains and will sell you enough straw bales to fill in your walls, then that's probably the best choice (all the caveats of straw bale construction still apply). If you are locating somewhere with a lot of stone, perhaps stone is the best choice. And if you are located on clay and sand and soil, with enough rocks to make it interesting, and your land use plan includes digging a foundation and lots of ponds, leaving you with lots and lots of readily usable material for compressed earth block and rammed earth, well, you see where I'm heading with this.

-CK
 
Tim Crowhurst
Posts: 45
Location: Bedford, England: zone 8/AHS 2
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dave Hanson wrote:Humans have grown hay (not straw) for winter forage for their animals for hundreds of years, with very good reason. They couldn't keep healthy animals without it in many climatic areas. To suggest otherwise is simply not correct.


The reason for growing hay in northern areas like Britain is that for the last several centuries farmers have used high-yield grasses in their pastures which are vulnerable to being churned up by livestock during winter, when the ground can get boggy due to the cold and wet, and the plants cannot grow quickly enough to recover from any damage due to the short days. So instead of leaving cattle out in the fields, farmers took them inside and had to feed them hay. On British dairy farms, the production of hay is a major use of fossil fuel.

However if the right combination of grasses is used the damage caused can be minimised or even eliminated altogether. Following WWII a British farmer, Arthur Hollins, set out to develop this form of pasture, and he succeeded. The down-side is that it took him about sixty years, and the combination he used won't necessarily work for every soil type, so while the blend he developed would be ideal for other farms in the immediate area the entire process would have to be repeated for farms in other areas since the blend would have to take account of soil type, rainfall, temperature. Fortunately the work Arthur Hollins did, combined with other advances in agricultural science, mean it would probably not take as long to do in other areas, but it would still take time.

This BBC video, A Farm For The Future, is about the agriculture industry's options for responding to peak oil, which is a major issue since agriculture uses a huge amount of fossil fuels and, unlike transport or energy generation, there are no viable alternatives for industrial-scale farming. The section on Arthur Hollins is from roughly 19.30, but it's well worth watching the whole thing as the conclusion the presenter (an organic farmer) comes to is that Britain will have to turn to forest gardening (i.e permaculture) to produce enough food - in part because it produces much more food per acre as conventional fossil-fuel-intensive arable farming.

[youtube]3sxMByA1R0[/youtube]

There was one thing she didn't mention, but which you can deduce from her comments.

One of the main uses of straw in Britain is as livestock bedding, but if livestock no longer have to be indoors for the winter then this use of straw no longer exists (or at least there is much less demand for it). This wouldn't mean there would be an additional surplus of straw, however: the video also notes that switching to a predominantly permaculture-based method of farming would also mean a huge reduction in the amount of grain crops farmed (as Chris alluded to) so the availability of straw would reduce as well, gradually restricting it to the most high-value uses. Construction has to be top of the pile given the cost of housing in Britain, and straw is already a traditional building material here, in both thatch and cob.

On that basis I don't think the short-stalked wheat would be popular. Short stems have no value whatsoever for thatch and cob, which need long stems, so once the production value of cereal crops is as much in the stems as in the grain, long-stemmed varieties will always be the preferred option and fukuoka will probably not even be considered (although that may not be an issue if alternative methods of enriching the soil, such and spreading manure &/or compost, are used).
 
Yone' Ward
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dimensional lumber involves cutting down at least 4 pounds of tree for every pound of lumber. This is intern often shipped hundreds of miles to the building site. Concrete products are not much different. Unless you are building using materials that come off your property, then chances are there is a shipping factor to whatever materials you are using. Seeing as how I would have to buy clay to build cob, then for me, even cob has a significant cost and transport factor to it. Regardless of what type of building material you use, it will involve pulling something out of the soil, so I would imagine you one would want to make it count. I have found that straw works so well at reducing how much energy you need to maintain a comfortable house, that it would be worth jumping though some hoops for it, but not necessarily as many as some of you are talking about. Some may find it just cheaper to put in 8 to 12 inches of fiberglass insulation, it should be about as effective.

The Idea came from that you can't support a roof with straw bales can be an easy mistake to fall victim to. I had the hardest time accepting it at first myself, but I have two building with load bearing straw bales that have been handling substantial snow loads with out complaint for 18 years now.

If bales can't be gotten, then you have two choices really. You can either build a hand powered baler, or choose a different building material. The neat thing about building your own baler, is that you can choose what size bales you want rather than dealing with the size you get.

Once you get into the warmer climates of the 40th parallel or so, then straw bales probably aren't your best choice. A mud and stone structure would probably serve better.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have never been a fan of stackwood, but does it not make logical sense that making walls of cut logs (of species of wood that can be coppiced, and that grow without any human interference) is less energy-intensive than even simply baling a waste product and doing the same? This is simply a case of energy-intensive annual versus wild perennial, in my opinion, as both need to be finished in roughly the same way, with the same concerns from a structural and weathering perspective.

