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Alfred Negri

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since Nov 25, 2012
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Recent posts by Alfred Negri

Jay C. White Cloud wrote:

Alfred Negri wrote:I am going to build a small timber frame straw bale structure this summer. It'll be a precursor to building my straw bale home at a later time. I am mostly interested in using straw bales because of the R value and because it is a natural building material. Plastering and sheathing the straw bales with boards both on the exterior and interior appeals to me. It seems to me that plastering and sheathing would be a great deterrent to rodents. Has anyone here had experience plastering then sheathing the straw bales with wood?

Hi Negri, et al,

I have been a student of these different modalities for some time...and yes...I have had experience/knowledge of mixing these different finishing modalities. First I would recommend reading SB Architecture and Pest Control.

Clay or lime plaster alone is not enough of a determinant in many areas from stopping some "infestors" from trying to make a home inside bales. I am also of the thinking...and have been for some time...that SB alone may not always be the best modality of infilling a timber frame, but a clay slip and straw or wood chip may be superior in many ways. I would also consider many of the traditional methods of "stacked wood architecture" (What friends of mine like Rob Roy like to call "cord wood") as an infill method, like the "Kubbhus" styles of Eastern Europe and elsewhere. These kubbhus, cob, and "clay wood chip" methodologies could present as superior in speed of construction and general design over many SB systems for some areas where trees are overly abundant.



The straw-clay modality really appeals to me now. So much so I think I'm going to shift from using straw bales to using straw-clay when I start building. The videos at riverstone were very persuasive:
5 years ago

Terry Ruth wrote:Alfred, I was just saying before I added sheathing cost to keep rodent's I'd spend the money on "air fins" or mesh details and a good render to keep them out. Check this video out that discuss clay slip and anything in the way such as sheathing that can keep walls from drying out:

Thank you Terry. That video was excellent. I think you'll find the videos at Riverstone equally as good:
5 years ago
I am thinking about framing a second wall on the exterior side of the bales and then horizontally strapping the 2X's. I would then use board and batten for the sheathing. Before the board and batten is applied I would plaster the bales.

I like the idea of possibly mixing loose straw with a clay or soil based slurry and then slip forming the mixture in to the walls. I wonder what the R value is for a straw-slurry mixture?

I'm not sure I know what you mean by "I would let them drive me to sheath bales, there are plenty of them without sheathing." Could you clarify.
5 years ago
Very well put Big Al!

But you know, I think I got it covered. I currently live in an old run down farmhouse with leaky windows and leaky field stone foundation - it "breathes" as you say, big time. Even with plastic over the inside of the windows it's still breathing heavy. A couple of years ago I installed a coal and wood burning stove in front of the fireplace and I've never been more comfortable in all the years that I've owned this house.

I just sold my house and have to be out by June 1. The coal stove is coming with me.

Why can't I duplicate the farmhouse conditions in the reefer trailer? Install a few leaky windows, or even crack the windows, and burn coal and wood. The stove will dry out the air and some of that air will draw out the stove pipe and fresh air will come in through the leaks.


5 years ago
I am going to build a small timber frame straw bale structure this summer. It'll be a precursor to building my straw bale home at a later time. I am mostly interested in using straw bales because of the R value and because it is a natural building material. Plastering and sheathing the straw bales with boards both on the exterior and interior appeals to me. It seems to me that plastering and sheathing would be a great deterrent to rodents. Has anyone here had experience plastering then sheathing the straw bales with wood?
5 years ago
I'm considering buying an old reefer trailer to use as a temporary dwelling/workshop before building my timber frame straw bale home. Apparently the insulation in these trailers (the older ones) degrades over time. I was wondering if anyone at permies has experience working with and or living in a converted reefer trailer.
5 years ago
I think the subject of Ramial Chipped Wood is fascinating too, John. I am also starting to believe there is quite a bit of latitude when it comes to using coniferous wood chips. At this point in time I am leaning towards chipping the debris and piling it up in one corner of the plot for use later, after stumps are removed and possibly added with soil amendments. If renting a chipper is cost prohibitive, then I'll probably use your windrow suggestion. And yes there are mushrooms that grow on this plot.

I've posted the same question on a soils forum at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. You might be interested in reading those threads:

I asked the same questions to Tom Roberts of Snakeroot Farm. His response was to say the least wonderful. Here it is for you to read below. Also, Tom has a nice read about using wood chips on his website:


"On 11/18/13 9:24 AM, "Tom Roberts" <> wrote:

Hi Al,

I pretty much agree with the advice Argyle Acres gave you on the MOFGA forum. And as you noted, the quicker and more expensive way to convert the stumpland to farm land is to bring in the heavy equipment. So, it's really just a question of how fast you want to do this and whether you have more time or more money. Note that in everything you do on this land, this question will continually arise. Of course each time you make a decision in favor one one way or the other, that usually doesn't lock you into making future decisions the same way. It all depends on your perspective at each step in your five or ten year plan.

