Today our straw-bale building began to look like a straw bale building! A week and a day after breaking ground, we have the straw bale walls mostly up.
An early treat, today was the first day we could walk on the poured slab floor! It was very satisfying to stand firmly in the middle of our building and imagine what it would become in only several short weeks. Then, with the sill plates and everything else finished, the day started quickly. We cleaned up the spoils and leveled out the site, as the window and door team put up the bucks in preparation for the straw Then we went to work, sorting our MASSIVE MOUNTAIN of straw bales into A, B, and C grades, so that only the squarest and strongest bales were used for the corners. We used rasps – diamond-holed mesh nailed to small sections of board – to shape and square up the bale edges, so they fit snugly against each other (many puns about rasping were made in raspy voices, and various team members were dubbed Rasp Royalty, Rasputin, Chance the Rasper, and more ). Stacking a wall made out of straw bales seems like an easy task, but cutting and splitting the bales to fit around the windows and doors was surprisingly laborious. However the first course of bales was the trickiest, and with 23 people working on about 100 lateral feet of wall, we made a lot of progress once people found their strides.
Some people stuck to shaping bales, some to splitting bales, some to stacking walls, and some of us floated around. A small competition developed among two groups working from opposite back corners of the house, but resolved into helping each other out, as some sections grew tall enough to become unwieldy. Making the corners strong, straight, and square was a fun challenge!
I personally had the pleasure of being part of the crew that put in the two-inch thick cherry-wood windowsills. These were sanded and placed somewhat late in the day, after the straw was up, and they are significantly wider than the windows or window bucks, so putting them in involved leveraging and wedging them in between the existing bales. With a shovel, a sledge hammer, and great determination, we got all 8 windowsills in, and they are so very beautiful. Everyone is excited about how nice they look, and the red in the wood matches the terracotta concrete slab very well. Now that details like this are coming together, everyone is realizing that not only will this building be sustainable, it will be beautiful as well.
On a personal note, I have really enjoyed getting to know the whole group. I was a little unsure of how we would all mesh together up here, since our class didn’t particularly bond during the semester, but now that we’re up at the work site, everyone is as welcoming, weird, and wonderful as can be. It’s pretty incredible how well we all are working together, people picking up slack and watching out for each other, on the site and off. I am excited to be part of a smoothly functioning team involved in a beautiful act of creation, and I can’t wait to see what we build together.
By: Tegwyn John