Straw bales and Chuck Mangione

I think I was still dreaming about cakes and home-made pizzas from the birthday party the night before when I heard Kelly Ray Mathews, our natural building instructor knocking on all the doors saying ‘time to get up.’ It was 5:30am. Still bleary-eyed and tasting chocolate frosting (which was delicious, by the way, and made by Eric’s wife Kara), I heard the faint sounds of Chuck Mangione’s”Feels So Good.” I wasn’t dreaming. Kelly Ray had put the record on (yes, record, as in vinyl played by a needle and all) as a little wake up call. To fully enjoy the rest of this post, keep the smooth sounds of Chuck and the gang playing.

By 6am we were all on site setting up palettes and waiting for the straw bales to arrive. Once they got there, we turned ourselves into a sort-of assembly line: two of us stayed on the truck dropping bales off the side for the other 8 of us to pick up and bring to the growing stack of bales just inside the property line. I can’t remember exactly how many bales there were but it felt like 3000. Even through the gloves I got little blisters from the baling twine. Apparently these bales were tied tighter than usual, which is great for us because it means there’s more – between the lines of twine and it means we get to build a stronger house. We learned about another straw bale customer besides natural builders – racetrack owners. They use it as bedding for the horses. They also appreciate a tight bale because it means more straw for their money.

10 people on a cool morning makes for quick work. In just a little over an hour, the trailer was completely cleared off and the bales were stacked about 10 high in what looked like a straw fortress. No huffing and puffing in all the world could blow that thing down.

bales on truckbed

Hundreds of bales uncovered and unstrapped.

Palettes will keep the bales from touching the ground and absorbing water when it rains.

Jerry carries the first bale from the truck to the palettes.

Back to front, bottom to top, we stacked the bales.

Strawbales for construction are paced tighter than hay for feed. Kelly Ray, our building instructor, told us that the bales are packed to tightly that they're almost impossible to set afire. Even if exposed directly to flame, after a little singing on the edges, the bale will stay intact.

Each bale weighs somewhere close to 45 pounds.

Grant covers the straw fortress, to protect from sun and, especially, rain. You can still see the little moon behind him.

After a little over an hour, the truckbed is clean.

Eric shows Wade how to keep the bales in check.

The adobe floor was a still a little squishy. Made for a beautiful sunrise.

It's starting to look like a house!

LaSal Mountain morning.

One Response to “Straw bales and Chuck Mangione”
  1. Jen Libera says:

    I can’t believe that Kelly didn’t sing Red, Red Robin for you!

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