You Can Huff and You Can Puff
But You Can't Blow This House Down!
Sue and John Young of Waterford Maine may or may not have read "The Three Little Pigs." In
any case, they aren't afraid of the big bad wolf, or wind, snow, cold or anything else Mother
Nature might send their way. The Youngs are building a house of straw and we have the pictures
to prove it. Sue speaks passionately about their work as her husband, John, looks on smiling.
The couple is originally from the northeast. Their families currently surround them within a
two-hour drive. They moved to Florida in 1990 and a year ago this coming May, decided to
"come back home." Friends offered to put them up until they found the "right piece of land" to buy
with the money they made selling their home in Florida.
Sue is a dowser (see
more info on dowsing), she used this ability to search for the place they
should live in. Using a pendulum over a map, Sue was directed to the name "Temple." The search
began and many miles and many places later, the Youngs search continued. Their real estate
agent called them one day to look at yet another piece of land. As they journeyed towards it, the
names of the roads they traveled down did not appeal to them. They wondered if this was just
another wild goose chase. Suddenly, the name of the road appeared in their sight, "Temple Hill
Road." As good fortune would have it, the land they were to look at was located on this road.
The connection was made, the land was more than suitable and the deal was struck. The Youngs
had found "home". They had hoped to begin construction in May of 1999 but due to the closing
not being completed until September (making the land was officially theirs to build on), it was
mid- November before the construction began.
And build, they did, all the while living in the slightly cramped quarters of a small mobile home.
The structure is called a "Straw Bale House." The design is one they researched and dreamt
about. They purchased a book entitled "The Straw Bale House" by Athena Swentzell Steen, Bill
Steen and David Eisenburg and read it from cover to cover many times over. Sue says, it is "the
best resource she has seen." It was the knowledge they acquired from this book that enabled
them to turn their dream into a reality.
Sue describes the area they are located in as "sheltered and protected" from the elements. Being
a student of Feng Shui, (see more
info on Feng Shui), she further explained the geographics of
their land show the ledge on the north side to resemble a dragon, a symbol of good luck and
protection. To the southeast is a pond and in the language of Feng Shui, helpful energy comes
from the southeast and water symbolizes abundance and prosperity.
The Youngs describe Waterford as being "very decent about allowing people to do their own
The structure is composed of a 20' x 30' post and beam frame using bales of actual straw
stacked in a brick-like fashion, for insulation. The straw will be completely covered with stucco to
finish the walls. A cement pad was poured for the flooring. Windows are strategically placed
within, what John refers to as, "wooden boxes", and set into the straw bale walls. The south wall
is almost entirely filled windows to provide optimum use of the sun's heat. Blue plastic covers the
structure for the time being. Once the weather is more suitable the stucco will first be sprayed
directly onto the straw bale walls, to fill in any holes. Then more stucco will be spread up to at
least an inch thick, entirely covering all the straw. A gas kitchen cook stove with an end heater
will heat the straw bale house. The Youngs estimate it may cost $5 a month to heat the house as
opposed to the average $180 a week it costs many people to heat with oil.
Safety concerns of straw and possible fire were quickly quenched as John, who was a former
fireman in the NH area, explained the stucco creates a non-flammable barrier, allowing no oxygen
in, therefore preventing any flame from spreading. Questions about mold or mildew forming in the
bales causing obnoxious smells were clarified as Sue explained that straw is the stalk of a plant
and contains little if any, grain matter to decompose. The bales are completely covered with the
stucco so no moisture can form to cause such a problem. These two people know their stuff.
When asked what they might have done differently another time - they responded simultaneously,
"start in May, not November," with smiles on their faces. They also felt that an old time barn
raising would be a wonderful way to approach such a project, should anyone be considering
trying their hand at this.
But wait, there's more. The straw bale house is really eventually going to be a garage. The
Youngs have plans to build a round cordwood house as their permanent home and then their
straw bale house will become their straw bale garage. We will be following the Youngs
progression in the weeks and months to come, so check back in from time to time to see how
they are doing (or what they have planned for the future). They are a couple who want to share
their knowledge with other interested people and have graciously offered to keep us updated on
Links to read more about Straw Bale Houses:
U.S. Dept. of Energy - House of Straw - Straw Bale Construction Comes of Age:
Straw Bale Construction Web Information:
Places to order additional info:
Photo album of a straw bale house being built in PA:
The Strawbale House Project at Swarthmore College (1994-1998):
More Info on Dowsing:
Dowser - According to Sue Young, everyone has the ability to dowse for anything. She
describes a dowser as a person who is able to sense the different energies of the particular thing
they are searching for. You need to set your mind to perceiving the energy of that which you
seek. Energetic signatures and vibrational rates are significant facets that allow dowsers to find
what they are looking for. To become successful at dowsing the following criteria are necessary:
receptiveness and the ability to envision in order to find what you seek. Sue suggests you
"determine your intention - visualize finding it - open your perception - respond to it."
Dowsing is a science - a new physics that has determined the nervous system senses vibrations.
The adage of "just because you can't see it - doesn't mean it doesn't exist" holds true for this
Every fall there is a conference in Danville, Maine for the International Society of Dowsers. The
American Society of Dowsers: http://reid_j.tripod.com/ASD_Directory/maine.htm
Links to read more about dowsing:
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More Info on Feng
Feng Shui - The term feng shui is literally translated as "wind and water." Feng Shui sometimes
called Chinese "geomancy"-- first developed as the art and science of orienting dwellings,
buildings and cities. Certain places in the landscape have life breath (sheng ch'i). Feng Shui is
concerned with discovery of such places and due note of their individual qualities.
Links to read more about Feng Shui:
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(Published April 2000 at: www.neighborhoodamerica.com
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