Author Topic: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge  (Read 112665 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Drew

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 354
  • Northern California
A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« on: December 09, 2007, 02:58:50 PM »
Hi folks,

My family owns an AG-20 parcel near the little town of Palermo, CA.  That's near  Oroville.  No wiser?  Don't worry about it.  It rests at about 400 feet, so we don’t get snow.  We work in the San Francisco Bay Area and any building experience we have acquired came from weekend home improvement and farm projects.

Our plan is to move out to our proto-farm in 3 to 5 years.  We want to build our own house, and John’s 20’x30’ cottage is our goal.  So far we’ve done some non-structural things to our Bay Area house, built a 10’x12’ shed with a peaked roof.

Aside from the wishing, we started our project at the end of September.  All four of us (My wide Danielle (Dan), our kids David and Robin, and me) and attended the straw bale building workshop at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, CA.  It was lead by a building inspector and was attended by a good number of builders with great questions.

Next we held design sessions to figure out what we wanted to build (There’s a free pocket protector to the first one who figures out what I do for a living) and we eventually came up with a concept for a 24’x18’ shed roofed straw bale – thing.  We call it the “lodge”. 

I did the research, drew up the plans, and got an agricultural exemption permit for the building.  We won’t live in it – That’s what the cottage will be for.  Our county allows only one residence on an AG-20 (Agriculture – 20 acres) parcel, and I want to save the fun of going through that permitting process for later.

It takes us 3 hours to drive to the farm and we don’t have work lights.  Winter days are short days, but we can still get a good 6 hours in if we plan it right.  Dave and I came up on an earlier weekend and marked out where the footings needed to go.  We picked up the footings on the way in and drove them almost right up to the site.



That’s not going to happen later in the season when it gets wet.  We have lots of clay and that Dodge is rear-wheel drive: Not your farm truck.

I like to draw and plan and work, but Dan has an uncanny facility with patience and attention to detail.  We have 21 pavers that need to be dead level and she can do it.  Quickly or slowly, it doesn’t matter make any difference to her.  Drew lift rock.  Dan make rock hold up lodge.



You can't quite see it, but Dan is holding this great leveling tool.  It has a three-pronged fork on one side ofthe head and a narrow hoe on the other.  She says it was perfect for chipping and leveling the soil.  She also made the footing holes wider and longer.  instead of 24"x24" for a 16"x16" paver she made them closer to 30"x30".  That gave her more room to move dirt out of the way and back in for leveling.

We only got one day of work in.  The rest of the weekend is 4H and all kinds of kid stuff.  If the weather holds out we plan to go up again 12/22-23 to finish the pavers and get as far toward building and placing the beams as we can.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2007, 05:01:13 PM by Drew »

Offline Redoverfarm

  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 6,747
  • Applachian Mtns, West Virginia
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2007, 03:13:13 PM »
Sounds like a fun project.  Hope you are not in the area prone to fires(lately). Keep it fun and the kids will enjoy. Turn it into work and not so much.  Keep us posted on the progress.

Offline Sassy

  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,315
  • Calif Gold Country
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2007, 06:19:24 PM »
Looking forward to seeing reports on your progress!  There are several straw bale houses in our neck of the woods.  Great for insulation & I like the nice deep window sills etc.
http://glennkathystroglodytecabin.blogspot.com/

You will know the truth & the truth will set you free

Offline jwv

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 319
  • Civano~~ Tucson AZ
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2007, 05:35:18 PM »
Very cool! Keep your eyes on the goal and you will get it done.

Judy
http://strawbaleredux.blogspot.com/

"One must have chaos in one's self to give birth to the dancing star" ~Neitszche

Offline John Raabe

  • Administrator
  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 5,549
  • Whidbey Island, WA
    • CountryPlans - About Us
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2007, 07:43:14 AM »
Neat project! Not quite sure yet how this thing will work (post and beam supported floor with strawbale walls bearing on ??? the platform floor??? or maybe post and beam structure with infill strawbale.) ???

Looking forward to seeing this evolve.

None of us are as smart as all of us.

Offline glenn kangiser

  • The Troglodyte
  • Administrator
  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 24,910
  • Central California Sierras- Home of Yosemite NP
    • Underground Cabin
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2007, 07:57:10 AM »
This thread had a bit more info on Drew's plans.

http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=3505.msg38811#msg38811
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.

