Hi everyone. Gabriella here. The other day I received a call from a customer wanting to place an order for our Post and Beam DVD. We got to talking and I pretty quickly realized that I was speaking to someone with an extraordinary story. Excited to hear more we scheduled an interview and I trust that you will love the story of how Cheryl W., a 61 year old, single mom living in the second poorest area in the US, with a home building budget of just $10,000, came to decide to build a straw bale home.
Cheryl spent her formative years living in California. Her life changed dramatically at 19 when her parents moved to a rural area of British Columbia, Canada. When visiting them she met a sweet, local boy at the square dance function and they fell in love, prompting Cheryl to leave her city ways and nestle into a rural lifestyle to raise a family…a really big family of 7 children. Cheryl home schooled each of them and her focus and love in life was to take care of the home and family.
Rather unexpectedly though after 29 years of marriage, Cheryl and her husband divorced. She shares that the experience was the most challenging time of her life. Her whole identity as an adult had revolved around being a mother and wife and she now found herself not only without a husband, but also without a college degree, experience in the work place, and without much of a way to make an income. One thing that you need to know about Cheryl is that she is an extremely kind and loving woman filled with a strong knowing of how to survive and make the best of things. So, she adjusted and got herself out into the work place and adapted so that she could take care of herself and her youngest daughter.
Currently Cheryl and her youngest live in a top floor apartment in another daughter’s home. Although Cheryl is incredibly grateful to be able to live there, she sees this living situation as temporary. She yearns for her own space that is warm, beautiful, healthy, and built by her very own hands. She wants to be independent as she ages and doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone. In fact, she wants this so much that she is putting in 12 hour days, laying out her own rubble trench foundation, learning how to build, etc… Although it is exhausting work and she shares that she has never worked so hard in her life, she does it with a happy heart because she has taken the leap of faith and is fueled by a strong knowing that she in fact can do it. Her adopted 13 year old daughter is eager to help out as well and they have found a sweet routine where she prepares meals for them when her mom is out working a long day.
The straw bale home she is building will be a 24’x24’ modified post and beam structure and will be the first of it’s kind in her small town (population 780). There are some challenges that she is facing, like living in an area where grey water systems and composting toilets are not allowed. She doesn’t want to be forced into having to do a whole plumbing system that will cost nearly half of her entire home budget. Fortunately, the town is run by a progressive mayor and they have obtained “home rule” which means that the residents don’t have to abide by county regulations. So far, she is loving the building process and says that she would prefer to spend time in a hardware store than a dress shop. She has been stocking up on supplies for this build for two years and looking for great deals on the various components that will go into her home. She will build an earthen floor and use an earth plaster to finish her walls. She feels that she can build her home for $10,000 and that everything is on track for staying on budget.
Cheryl sees straw bale construction as a solution to creating inexpensive housing that is beautiful and elegant. She is quite artistic and appreciates beauty in her life. The softness of straw bale walls and the warmth they exude is appealing to her. As a child she always loved fairy tale homes in picture books and she loves the idea of creating something similar for herself. Cheryl envisions herself cozying up by the fire and even growing some of her own food in her home alongside the large south facing windows which she bought at a major discount. She describes the area right around her home-site as visually unappealing and for her creating a sanctuary of beauty and calm feels vital.
I am so inspired by the clarity of Cheryl’s vision and her determination to make her dream come true. Other friends of hers, especially single mothers, are also becoming inspired and seriously considering building their own straw bale home as a way to create healthy housing that is inexpensive and allows them to get out of a financial rat race. When I asked her if she has any words of wisdom to share with others that may be in a similar situation, she shared that “Once you take the first step towards faith, sometimes things have a way of happening. I’d rather live a life in which I had a dream and tried, than one in which I feared that I would fail in achieving my dream and never even tried.” I couldn’t agree with her more.