Straw Houses! They Withstand Wolves But Not Toddlers

Julie Anderson
19

Woman standing in front of brown Straw Bale house
Nice place for a party! No Big Bad Wolves allowed.

Are you brave enough to build a house using old-school “Green” building techniques? If you’re tired of living in a boring, normal house, maybe you should live in a tree. Or a yurt. Or, you can take a cue from the First Little Pig and live in a straw bale house.

You might think a house made of straw is weird, but they’re actually pretty groovy looking, and cool (in the summer) and hot (in the winter). Also, by choosing to go green with your building materials, you’ll automatically reduce your carbon footprint and feel smug. Which is important and fun.

So what’s it like to live in a weird house you ask? Do I have to be a hippie? Are flush toilets and microwaves allowed?

Perhaps the biggest question all moms should ask: Will my kids be too embarrassed to have play dates in a house made of straw, and can the bus drop them off a few blocks away so they won’t become the laughing stock of their middle school?

Not just for hippies! The good news is, things have changed for the better in the alternative housing and building industry since the 1970s. Also, you don’t have to live on a commune or be a nudist. Unless you want to, of course, but that’s a different story. And your middle school kids probably won’t forgive you for that one.

Actually, straw bale houses are not really that weird or unusual these days. In fact, they are becoming more popular, and they can look quite normal. Or they can look like a fairy house. Your choice.

The straw bale method of building homes isn’t as new fangled as it seems. Back in the 1800s in Nebraska, settlers used prairie grass straw bales to build, because the Nebraska soil was no good for building sod houses.Ma and Pa Ingalls
Caroline and Charles Ingalls. Not Hippies.
In fact, I bet Ma and Pa Ingalls (not hippies) would have made a little house by Cornhusker Creek out of straw bale, if they’d kept traveling West! [Disclaimer: I do not know this for sure. Nor do I know if there is a Cornhusker Creek. I do know some people from Nebraska though (not hippies). Does that count?]

Straw bale construction was actually quite popular between 1900 and 1950, and then America started mass-producing building materials. And suburbs. And then, America somehow forgot how to build with straw until the 1970s when lo and behold, the counter-culture natural lifestyle trendsetters (hippies) rediscovered it.

The low cost organic materials, the self-insulating properties of the thick walls with excellent fire resistance (seriously!), and the ability to make curved, artistic forms easily was a big hit with the creative, environmentally conscious tribe (the hippies).

How to build your own house: Technically, straw bale homes can be made pretty easily by stacking up the bales on a cement slab and letting them support the roof (which you build out of something besides straw). If you are going to build a house, you should really watch the do-it-yourself DVD over at Strawbale.com, or you know, hire an expert so your house doesn’t fall down on you when you’re taking a bath or something.straw bale house with stairs
It's not quite done yet.
[Disclaimer: If you choose to build a straw bale house, The Stir is not responsible for your roof caving in, or the embarrassment you’ll experience if the paramedics see you naked when they pull you out of a bathtub of wet hay, so please, don’t even ask. No, I am not a lawyer, but let’s just be reasonable and use some common sense.]

You can also use a “regular house” post and beam frame to support the bales of straw, which get set inside the frame to form the walls. This will give your house more of a Tuscan Country Estate look (grape arbors cost extra).

Straw bale house, Maryland Estate
It's done. Hippies probably don't live here, but who knows?
The straw is then covered over with a custom made plaster, adobe, or clay, which seems a bit brick-like to me, so I think a Straw Bale house should qualify as a stick house and a straw house, and a brick house.

Huffing and Puffing: These houses are very Big-Bad-Wolf resistant! Those Three Little Pigs (hippies?) were on to something. I think they were from Nebraska.

 

Images via michehus/Flickr; Wickipedia; Strawbale/Flickr; What's Up Mag.com

 

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