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post #761 of 2095 Old 08-14-2018, 09:39 PM
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It really is spectacularly beautiful. Definitely worth the amnesia.
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Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaam’s Donkey
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post #762 of 2095 Old 08-14-2018, 10:17 PM Thread Starter
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Continued from: https://www.horseforum.com/member-jo...post1970586413


Morning Sun – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Grazing Horses Through Bedroom Window – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Light Picture On Ensuite Wall – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Ensuite – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Door Frog – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

In the guest rooms, we have used a bushland green as the plasterboard wall colour, to reflect the woodland behind the house and the Australian bush in general. The south-facing room has a quilt and floor rugs in warm inviting colours, since it gets no direct sunlight. Because this room only has two strawbale walls, we wanted another type of wall here as well.

In the office, what to do about the second conventional wall had been simple. We built the ultimate feature wall for bibliophiles – a built-in bookshelf.


Built-In Bookshelf Now Occupied – Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Aerial Shot of Brett in Completed Office – Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

For our back guest room, we thought about how we could best evoke the Australian bush, and could not go past rough-cut jarrah facecuts from the Redmond sawmill, at $5 a board. We spent several afternoons hanging the boards at the scratch coat stage, and plastered the board sides into the adjoining strawbale wall during the subsequent shape and finish coats for a neat join. The boards were hung raw, with any bark edges left on, and have imbued the room with a wonderful natural timber aroma.


Jarrah Feature Wall - Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Bush Room Detail – Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

We had some spare straight-edged boards at the end of this project and sanded and varnished them for kitchen kickboards. I used a table saw and a thicknesser the neighbour brought over saying, “Here, try this!” to make a matching experimental rustic architrave for the pantry door and was hooked. We bought more facecuts and continued the theme with rustic architraves, skirting boards, and cornices throughout the house. We screwed them on and left the zinc-plated fixings unconcealed because we liked the raw aesthetic, rather like studs on denim. Also it means you can take them off easily if you ever repaint your plasterboard or refinish your timber.


Farmhouse Kitchen – Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond, Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

Then I started making rustic picture frames and magazine holders out of offcuts from making all these other items. It’s funny how one thing leads to another, and how the rustic timber wall ended up influencing the materials used in the rest of the house. To bring the farmhouse aesthetic firmly into the mostly plasterboarded main entry corridor, I made a rustic hall stand out of beautifully coloured and patterned leftover jarrah strips and board offcuts, and some old splintery packing pine that had come with the roof sheets and had weathered from an ugly orange to driftwood silver lying in the grounds for five years.

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post #763 of 2095 Old 08-14-2018, 10:45 PM Thread Starter
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Homemade Rustic Magazine Holder – Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Read Ye Whenever Possible – Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Finished Rustic Hall Stand – Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Arty extras

Like many strawbale afficionados, I’ve read a lot of books on strawbale houses, and ogled at the lovely artistic finishes some people have achieved: Incorporating glass bottles into walls, shaping the plaster into sculptural forms (as in pargetting), including bits of broken tile to form feature wall mosaics, and so on. We were first-timers, though, and our build was already huge and complicated without these fairytale additions, so we went with plain lime plaster finishes inside and out. We do have truth windows (framed areas of straw which is otherwise behind the plaster, see below), and niches based on Gothic arches.


Bush Room II – Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Front Guest Room II – Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Truth Window Being Plastered In - Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

We got enough breathing space to apply the decorative tile idea to the carport, which had some little gems showing fish, chickens etc floated into the red concrete before it set.


Inset Tile in Carport - Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr



Inset Tile in Carport Concrete - Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

I also made some painted glass windows while the house frame was being put together; an alternative to stained glass that anyone with patience can do without expensive equipment. The step-by-step how-to was written up for Grass Roots 215 and back issues are still available (internationally, just find their website).


Painted Glass Sunburst Window – Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr


Painted Glass Frog & Swamp Window– Completed Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

Other arty things that found a natural habitat in our house include a numbat painting on a pillow by friend and former colleague Penny Elliott, and a Native American painted by Brett’s grandfather.
Exposed coloured concrete floor

This kind of floor is made simply by adding pigments of the desired colour to the final loads of concrete that go on the slab – in the factory, not on site – and then sealing with a solvent-based product if depth of colour is desired. Water-based products are less toxic, but don’t bring out the colour nearly as well – so if you do go for solvent-based sealer, seal well before you live in the house to let the product off-gas.

