Welcome to StrawBale.com
My name is Andrew Morrison and welcome to my straw bale building site dedicated to anyone interested in building their own straw bale house. If you are brand new to straw bale or are a straw bale construction specialist there's something for you at StrawBale.com.
Click here if you are NEW TO STRAW BALE BUILDING and want to know the basics about straw bale construction.
I have a ton of information for you including: photo gallery, step-by-step instructional videos, information about straw bale workshops around the world, free straw bale articles, free straw bale social network, and a full straw bale building blog.
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Plastering is perhaps the hardest part of the entire process when building a straw bale house. Think about it, your framing, although difficult, is hidden within the walls nine times out of ten. As long as it is structurally sound, you will be fine. Furthermore, it is inspected (in many cases) so you end up with a “free” set of helpful eyes to make sure you are doing the work properly. The same is true for the other major systems of the house: plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and so on. As long as the systems are built properly and they meet or exceed codes, you are all set. What those systems actually look like is mostly irrelevant.
The same cannot be said about plaster. That’s a system that not only has to be structurally sound and function in a way that protects the bales, and ultimately your entire house, but it also has to look good. After all, when have you ever heard someone say “Wow, you really did a great job with the rough plumbing in this house. It sure is beautiful.”? Probably never. How about someone commenting on plaster? Now that’s one that you have likely heard or even uttered yourself. “Man, that plaster looks amazing!”
Last weekend in Denver, Colorado I held my first ever 2-day Straw Bale Design Seminar. The evening before the workshop began, I joined my friend Jim at the hotel bar for a beer. I met Jim last year at the Brownsville, Oregon straw bale workshop. While he and I caught up with each other another workshop graduate named Julie from the class in Crestone, Colorado, walked up and gave me a hug. She was too tired to hang out, but seeing her smiling face was enough to bring a smile to my own. Shortly after that, Susan (from the Missouri and North Dakota workshops) walked up and joined me and Jim at the bar. I realized in that moment just how much I truly love what I do. My job is one that allows me to meet amazing people from all over the world and to continually grow my circle of friends.
This article is reprinted with kind permission from the Oak Hill Homestead blog. They cut and bale their hay by hand. One could modify the size and application of the baler to bale straw by hand. This solution could work very well in areas where mechanical balers are not available.
We don’t own a tractor, so we cut and bale our hay by hand. Last year, we stored it loose in several sheds and anywhere we could find a few square feet of dry storage space. This year, we have a hand baler. A friend in Texas sent us a link and Hubby set to work on it. The baler in the plans is for use in making a bale of pine straw, but it works just fine baling our mixed-grass hay. Read the rest or post a comment »
Hi everyone! This is Gabriella writing. While Andrew is teaching our last 7 day workshop for this year in NY (which sounds like it’s going awesome), I wanted to let you all know about a truly amazing cohousing project that our friends at ModCell are working on in Bramley, England.
One of the common challenges in any cohousing project is how to build environmentally sustainable housing that is affordable. So, the folks at LILAC (Low Impact Living Affordably Community) have teamed up with ModCell (awesome company that creates straw bale pre-fab panels that has found huge approval and success in the UK) and created a new model for environmentally conscious cohousing. This is the UK’s first affordable green cohousing project.
Debbie, a reader of ours, has entered the Aviva Community Fund challenge with a great idea of creating a Straw Bale Tipi Village. In order for this project to win the challenge, it needs to receive the most votes. Below is a description of the project as well as a link for you to vote for it.
I have had more and more people ask me recently if I would review their construction drawings, or if I am available as a consultant for them during the construction of their home, and several other requests. The answer is yes. I am available for all kinds of consulting work and have simply remained somewhat quiet about it over the years. I really enjoy consulting with owner builders as I get to meet a lot of wonderful people and I get to share the expertise I have collected over the years.
Every month, during our workshop season, we have the very fun task of selecting a winner to receive one of our free 7 day straw bale workshops. The idea of the workshop giveaways sprung about four years ago and it’s been an enormous success since. We calculate that we have been able to provide free spots to at least 25 winners and each and every one of them has been a delight and a wonderful addition to our workshops.
Now, you might think that finding the winners for our free workshops would be a piece of cake. After all, each person that signs up on the list, we assume, has done so out of their own accord and in hopes of winning a free straw bale workshop. But, here’s the thing; for every person that responds to our email about winning the free workshop, there have been an average of 3 failed attempts to make contact with a selected winner. So, for the 25 or so people that have received a free workshop, we’ve attempted, with no success, to make contact with about 75. When I put on my marketing hat I can see that, realistically, despite our best attempts to select wording that doesn’t flag our emails as junk, most of the winning notifications most likely became jammed in spam filters.
When I arrived at the Perth workshop site in Calingiri, Western Australia last week, I was amazed. Before me stood our workshop home, a beautifully built, roughly 5,000 sqft structure, surrounded fully by 10’ verandas, and capped by perhaps the largest residential roof I’ve ever seen. What the hosts had been able to accomplish before the workshop, with some help, was extraordinary. And as though getting the structure ready for the workshop, organizing all of the materials, and preparing their land to host 35 people hadn’t been enough, Geoff and Sarah, the hosts, had decided to ad a couple extra items to their To-Do list:
1. Hand brew copious amounts of beer in several different flavors for the workshop.
2. Hunt and butcher several kangaroos for the menu.
TransMineral USA is hosting a plastering workshop this fall, October 11 and 12, 2012. This is a great opportunity to learn the material from some of the best. Keep in mind that TransMineral USA is the sole US importer of Natural Hydraulic Lime, so they know their stuff. I don’t know exactly who will be leading the workshop, but I imagine he or she will be top notch and I expect Michel, the owner of TransMineral USA will be there as well. I highly recommend you attend this workshop if you can make it.
Here’s what they have to say in their workshop announcement:
Imagine if we had to make our straw bales with a hand baling machine like this one from 1916. That would certainly slow down the process of building a straw bale house. I guess it’s fair to say that it’s green construction because there are no emissions, unless of course you consider sweat to be an emission! As if the work isn’t hard enough as is, let’s make the men wear heavy wool clothing to sweeten the smell!
Seriously though, the fact that hand balers can be used to make quality bales is actually important. There are parts of the world where building a straw bale home would be fantastic; however, the machinery does not exist in the area to do so. That’s where the hand balers come in. There are parts of Africa, for example, where the labor rates are very low (in relation to what we are used to paying here in the States) and large labor forces exist. If one could employ those laborers to make bales, stack them, and create beautiful and efficient homes from them, a whole new perspective on housing could be created.
The efficiency of straw bale homes would be a wonderful thing to share with those living in extreme climates and the existence, or lack there of, of local modern baling machinery should not deter people from making this happen.