Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Day 2 = wet

We returned home this evening with heavy hearts and very soggy, muddy feet. Today, day 2 of our strawbale building adventure, the rain came down. We frantically covered and uncovered the bales as each burst of rain came down, and sheltered under whatever random piece of building material we could find.
Our uber-clay soil was very soon transformed into a slippery mush, and a last-minute path of gravel was laid so we could get around the building site semi-safely (seriously, that shit is slippery!).
The kiddies, meanwhile, rejoiced in their new textural playground.
Rain during construction was by far my biggest, if not my only, reservation about load-bearing strawbale construction. Non-load bearing strawbale houses get their structural supports and roof first, so all the bales can be stacked safely out of the weather. This was very appealingly safe-sounding to me, and I was always more inclined towards this method of building. But when we decided to build our tiny 'practise' house first, we realised that the size of it (6x4 metres + loft) meant that it made heaps more sense for it to be load bearing. We decided to take the gamble, and today we paid the price for our risk.

We did get a small amount of work done today though, in between huddling under the little lunch marquee,
and managed to get 2 of the walls stacked to roof height, and part of the top-plate on, but it wasn't nearly as much as we had anticipated. But we are learning so much! And still managing to have some fun, though I must admit that today was probably one of the most stressful days of my whole life. I don't get why people feel the need to do extreme sports for an adrenaline rush - just build a load-bearing strawbale house in the rain for some excitement in your life!

We also received our roof trusses (and finally got a feel for how big our sleeping loft will be),
our roof insulation (no conflict!), roofing iron, guttering and ridge-capping and our clay and lime (we ordered the clay before we realised what our entire block was made of - oops). The clay came on the back of a truck that had no unloading device, so we had to unload all 72 x 20kg bags of clay and 55 x 20kg bags of lime by hand. But we started a little chain gang-type line and got them unloaded and re-stacked pretty quickly!
As I write this, our spirits have lifted, thanks to some stew, warm spiced cider and cake, and we are all trying to ignore the sound of the rain falling heavily on our roof. My thoughts though, are with our strawbale walls, excruciatingly close to being finished enough to put up the roof, but for now protected only by a few strategically tacked tarps.
I can only imagine the state of our driveway tomorrow - we had 2 cars stuck in the quagmire today, which were pulled out, by hand, by the burly blokes on the worksite. As Pearl says though, there is nothing we can do about the weather. If our build isn't complete (or not as complete as we would have liked) by the end of this week, we'll just have to work it out. And I know we will. And at least, at the very very worst, we'll have a whole heap of wet straw to use in our veggie garden beds.

Total cost of strawbales, fencing wire, and gripples (for compression of the bales and securing them to the bottom plate and each other) was $1400. Ironically this is the biggest part of our building, but the cheapest!


  1. Oh, so sorry to hear about the stresses. Mer did fill me last night on all of the goings on of the day. The rain is fairly heavy as I'm typing this - so hoping you get some building done in the next couple of days. I know what you mean about a quagmire. Our block is exactly that too. Oh the joys of building, huh? It's one of the biggest learning curves at all, don't you think ? (second to parenting, of course!). The rewards are great though and it won't be long before you're in that lovely, cosy strawbale nest for the winter.

  2. Thinking of you and wishing for sunshine xxx