We love our simple, beautiful, easycare floor. Its deep reddish-brown, earthy colour complements the other main materials in the house – lime plaster and timber. Only the (tiled) bathrooms and laundry have any additional floor covering. This represents a huge time and money saving compared to conventional finish floor materials and installation.

If you live in an area with cool winters, the top reason to go for an exposed dark-coloured concrete floor is because it is the best kind of solar battery you can have as a floor, provided your glazing, eaves and house orientation are properly designed to make use of it. From autumn to spring, direct sunlight falls on our floor through four French doors in the house’s north face. The added dark pigments help the floor absorb this direct sunlight, which is turned into stored heat that is radiated back to the house 24/7.

I walk barefoot on the floors in our north-facing rooms most of the year around and generally find the temperature very pleasant. We did not insulate under our slab because the ground temperature in our area doesn’t get cold enough in winter to warrant it, and the ample winter sun heats the slab nicely. As a result, the slab is free to lose heat directly by conduction to the far cooler than air temperature ground below it in the summertime, which helps the house stay cool.

Carpets and timber are insulators, so to top the slab with those would greatly impair its thermal performance. Even tiling would weaken the absorption of sunlight into the floor. Our tiled areas are in south-facing rooms, where they don’t impinge on thermal performance.


Closing reflections

With our build, we wanted to show that you could have an eco-house a family could live in comfortably and fairly conventionally, if they would bring back their expectations to good basic rooms only, in a smaller overall floor space, and using about the same amount of electricity as their grandparents. Isn’t it ironic how reducing your ecological footprint is mostly synonymous with returning to the more modest consumption patterns people had in the past? Appropriate passive solar design brings interior comfort without energy-gobbling heaters and air conditioners. And the smaller you can make your house, the less you will wish for house-elves or lottery wins, and the more you can get back to meaningful basics in your life.


Links & Resources

Great Southern Concreting
Super job on our house slab, including recessed corners for the compost toilets, a coloured concrete top layer for an exposed sealed finish floor, and collaborating on decorative tilework in the carport slab.
0428 927 158

Albany Allway Roofing
Excellence in roofing and carpentry. Proprietor Chris Newton and his crew built us a solid roofed structural frame for our house, and solved many building problems for us along the way.
0417 386 911

Neil Manuel, Farmer and Strawbale Supplier
High-quality oaten and barley straw; specialist supplier to many WA strawbale builders.
0429 626 043

Swan Point Bricklaying Services
Peter McArtney did a beautiful job creating a colonial-style wall out of Boral Handmade Woodbridge face bricks under trying circumstances with the generator malfunctioning.
08 9846 4211

Elijah Forrest Plasterboard Services
Did main ceiling, wet areas, all flushing. Excellent scribing job to fit enormous raked living area ceiling snugly into strawbale walls.
0429 353 143

Great Southern Solar
Very professional supply and installation of our reliable off-grid system.
08 9848 1369

Great Western Plumbing & Heating
Wonderful service and lateral thinking from Tony Kittlety.
08 0941 6422

SolarOz
Excellent range of wholesale price solar hot water systems. Our Sydney tube system, including delivery, was under half the price of an equivalent unit from WA suppliers.

Snowballs Auctions
Source of quality pre-loved components like our second-hand timber kitchen, ornate carved wardrobe, dining suite, mirrors etc.

Metro Ceramic Tiles
Supplied gorgeous and affordable Italian floor tiles for our wet areas and kitchen splashback.
08 0942 9909

Nevilles Hardware & Building Supplies
Excellent for bagged lime putty, fixings, wood finishes, special timbers, old-style door furniture and general advice. Stock Haynes paints and varnishes.
98425333

Bunnings
Discounted supply of Earthwool insulation, tiles, paints, doors, tools etc. Supplied our Stegbar cedar French doors and windows via special orders.

Bohdan Dorniak & Co
Having “by strawbale architect” stamped on your house plans can be helpful if you have a conservative council. Our alternative materials owner-building application passed quickly and without a hitch.

Sue has a B.Sc. in Environmental Science and Biology and worked in research and education before owner building. Brett’s background is in Graphic Design and Programming and he has also been a Bushfire Brigade volunteer for 30 years. Both won top student awards for their tertiary qualifications and dreamed of living in a library one day – a dream now fulfilled.

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post #764 of 2095 Old 08-14-2018, 11:01 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Knave View Post
It really is spectacularly beautiful. Definitely worth the amnesia.
Thank you, we are very happy with how it turned out, it's so serene and cosy at the same time. I think yes, totally worth all the blood, sweat and tears of five years of our lives; we'd never have been able to afford to buy something this nice pre-made, plus this kind of thing actually can't be pre-made, you really do have to do it yourself.