-CK
 
Yone' Ward
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm living in a stack wood house. They work good. Just dry the wood for two or three years so the wood doesn't shrink too much after you mortar them in place. Also be advised that insects will want to burrow into your log ends.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well if insects burrowing in to the log ends, or the log ends absorbing moisture after being dried are problems with stackwood, I would consider sealing the outside ends as a necessity of construction, even though some like the aesthetic appeal (in other words, it makes as good a wall filling as straw bale, but is no better at weathering if it remains exposed). I would suggest that on that basis, exposed log ends are not an appropriate finish for an exterior wall, even if kept out of direct contact with precipitation by an extreme roof overhang. I still maintain my opinion that stackwood is superior to straw bale except in certain situations (as in, where you are surrounded by straw, and there are no trees that can be cut or that can be coppiced).

-CK
 
Vern Faulkner
Posts: 35
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The Lady and I looked, extensively, at straw bale as a building technique, and may still build some small outbuilding with such things - but not our main structure. Living in New Brunswick (the province, not the New England jurisdiction), we face some relatively humid conditions... too humid, in our mind (and others, such as Jim Merkel) to be a viable technique. Also, we're far away from any straw, meaning costs would increase.

For that reason, we've abandoned straw and opted instead for slip-form masonry (a la Nearing), and XPS foam... (recycled, I should note.)
 
Yone' Ward
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Vern Faulkner wrote:The Lady and I looked, extensively, at straw bale as a building technique, and may still build some small outbuilding with such things - but not our main structure. Living in New Brunswick (the province, not the New England jurisdiction), we face some relatively humid conditions... too humid, in our mind (and others, such as Jim Merkel) to be a viable technique. Also, we're far away from any straw, meaning costs would increase.

For that reason, we've abandoned straw and opted instead for slip-form masonry (a la Nearing), and XPS foam... (recycled, I should note.)
Foam buried inside masonry is an excellent option as well. Masonry is a heat battery and plastic foam has a crazy high R-value. Foam and Cement may be high energy products, but if you aim for R-30 to R-50, then you will end up saving way more energy in the long run. Even if you burn something obscene like tires or something.
 
Gerard Bonneau
Posts: 8
Location: Cheyenne Wyoming
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello everyone,

I just have to weigh in on this. We built a strawbale house from '95 to '97 on our acreage here in Wyoming. I have not regretted it. Yes, there are some things I would do differently, but strawbales make a lot of sense in dry (less then 30" a year) climes. Our bales were purchased from a local farmer, and were trucked about 30 miles. They cost less than $2.00 each. They weren't 'custom', whatever that is. Basically, we eye-balled them to make sure they were dry, clean, not moldy, tightened them up as needed and started stackin' 'em. Strawbale construction is not rocket science, and from all I've read on the web, I have the impression that people are over thinking it a wee bit.

We built our house back when building codes weren't being enforced in our county, but we did have a few contractors come through and make suggestions for improvements. We took notes and incorporated all of these suggestions we could afford. We did have the electrical inspected as well, since I did it with a book in one hand and a screw-driver in the other. And, I had to satisfy myself that bales were sufficiently fire safe (I was a firefighter at the time) so I doused one with gasoline in my driveway, and lit it. The upshot is: bales are self-extinguishing as long as their ties don't come apart, introducing more air into the straw. My bales are wire-tied, which isn't typical anymore, but was still common in our area at that time. Also, our bales are small by current standards: 18" W x 16" H x 36"- 42" L and weighing only 40 to 50 pounds each. Our finished walls are about 20" wide, and the bales are notched and fitted into a pole barn frame. They are not load-bearing.

It was simple to do, but not easy in the sense that it was done quickly, or without lots of sweat labor. But hell, what are people for, right? Work is life, and life is work. Anyone who says different is selling something. If I had to do it over again, I would build on a basement, use a full bale width wood frame, and plan the wall openings so no bale notching was needed. I would also put steel on the roof instead of asphalt shingles. They blow away too often in my area. Other than that, I'm pretty happy with it. It is easy to heat, easy to cool, and you can't hear the wind howl like you can in a frame dwelling. I can guarantee no damn wolf is ever going to blow this straw house down. Also, it looks lumpy and quaint, like a proper peasant's cottage should. It only cost $35 bucks a square foot, at a time when new construction was going for $90 to $100 a square foot. Best of all, our four kids who are now adults living in a big city, love to visit mom and dad, and never tire of wistfully dreaming about their own 'bale house, 'someday'. How many children of suburbia can say that?

I have only one regret. I wish I had payed off the land before I started it. If I had, we would be mortgage free now. But, our mortgage is still a pittance compared to rent or buying in today's market, so overall I can't complain.

 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic