The House That Built Me

A single mother learns much more than building techniques during the physical and spiritual journey of creating a straw bale home.


| July/August 2004



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Photo By Carolyn Roberts

Four years ago I packed a how-to book, a sledgehammer, and some recycled stakes into my pickup truck and forged into the desert near Tucson to build the foundation for my straw bale home. I had no idea what lay ahead of me. I knew what lay behind me—many disappointments. There was a good chance I was heading toward one more, as I didn’t know anything about construction and I didn’t have enough money to complete the house.

For eight years I had been dreaming of a simple, independent life with minimal debt. As a single mother, I hoped to find a way to support my family on a secretary’s salary. I knew that if I didn’t take the first step, I would never take one across the threshold of my home.

As I began my project, I made three promises to myself. The first was that this house would be as simple as possible while meeting the needs of my two teenage boys and myself. I knew if I began adding little luxuries I would most likely find myself with a house too expensive and complex for me to build. My greatest savings would be from doing the majority of the labor myself—somehow. I would use a passive solar design for heating and cooling, recycled windows and doors, and nature’s free gifts of straw, soil, and sand wherever possible.

My second pledge was that I wouldn’t give up. Before the sheer terror of this project struck me, I knew this home would be beneficial not only for me, but for the entire planet. It would enable our family to consume fewer resources and minimize pollution. I would document the house construction through a journal and web pages (AHouseOfStraw.com) with the hope it would inspire others to do the same. I determined not to let fear stop me.

My third decision followed the first two—I would trust in a power greater than both nature and me. I grew up in Hawaii, where houses are warmed by the sun and cooled by trade winds, and I believe that nature and people were put on this earth to coexist harmoniously.

Faith and miracles





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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