The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Straw bale building made easy

Easy straw bale building lessons that are fun

Carolyn Roberts from house of has made a fun and informative 8 minute video that takes you through all the hoops she had to jump through to make her straw bale dream a reality. What sets this collection of information apart from others I've come across is the level of detail she shares when it comes to building codes and materials.

We considered the straw bale approach briefly, but decided against it for multiple reasons, mainly the fact that we get a lot of moisture around here, and it's not really as cheap as you might think.  Carolyn spent 50 thousand dollars and a good chunk of her precious time to finish the above home, which was way out of our price range and would have delayed our garden infrastructure building considerably. Her Walden castle is hands down more beautiful and efficient than our recycled trailer, but we would have had to go in debt to attain that level of comfort, an option that shouldn't even be on the table for anyone who prefers time over money, which goes to the very core essence of what the Walden Effect is all about.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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We looked into straw bale for our project in NM...but decided to go with a Modified earth ship design. New Mexico does not allow load bearing straw bale, so the more common "infill" method is required.

In doing research for this I acquired some great books on straw bale construction and design...since we don't need them any more I've got them for sale..

Thanks to Mark for the great post!

Comment by moontree ranch Tue Jan 26 11:12:26 2010
I thought about building with straw bale too, but decided against it for the very same reasons you did. But first I wanted to give it a try, and help some folks out, so I volunteered on a Hopi reservation to build one. Here are some photos: . It was fun, but ultimately not much easier or cheaper than building a stick home. I think the reason for going straw bale should be more about energy efficiency and savings over time than saving any money up front.
Comment by Everett Tue Jan 26 12:25:11 2010

Moontreeranch --- Those books look good. I can't tell if Serious Strawbale is one of them --- that's the book I got the most out of when I was researching.

Everett --- I think that the finances for strawbale are different in different parts of the country. Maybe if you live in the grain belt where straw really is a waste product, it'd be cheaper. Around here, and I suspect where you live, they ship straw for hundreds of miles, so it's clearly not cheap. :-) Thanks for the links to the photos!

Comment by anna Tue Jan 26 13:24:32 2010
One of those book I have for sale is the Redfeather far the best resource for a DIY, type build (I read that on cover to cover)...their method combined with a Shallow Frost Protected Foundation and you could easily build on the cheap...especially if your in the Dakotas...where they build a lot. Its wheat country up there and bales can be had cheap ...Building load bearing also keeps the cost way down.
Comment by moontreeranch Tue Jan 26 19:17:29 2010
When I was reading, load-bearing did seem to be the way to go. I still might consider it for something small, especially if we miraculously grew enough grain that we had straw left over. :-)
Comment by anna Wed Jan 27 12:17:59 2010

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