We both learnt so much, and got very good at things we'd never done before (although that took time and involved frustration and grey hairs and therefore increased expenditure on hair dye!). And now we're kind of living in our own artwork, as well as in a house (neither of us had ever had a house of our own before...Brett had had a small duplex unit in the city). It was done on a shoestring, but of course we put in most of the working hours to build this house (contractors did the structural basics, and sometimes we got help in when we needed it, like for the kitchen remodelling, but mostly it was just us on site).

As we started this project at around age 40, we could joke about our midlife crises taking a more useful form than a red sports car! However, I think I had my midlife crisis early turning 30 () and was cool after that, and Brett isn't the sort to have a midlife crisis.

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post #765 of 2095 Old 08-15-2018, 01:35 AM Thread Starter
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Speaking of midlife crises at age 30, I can't help but think of Robert Smith, who even at 25 was saying, "I'm getting too old to be doing this sort of stuff!" and who was panicking at 29 about producing a masterpiece by age 30, and made the album Disintegration in that spirit. I'm sorry, but it's hilarious. And then when he was turning 40 and had just done the wonderful Bloodflowers, he was going on about how surely this was going to be their last album.

We did recently dive a bit more into the catalogue and Brett got us Disintegration, which is currently occupying my brain (since I'm a little more restricted to indoors than usual). I posted a link to the wonderful track Plainsong here:

https://www.horseforum.com/member-jo...post1970583197

Today, I'm going to post something dark and beautifully written - the title track. As always, if it won't play embedded, just click the YouTube link directly. That link also has the lyrics, which are worth reading.


Relationship disintegration, personal disintegration, either, both, something else - the beauty of a song like this is that you can read it in so many different ways. This one, for instance, can be read as a doomed personal relationship or as an addiction metaphorically presented as a relationship, and using the imagery of a relationship.

I remember saying to a writer friend of mine who's also a big fan, "Don't you think it's so amusing that Robert Smith has written so many songs about painful relationships, and specifically that he's written Disintegration, and yet he's been married all his life to a girl he met in high school drama class and whom he clearly adores?"

It's a nice love story:

Seriously Ruined: Just Like Heaven | Robert Smith & Mary Poole



Who doesn't like a nice love story? There's a few more like that, but it's nice to see it in the notorious music industry.

Anyhow, at the time my friend said that The Cure was all theatre of human experience.

This is a great award to get:



And this is just for fun, because I love silly as much as I love serious.

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post #766 of 2095 Old 08-15-2018, 11:48 AM
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As always, the house inspiration is a big pick-me-up. I love the straw windows, what a great touch. I also loved the tile details. One of our favorite tile makers in the US is Derby Pottery in New Orleans. They make all the tiles that are placed on the street intersections throughout the city, as well as beautiful decorative tiles. We had some custom number tiles made for our last house, and I am planning to get my lovely husband some new ones for our current house this Christmas. Nothing like a little touch of New Orleans charm in the middle of a brutal New England winter!



Two nasty house surprises this week. First was that the non-working oven is hardwired through a conduit from the kitchen downstairs into the main electrical box??? WHYYYYYYYYY would you do something like that?? So we can't even just pull the oven out and plug a new temporary electric one into a wall outlet. Instead, we tried to pull out the heating element, thinking that maybe if we replaced that part we could just get the oven working again and not even buy a new one until we do a more extensive renovation...but the heating element is welded into the back of the oven so it really can't be removed and replaced. What in the world was going on with this oven?!

Second was that the well was installed in a way that would be "totally illegal" today. It took excavating to find a massive 200 lb concrete lid that is mysteriously sitting over the well head 5.5 feet below the ground? The pump needs replaced, but the people who showed up to do it had no equipment to move the lid out of the way to get to it, and ominously warned that with the lid pushed back and all the rain we're getting, it could flood the huge hole and back up into the house flooding the basement.

One of our lovely ladies staring off into the abyss...


Good news is that my lovely husband recently got a new tractor, so I guess in addition to using it to spend quality time with the horses, he'll be able to get the concrete lid off and out of the way to give the well guys access to try again on the well pump next week...


