The Importance of Knowing Your Bale Source – StrawBale.com

Written by Andrew Morrison

old straw bale cart photo
I partly wrote this post just so I could use this picture, I admit it. Cool picture though huh?

I often talk about knowing your bale source before you start building and even designing so you can know the dimensions and how those dimensions will affect your process. I cannot say how important this is, now more than ever. The number of available bales in the Northwest is so small right now, that I am struggling to find enough for my June workshop! I have contacted all of my sources and have managed to find some bales, only to run into the dilemma of how to get them here. Fuel costs being as high as they are, it is hard to cost effectively transport bales any distance.

I always support buying locally and using bales from your immediate area if possible, but sometimes that simply cannot be done. It appears that I may be in this situation myself now. Oh the irony of that huh?! Anyway, I it looks like I have found some local bales, but they are nowhere near the size I am used to using. This means that the structure I plan to use for my workshop will be unprepared for the larger bales that will show up in a couple weeks. This is ultimately a great lesson and one that I will teach the participants, first hand!

Know your source. Confirm the availability of your bales. Know the bale dimensions. Have fun. These are all important aspects of building with bales…not necessarily in that order!

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31 Responses

  1. I am a farmer located in northeastern texas and have sold some bales for homes. I like how straw builders share ideas and help each other. I have some ideas of my own that may help. To keep shipping prices down we have loaded bales in semi van trailers because they are inclosed(ensuring dryness) and are usually the best price on trucking. If the trailer can stay on sight you also have you taping problem solved. One other thing I wanted to mention is ask the supplier for the moisture reading of the bales. We won’t bale if the moisture is over 14.5 percent to insure there will be no mold. That reading or under will remain in bales that are tight and stored properly.

  2. Andy,

    Thanks! I’ve been trying to locate a supplier in Texas, preferably close to the San Antonio/Hill Country area – and I haven’t had much luck. It’s good to hear from a Texas supplier. I’d like to get some estimates on cost from several suppliers and while I’d really like to buy in the local area I can’t seem to locate any the provide bales for building. Any suggestions?

  3. Ok, so how do I contact Andy, I live in N.W. Texas and am interested in building a straw bale house and need a source of hay.

  4. Ric,
    Good question. Hopefully Andy is still watching this post and can respond to you directly here. I do not have any contact information for him. one note and important detail: you don’t want hay, you want straw. They are very different and should not be exchanged for any reason.

  5. Help! Need the name and contact number of a supplier around the El Paso/Dell City area. Also, what is the approximate price per bale now?

    Susan

  6. Not much wheat is grown in the SouthEast … but we have sources for baled “pine straw” (pine needles) … would they make suitable bales for building? (moisture content and other such things be equal) … of course this is an area that tends to have humidity …

  7. Royal,
    I think Pine Bales would be fine all things being equal. I am interested to know what the moisture content of that material is and how much moisture it can handle before it starts to decompose. For grain straw (wheat, rice, oats, etc) it is a moisture content above 20% by volume. If pine can handle more moisture, it would be a great option for areas of high humidity. If you can discuss this with a local pine bale source and report back, that would be great!

  8. Susan,
    I am not sure of a source in that area. I hope someone on this list knows of one and can post it here. The cost of a two string bale is roughly $4 plus delivery. A three string bale is roughly $5 plus delivery. Of course these prices will vary by region.

  9. Wheat straw or oat straw small squares 2 wire 18″x12″x36″
    $3.15 loaded on or in trailer location gainesville,tx
    I do some delivery but quantity and distance varies price.
    940-727-9655

  10. Andrew, here’s suggestion for folks looking for bales. Pput an ad in your local farm/ag newspaper or one of those used farm implement want-ad type newspapers (similar to Auto Trader). That’s what I did and I got responses from several local farmers.

  11. Talk to Dennis LaGrande at DLG Farms in Williams, CA. His office phone number is 530.473.5625. I do not know any Southern California farmers that would be closer to you. If you find one, please let me know so I can keep track of his/her contact information for future users. Thanks.

  12. I live in Michigan, where the straw bales all seem to be the 2-string variety. I’m trying to design a passive straw bale house (one that’s so energy efficient that it doesn’t need a furnace, just a bit of supplemental heat on the very coldest days), and the required R value for that type of design is higher than a 2-string bale can provide. Three-string bales would have a high enough R value, but don’t seem to be available here. My idea is to use 1 1/2 bales to get the required thickness (about 27″ plus plaster) as in-fill for a post and beam structure. Would this work, and could I use the wire mesh and baling twine sewing to hold the 2 layers together well enough? Should I stack the bales so the first layer has the half bale on the inside, the second layer on the outside, etc, or should I make 2 walls, one of the single bales and one of the half bales? Any other ideas how to accomplish this?

  13. I would not bother with that at all. I would suggest you find a supplier of three string bales. I’m sure there is someone relatively nearby who is selling them. In fact, they’re quickly becoming the norm for the larger farms. Talk to your farm supply store. They’ll likely know where to find them. The amount of work you’ll create for yourself with the method you describe is huge! Trust me. That said, if you decide to go the route you’re describing, the sewing and mesh would be adequate to hold everything together in the end. I believe the interim would be difficult though.

  14. I guess this method of building would be an excellent alternative to rebuild Haiti both for protection against earthquakes and because of the low cost adapted to this poor country

  15. I am only writing to make you understand what a extraordinary experience my cousin’s child found checking your webblog. She learned a wide variety of issues, which included how it is like to have an amazing teaching spirit to have other folks smoothly have an understanding of certain tortuous subject areas. You actually exceeded readers’ expectations. Thank you for delivering the practical, trustworthy, educational and in addition easy thoughts on the topic to Kate.

  16. Hello, Andrew! Is it possible to contact Andy who sells straw bale in N-E Texas? We need straw bale for a school project. Thank you!

  17. Hi,

    Does anyone know of an organic straw producer near san antonio, texas? I’m starting a edible mushroom growing project and am looking for organically grown straw, without pesticides. Do you have an idea of how I can find organic straw bales?

    Thanks,
    Alex

  18. Andrew,

    Do you know where to get the sand and clay to build the strawbale homes in Northeast, Texas? I am getting ready to build.

    Thank you,
    Pamela

  19. Check with your local sand and gravel companies for the sand. Be sure to get angular, sharp sand that has at least 4 grit/grain sizes. I use lime plaster, so I don’t know about where to source earthen materials in your area. I HIGHLY recommend using NHL plaster from http://www.limes.us. Tell them I sent you and they will give you my discount pricing.

  20. I put out doghouses in the winter for street dogs in Austin, Texas and the surrounding areas, this year I want to fill them with wheat straw. I can not find any, do you have any ideas? Thank you, Val – Pack Team 4 Street Dog Rescue.

  21. Hi Valerie. Very kind of you. I would suggest talking to a local farm supply co-op. They often sell bales in small quantities. It’s more expensive than buying directly from the farmer, but it may be acceptable given the small number of bales you’ll need. Good luck!

  22. Hello! I am looking for organic straw bales on the Western Slope of Colorado, do you have any contacts in the region? We would alternatively source non organic if it meant staying fairly local.

    Thanks!!

  23. Hello Rain, I have a contact for great construction bales in southern Colorado. They are not organic, however. Please send me an email at [email protected] if you are interested in this contact.

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