From Concrete to Straw: NYC Couple Falls For Straw Bale!

Written by Andrew Morrison

Family photoFrank and Lorraine are the charismatic and wonderfully entertaining hosts for the Culyer, NY September 12-18 workshop. We spent some time on the phone and I was instantly captivated by their stories and enthusiasm. They are a great reminder that when we decide to bring our dreams into reality, it is inspiring to the world around us and sometimes the world can’t help but join us in the process. In this case, they’ve chosen to move from concrete to straw. From New York City to rural New York State.

Frank, who goes by Frankie, began early in construction. In fact, he claims that he began swinging a hammer straight out of the womb. His father, a builder and a Spaniard, raised his son with a strong work ethic and for many years Frankie worked at his side after school. That is until Frankie at the age of 12 began to appreciate the value of money, which he wasn’t making working for his dad. Being the industrious person that he was even at that age, Frankie set his sights on getting a job, a real job and begged his mother for her permission to go hunting for one.

Frankie’s mother conceded with one strict stipulation; the job would need to be found within the city block in which they lived in Elisabeth, NJ. The only business establishment within that area was an Italian restaurant. So, with purpose, he walked to the restaurant, introduced himself to the owner and stated that he would like to work for him. Dismissively, the owner told him that he was not hiring and that Frankie should come back in a month. Each month Frankie appeared at the restaurant only to be told to return the following month. On the third month and finally, the owner agreed to give him a job.

Frankie began as a stock boy. Several months passed in his routine until one evening the head chef didn’t show up. The manager, somewhat desperate to not lose business that night, put young Frankie up for the job stating that if he did well, he would have the chef’s job. The next day, Frankie, not yet 13, was the new head chef for the local Italian restaurant; the young chef’s natural talents emerged.

Lorraine and Frankie met 6 years ago and together they are living out another dream; to build their own home from the ground up. It doesn’t surprise me one bit as Frankie is the kind of hands-on guys that needs to know his environment intimately. They share that this house is their “baby” and that they want to know every nook and cranny in it. So, rather than hiring someone to build it for them, Frankie has left his job and will be doing all of the work himself from the ground up.

Soon after declaring to his family that he was taking the next several months off to live out his dream, Lorraine’s son Ryan became inspired and did the same exact thing; leaving his job to go help his parents build their dream home. Like wildfire this news spread amongst those closest to them and in no time at all, two Ryan’s closest friends decided to join in the quest as well and quit their own jobs and have dedicated the next several months to living on the beautiful, off-grid, 19 acre property to help build the straw bale home.

The young guys are “totally psyched” to be getting to do this and see it as the “opportunity of a lifetime”.  Frankie and Lorraine couldn’t be happier to have them joining the team. Lorraine’s daughter Keri, and the ‘girlfriends’ won’t be swinging a hammer but will be a part of the experience behind the scenes.

They are all also super excited about their choice to build with straw bales. To them it just makes sense. They knew they wanted to build their 5 bedroom off-grid home/B&B using green technology and the more they found out about straw bale, the more they became convinced that this was the solution for their wants of an environmentally friendly, cost effective, healthy and beautiful home space.

When I asked them what their friends and family have to say about them all going up and building this straw bale home on their own, they roared with laughter saying that everyone thinks they are “crazy”…but in a good kind of way. They have everyone’s support and people are extremely curious to see how it all goes for them. And as for Lorraine’s fathers view on the endeavor?  Frankie and Lorraine have earned a new level of respect from him. Asked what he thinks about the build, father says, “You guys have got backbone!” And I would ad, a whole lot of heart, humor, and passion…a recipe for success!

If you’re interested in really learning how to build with bales and you want to have perhaps one of the best weeks of your life in the process, then come to one of our workshops. We ALWAYS have a good time and you will gain the confidence to build your own house too. CLICK HERE to see what workshop locations and dates we have available this year!

4 Responses

  1. What an experience! The collection of people was incredible. The spirit of all that contributed is buried within the very well insulated walls. Thank you to all the teachers I had there… there were many.

  2. Want to meet your very own community of people who live in “possibility”? Do a straw bale building workshop with Andrew Morrison. The synergy that arises is magical and captivating. Very life-affirming! Thank you Andrew, and thank you Frankie and Lorraine, Ryan and Pickles for having the brilliance to call us all to the hill, and for keeping us fueled with great food and snacks. And a deep bow of gratitude to my fellow workshop participants. I am moved by who you are.

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