Healing Hands for People and Planet


| 11/9/2007 12:00:00 AM


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It’s a crisp, cold morning, and my husband just baked a breakfast batch of Toasty Baked Oatmeal, a recipe from a solar- and wind-powered straw bale B&B we visited this spring. (See the recipe below!) It’s amazing how one sense—in this case flavor—can trigger other sensory memories. 

As I’m munching, I’m remembering the amazing, thick, adobe-covered walls at Las Manos Bed and Breakfast (www.LasManosBandB.com) in the mountains of Buena Vista, Colorado. Over the years I’ve edited many articles about straw bale houses—and I’ve greatly admired the photos of their beauty. However, this was the first time I’d ever been inside a straw bale building. 

As soon and Ken and I set foot inside, I knew it was love. I loved the textured, earth-colored adobe and the thick walls, which made it possible to create a deep window seat called a banco with breath-taking views of the Rocky Mountains’ Collegiate Range. The circular living room with its wagon-wheel-style beams is inspired by Southwestern Indian kivas. 

And I was awestruck that the two-bedroom B&B was built entirely by the hands of its two owners, William McQueen and Colleen Finley, who are certified massage therapists (hence the name of the of the place, Las Manos, which means “the hands” in Spanish). 

The couple used 460 bales of straw and 45 tons of adobe made from earth and clay that they dug up right from their piñon-pine-covered land. They had help, of course; straw bale builders have formed a tight-knit community and often swap information via e-mail from all over the Southwest. They even gather to help each other build, passing along tips and tricks they themselves learned from others. 



William and Colleen also became self-taught experts in solar-electric, solar hot water and wind power. William gives us a tour of his “babies”—the solar shed and wind turbine—with all the pride of a new dad. 



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