Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One Bale at a Time

Work continues at a nice steady pace. I must admit, though, that I have to keep telling myself that it's not a race and that I can take my time. I'm not as young as I used to be and pacing myself is a must.

Here's a gallery of photos of work done to date.
The Straw Boss - Rick after a day's work.
The living room

Rick notching a bale.

North wall

Expanded lath tying the north wall to the garage wall.
Walls going up in the garage.

The garbage bags are full of loose straw. The bales are so tightly baled that when a notch is cut, there's LOTS of loose straw. We are bagging it up to use in the plastering (and mulching of garden).

Looking into the garage

Starting on the east wall. Plastic will soon be added to the outside of this wall.

A couple of things learned about stacking straw bales

The first thing we learned when we started stacking the bales is that they come in all different lengths. They AVERAGE 36" long but vary from 31 to 41".  When Rick designed the layout for the bales he based it on 36" long two string bales. Needless to say, with all the different lengths, the bales don't fit like he planned which means we've been doing a lot of notching and splitting of bales.  We're getting pretty good at it! We bought a nifty cordless chain saw which we thought would make the bale notching task easier but we've found that what we're really using is a good old bow saw.

The bale needle I found on line has also been an invaluable tool. 

Another thing learned:  Wear a mask and cover up as much as possible! Working with bales is dirty, dusty work!

Not to be outdone, Tex decided he wanted to play with straw, too.  Luckily the bale he decided to play with was an old one. Looks like he had fun, though, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Finally - Stacking Bales!!!!

Soffit vents are done and preliminary window framing is installed so FINALLY it's on to stacking bales!
Window framing.

On November 14th, almost one year to the day from setting our first adobe block in place, we placed our first straw bale!  This has been a LONG time coming.  Rick and I first started researching straw bale building close to 15 years ago.  We worked on three straw bale homes in San Diego and have spent a lot of time dreaming about building our straw bale home.  It feels wonderful to FINALLY be stacking OUR bales!

First bale in place!

Bales in the corner of the office.

To attach the bales to the posts we are using expanded lath stapled to the posts and attached to the bale with a landscape pin. This is done every 3rd course or so.

Here's the corner with the trombe wall to the left.

We wanted to be able to hang art and shelves so I came up with the idea of inserting 2 x 6s between courses.  The boards are attached to stakes that have holes drilled in the end.  The ends of the stakes are slipped under the baling twine and then a landscape pin is used to secure the stakes to the bales.

Here's what it looks like installed with another course of bales on top. Plaster will come up to the 2 x 6 at the top and bottom. The board will then be stained - probably using natural dyes.  This will go all around the house and will give us a good solid place from which to hang things.

This is the corner of the office where my desk will be.

This will be my window and will give me a view of the Pedernal.

This is looking north.  I'm standing where Rick's desk will go.  His window is just to the left there.

Splitting Bales

Just like when laying adobes, some bales need to be split.  We got a nifty bale needle to help with that process.  The needle is about 3 feet of steel rod that had a notch and a hole in one end and a wooden handle on the other.
Here's Rick threading baling twine into the bale.

He then pulls the new twine around and ties it on each end.

Once the new strings are tied, the old strings are cut.

You now have two bales of what ever size you require.  

Work to date.

Being at this stage feels a little surreal to me. I really can't believe that we are actually stacking bales in OUR house! We thought the house would start to feel smaller as the walls go up but what we are finding is that what it really feels like is - enclosed. There is still a huge pile of bales in the "studio" but it's gradually getting smaller and the space is starting to feel like a house.