Offline Drew

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 354
  • Northern California
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2007, 08:01:29 AM »
Oh, you bet, Judy!  (And I saw your SBH at your site.  Very nice!)

I think the biggest challenges don't lie in the physical building.  I know my abilities and limitations there, and feel I have the confidence to stretch a little.  The thing is devising a plan that works well with my family.  While we are all gung-ho on developing the farm, I need to design the work so that a.) it doesn't have so much new stuff that mistakes are likely and costly, and most important, b.) it keeps everyone engaged and happy.  Planning a day of walking in 21 50-pound pier blocks is not a way to have blissful family time.  I've also learned that planning the work to complete a moderate goal for the day with certainty is better than planning to achieve a stretch goal with 20%  probability of completion.  Success compounds.

Fortunately this isn't the first project we've done as a family.  We've worked a lot of the bugs out when we built Casa Guacamole. 

While building Casa Guacamole, I managed to develop a case of tendinitis that took several months to heal.  I got it from the improper use of a 22-ounce framing hammer.  That hammer is now mounted over the door.

I work as an IT project manager during the week.  I am in my element when I do cost estimates, work breakdown structures, process and specification research, and all that.  Fortunately I'm also in my other element when I'm doing cool stuff with my family.  There are a lot of great opportunities with this project, and I have an eye on them all.   :) (Ew!)

Offline Redoverfarm

  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 6,747
  • Applachian Mtns, West Virginia
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2007, 01:48:31 PM »
Drew when you really get into the "swing" of things consider buying a frame nailer. You can pick one up for about $200.  If you don't have a compressor consider something like a porter cable kit with pancake , brad, finish and crown stapler. You can find for about $250.  This little investment will save your elbow and lessen your down time and Dr. visits.

Offline MountainDon

  • Administrator
  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 16,633
  • Jemez Mountains, NM; that's pronounced HEY-mess
    • My 15.75 x 30 Jemez Cabin
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2007, 02:04:27 PM »
Air nailers are real arm savers. They can also be very dangerous. Be certain to read and understand the warnings. That said, I'd never want to do any serious building without one.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline Redoverfarm

  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 6,747
  • Applachian Mtns, West Virginia
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2007, 02:16:16 PM »
Yep they are Don. It seem like it usually happens when you are doing something you shouldn't be. I was helping a nephew but an addition on his house. We were putting up rafters.  So I was nailing a 2X6 verticle on the outside wall as a stop to rest the rafters against.  Was about 7' off the ground so instead of getting a ladder I just hung out the window and was holding the 2X6 with one hand and the nailer with the other. Got 2 in the 2X6 and the third went into the palm of my hand. 16d.  I still had about an inch sticking out to pull with.  Didn't feel it for the first 2 minutes but after that I did. Hit the thumb bone .  I was 2 months before it didn't hurt again. 

Ask a guy helping to pull it out. He got sick so my BIL pulled it out. They don't bleed much with a nail in the hole.

Offline MountainDon

  • Administrator
  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 16,633
  • Jemez Mountains, NM; that's pronounced HEY-mess
    • My 15.75 x 30 Jemez Cabin
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2007, 02:27:05 PM »
You didn't nail it (the hand) to the wood did you? That would really suck if you were alone.

Glad it worked out okay in the end, John
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline MountainDon

  • Administrator
  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 16,633
  • Jemez Mountains, NM; that's pronounced HEY-mess
    • My 15.75 x 30 Jemez Cabin
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2007, 02:28:50 PM »
The thing with air nailers is just when you're doing something you shouldn't, it'll jumpo and fire twice or something like that. Or the nail will hit something hard, take a turn and come out where you gripping the wood.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline Redoverfarm

  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 6,747
  • Applachian Mtns, West Virginia
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2007, 04:26:44 PM »
No luckly I didn't but you would have thought I did about midnight that night.  d*

Offline glenn kangiser

  • The Troglodyte
  • Administrator
  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 24,910
  • Central California Sierras- Home of Yosemite NP
    • Underground Cabin
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2007, 06:00:51 PM »
My son and Pat both shot themselves in the hand with mine, and Fred shot me in the back with it.

Don't forget that there are palm nailers if you like the single shot with regular nails or even big nails up to 60d
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.

Offline Redoverfarm

  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 6,747
  • Applachian Mtns, West Virginia
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2007, 06:06:26 PM »
I would say that the majority of nail gun accidents occur when things are really busy and the "shooter" is rushed or just not careful. It certaining gave me a new respect for air nailers. I still use them but think before I pull the trigger. 

Offline Drew

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 354
  • Northern California
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2007, 07:09:22 AM »
I like to donate blood; I just like to make an appointment first.    ;)

I hear ya'll about the nailer.  I rented one from Home Depot when we built the shed.  It was a cordless framing nailer, so it was pretty heavy and not much fun with my messed up arm.  It sure shortened up the work, but the overhead of picking it up and dropping it off cut into my work day.  The thought of getting a compressor and a nailer to keep has a bit of charm.  There's a tool for blowing earth plaster onto the walls that uses a compressor, so that helps in the justification.

A contractor I know once managed to nail his foot to a joist. 

"Sawzall! Sawzall!" he yelled.

"What?" asked the poor kid working with him.

You can imagine how the rest went.

Hmm.  At least he didn't nail his foot to a stud...   :o



Offline Drew

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 354
  • Northern California
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2007, 01:01:50 PM »
Today we're making pier blocks in the mud room.  Life is good.   8)

Offline Drew

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 354
  • Northern California
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2007, 07:42:36 AM »
I watched the weather reports like a hawk this week.  We ended up with some rain, but not enough to ruin the work weekend. 

We like to drive up to Colusa and stay with my dad the night before, drink his coffee in the morning, and drive an hour out to the site.  The foundation has three rows of seven pavers.  We leveled the first row two weekends ago.  Dan pulled one up and found it wetter than we liked and we decided to put gravel under them all.  We pulled them up, remeasured, pured gravel, and relevelled 18 of the 21 pavers on the first day.

My Dakota has rear wheel drive and a cap on it, so I was borrowing my old man's Montero.  No bed, but 4WD.  We had to get the gravel in bags instead of a scoop in the bed.  Oh well.

The building supply store brought in the beams, posts, and Simpson brackets.  While I took the Montero up and down the hill a couple of times,  the F-550 dualie got caught the first time.



They spent the rest of the day trying to pull that truck out of the mud.  I felt really bad about that, but Brian, the driver, took it in stride.  At least it wasn't raining.

I don't have a chop saw and didn't want to make the post cuts with a circle saw (along with the attendant hauling of the generator), so I brought a nice miter box with us.  Unfortunately it got broken in the back of the Montero, so I had to get a replacement.  The replacement was a cheap plastic box with a dull saw.  The saw was also about 3 1/2" wide, so it wouldn't cut a 4"x4" in one cut.

Instead of another trip to HD (ugh), Dan made what she calls a "miter H" out of some 2"x4" and it worked like a charm all day.



We got all three beams up just before sunset at 4:45, but need to do a little more work on the middle one.  Here's a picture before we finished.  We were too busy to take pictures at the end.



I think it will take us another day to finish the leveling and the rest of the posts, them some work mixing and pouring concrete on the footings.  We'll probably hit the beams with some deck paint to protect them from the rain.  We don't get much, but it would make me feel better.

I would like to have done the floor before the ground got too muddy, but I think we were lucky to get as far as we did.  I can't ask my family to walk in all that lumber and I know the building supply store won't until late spring!

So now I get to plan my irrigation lines and draw plans for a wash house.  Plenty to do.  I get the feeling that winter was invented so that farmers would spend some time planning.

Offline Drew

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 354
  • Northern California
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2008, 08:11:51 AM »
It's too wet to get a truck down to the site with materials, so we're working on the irrigation line.  The well and water tank are about 80 feet above the lowest field.  We have a total of ~750 feet to trench.  The hill has an amazing number of rocks in it, but we're saving them for - something.  Maybe a cob oven.  See the "What's for dinner" thread for what we do around here for pizza.  :D

Here's Dave the used rock salesman.



And what a mighty fine trench it is.  I chose this picture from 78 others, just for you.



Here's the hill after the stringing but before the trenching.



We got about 260' of the 750' started.  About 60% is at the proper depth and the otehr 40% needs more work.  The earth on the flat is a lot easier to work with, which makes sense since the soil would have been washed downhill over the years.