This is going to be one of those houses where we realize that in addition to doing all the cosmetic stuff on the cheap, the former owners ignored major systems issues too. I can't fathom how people operate this way, it's against our very nature to do that.
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post #767 of 2095 Old 08-15-2018, 05:17 PM
Rod
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SueC View Post
Horses really are so many things rolled into one. Personal trainers, friends, hiking buddies, Zen masters, trauma therapists, dancing partners, superhuman antennae, fellow hygge appreciators, rocket transport with liftoff... (who will add to this list? C'mon, there's more! )
Work partners- We simply could not have run the ranch we did without the hard work our horses put in with us.

I like your posts about your straw bale house. When we moved from Salt Lake City to Southern Idaho 36 years ago, we looked into building a straw bale house. One was being built in our area and I visited the job site several times. The construction method was much different than yours. They stacked up the straw walls and built the roof directly on top without any other support. Then they hooked up a bunch of guywires with turnbuckles from the roof to the concrete slab and tightened it down (and covered the walls in plastic). Their plan was to let it settle for two years with occasional tightening of the turnbuckles. After a year and a half, one side had settled more than the rest and they tore it down and built a conventional stick built house. I thought the construction method was a little 'hinkey' and we didn't want to wait for two years so we wound up buying a little farmhouse originally built in 1919. It's been a never ending remodeling project, but it's home. Your house turned out very well. I am glad it was successful.
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post #768 of 2095 Old 08-15-2018, 06:19 PM Thread Starter
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Hello @egrogan !

Always lovely to hear from you! I've had to laugh at your new avatar photo, it's so funny! I trust you are enjoying the experience of living in a horse paddock. It's all looking so great in your photos and reports.

By the way, it's falafel weather now and the chickpeas are already waiting for the day, and I'll let you know how that goes. I'm confident it won't be mush this time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by egrogan View Post
As always, the house inspiration is a big pick-me-up. I love the straw windows, what a great touch. I also loved the tile details. One of our favorite tile makers in the US is Derby Pottery in New Orleans. They make all the tiles that are placed on the street intersections throughout the city, as well as beautiful decorative tiles.
I had to google this, I had no idea. How lovely!



Thanks for the link; that's something we don't have in Australia, which is a country that doesn't seem to bother to manufacture much - why manufacture when you can sell wool and grain and ore, they seem to think. Europe of course has great traditions around making things, and I miss it. Maybe that's another reason we just had to build our own house. Nice to see there's a good manufacturing tradition where you live! I love carefully made, quirky stuff.

Glad our building experience could inspire you. We loved watching Grand Designs right until we started building. Then we banned it from the viewing repertoire. It got to the point we would scream and change channels if we saw a building programme! After we finished the place, we slowly lost our weird reactions to that, and are now happy to watch that stuff again. The human mind is such a funny thing.


Quote:
We had some custom number tiles made for our last house, and I am planning to get my lovely husband some new ones for our current house this Christmas. Nothing like a little touch of New Orleans charm in the middle of a brutal New England winter!

That looks so unbelievably cosy! With winters like that, you'd need it to be, right? On another thread we were discussing the Danish concept of hygge. Actually my first primary school teacher taught us so much about that. We used to often have to go through almost knee-deep snow to get to school around Christmas, and it would still be dark, and she actually would start by lighting candles in the classroom and have us sitting on the floor and burning fir branches, which smell like incense, and tell us stories, or get us to tell stories. It was wonderful!






Quote:
Two nasty house surprises this week. First was that the non-working oven is hardwired through a conduit from the kitchen downstairs into the main electrical box??? WHYYYYYYYYY would you do something like that??

When we had our house wired, I had to actually check everything because it became quite apparent that the electricians had a very leisurely attitude to safety standards they were supposed to be meeting. Amongst other things, I found they'd run a cable in direct contact with the copper pipe that goes between the hot water booster jacket of our wood heater to the tank of the solar water heater on the roof. It's not just a metal pipe, it's a metal pipe that gets hot and that runs through a hall cupboard (on the side wall inside), where people can touch it.

When I pointed this out to them, they said it wasn't a problem because the cables were heat rated. I said, 1) what about if rodents down the track strip the insulation on the 240V cable? and 2) this is actually against the safety standard in our country's building code (as an owner builder I had to check all this stuff and make sure things complied). And they kind of went, "Oh, never mind the building code, there's a trip switch in the fuse box!" Sigh. That doesn't mean that you can ignore the building code, or that you should do stupid stuff if you can avoid it. It was actually pointless arguing with them, so I went up in the ceiling myself and put a big ceramic fence insulator between the electrical cable and the copper pipe. I should have reported them to the electricians' professional body for this and many other highly stupid things, like placing the earth peg into permanently dry ground under the eaves - I moved that too.


