Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Straw Houses

Because I have a few extra minutes, I want to back up a few days to our stay in Kingston.  There we stayed at a 'rustic' B &B, Black Range Lodge,  that focuses on being very eco-conscious.  The inn itself was built from the ruins of an 1880ish building that housed miners and cavalrymen, and was later a casino and saloon.  Some of the original brickwork and plaster remain today, but it was remodeled and reconstructed in the 1940's.

Since then, the current owners have built on and remodeled until it feels rather like a maze.  All rooms join a central gathering area, but to get to some of the rooms requires a bit of navigation.  I would describe it as a rustic hodgepodge of quaint and interesting things.  The resident dog, Charlie, greets everyone....all he moves are his eyes.  Let's just say, he is one very calm dog. 
What really caught my interest, however, were the full time residents and what they were up to......Mike (right) is a 'WWOLFer' (My son, Michael, 'WWOLF'ed, so I knew what it was) as well as a Peace Corp retiree.  He was joined by Josh and his wife and child, as well as Jas, from the Netherlands. They were building a straw bale building on the property to use as a workshop.  I had read about this, but have never actually seen one.

Straw-bale construction is a building method that uses bales of straw as structural elements, insulation, or both. In this building, the workshop was framed in with 2x4's, with the bales of straw in between and in front of  the studs, creating the internal structure as well as providing insulation.  Then, Mike, Josh and Jas dug dirt from a nearby pit, mix it with water and used it to plaster over the straw.  Several of these mud layers were applied, and the exposed mud was smoothed and sanded as a finished wall. The first layer of mud on the straw reminded me of those chocolate haystack candies that are made from crunchy chow mein noodles and chocolate chips.   The mud they were using was a beautiful deep brown, looking almost like fudge. I never thought I would say this, but that mud was truly beautiful. The finished walls looked so rich! 

When complete, the workshop  will be powered by solar panels as well as having a cistern to catch rain water.  Very cool.

Applying mud to the secured straw bales

First coat of mud to the straw--doesn't it look like that Haystack candy?

Side view of construction

Finished and unfinished mud

Freshly finished walls--mud is still wet.

Pit where from where the dirt for mud is dug

                                                     Mixing the dirt with water to make mud

Using syntetic plaster is not effective as it heats as it cures.  Since syntetic plaster is not very porous, it send s the heat and moisture produced as it cures inward, and compromises the straw.

Completed straw bale structure (tool shed)

And so the WWOLFer huffed and he puffed, but he couldn't blow the straw house down..... (Thanks, Jeff).


  1. I was hoping you were going to make a Big Bad WWOOF joke. You know...cuz of the straw houses...three little pigs and such...you know? :)

    Great pictures by the way!

  2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY< SIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Happy Birthday Honey. What a great story about straw houses. You see things on bike rides I never take the time to enjoy. Can't wait until we ride together again.

  4. Happy Birthday, Mom! Love you! :)

  5. I was going to make a big bad wolf joke, but Jeff there beat me to it...happy birthday!