Category Archives: Straw Bale Building

Why Build With Straw Bales?

Homestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

 

If you are a regular reader, you already know we are in the middle of building a straw bale insulated home.  I often meet people who assume I am therefore some sort of straw bale evangelist.  This always strikes me as odd because I can’t really understand why I would want to push my building choices on someone else.  As an adult, I feel perfectly able to consider the options and weigh which ones fit our desires and needs.  Therefore, I feel most adults are likewise capable of the same.

So, if you have to ask why you would build a straw bale home, please don’t build one!  If you think straw bale homes mean rodents, rotting straw, fire or other similar disasters, please insulate with something that you are comfortable with.  Rest assured that we don’t care and certainly won’t judge your choice harshly!  

Continue reading

The House Design

house_drawing-1Homestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
We have spent about 2 years on our farm now and have gotten to the point where we are ready to build a house.  It took about that long to get a feel for the best siting and to get various other prerequisite projects completed, such as a barn to store the straw bales.  This has given us some time to think about what we really want.  Here are some of the things we considered in our design:

Continue reading

Getting Ready For Plaster

weldedcloseupHomestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
We’re still working on our straw bale guest cabin.  As you probably know, things don’t always go according to plan or go as quickly as you’d like them to go.  The bales were stacked and ready for the welded wire in December.  Winter is very mild here in southern Missouri, and we thought we could put the lime plaster up before the weather got too cold.  But as the night time lows dipped around freezing, we realized that we were just going to have to wait for warmer weather.  There always other projects to do around here, so work on the guest cabin slowed to working on it on rainy days.  Several other projects took priority and have been completed.  Our focus has returned to the guest cabin as we’re nearly ready to get started on our actual house!   It’s time to get this cabin done!

 

Continue reading

Straw Bale Cabin Update

fbwallHomestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

 

As you may know, we are building a small straw bale guest cabin as a trial run before building our straw bale house.  The original plan was to get our house weathered in before winter.  Between the weather, other jobs requiring attention on the homestead and life in general, we’re still working on the guest cabin and haven’t started on the house.  We have done enough remodeling and other building projects to know that this is par for the course.  The new goal is to complete the house in 2016! 

Continue reading

Straw Bale Building

 

hay2
Homestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
 
 
When we moved to our homestead a year ago, the plan was to build a house sometime in the near future.  After a year full of building infrastructure and adding animals to our homestead, it’s time to focus on the house!  We did a lot of research, reading books, watching videos and talking to people in the area before making our decision on what kind of house to build.  Let’s start on another adventure, and build a straw bale house!  Since this is a new way of building for us and there is a lot to learn, we decided to start small and build a guest house first.  The idea being that we will get all of the kinks worked out before we start on our house.

Continue reading

We’re still plugging away!

 

Homestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Busy, busy, busy!  Whew, it has been quite a summer so far.  Sorry for the lack of updates.  We have had our heads down working and writing after a long, hot day hasn’t been our priority, I’m afraid.  So, what have we been up to?  Hmm, let’s see…

  • Re-roofing: we finally decided to re-roof the very sad roof on the old farm house.  It was in really bad shape and was quite leaky.  We replaced the asphalt shingles with painted metal.  It turned out to be a fairly large job, due to the pitch (9/12) and the modifications we made.  We were aware of one rotted spot that we had to cut out, but then found another spot that really needed some help.  Turns out it was really the result of an old dormer that wasn’t really useful any more, so we removed it.  It was interesting to look at all the layers of shingles and then wood shakes under that.  I even found one wooden shake that still had the label on it.  In removing the dormer, we found a cool collection of old bottles, including one for “swamp water”.  We also found evidence, in the form of old plastic tubs placed around the attic, that the dormer had been leaking for years.  I guess that’s one way to “fix” the problem.
This shows the sorry state of the roof we started with. The dormer shown is the source of the leaks.

This shows the sorry state of the roof we started  with. The dormer shown is the source of the leaks.

This shows the house roof nearly completed. The dormer has been removed and the metal is on though not trimmed.

