The Straw Bale House

Author Photo
By Melanie Ann

About 15 years ago, my husband and I attended an Eco-festival in our home town. One of the exhibitors was a woman who was building a straw bale doghouse. She had a photo album of her past projects and from that moment, we were hooked. We knew then and there that we wanted to build a straw bale house.

I started doing as much research as possible on this type of building. Then about six years ago, we began to look for a piece of land to purchase. Finding just the right land took about 1-1/2 years. We bought a small parcel of land, 8-1/2 acres in eastern Ontario.

We told family and friends that we were going to build a straw bale house. The reaction was mixed. A few of them thought it was wonderful. But most people just thought we were crazy. That was when the comments like, “He’ll huff and he’ll puff,” started. We knew what we wanted to do and that was build an energy efficient home, and we did not really care about the comments. You can imagine the reaction when we then said we wanted to live off the grid!

Construction began in the spring of 2012. My husband, Frank, moved into a trailer on our property and lived there for the next seven months while working on the house. I commuted every weekend from our old hometown, which was 4-1/2 hours away.

Our house, which I designed, is post and beam construction with straw infill. We sourced the straw from a local farmer. I believe we used about 350 bales. These photographs show the house while we were doing the infilling. There is no way around it, this is labor intensive. However, the payback is huge in the end. Our home is exceptionally warm in the winter and keeps pretty cool in our very hot and humid Ontario summers. We are totally off the grid so naturally we do not have central air conditioning.

There are many different types of energy efficient homes that one can build, but we chose straw bale as we knew we could do the majority of the work ourselves. The benefit of that, naturally, is you can keep the building costs down. We had a budget to work with and we stayed within it.

I am planning to go into more detail about the building process in future blog posts so I hope you will stay tuned.

We also have a large kitchen garden that we have been working on, and there will be lots of information about growing fruit and veg. And of course we have plans to keep livestock but not until next spring.

Hope you stay with us on this journey we are taking to a self-sufficient lifestyle. Cheers.