If you're planning on building a straw bale home you need a straw bale that is baled for that specific purpose in mind. You need dense bales that will hold up with heavy plaster, carve well for post post and beam, flake well for retying, or be solid enough if you are going with load bearing walls. I bale straw specifically for construction use and have been supplying straw for 4 to 7 straw bale homes per year. homes per year. The conditions and methods of baling good quality straw bales are just as important as putting up quality alfalfa hay. Since I have been baling straw for construction use, I have been looking at the whole process critically trying to make the best product possible for its intended use. I wrote an article for The Last Straw, issue 68, Fall of 2015 going into the details of baling construction type bales. I encourage you to subscribe to The Last Straw to access that article and the many other articles that will be very beneficial to you who are building a straw bale home. Here are some of the important factors I consider when baling.
Straw is the dried stem leftover after combining grain. There is virtually no cellular moisture left in the stem by the time the kernels of grain harden and the grain crop is ready for harvest.
Straw bales up the best when it is baled at night or early in the morning. If you bale in the hot part of the day the straw stems are more likely to break and shatter when they are compressed. Straw producers who are baling for livestock and reclamation use typically bale during this part of the day because they want their straw bales to explode and scatter instead of having flakes that hold their shape. Baling straw when the temperature is cooler allows the stems to be more flexible and compress without breaking. All hay producers know about this and very seldom will you see a hay producer baling during the hot part of the day. I have a moisture meter mounted on my baler that allows me to monitor if a crop is too dry or has too much moisture in it. Baling in the cooler part of day or at night allows you to better compress the straw making a tight solid bale. All baling machines can be adjusted for compression either hydraulically or manually. The feeding of the crop into the baling chamber can also be adjusted for bale shape. The straw bale should have the same amount of straw and compression on both the cut side and the fold side of the bale.
Ideally, the straw bale you want going into your home should be very solid, have an even density on both the cut and fold sides, and be able to flake if you have to retie for a certain length of bale in your wall.
All of our grain here in our valley is grown under irrigation. This allows the crop to grow very tall and produces a long straw stem. We bale our straw during the last part of July and the first part of August when the wheat is ready for harvest. This is the only time of the year we get to accumulate and store straw for existing orders or to bale "extra" straw in anticipation of somebody needing straw during the year for their project. If you are planning a straw bale build, be proactive in lining up the bales you will need for your build.
Good baling is an art, whether it is putting up straw, alfalfa, or grass. We are constantly striving to put up the very best product possible for all of our straw and hay customers. Straw is available here at the farm , or we can deliver. Contact me for availability and pricing.