This shows the house roof nearly completed. The dormer has been removed and the metal is on though not trimmed.

  • Re-roofing, take 2: most of the buildings on our farm really could use some roofing work.  One building was in pretty good shape, but really needed some help for the leaky old tin, so we ripped into this next.  As the rafters were really bowed and in bad shape, we ended up replacing all the rafters with new 2×8 framing.  This really transformed the building into something useful.  We still need to re-side the building to make it really good, since it currently has many places you could throw a (bob) cat through!
This sorry building was likely a chicken house at some point in its life. It was in bad shape; the roof was terrible and walls had rotted away in places. It is amazing it was still standing

This sorry building was likely a chicken house at some point in its life. It was in bad shape; the roof was terrible and walls had rotted away in places. It is amazing it was still standing

This picture shows the new metal roof that was installed. We ended up completely rebuilding the roof with new rafters since the old ones were undersized and in bad shape.

This picture shows the new metal roof that was installed. We ended up completely rebuilding the roof with new rafters since the old ones were undersized and in bad shape.

  • Gardening: Janelle has been very busy trying to keep up with a large garden this summer, between taking care of kids.  We are still learning plenty about the new climate, but overall the garden has been a great success.  We’re told it has been a weird year with far above average rain, so I guess we still need to experience a “normal” summer.
  • Broiler Chickens: We butchered broiler chickens the end of August. It is always pleasant to be past that chore and have the freezer stocked for the winter.  The broilers were a success this year, but next year should be better now that we have some infrastructure in place.  We used Salatin-style pens again and that was good, but I believe next year we will go back to a day-range model as it seemed that the birds really needed more space.
  • Grazing: Grazing is keeping us quite busy, given the number of animal species to move.  We are now grazing beef cattle, meat goats, meat sheep, dairy goats, and pigs.  It seems there is always some animal that needs to be moved.  As we move toward winter, the goal is to consolidate as much as possible to cut down on daily labor.
  • Planning house: We have decided to start building our house this fall.  After much thought, we finally decided to go with strawbale construction, using post and beam framing and straw as insulation (infill, not load bearing).  We are planning large overhangs and porches to prevent water issues.  Additionally, the outside will be finished in lime, which will help to keep the walls dry since lime finishes tend to draw moisture out.  The inside walls will be finished with a combination of natural plaster and drywall on some interior (non-straw) walls.
  • Guest Cabin: The house planning eventually turned into guest cabin as well.  This gives us a good opportunity to get some experience building with straw on a small scale rather than starting with a large project first.  This will be a two room tiny structure with just a bed and a bathroom, similar to a hotel room.

 

This picture shows the thickened-edge slab foundation for the guest cabin. The "toe-ups" are partially installed. These 4x4's will be used to hold the straw bales up out of the danger of water damage from a pipe leak or similar.

This picture shows the thickened-edge slab foundation for the guest cabin. The “toe-ups” are partially installed. These 4×4’s will be used to hold the straw bales up out of the danger of water damage from a pipe leak or similar.

  • Water: One big challenge on this farm is having water available in all pastures.  We are blessed with numerous existing ponds and running water in some areas, but we prefer to keep the animals out of the streams and ponds and pipe it to them instead.  This is an ongoing project that is going to take several years to complete, but we have started running some pipe.  At some point, we will rent an excavator and start getting at least some of it in the ground.  Wherever possible, we will make use of solar to pump out of ponds and gravity to deliver the water.
  • Shop Building: Since moving here, we have constantly missed the outbuildings we had at our last house.  Working on vehicles and other equipment on gravel or in the grass is really not very pleasant.  We will be building a simple pole barn structure to remedy this problem.  However, it has proven more difficult than expected to actually get someone to sign up for the work.  Any changes beyond the bone stock models they typically build seemed to cause great consternation.  At this point, we finally have a builder (a neighbor, yippee!) and are eager to get started, especially so we have a place to stack straw bales while building our house!  The next challenge here will be leveling a building site to get started with.  The best site we found is going to need about 4′ of cut and fill, so some more tractor time is in our future!