Construction Journal June 2004
We are ready to get bales! This is the most exciting part so far. The workshop is set for the 19th & 20th. We took Wednesday the 2nd off to go to pick up our front door in LA. While we were there we spent the afternoon at Redondo Beach and then had dinner at Pinks. The hot dogs were great, but between them, Krispy Kremes and saltwater we were sick when we got home. Matt Parker has called to schedule the straw bales delivery on Friday. I went up to meet him and so wanted Mark & the kids to see it too. I took tons of video and pictures to make up for it. Leslie ran to the bank to get cash for me so that I could meet Matt on time. Leslie has been a major help through all of this. I love the community aspects of this type of building. Friends drop by just to lend a hand and the neighbors (Max, Jim & Shirley) stopover at least once a weekend to take part. It feels like everyone is taking as much enjoyment and pride from the house as we are. I also have to give kudos to Matt– he was completely willing to work with us, returned our phone calls, and even initiated some to us. He showed up right when he said and charged exactly as agreed. You don’t realize what great qualities these are until you start building a house! I would highly recommend him to others.
5&6 – We finished the windows and doors completely. It becomes more complicated with the 2-foot thick walls. Boxes had to built around them, benches for the window seats, and a frame on top to hold the bales overhead. We decided on the curve the window and doors would have and cut out the sill plates. The kids cut open their doors and thought that was really cool.
Gravel is scheduled to arrive at 7 am Wednesday morning. We will fill in the 2-foot spans for the bales to sit on. I am not really looking forward to shoveling gravel around the perimeter of the house. But the budget makes these kinds of decisions, and I’m cheap labor.
It is now past June and I am finally getting a chance to write again. The month was more than busy! The gravel came and we used the trusty old tractor to scoop it up and pour it in. I am in love with that tractor. All I had to do then was spread it out and level. What would have been a full day of hard labor ended up being only a couple of hours of work. The next weekend Mark & I couldn’t wait anymore and put in the bales in the plumbing wall of the Master bath and an 8-foot wall at the end of the closet. We had to do both walls because the bales had to be laid brick-like in the corner. The plumber needed us to get it done so he could finish his venting through those walls. Mark & I had completed 5 courses up and then came back Wednesday to cut in his channels. I walked into the room and saw that Monty, the Plumber had found the chainsaw and cut in his own channels. We had left the chainsaw out under a pile of straw and I guess he found it and decided to start without us.
The workshop went without a hitch. We were able to complete 6 courses in all but a wall in the kitchen and two walls in the master bedroom. There were friends, neighbors, and a few people who wanted to learn and work. Jim I think became addicted to the straw in his clothing because he continued to show up every time Mark & I went out to do more bales! Mark & I slowed considerably after the workshop on the bales. We discovered that it was incredibly tiring and we could manage to work on Saturday, but Sunday had to be a framing or light workday. It took Jim & us two more weekends and Mark & I another Wednesday to finish. There is still the 7th course and the gable ends to complete, but it has to wait for other jobs first. I can’t thank Jim enough; he would be waiting for us in the morning and work until dark. I wasn’t able to lift the bales above the 5th course, so Jim was a huge help. At the end, we finally figured out a step system with the straw bales so I could do the top course. We are still picking straw out of our socks though and I don’t really like straw any more than I like rocks these days. It is amazing though the difference that the straw has made in the temperature of the house. It is at least 110 degrees every day now and when you walk from the trailer to the garage, it is stifling hot, you enter the garage with the tech shield and there is a noticeable difference, then you walk into the house and it becomes almost comfortable. We put the portable swamp cooler up where we are working and it is completely comfortable. That is until I have to turn it off because the compressor is about to kick on with the nail gun.