A Perfect Place to Build with Bales

Written by Andrew Morrison

Straw palapa hut on the sea of cortezI’m currently in Baja California Sur, Mexico on a 4 month adventure and research journey. As I travel this beautiful part of the world, I am struck by how perfect this area would be for bale homes. Unfortunately, there are very few around, and I mean VERY few. I have heard from some who have built with bales here and have heard from others who tried but were told it wasn’t possible by local builders.

One reason they were told no is that there are no straw bales in this part of the world. I have not been here long enough to discover if this is actually true, but I can say that I have not seen any so far. There are indeed straw bale homes in Northern Baja, so I know that the technology and expertise to build these homes exists in Baja overall, it’s just not obvious if that has moved into Baja Sur or not.

I have, on two separate occasions, seen pick up trucks driving by with 2-string hay bales on the back. Clearly this means there are bales in the local area and baling machines that create them. I’m not suggesting that one should build with hay, as that would be a bad idea, especially with all the wandering cows; however, it does mean that the ability to make straw bales exists here.

The next problem I see is the crops. I have not seen any grains growing here along the main road down. I’m almost all the way to the bottom of Baja and nothing yet. There could be grains grown outside of the main road and certainly further South than I am now as the microclimates and oasis conditions have been prominent on the way South thus far.

I truly hope to see that straw crops are available. If I see that, I’m left with the only issue that could stop the construction of straw bale homes: lack of knowledge on how to do so. That’s nothing new and is something I work with all the time. THAT I can handle. I would be happy to teach people how to build a bale home here. I truly believe that it would only take a few in each large community or town for others to get interested.

With summer temperatures as high as they are here, one summer in a friend’s straw bale home could certainly convince most people, especially if they can be constructed in two important ways. 1) They would need to be affordable. We can do that. 2) They need to be built in a way that the local tradesmen understand. There is a lot of block work and plaster here. If we show the installation of bales as large blocks that simply get plastered, it’s a no brainer. We can do that.

So if you know anything about the crops in Baja California Sur, please let me know. I would love to see this technology come here and help the local (whom I LOVE, by the way). Such an amazing group of people I have met so far. Smiles everywhere and a helping and generous hand at each corner.

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20 Responses

  1. Great reading Andrew. Please keep it comming in between your just beeing moments. Love the South West and Mexico. Never been to the Baja. What a great choice for your time out. Maybe a workshop sight?

  2. Hi Andrew,

    I travelled all around Mexico for a year in 2001. Love the country and people. If you are looking for straw then the states you should concentrate on are, Sonora continues to be the main producing state with approximately 41 percent of total production, followed by Guanajuato, which contributes 18 percent, and North Baja California with 14 percent. Durum wheat continues to be the principal crop in Sonora and Baja California. According to trade sources, the Bajio region (Guanajuato, Michoacán, and Jalisco) continues to increase gradually its planted area of milling and soft varieties. The majority of the wheat grown in the north and northwestern states of Baja California and Sonora is produced using advanced technology similar to that used in the United States. I am unable to find any reference to Baja Sur being a producer of worth.

    As a matter of ineterest would it be possible to bale corn stalks???? Now that crop is everywhere and grown by sussistance farmers…. Just a thought…

    So happy hunting and enjoy the Mexican way of life. I really envy your journey….


  3. Fantastic information Brendan. Thanks! Funny that after I left Loreto and headed further South yesterday, I started seeing all kinds of bales of straw. When I stopped and looked closer, I saw that the vast majority of it was actually baled corn stalks. It looked great. I wonder what it would be like to work with it. It looked totally feasible. I did also see some “regular” straw bales as well and they too looked to be relatively good quality. Thanks again!

  4. Andrew,
    I am thinking about building a strawbale home about 600 miles south of the border. Have you had any luck finding a source for good straw bales in Baja?

  5. Hi John. I know that there is a lot of straw available in Baja as I looked for it when I lived down there for 5 months a few years ago. Most of the bales I saw in Baja Norte were corn husks. Baja Sur had some more actual straw. This was just along the Mexico 1 as I went straight down from San Diego to Muleje (several trips in that 5 months). I know it can be found; however, I don;t have a source for you. Sorry.

  6. Thanks for getting back to me. We know we have seen straw and hay bales while down there but I wasn’t sure of the quallity. I will be back down next month, I will pay closer attention and try to gather some info.

  7. Hello.

    I own land in san felipe b.c. mexico & want to build a straw bale house there, can u help me out on this? thanks!!!

  8. Hello, I found this thread by accident. In Mexico, what would you plaster the bales with? Also, tell me where to find your basic information on strawbale building. A friend of mine built one in which he lives and I am looking for all the best ideas associated with such. Thanks.

  9. Hi Bob. I would use lime (“cal”) for the walls. I am a huge fan of lime finishes. You could use earthen plaster as well, but the learning curve is SO high on getting a quality finish that you may end up with a bad product in the end. You can find all kinds of free baling information on this website. Just search around for what you need. I also have DVDs, an eBook, plans, and hands-on workshops to help you really get into the details.

  10. Hi Wayne. I love Baja and spend a lot of time in Loreto myself. There are bales available down there (I have looked into that) and the climate is great for bale construction as long as it is built well. I don’t know what help I can be as I am not building anymore, just consulting and teaching. I don’t think I could get a workshop to fly in BC, although it sure would be fun!

  11. Hi Andrew, I love your sight and have learned so much by reading through all your blog posts! My dream is to build a straw bale house in Oaxaca Mexico where my husband is from. I can’t find any information on the internet about “casas de paja” in this area. I’m hoping someone who reads your blog may have some information or contacts. Thanks for being such an inspiration and sharing your knowledge with others! I think Oaxaca Mexico’s dry climate would be great for straw bale construction. I know adobe is a traditional style of construction in Oaxaca.

  12. Hola Jodi. Si…casas de pajas en Mexico!!! Perfecto! I don’t have a lot of information (any really) on SB builders in Mexico, but I agree that the climate could be perfect. One thing I know is that most framing in the parts of Mexico where I live is done with concrete pillars, not wood. As such, there are some details to consider when building a bale home in that situation. You’ll need to isolate the bales from the concrete so they don’t wick in moisture. You’ll also have to consider how to attach mesh to the frame. Typically, wood nailers are attached to the concrete frame in advance and then used for the mesh.

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