Happy Thanksgiving! Wishing you all a blessed and meaningful thanksgiving season.
Over the past few weeks I’ve often thought about Moses. While facing war and struggling through the real tough and messy battlefield his arms were raised to the Lord. As his arms stayed lifted towards the heavens the Lord fought on his behalf, remaining constant, strong, mighty to save. Have you ever tried lifting your arms towards the heavens. They get heavy! So extremely heavy. It is so tiring in fact it’s nearly impossible to do alone. Luckily Moses had people surrounding him holding up his tired weary arms. No matter how exhausted we are though, God is worthy of all our praise. Through the battle he is mighty to save, sustain, and go before us.
We have worked hard this summer. Rarely stopping except for sleep. After months of this we are feeling exhausted. So very tired. Luckily we have people surrounding us, supporting us, and helping us. Even though we are tired, we are so very thankful. We lift our arms to the Lord and praise his name because he is worthy of all our praise! Whatever little strength we have we give to him. He is faithful.
The Homestead. There is so much to say about all that has happened here! For the people to whom a straw bale house is foreign, let me show you some photos and guide you through a bit of the process we have been through.
The delivery of these bales seems like ages ago! It was an exciting day none the less. Our bales came locally from Tim Froese. He bales them without chopping the straw. They are baled under 16 percent moisture content, usually being around 12 percent. These bales were stored indoors avoiding any extra moisture risks.
The guys worked extremely hard transferring these bales into the shelter of our house structure. We ended up with 10 tons of bales on the main floor and another 2 tons upstairs. This was the maximum Jason felt comfortable placing in the center of the floor. These guys take bale transfers seriously with leather chaps and all. It didn’t take very long for Jason to realize the necessity they really are. He was left with the waistband of his pants and not much else by the time unloading was complete.
Here’s a glimpse of our house structure before the bales began. Post and beam structures held up our vaulted rafter package. Floor trusses made up the main floor as well as the loft floor. All exterior and interior wood faces were covered with water barrier and blood lathe.
The bale laying began. Imagine playing with Lego. Now take those techniques and transfer them to stacking bales. Bale stacking involved a lot of re-tying and cutting bales. Each row is staggered and custom bales are made to finish and begin the rows as necessary. There are details, tricks, and a number of steps involved in the process of cutting and re-tying bales. I will get into that another day if people are interested.
Here’s a tiny glimpse into some of the bale building action. Many volunteers showed up at different times. We had such great times connecting with people as we built. There’s something special about conversations and relationships being built while physically working at something. There are too many different volunteers to mention and showcase here on the blog, but once again thank-you all so very much! Along with all of the hard workdays we had some fun as well. One evening we hung sheets on the straw bale wall. Adults and kids climbed the ladder up into the loft and we all enjoyed a potluck while watching a movie projected on the bale wall (sheets). During the week of my dear Grandma’s funeral a bunch of relatives came over and we all enjoyed a brunch together. Uncle Pat set up a walk by coffee shop in the window with his freshly home roasted beans. We all enjoyed the beautiful day eating outside on the bales.
Here’s a few photo’s to show you the progress as we infilled the post and beams with solid bale walls.
After the bales were done being stacked every square inch of the bales were covered with stucco wire, inside and out. Stucco wire was attached using an air stapler to the solid post structures. Before attaching it to the next post structure we used pitch forks to tension the wire so that it was as tight as possible with minimal sagging or loose areas. After the stucco wire was completed, stitching began.
Whenever a new row of stucco wire began we overlapped it with the previous row. Wherever there was an overlap seaming occurred. We tightly wove both rows of stucco wire together so there was no separation possible. Sewing an entire house together is as crazy as it sounds! We have been stitching for about a month. When I say we, I mean many people or 11 needles have been stitching from morning until dark daily for weeks on end. This is an important step in building a bale home. The bale twine is sewn back and forth holding the stucco wire on the inside, the bales, and the stucco wire on the outside together. This pulls all of the stucco wire in tightly. It helps straighten out the walls. It makes sure the wall acts as one solid individual structure and there is no separation. When this process is done properly and thoroughly it truly provides a great base for lime stucco to be applied on and can avoid any cracking in the stucco. It is also integral for any areas that are “stuffed” to be held firmly as part of the wall. I wish I could say that stitching is completed. Unfortunately it is not yet done. We have 2/3rds of the east wall yet that require this time consuming job.
Wiring a straw bale home like nearly everything requires a lot of pre-thought. All electrical runs were carefully thought out and calculated before any of the bales were laid. We personally chose to use conduit to run the wire through. It is not necessary but with all the sewing required we thought it was beneficial to have the extra protection. The wires were run beneath our floor trusses and then led vertical directly to where needed. They followed the post and beam structures and are deeply embedded in the straw bales.
In the photo about you can see the straw bale, a bit of stitching, the water proofing membrane, blood lathe, stucco wire and electrical outlet all coming together.
The picture above is of the south side of our home. There will be a screen room coming off of this side eventually. Having doors and windows is very exciting. This is one area where suppliers have had issues. We only received half of our windows weeks after they should have arrived. Hopefully the remaining windows will arrive this week.
Yesterday we began stucco! This is extremely exciting. Tony is a friend of ours from church who has years of experience in this area. Although Jason spent many hours researching stucco application research is different than actually doing the job. Although Tony is too busy to help us actually do this job he did set us up with his stucco mixer and tools to get this job done. He came by yesterday to show us the proper mix and give us a speedy hands-on class of different tricks and tips he knows. Tomorrow we will start to tackle this gigantic project and try to get the parge coat on! Stucco needs 24-48 hours without freezing to cure. We have 14 days to complete this job before Tony needs his stucco supplies returned. Once the parge coat is complete it will continue to cure until next spring at which time we will complete this job. We’re pushing very hard. We would very much like to be moved into our home before the temperature hits -2. The goal is to get a bathroom plumbed in and framed, insulate the roof, install the remaining windows and have the parge coat of stucco complete. The remaining work after that point will be completed over time as we live in our home.