Congratulations to the Winner of a FREE Seven Day Comprehensive Straw Bale Workshop!

Written by Andrew Morrison

Woman standing in archwayCarol F. from New York State is the newest winner of a FREE workshop. She will be joining us in Castlegar, British Columbia in July. I would like to introduce you to her in her own words…
I have long wanted to build a straw bale home both for its looks as well as the natural insulation qualities and use of natural materials. I am just an ordinary 66 year old, from the Mother Earth generation with an adventuresome spirit (Mom calls me a gypsy) who has come to love the look and feel of Straw bale homes. As I reflect back on how I became interested in straw bale construction, I sort of backed into it. The exterior aesthetics appealed to me as did the recycle/reuse theory. The straw bale in-fill came later.

I have always loved to build things. My brothers and I built our first tree house in the old apple tree at the edge of the yard down near the NY /PA border before I was even 6 years old. Several tree houses later, I am starting my next one in a couple of months to use as temporary housing while I build my house. Which brings me to how I became interested in the straw bale concept.

It hit me like a ton of bricks on my first trip west when I discovered Southwestern-style adobes. A 25 year marriage, raising 3 great kids, was over. That phase of my life ended and a new one began. 3 years later I fell in love again – with an Irish roadman- a tour caddy on the PGA Tour. I bought a little camper and criss-crossed the country, too, working for CBS Sports on the tour circuit and as a free lance writer/tour scout . On my first annual trek west, cresting a hill, a small adobe ruin set against the sunset of the Sonoran Desert struck me with an unforgettable force that will last a lifetime. That irresistible draw to the Southwestern style house was strengthened even more by visiting the Anasazi cliff dwellings.

Then Santa Fe soon became my favorite vacation spot as I poked around building sites and talking with construction workers. I knew I had found my lifestyle. In researching adobe construction ideas I discovered Andrew’s Straw bale website and was hooked. I attended an open house at a straw bale home in my area realizing just how simple yet efficient straw bale homes are. But life got in the way of my plans. I live in the Northeast. my kids have families of their own, I have a grandson that I have the honor of watching while his Mom works so moving to the southwest is out of the question. So, I will replicate the ambiance here.

Fast forward to 10 years as the unpaid director of a pioneer museum, producing, with my daughters, an annual 10,000 sq. ft. Haunted House fundraiser, researching actual paranormal activity experienced in the buildings. I further studied earthen houses as I traced my British ancestry and scouted the UK for my paranormal investigation tours. Castles and Tudor construction fascinated me.

In Edinburgh, standing next to a huge, craggy rock outcropping (all of Scotland is build on one big rock) I was struck by the construction. A few handfuls of mud/mortar slapped onto the side of the rock then more and more stones and suddenly one has a wall. Coat it with more natural “mud” , add 2 more, perpendicularly, and you have a room; add more of the same and you have a house. (or castle as it were.) It was the smooth, irregular, natural walls that went to my core-comfortable, familiar and “home”. That is the feel I get from Straw bale homes. Must be my caveman beginnings bubbling to the surface.

Straw bale in-fill is more than just insulation – it is the sub-surface that gives the walls their “look” -irregular, primitive yet so inviting you want to just run your hand over it with your eyes closed and “feel” it. It is also appealing to my do-it-yourself attitude in life. I have long been a scrounger and I now have a whole barn filled with building supplies and fixtures. I dislike paying full price for things that I can reclaim and work I can do myself. Straw bale construction seems to fit the bill for that.

For the past 30 + years I have earned a living remodeling houses, doing much of the work myself from framing to drywalling, plumbing, electrical and flooring so I am no stranger to a Saws-all, chainsaw and hammer. This workshop will be an invaluable pre-cursor to building my own home this year on my 10 + acres of woods, hillocks, cliff and stream, nestled in the Finger Lakes Region of NY. I have cleared the land (hence the chainsaw), perk test is done-bad news- solid clay necessitating a raised bed septic system bumping up the project cost by $10,000 so saving money building it mostly myself is even more important than ever.

The “turning lemons to lemonade” factor would suggest the acres of clay pit can be used for the interior wall surfacing and maybe even my own line of pottery for my art studio. (Hopefully, a next year’s Straw bale workshop site.)

Each of the Straw bale newsletters have become a welcome reminder of things forgotten and new things to learn to get myself back on-track and thinking again about my straw bale/adobe-look goal.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to study with you, Andrew, and learn through the hands-on work at this workshop. I am eagerly looking forward to getting started.


Although The 2011 Ontario, Canada workshop is closest to me geographically, I have chosen the British Columbia location as it struck a cord with me. First off, another travel adventure to a territory I have yet to explore but more importantly, the workshop host’s spirit and mission struck a cord with my age and life role as a caregiver, I would be honored to be a part of helping that project along. See you in a few months. (Argh, I wish it were days)

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