Quote:
So we can't even just pull the oven out and plug a new temporary electric one into a wall outlet. Instead, we tried to pull out the heating element, thinking that maybe if we replaced that part we could just get the oven working again and not even buy a new one until we do a more extensive renovation...but the heating element is welded into the back of the oven so it really can't be removed and replaced. What in the world was going on with this oven?!
"Me fix it! Me can weld!!!"



Quote:
Second was that the well was installed in a way that would be "totally illegal" today. It took excavating to find a massive 200 lb concrete lid that is mysteriously sitting over the well head 5.5 feet below the ground? The pump needs replaced, but the people who showed up to do it had no equipment to move the lid out of the way to get to it, and ominously warned that with the lid pushed back and all the rain we're getting, it could flood the huge hole and back up into the house flooding the basement.

One of our lovely ladies staring off into the abyss...
Hmmm yes, the joys of home ownership! Hilarious chicken.
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post #769 of 2095 Old 08-15-2018, 06:19 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Good news is that my lovely husband recently got a new tractor, so I guess in addition to using it to spend quality time with the horses, he'll be able to get the concrete lid off and out of the way to give the well guys access to try again on the well pump next week...


This is going to be one of those houses where we realize that in addition to doing all the cosmetic stuff on the cheap, the former owners ignored major systems issues too. I can't fathom how people operate this way, it's against our very nature to do that.
Well, that's the same way we feel - and in Australia, that attitude we dislike is called "she'll be right"-ness, and it's a national characteristic worn with apparent pride. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. Before we bought and built out here, we made some offers on houses in a little coastal village. Only problem was, they were all asking new-house prices for things that had been unbelievably neglected. Decks rotten from lack of oiling / sealing, balconies dodgy for similar reasons, saplings growing from gutters, peeling paint, leaky pipes, shoddy gappy insulation installs, don't even look at the electrical wiring etc etc etc. So we always offered new house price minus whatever it would cost to fix it. No takers, which was lucky because it put us on the path we're now on.

Now one thing has me vastly puzzled: How does one have quality time with the horses, with a tractor???

Sending you good vibes for your renovation and safety projects! Eventually you'll get it all sorted, and it will really feel like home then.
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post #770 of 2095 Old 08-15-2018, 06:48 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rod View Post
Work partners- We simply could not have run the ranch we did without the hard work our horses put in with us.

I like your posts about your straw bale house. When we moved from Salt Lake City to Southern Idaho 36 years ago, we looked into building a straw bale house. One was being built in our area and I visited the job site several times. The construction method was much different than yours. They stacked up the straw walls and built the roof directly on top without any other support. Then they hooked up a bunch of guywires with turnbuckles from the roof to the concrete slab and tightened it down (and covered the walls in plastic). Their plan was to let it settle for two years with occasional tightening of the turnbuckles. After a year and a half, one side had settled more than the rest and they tore it down and built a conventional stick built house. I thought the construction method was a little 'hinkey' and we didn't want to wait for two years so we wound up buying a little farmhouse originally built in 1919. It's been a never ending remodeling project, but it's home. Your house turned out very well. I am glad it was successful.
Hello Rod!

How's retirement? Got that new horse yet? You know we're all going to enable you if you're leaning towards getting a new horse!



Thank you very much! We're glad it turned out too. I have a very good imagination for all the things that could possibly go wrong, which was massively helpful during building. Plus I don't do "she'll be right".

You are describing load-bearing construction, which can be successfully done if done right - you can pre-compress with machinery etc, and then the settling time will be just a couple of months. The settling more on one side than the other sounds like either inconsistent stacking, or rodents, or both. There's a couple of successful load-bearing houses around here, but we wanted to avoid complications, plus this is a winter wet zone and we wanted a roof over our straw walls immediately, and before they were weatherproofed with the plaster. We've seen so many people tarp walls that aren't under a roof, and then have to re-build whole walls that got wet inside. That wasn't our idea of fun, so we went with the safest possible method we could find.

I hope your house came out all right too! It's no fun fixing other people's neglect etc. Photos always welcome, although I get that some people prefer to be really private online. (For me that's kind of pointless, since all the house photos I share here are already online as an educational tool, plus all over a couple of national magazines since we started this whole thing. But that's OK, because other people doing exactly that was what even got us to the starting line for building our own, so we like to share in turn.)

Happy riding, and have fun with the GDs!
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