Friday, 9 May 2014


It's the beginning of May, and only a couple of weeks until we build up the walls with straw bales. So how are things going?

The big news this week is that the straw has arrived. I ordered my bales way back in August last year at harvest time, and they have been in storage since then. And now, here they are:

Nice as it would have been to buy my bales from the farm down the road, I decided that I would search out the very best bales that I could buy. The price, including storage and delivery, was around five times what I would have paid for local bales, but they are very firm, very square, and a regular length. And although the focus is very much on the straw used in construction, the cost of bales is a very small fraction of the total cost of this building and it doesn't make sense to compromise.

Slight snag is: the bales are in large packs with 21 bales to a pack and they need a forklift truck or telehandler to unload them. And even if I had one, I couldn't take it up my garden to the bale store and build site. But help is at hand from the lovely couple in a farm (the one at the end of the road.) With a JCB telehandler, it's just a 15 minute job to get them all into his barn. I've bought 6 packs, 126 bales.

Then it's 7 trips down the road and up the garden with the trailer to get them under cover in my bale store.

Floor lined with pallets to keep them off the ground

The stack takes shape, about 40 bales here.

And yes! - they all fit in. Hard to take a photo of, but I think you can see there is still space to spare. The bales on the right in this photo are not going to be used in construction. I have six bales left over from the slab insulation that I used over the winter which I have kept for sitting on. Compared to the bales just delivered they are a bit soft and fluffy. Also damp, because they got left outside for a couple of nights


Other recent work has been to get the building scaffolded. Another straw bale builder has very kindly lent me a couple of tons of scaffolding for the summer, and I have constructed a deck all the way round at about 1.5 metres height. This is a bit of a compromise: the ideal height for work at eaves and roof level might have been 1.0 to 1.2 metres, but that would have been uncomfortable low for working on the lower part of the outside walls.

Temporary Roof

I am providing weather protection over the building while the straw walls are going up. I've been on straw builds before where there is a mad scramble every time the rain starts, and it can be very disruptive. I don't want to have volunteer builders here who have given their time to come and help sitting around waiting for the weather to improve. So I've made 8 of these pillars, and I will construct a lightweight roof of rafters and battens, brace the structure and cover with a tarp. I'll also have curtainsides of tarp all the way round which can be lifted and stored on the roof while we are working, and dropped if it rains.

It's a work in progress. I designed the temporary roof before I knew I had the scaffolding, so it might take a little modification to get them to fit together.

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