The Importance of Knowing Your Bale Source

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I partly wrote this post just so I could use this picture, I admit it. Cool picture though huh?

I often talk about knowing where your bales will come from before you start building and even designing so you can know the dimensions and how those dimensions will affect your process. I cannot say how important this is, now more than ever. The number of available bales in the Northwest is so small right now, that I am struggling to find enough for my June workshop! I have contacted all of my sources and have managed to find some bales, only to run into the dilemmaFr1skyandS of how to get them here. Fuel costs being as high as they are, it is hard to cost effectively transport bales any distance.

I always support buying locally and using bales from your immediate area if possible, but sometimes that simply cannot be done. It appears that I may be in this situation myself now. Oh the irony of that huh?! Anyway, I it looks like I have found some local bales, but they are nowhere near the size I am used to using. This means that the structure I plan to use for my workshop will be unprepared for the larger bales that will show up in a couple weeks. This is ultimately a great lesson and one that I will teach the participants, first hand!

Know your source. Confirm the availability of your bales. Know the bale dimensions. Have fun. These are all important aspects of building with bales…not necessarily in that order!

29 Responses to The Importance of Knowing Your Bale Source

  1. Andy Sat, June 7, 2008 at 5:29 am #

    I am a farmer located in northeastern texas and have sold some bales for homes. I like how straw builders share ideas and help each other. I have some ideas of my own that may help. To keep shipping prices down we have loaded bales in semi van trailers because they are inclosed(ensuring dryness) and are usually the best price on trucking. If the trailer can stay on sight you also have you taping problem solved. One other thing I wanted to mention is ask the supplier for the moisture reading of the bales. We won’t bale if the moisture is over 14.5 percent to insure there will be no mold. That reading or under will remain in bales that are tight and stored properly.

  2. Andrew
    Andrew Wed, June 11, 2008 at 9:25 pm #

    Andy,
    Thanks for this information. I am sure the other readers appreciate it as much as I do.

  3. Nancy L. Hanna Fri, June 13, 2008 at 5:20 am #

    Andy,

    Thanks! I’ve been trying to locate a supplier in Texas, preferably close to the San Antonio/Hill Country area – and I haven’t had much luck. It’s good to hear from a Texas supplier. I’d like to get some estimates on cost from several suppliers and while I’d really like to buy in the local area I can’t seem to locate any the provide bales for building. Any suggestions?

  4. Ric Renfro Mon, June 16, 2008 at 4:56 am #

    Ok, so how do I contact Andy, I live in N.W. Texas and am interested in building a straw bale house and need a source of hay.

  5. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, June 16, 2008 at 6:30 am #

    Ric,
    Good question. Hopefully Andy is still watching this post and can respond to you directly here. I do not have any contact information for him. one note and important detail: you don’t want hay, you want straw. They are very different and should not be exchanged for any reason.

  6. Susan Mon, June 16, 2008 at 1:32 pm #

    Help! Need the name and contact number of a supplier around the El Paso/Dell City area. Also, what is the approximate price per bale now?

    Susan

  7. Royal Tue, June 17, 2008 at 5:42 am #

    Not much wheat is grown in the SouthEast … but we have sources for baled “pine straw” (pine needles) … would they make suitable bales for building? (moisture content and other such things be equal) … of course this is an area that tends to have humidity …

  8. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, June 17, 2008 at 6:53 am #

    Royal,
    I think Pine Bales would be fine all things being equal. I am interested to know what the moisture content of that material is and how much moisture it can handle before it starts to decompose. For grain straw (wheat, rice, oats, etc) it is a moisture content above 20% by volume. If pine can handle more moisture, it would be a great option for areas of high humidity. If you can discuss this with a local pine bale source and report back, that would be great!

  9. Andrew
    Andrew Tue, June 17, 2008 at 6:56 am #

    Susan,
    I am not sure of a source in that area. I hope someone on this list knows of one and can post it here. The cost of a two string bale is roughly $4 plus delivery. A three string bale is roughly $5 plus delivery. Of course these prices will vary by region.

  10. Andy Tue, June 17, 2008 at 6:13 pm #

    Wheat straw or oat straw small squares 2 wire 18″x12″x36″
    $3.15 loaded on or in trailer location gainesville,tx
    I do some delivery but quantity and distance varies price.
    940-727-9655

  11. Niki Wed, August 13, 2008 at 11:13 am #

    Andrew, here’s suggestion for folks looking for bales. Pput an ad in your local farm/ag newspaper or one of those used farm implement want-ad type newspapers (similar to Auto Trader). That’s what I did and I got responses from several local farmers.

  12. Andrew
    Andrew Wed, August 13, 2008 at 11:16 am #

    Great idea Niki!

  13. Andy Thu, August 14, 2008 at 6:53 pm #

    Try craigslist.com or the haybarn.com

  14. Donna Tue, October 21, 2008 at 9:47 pm #

    All great suggestions! But, anyone know of sources for bales in the so Calif area?

    thanks!

  15. Andrew
    Andrew Wed, October 22, 2008 at 2:37 pm #

    Talk to Dennis LaGrande at DLG Farms in Williams, CA. His office phone number is 530.473.5625. I do not know any Southern California farmers that would be closer to you. If you find one, please let me know so I can keep track of his/her contact information for future users. Thanks.

  16. Carolyn Thu, October 8, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    I live in Michigan, where the straw bales all seem to be the 2-string variety. I’m trying to design a passive straw bale house (one that’s so energy efficient that it doesn’t need a furnace, just a bit of supplemental heat on the very coldest days), and the required R value for that type of design is higher than a 2-string bale can provide. Three-string bales would have a high enough R value, but don’t seem to be available here. My idea is to use 1 1/2 bales to get the required thickness (about 27″ plus plaster) as in-fill for a post and beam structure. Would this work, and could I use the wire mesh and baling twine sewing to hold the 2 layers together well enough? Should I stack the bales so the first layer has the half bale on the inside, the second layer on the outside, etc, or should I make 2 walls, one of the single bales and one of the half bales? Any other ideas how to accomplish this?

  17. Andrew
    Andrew Mon, October 26, 2009 at 4:06 pm #

    I would not bother with that at all. I would suggest you find a supplier of three string bales. I’m sure there is someone relatively nearby who is selling them. In fact, they’re quickly becoming the norm for the larger farms. Talk to your farm supply store. They’ll likely know where to find them. The amount of work you’ll create for yourself with the method you describe is huge! Trust me. That said, if you decide to go the route you’re describing, the sewing and mesh would be adequate to hold everything together in the end. I believe the interim would be difficult though.

  18. Jerry Sat, February 6, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    I guess this method of building would be an excellent alternative to rebuild Haiti both for protection against earthquakes and because of the low cost adapted to this poor country

  19. Erin Andrews Tue, November 8, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    I am only writing to make you understand what a extraordinary experience my cousin’s child found checking your webblog. She learned a wide variety of issues, which included how it is like to have an amazing teaching spirit to have other folks smoothly have an understanding of certain tortuous subject areas. You actually exceeded readers’ expectations. Thank you for delivering the practical, trustworthy, educational and in addition easy thoughts on the topic to Kate.

  20. Liliana Tue, June 11, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    Hello, Andrew! Is it possible to contact Andy who sells straw bale in N-E Texas? We need straw bale for a school project. Thank you!

  21. Andrew
    Andrew Sun, June 16, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Hi Liliana. Try this number: 940-727-9655

  22. Alex M Sun, March 15, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    Hi,

    Does anyone know of an organic straw producer near san antonio, texas? I’m starting a edible mushroom growing project and am looking for organically grown straw, without pesticides. Do you have an idea of how I can find organic straw bales?

    Thanks,
    Alex

  23. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Tue, April 7, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    I don’t have any resources for that; however, you may contact your local farm supply stores and see if they can help you.

  24. Pamela Thu, August 13, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Andrew,

    Do you know where to get the sand and clay to build the strawbale homes in Northeast, Texas? I am getting ready to build.

    Thank you,
    Pamela

  25. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Thu, August 13, 2015 at 11:46 am #

    Check with your local sand and gravel companies for the sand. Be sure to get angular, sharp sand that has at least 4 grit/grain sizes. I use lime plaster, so I don’t know about where to source earthen materials in your area. I HIGHLY recommend using NHL plaster from http://www.limes.us. Tell them I sent you and they will give you my discount pricing.

  26. Pamela Thu, August 13, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    Thank you Andrew!

  27. Kye Thu, October 8, 2015 at 10:25 am #

    Alex, did you ever find organic straw near San Antonio? I need the same…

    Thanks,
    Kye

  28. Valerie Mon, October 24, 2016 at 8:19 am #

    I put out doghouses in the winter for street dogs in Austin, Texas and the surrounding areas, this year I want to fill them with wheat straw. I can not find any, do you have any ideas? Thank you, Val – Pack Team 4 Street Dog Rescue.

  29. Andrew Morrison
    Andrew Morrison Fri, November 11, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    Hi Valerie. Very kind of you. I would suggest talking to a local farm supply co-op. They often sell bales in small quantities. It’s more expensive than buying directly from the farmer, but it may be acceptable given the small number of bales you’ll need. Good luck!

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