The Taming of the Bale

Like every great love affair it took quite a bit of time and preparation. A lot more preparation than any of us had expected. And during that preparation things seemed deceptively conventional; like the vixen we were pursuing was hardly the racy, alternative siren we expected.

But that all changed today as Doug impaled the first straw bale on the 16-penny nails we had hammered into the 2×4 plates that are bolted to the concrete foundation. Suddenly it all became very real. We aren’t just building a 1,000-square foot, one-story house for a bike mechanic. We aren’t just a group of unpaid interns gathering every morning to build something normal. We are building a straw bale house.

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Finally seeing the straw bales begin to move from under the overlapping tarps into the space between the house’s posts was like the first time you work up the courage to talk to your crush; it’s great and terrible. Great in seeing all those months of planning, anticipation and work finally come to fruition. Terrible in that you realize that straw bales are actually made of straw and, like that first crush, they are difficult to learn how to handle, often leave you teary and sniffling, and, if you don’t wear appropriate protection, with a rash.

But the pleasure of the kill is in the chase, and if it were all sunshine and roses to make a straw bale house then would we really feel a sense of a accomplishment at the end? Hell no!

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It’s the getting up early every in the morning, it’s the measuring things three times and realizing that you still didn’t cut the 2×4 right that give the end of the day the satisfaction that it has. Even more than that though, it’s the shared experience of the learning and building that makes this experience mean something. Knowing that even though we all came into this build very little about natural building, in a mere three more months we will have caught that white whale. We will have built a straw bale house.

And in spite of the early mornings and rashes, the more we get know about the coy minx that is straw bale building, the more we like her.

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