One situation you are likely to find yourself in when building a straw bale house is the ends of bales sticking too far into a room or beyond the plumb line of an exterior wall. As you know, when you build a bale house, you interlock the corners by placing one bale East-West and then the next bale course North-South as you turn the corner. In doing so, it is easy to stack one of those bales out of plumb and not notice it until the whole wall is stacked.
Another place this is common is around window and door openings. I have seen many folks terminate the bales too far into the window opening to create the shape they want when meshing and shaping. Those bales need to be cut back to allow for proper shaping. Here we cover the topic of tightening bale ends in the wall.
Exactly how to fix this problem can impact the quality of your walls and the ability of those walls to anchor mesh properly when you shape corners, etc… In the past, the simplest fix was to cut the twine on the bales that were out of plumb and pull out the excess stuffing to get them back in line. This works well because the bales, once stacked tightly to the ceiling, can handle the cut twine without falling apart.
The problem comes during the shaping/meshing portion of the build. When you stretch the mesh back across the bales and then landscape pin it, you are asking the bale to hold the pin; however, you are also asking the mesh to hold the bale since you cut the twine thus limiting the strength of that bale. Therefore, both cannot happen. The bale cannot hold the mesh because it will be too weak from losing the twine and the mesh cannot hold the bale without an anchor point for the pins. Oh what to do? 🙂
The answer comes from an old farm fencing trick. Have you ever looked at barbed wire fencing on an old farm? If you check out the last section, at the corners, you will often see a rotting old stick wound up in the wire. That stick is the answer. It is called an apron tie. The stick is used to twist the wire tight and then is left in place to hold the fence tight. This same concept works with bale ends.
I use a bale hook to scrape away some of the straw on the ends and then pull out the rest of what I need out by hand. Then using either a stick, a piece of rebar or bamboo, or a nail, I twist the baling twine tight with the apron tie. A 20d nail works well because once it is twisted tight, you can stick the nail into the bale to hold it in place. The larger items like rebar and sticks are a bit stronger and often easier to twist, but require additional anchoring to hold them in place. If you use the larger twists then use a landscape pin to hold the tie in place.
This concept will provide really strong bales to attach the mesh to and will easily clean up those “growing corners” as I like to call them. Of course, keeping your corners plumb and in check from the start is always the best plan, but it is good to know you can fix them if they are not set up properly.