The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Another bale wall and a video

new wall viewed from the porchexterior view

On Tuesday, I added some more bales to the kitchen walls and pinned two of the kitchen walls. I had to make some custom bales to fit at the top of the wall along the roof line.

On Wednesday, I decided to stack the wall between the mudroom and the kitchen. I needed to put the bales up above the mudroom doorway and the kitchen doorway, and I needed the rest of the wall constructed before I could do that.

The boys helped me put some plastic on the outside of the upstairs on the west side. This is so that rain cannot blow in from above and soak the bales in the downstairs wall.

As I was getting started stacking, Anne came down to the house to be my helper. Since new wall stackedthere was a lot of retying on this section of wall, there wasn’t a whole lot she could do in its construction. So, she worked filling voids on the two kitchen walls that were already pinned (the voids stuff easier once the wall is pinned into place). The boys also helped filling voids with loose straw. Anne did help me put a few bales in the wall I was constructing.

Over the doors and the window, I was going to use chicken wire to suspend the bales. board supporting bale above windowOver the two doors, there was going to be a bit of a problem attaching the wire, though. I decided to not use the wire, instead opting for a board to support the bales.

I used extra porch floor boards (rough cut beech) cut long enough so that they extend beyond the openings on each side a foot or two at least. Above the doors, these boards should be sufficiently able to hold the weight of the one bale. The window opening is wider. So, even though only one course of bales is being supported, I will brace the board in the middle to the frame work which is above (the shelf upon which the upstairs bales will sit). The boards are set back from the inside edge of the wall enough that I will be able to round the edge a little before plastering. The boards will not be visible – they will be plastered over.

I was happy with the wall. The top course of bales needed to be persuaded in order to fit it under the bale shelf. This is good. It helps keep the wall tight. If a bale is hard to get into place, a piece of cardboard put under it helps it to slide over the lower bale more easily. I’ve also found that the large mallet (persuader) I built for putting the timber frame together works well for knocking bales into place.

A friend lent me an interior scaffold. This is a great thing! It really helped when beating the top course bales into the wall. He’s also lending me two sets of exterior scaffolding which will be invaluable.

I video taped a brief tour of the house showing a few of the things we’ve done recently. I’ve shared photos of all this, but sometimes it’s nice to see it in a video.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the photos and video and the whole story. We are enjoying following along. This is an inspiring project. Jennifer (fellow extreme composter, well wanna-be, but we did make a good pile this summer).

kentuckyagrarianwannabe said...

Looking good, the video shows things muck more clearly than the pictures. I am going to have to make a trip down there to check it out someday if you allow lookers. Keep up the good work.


dp said...

Jennifer, keep up the composting efforts! It's not only fun, it's well worth it for the fertility. I'm glad you're enjoying our project.

Tim, good to hear from you. You are of course welcome to come visit. I'd even let you get your hands muddy! I'll also try to make more videos to share since they add an extra dimension. With the photos, I do try to upload ones that are large enough to see details (you have to click on them to see the larger versions), but they are limited.

Wade said...

Hi Darryl, well I am receiving a load of wood in November. I was lucky enough to score a HUGE pine tree that a gentleman down the road wanted off of his the sawmill is coming in November...and you know what that means....finally a timberframe structure. I am intimidated by the whole process so be prepared for some panic emails. Any advice will be welcomed.


dp said...

Wade, that's exciting! Don't be intimidated. Take each part one at a time. The overall scope of such a project is overwhelming, but you can layout joints. You can cut a mortise. You can cut a tenon. Focus on each part, not all of them at once. You'll do fine! Feel free to email, though.

Ruth said...

I enjoyed your video and the narration. :) Very cool.