happy end of 2011 folks. I haven’t been at the farm in a week or two (we all get a break, lucky us!) but I have been hearing about some cool stuff people are doing that I want to share!
It is a tiny straw bale house built into a hill using reclaimed materials and wood from the surrounding property. It is heated by the wood stove, has a compost toilet, and was built by an inexperienced person with some help in about 4 months! (click the photos to go to the website & read more about it)
The first straw bale house I ever visited was about 45 minutes outside of town, where a friend of mine was staying. From the outside it looked like a regular house, with siding and windows, but it was L-shaped with an asymmetrical roof to allow for huge skylights (clearly not your typical architecture). When I stepped inside I became starry eyed – the home was gorgeous. It had in-floor heating on the main level, and there was a wood stove heating the house which could also be used for cooking. The walls were plastered like the ones in the above hobbit house, but painted vibrant colours and one wall had a mosaic in the shape of a tree. The windows were massive, many floor to ceiling, and because the walls were thick from the straw, they were all set in about a foot with a nice ledge around them. There was even a little cubby for wood storage and easy access in the winter, and an indoor swing for the kids to use. During the couple of times I visited over the winter, the house was warm and comfortable.
Here is a video by some students at Fleming college, who helped create a Habitat for Humanity home with straw and plaster, which shows parts of the process
Since that first house last winter, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a couple more similar places, thanks to our education & CRAFT days during the internship. One was at Everdale, who also have their Home Alive, and one was at Orchard Hill.
Some shots of the Orchard Hill house
The inside of the right-hand wall pictured above – the walls & roof of the common space. Wood from the woodlot on site. You can see the plaster of the walls here & how deep the windows/walls are. The tiny panel in the centre near the top of the roof can be opened to vent warm air in the summer. I seem to recall being told there’s not one nail in the roof!
Building using methods/materials such as these is something I’d like to explore. I’ve never had the desire to live in a very large house, which is probably in part why the hobbit house above appeals to me (but looking in at the beautiful logs and plaster, how could it not be appealing?!) The fact that homes such as these are so customizable is also very appealing. From what I hear it isn’t too difficult to do this, either, and I imagine building one’s own home is rewarding both for the end result as well as for the skills acquired during the process. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, practical skills are becoming more important to me, at the very least for reasons of self-sufficiency.
Here’s a slide show made by a woman who designed and built her own home, with hired help. She explains the steps and gives suggestions. An interesting insight into the construction process
Natural building is not something I’ve spent much time focusing on (yet!) but is definitely on the radar as a future project! For now I’ll be daydreaming of one day having property with a home like these, and checking out websites like the Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition.