Straw bale Workshop Day 7

by Kent Griswold on October 6th, 2013. 2 Comments

Day seven started out earlier than usual as we were ending the day a little earlier and we were loosing a couple of people who had to head home because of distance and work. We were still very much behind schedule. With Andrew being ill much of the week we had not completed as much as we needed to and we wanted to at least get a start on the plastering.

We spent all morning doing finishing work around the windows. Curving them gently in, stretching the mesh and making sure they were tight enough to accept the plaster. There was still electrical work to complete. Niches to cut out, special mesh to put on all exposed wood, etc. We kept very busy.

Andrew chainsaw

Andrew putting on a new chainsaw blade to cut the other two niches

After lunch it was time to mix the first coat of plaster. This is a process in itself as you have to get it just right and it needs to mix for 20 minutes per batch. Once we had a batch ready Andrew demonstrated the technique for holding and applying it to the wall. It is much heavier and more difficult than you might think. Many of us decided that if we were building our out straw bale homes that we would seriously consider hiring this part out to the professionals.

We only succeeded in covering most of one wall and it was time to clean up and say our goodbyes. After a week together sharing in this experience you make many good friends and though we are spread out from the east coast to all the way down under in Australia many of us will keep in contact and share the straw bale projects that are planned to be built by members of the workshop. If you have interest in straw bale construction, I would highly recommend this hands on experience with Andrew Morrison if you are able. Visit

Thanks to Andrew Morrison and our hosts at Common Kettle Farm for a fine week of learning, good food, new friends and experiences.

cutting the niches

Chainsawing out the niches

electrical box

Getting the electrical ready for the plaster coat

EJ and Shasha

EJ and Sasha heading out on a short honeymoon trip

curving the windows

Adding the curvature to the window openings (very time consuming!)

straw curves

Adding the curves to the large window

plaster tool

Andrew making a scratch tool for the plaster

plaster making

Andrew preparing the first load of plaster



Plaster ready to put on the walls

plaster hawk

Andrew showing us how to work with the plaster on the plaster hawk

plaster wall

Andrew demonstrating how to plaster the wall. (It’s harder then it looks!)

plastering walls

We try our hands at plastering the straw bales

plastering walls

Many hands make light work!

plastering wall

Working up the wall

three women

Group thinning out, this is hard work!

scratching wall

Susan scratching the wall to make it rough for the next coat

scratching the wall

Denise liked this part of plastering

October 6th, 2013and filed in Straw Bale
Tags: Andrew Morrison, Sacramento, Straw Bale, Workshop

Straw bale Workshop Day 6

by Kent Griswold on October 6th, 2013. 5 Comments

Today is day 6 of the straw bale workshop here at Common Kettle Farm. One thing that I have discovered at this workshop is that straw bale construction takes time and there are lots of steps. If you want a completed home fast, straw bale is not the way to go. If you want a warm cozy or cool home with low utilities and are patient straw bale is perfect.

installing mesh

Installing the outside mesh

Today the rest of the meshing was put up, and more of the electrical put in. The boxes have to be cut out with a chain saw and the wires pulled. The wires are then pushed back into the bales where it sometimes needs to be cut out with a chain saw. Once this is all done the mesh has to be sewn together from the inside walls to the outside with long string and huge needles. Andrew showed us how it was done and we all jumped in to make it happen. Every 18 inches this has to be done going up and across. We used a jig to cut the string and hung them on a tree. The sand arrived for the plaster today and the kids enjoyed seeing it dumped from the truck.

Besides the usual work there were other were other activities going on around the barn. A wedding was planned for that evening as Sasha and EJ were getting married and the residents of the farm were decorating and rearranging the leftover bales for the event in the evening. Another busy day at the straw bale workshop and only one more after today.

I missed the the official wedding as I was invited to dinner at Michael Janzen’s of Tiny House Design. However I got back soon enough to enjoy some great music by Andrew, our hostess and the kids, and a chance to see the bride and groom do a wedding dance. A fun evening!

electrical box

Wiring an outside electrical box

cutting twine

Cutting the twine for sewing the mesh


Sewing twine hanging in the tree

straw bale needle

Andrew demonstrating the straw bale needle for sewing the mesh together

straw bale needle

Needle coming through the wall

miller's knots

Lot’s of Miller’s knots when completed!


Installing more mesh

girls decorating

The girls decorating for the wedding this evening.

straw bale seating

The guys arranging the bales for seating and cleaning the work area.


Andrew singing

Andrew entertaining the wedding crowd.

hostess singing

Our hostess sharing her singing talent with a beautiful Dutch song.

kids singing

The kids want to sing also.

EJ and Sasha

The bride Sasha and groom EJ performing the wedding dance.

russian dance

Sasha performs a Russian dance with EJ.

October 6th, 2013and filed in Straw Bale
Tags: Andrew Morrison, Sacramento, Straw Bale, Workshop

Straw Bale Workshop Day 5

by Kent Griswold on October 5th, 2013. 2 Comments

On day five at Common Kettle Farm we had an extremely busy day. Covering all exposed wood with roofing felt, getting the cutouts ready for the electrical. Cutting out the box areas for the electrical, installing the rest of the windows. Lots of chainsaw problems.

Deciding where the cutouts for the decorative niches would go. We also prepped for the mesh and started installing it at the end of the day.

A very busy day but I will let the photos tell the story. To learn more about straw bale construction visit

roofing felt

installing windows

cutting felt

installing felt

installing windows

cutting electrical boxes

moving the meshing material

andrew explaining the process

Marha and the niche

three niches

assembling the electrical boxes

David cutting the niche

cutting the electrical box

fruit break

chainsaw problems

cutting the mesh

ladies installing the mesh

Mark installing the mesh


October 5th, 2013and filed in Straw Bale
Tags: Andrew Morrison, Straw Bale, Workshop

Straw bale Workshop Day 4

by Kent Griswold on October 4th, 2013. 6 Comments

I’m running late with this post. I was just to warn out last night and my computer was running on fumes as well so I put off the post till this morning. Day 4 here at Common Kettle Farm. We had quite a day yesterday. Who would have thought putting in the last row of bales would be such a challenge. We are using rice bales from the central valley near Williams, California. These bales are extremely dense and very dusty. One of the disadvantages of using rices bales is all the dust that comes along with them. It was there denseness that caused us the most problem though. straw bales all in We had to strap and jack down the bales to get them to fit tightly into the wall. Sometimes this involved laying down and kicking them into place. We ended up getting all but one bale in yesterday. We also started weed wacking the bales to prepare them for the wire mesh and the plaster. This is done on both the inside and out. Alll the walls need to be tamped into place as well and be as level as possible. We also started placing the windows, which involved flashing them to keep the moisture out. Straw bale is very labor intensive but rewarding as well. To learn how you can be involved in one of these workshops visit last row install tony jacking the bales pushing the bales in strapping the bales cutting the window opening rice dust flying installing the windows upper level bales trimming the bales flashing the windows installing the windows