Nebraska's Vernacular Straw Bale

December 28 visited Arthur, Nebraska. Saw a couple examples of Nebraska's vernacular straw bale tradition.
Martin-Monhart House, built 1925 Pilgrim Holiness Church, built 1928 Nebraska Sand Hills


Stefan and Kate's Adobe Home

The evening of December 27, stayed with Stefan Bell in Taos, NM. Stefan and Kate, who live in Mikawa, Hokkaido, are renovating a century old adobe home in Taos. Everything is custom built. For a beautiful earthen plaster finish, Stefan says that three things are needed: the right mix, the right temperature, and time.
Adobe ArchBathroom NichoBedroom

Ginna's Straw Bale Home

December 27-29, drove from Phoenix, AZ to Madison, WI. On December 27, visited Ginna's straw bale home in Santa Fe, NM. Stefan Bell, who built the straw bale walls of Toby and Maiko's home in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, led the construction of Ginna's home.
Wisteria vines
Passive solar design
Front door
Adobe archNicho


The Canelo Project

December 15-22 visited Bill Steen and Athena Swentzell Steen of The Canelo Project near Tucson, AZ. The Canelo Project is a non-profit "dedicated to the exploration and development of living systems, including growing food and building that creates friendship, beauty and simplicity." There are many strawbale and other natural building techniques on display at the Canelo Project.
Wrap-around porch: Very applicable to Japan.
Thatch on gable ends to protect straw bale walls and earthen plasters. Empty bottles create windows.Low cost window flashing.Concrete window sill and protective flashing above windowSplit bamboo used to create arch.
Garden wall with roof to prevent erosion
I was traveling with Keisuke NODA of Noda Plaster Works and 自然の家職づくり人ネット. As mentioned in previous posts, I first worked with Noda-san this past spring renovating Bethel House's Cafe in Urakawa, Hokkaido with straw bales and earthen plasters. Tom and Satomi of LanderLand were also at the Canelo Project for the week, making for a lively exchange of natural building ideas and techniques. Bill and Athena's sons Benito and Kalin also participated.
Bill, Athena, Tom, and Satomi have long had an interest in Japanese plastering. Bill and Athena have met Akira Kusumi and Tom and Satomi sell Japanese Trowels. Shuhei HASADO has visited The Canelo Project on two occasions.
During the week, Noda-san taught traditional and modern Japanese plastering techniques. Practice panels were built for earthen plaster and everyone had a panel for practice. Noda-san also taught an Italian polished lime plaster technique (カルチェ ラサーター), brought to Japan by Akira Kusumi I believe. We all made samples of the polished lime plaster. Noda-san's reflectionNoda-san also demonstrated a polished lime plaster involving wax, a technique developed by Noda-san's mentor, Naoki Akira, I believe. Noda-san demonstrated how he builds corners using a jig. And lastly, Noda-san demonstrated the stucco scratched finish he often uses.
Bill, Athena, Tom and Satomi shared with us their straw bale methods, and a practice wall with foundation and top plate was built. Corner and window details were also covered. The use of threaded rebar to compress the bales and level the top plate makes for an incredibly strong wall. Bill demonstrating old world plastering techniques.
Athena also explained how she carves earthen plasters.Athena comes from a family of artists. Her sister, Roxanne Swentzell, is an accomplished sculptor.
Benito demoed his blacksmith skills.
We all helped paint a memorial with waterglass and purple pigment.
We also toured some straw bale and old and new adobe homes in the area. The walls of Philip's home consist of two adobe walls with a layer of insulation in between. We also visited the San Xavier Mission, built of stone and adobe.
Lastly, the food was great. Above, Bill and Athena baking pizzas in their earthen oven.
Altogether, it was a fantastic week!
Group shot taken by Bill.
Back row (from left to right): Satomi, Athena, Kyle, Noda, Tom
Front row: Kalin



November 28 and 29 worked as a translator for Ben Nakamura and Associates Inc. (中村勉総合計画事務所). Prof. Nakamura was nominated by the Architectural Institute of Japan for an eco-architecture award sponsored by an organization in Singapore.

November 30 presented at the Center for Environmental Information Science Annual Conference in Tokyo.

December 1-4, helped the Japan Straw Bale House Association and Toyama Straw Bale House Association with the construction of the first straw bale building in Toyama. Actually only the master bedroom is straw bale. The building was designed by Hiroyo Nakata, a graduate of Nihon University. Hiroyo Nakata also manages a cafe in Toyama called Cafe trois.