As to your original question to me about the slash from a clear cut, there are several ways to proceed. A common method in conversions to farmland is to burn the slash piles, which wastes a lot of slow-to-decompose nutrients, but does get the slash out of the way quickly. It also provides a quantity of quickly leachable potassium, which probably won't do you much good.

Chipping the slash takes a great deal of time and money to operate the chipper, but gives you a whole lot of nutrients in the form of chips. Remember, a big pile of slash creates a small pile of chips. Granted, these chips are not as valuable as hardwood chips, but they are a long way from having zero value. They work as well as any chips for mulch if you want to retain soil moisture and retard weed growth. If they are cedar chips, they will last a long time (5+ years!) either as mulch or just piled up for future use. If they are spruce, fir, larch, or pine they will be about half decomposed if piled for 5 years. As a mulch, they will all but disappear in a couple of years.

Altho I would not till in cedar chips (the non-rotting characteristics of cedar would inhibit soil fungal growth), the other conifers will go far toward improving the soil; after all, continually adding layers of dead woody material is how nature builds a forest soil out of glacial till. You are just speeding up the process. Again, hardwoods are superior for this, but then, we can't all drive Cadillacs.

Any chips (except alder) tilled into the soil will remain mixed with the soil as identifiable chips for a year or two as they decompose. Consider that this may interfere with planting and cultivating whatever crop you intend to grow. Potatoes or squash might be the easiest to grow soon after tilling in chips. Corn would work as well, but it is a heavy feeder and would require addition of considerable nitrogen. Until they are decomposed into humus, the microbes decomposing the chips will be in competition with your crop for any available N when they are mixed with the soil (as opposed to being used as a mulch on top of the soil). Note that most chippers will grind up the larger wood pretty well, but will "spit through" the smaller pencil-lead-sized twigs.

In any case, you would not want to till in any more than an inch of chips; so you would still be able to see the ground thru your chip layer prior to tilling. Do not plow them down, as they would then be in a deep soil layer that will inhibit their decomposition. Use a tiller or disk harrow to work them into the top layers of the soil.

So, as you can see, I can't really tell you what to do, I can only describe some of the choices you have. I have cc'd Eric Sideman, MOFGA's ag specialist to see if he has any further perspective.

Hope this helps. Please do write back if you have more detailed questions. At our website (in the "Mulching" section) I do have several suggestions for how we use chips at our farm here in Pittsfield.

In Greenery~
Tom Roberts
27 Organic Farm Road, Pittsfield ME 04967
cell 207-416-5417 <>;
Snakeroot on Facebook <>;
Tom on Facebook <>; "
6 years ago
Hello John, thank you for responding to my post.

I live in Northern Maine and my land is in zone 4a. I'm most interested in growing heirloom potatoes and heirloom grains. Chipping all the debris is the most appealing to me, except for the fossil fuel aspect of this. However in a publication entitled "Regenerating Soils with Ramial Chipped Wood" by CĂ©line Caron, Gilles Lemieux and Lionel Lachance, they state that "n cold and temperate climates, ramial wood from coniferous species must be avoided or restricted to 20% of the overall content." You can read the entire article here:


6 years ago
I have questions concerning the conversion of forested land into farmland. I am in the process of clearing about 2 acres of forested land consisting mainly of coniferous trees - spruce, fir, tamarack, pine, etc. The ground beneath the canopy is littered with conifer needles and blanketed with mosses. At one time back in the 40's this very land was part of a larger field that I assume was cultivated for crops or used for pasture.

What do I do with all the treetops and cutoff limbs that are piling up on the ground? Do I push them to the side and let them rot? Do I burn them and plow them into the ground? Do I chip them and plow them in to the ground? - but that's bad right? Or should I chip them and mix them with lets say grass, and pile them up to compost on their own. WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THEM!!!
6 years ago
I'm 55 years old, in good shape, and almost vegetarian. I own a nice piece of remote land. I'm in the planning phase of building a small mail order farming business and homestead. I love children and family life. Strawbale-Timberframe construction, compost, heirloom veggies, heritage breeds and cooking are a few of my interests. I'm loving and kind-hearted. I live in Houlton. You can see my photo and profile at I will post a photo soon. I'm looking for a woman to share my life with. Please email me directly at:
7 years ago