The First Straw: Building the First Straw Bale Home in Virginia

Hanuman Bertschy trod where no Virginian had gone before when she built a straw bale home on an ashram just outside of Charlottesville.

Based largely on permaculture principles, Hanuman’s garden is both bountiful and beautiful. “The concept of giving back at least as much as you take is totally in synch with how I try to live,” she says. “I wanted something that gave a lot, and I ­didn’t want a lawn to mow.” In her freeform garden, Hanuman groups many different species together, avoiding the monoculture type of planting that tends to attract pests. She builds up her soil with compost and organic matter for rich, healthy dirt. “I have gobs of big, fat worms,” she says. The result is a fertile bed for the herbs, flowers, and fruits that Hanuman grows. A fan of vining flowers, Hanuman planted a moonflower over her front door that produces five to six blossoms per night.
Photo By Philip Beaurline