My dad, a former farm boy, marveled at our choice not to use a trencher.  I told him we a.) didn't want to have to get that thing back up the hill in the mud, b.) didn't want to wrestle a 920 pound machine for the first time in less than ideal circumstances, and c.) we actually like kicking our own butts now and then.  One thing is for sure.  We are getting a good idea of the different soil qualities all over the farm.

Offline glenn kangiser

  • The Troglodyte
  • Administrator
  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 24,910
  • Central California Sierras- Home of Yosemite NP
    • Underground Cabin
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2008, 08:19:09 PM »
I can't believe you are doing that by hand.  Makes me feel like such a wuss. [crz]
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.

Offline Sassy

  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,315
  • Calif Gold Country
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #20 on: January 15, 2008, 08:46:12 PM »
Our trench was 600 ft over an 80 ft elevation rise with LOTS of rocks - I thought it was tough working in 100 degree weather laying the pipe all the way - I laid & glued the 1 in pvc pipe & Glenn did the 2 in all the way to the top of the mountain where our tank is...  now, digging it by hand...  :o ???  don't think I'd like to tackle that!  You guys are moving right along - great work!  [cool]
http://glennkathystroglodytecabin.blogspot.com/

You will know the truth & the truth will set you free

Offline Drew

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 354
  • Northern California
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2008, 07:02:06 AM »
I can't believe you are doing that by hand.  Makes me feel like such a wuss. [crz]

I don't know, Glenn.  Most of the comments from the family have been on our sanity, not their tenacity.

I have to say that this would be a non-starter in 100 degrees though.  As much clay as we have, the ground bakes up like a china plate.  I was joking with a neighbor why I wouldn't want to grow medicinal marijuana.  Aside from the federal problems there would be the local security.

"Get away from my grass, boy.  I don't want to have to shoot you.  It's not that I like you, but I'd have to bury you and it's July..."

Last weekend we finished up and piled back into the truck.  Everyone was saying, "Oh, man!  I am broken!  Ow!  Hey, did you see how much we got done?!  Whoah!  Someone's gonna have to carry me in!"

The bod is back to normal and we are driving back up Friday night for another round.  I've been looking forward to it all week.

Thanks for the encouragement, G&K.   ;D

Offline glenn kangiser

  • The Troglodyte
  • Administrator
  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 24,910
  • Central California Sierras- Home of Yosemite NP
    • Underground Cabin
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #22 on: January 16, 2008, 10:21:51 AM »
Quote
"Get away from my grass, boy.  I don't want to have to shoot you.  It's not that I like you, but I'd have to bury you and it's July..."

I think you are doing great, Drew. 

I think there is hope. 

With our encouragement, your tenacity and attitude, and advice from everyone here at Countryplans, I think it may just be possible to transform you from a city slicker into a redneck. :)
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.

Offline Drew

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 354
  • Northern California
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2008, 01:10:18 PM »
I'm half way there, pard.  :)



Those are my Durangos in front of my Dell (The Farmer and the Dell?). 

Offline glenn kangiser

  • The Troglodyte
  • Administrator
  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Posts: 24,910
  • Central California Sierras- Home of Yosemite NP
    • Underground Cabin
Re: A 24'x18' straw bale lodge
« Reply #24 on: January 16, 2008, 01:56:10 PM »
Lose the polish, Drew.  Polished boots make your feet stink.[crz] 

Unpolished boots breath and take all that redneck sweat away -- make people have pity on you because you are too poor to polish your boots, generally give you better deals and trust you more.  Get rid of suits unless dealing with untrustworthy (or at least questionable integrity) suited people.  If we were intended to wear suits, we would have all been born politicians, lawyers or used car salesmen.  People in blue jeans and dungaree shirts were rated the most trustworthy.

OK -- you can keep a pair of polished boots for work with city people, but do work on it.  You are coming along quite well though. :)

A mans word is his contract, son.  If you can't take a man at his word, you can't trust him at all.  :-\

Don't know where that came from-- just thought I'd throw in a little more redneck training.
"Always work from the general to the specific." J. Raabe

Glenn's Underground Cabin  http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=151.0

Please put your area in your sig line so we can assist with location specific answers.