I wanted you all to get a chance to meet the hosts for the last straw bale workshop of the year. Beau and Stefanie are an amazing young couple with a growing family and a love for the visual arts (read photography and video work). I met them a couple years ago at the Austin, TX workshop and knew right away that I wanted to work with them. They’re a ton of fun, and inspiring people. To help you get to know them a little better, I’ve asked them to share some thoughts on their project and themselves below.
We have a few more spots left in the workshop if you want to join us. I know it’s going to be an amazing week, and as the last hurrah of the year, it will likely be a heck of a good time. Bring your instruments, your humor, your life stories, and your desire to have fun, and meet us in Oklahoma! Here’s what they had to say about their project…
When we thought about building our house, we considered a lot of different details. In the end, we loved the idea of being teased about the three little pigs for the rest of our lives. That and building with alternative building materials. When reading about building earthen ovens, we started reading about cob construction, and straw bale construction shortly thereafter. We loved the philosophy of both techniques, but straw bale seemed to be the most viable and appropriate for our climate.
Much time and effort has been put into the property. When we first purchased it 2.5 years ago, it was nothing but 20 acres of thick trees and poison ivy. The trees were all so over crowded that nothing was really thriving. Since then we’ve cleared out three main areas: The farm, the homesite, and the nature trails. We are taking great strides to pursue principles of permaculture in everything we do. That is, using the natural flow of the elements in order to produce things in harmony with one another. We hope to use the property as an example to educate people on the benefits of these principles, though we’re still rolling around ideas.
While building with young children has certainly had it’s challenges, we’re very grateful that our oldest, Oliver, is getting to experience this with us. He’s 4 years old now, so he was only 18 months when we started this adventure which is mind blowing. Our 6-month old daughter, Violet, is obviously way too young for her to remember this time, but she is THE PERFECT BABY for this time in our lives. She’s remarkably chill, which has made dealing with some of the more challenging aspects of this process a little easier. Want to meet our kids too? Come to Choctaw to help us build and we’ll be happy to give you the full family tour!
Unfortunately the majority of the work we’ve done on our home has been in the planning and logistical aspects. The original dream was to learn how to build this home ourselves, but the need for full time work and an expanding family put a fire under our butts. We’re working with a builder who is overseeing the entire build process. That’s not to say we haven’t had an incredible amount of help from family and friends in this process. Simply put, we could not have done this on our own and we are so excited to welcome all of the participants to our workshop in the coming weeks. Having participated in a workshop a couple years back, we are thrilled to be on “the other side” of the equation this time around, as hosts!
Andrew asked us to share what we’v learned most about in the journey so far. Soooo, what we’ve learned most about hammers…oh wait. Seriously though, we’ve been tested just about every step of the way on this journey. We’ve learned that we’re strong enough to get through the setbacks. We get EACH OTHER through the setbacks. Our families have incredible patience, as do our friends. We’ve also learned that we probably owe a lot of favors to a lot of people, and will have to have an epic house warming party once we’re ready. The true journey is not so much the house construction, but the life lessons that have come, and continue to come, with it.
If we could be so brave as to offer a thought of inspiration for the next person considering building their own home, we would say this: There will be immense challenges. There were times we thought we were going to have to pull the plug. We could have easily given up, but we put our heads together and figured it out. Find your grit and get through the tough times, as there will likely be many. The experience of overcoming those roadblocks has been worth every stress along the way. We have grown as people and we have learned new skills on the construction site too!
We would also recommend that you hire an architect who understands the modern techniques of straw bale construction. There have been changes in the industry and convincing our architect to draw the modern systems that Andrew uses in his workshops took extra effort and time. Don’t get me wrong, we love our house and are very happy with the layout, but it was extremely time consuming getting the plans adjusted to be more along the lines of modern straw bale building techniques.
When we went to Austin to discover whether or not we would want to pursue this for ourselves, we realized something bigger than that question. We’d read the articles, watched the videos, bought the books, but didn’t have any hands-on experience. From the moment we arrived and saw the frame of the house we were going to build, it just felt right. As hot as it was in Austin that summer, we left knowing that we were going to host a workshop of our own. It was excellent working as a team. We met people that we still keep in touch with today (some will even be visiting during our workshop)! It was empowering. Learning all of the new skills and actually applying them to a real build was an incredibly gratifying experience. We want to share that experience with others, and that’s why we strongly encourage people to attend our workshop in Choctaw, Oklahoma. It will change your life. I know that sounds crazy, but as Andrew has said before, “it’s SO much more than a workshop”. It’s truly a life experience.
One thing we’d like to add is that we went into this expecting to be turned down by bank after bank, and to have to come up with some kind of clever way to hide the fact we were building with straw bales in order to get a permit. We experienced none of that. We not only found financing at the second bank we spoke to, we received our building permit with zero issues relating to the bales. Our plans had straw bales written all over them, and not one word was mentioned by the permitting department. That’s not only a victory for us, that’s a victory for straw bale construction.
We are so excited for our workshop and we hope you will join us. As we said above, its so much more than a workshop. Come learn about bales, construction, life, and friendship. You’ll be so glad you came. We can say that from experience! If you want to learn more about the project or if you want to sign up, you can click here to do so. See you next month in Choctaw!