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(photo: Leland Wong-Daugherty)

Foyer de cœur & de paille

Ma femme, Tegan, et moi-même avons construit notre maison avec des produits provenant de la terre. Nous avons utilisé de la paille pour les murs. La paille est la matière ligneuse provenant des récoltes des grains comme le blé. Quand la paille est compressée en blocs rectangulaires par le fermier, cette paille devient un matériau de construction adéquat pour construire des murs portants qui résistent au feu et qui sont grandement isolants. Avec un peu de prévoyance et d'intérêt pour l'environnement, on peut réaliser que les bottes de pailles sont un matériau de construction idéal.


Home of Heart & Straw

Leland Wong-Daugherty
Artful Acre
August 2004

ave you ever heard tell of South Knowlesville? It's in the willy-wags of Western New Brunswick, not far from the village of Florenceville. It is a spectacular landscape, indeed, with rolling hills and beautiful valleys. The area is home to succeeding generations of some of the first immigrant settlers to Canada. They have certainly anchored themselves to this place, and their architecture mirrors their tenacity to stay put. Here there are many great ancient barns, and many are still in use for they do not give in to decay easily. Built by hand using immense timbers, the frames of the barns were lifted into place using only the arm strength of family and neighbors. Their wood barns and houses were borne of the land they stood above.

(photo: Leland Wong-Daugherty)

My wife, Tegan, and I, also build from materials that come from this landscape. We build with straw. Straw is the woody stem of a grain crop, like wheat. When baled into square blocks by the farmer, straw can be used as a load-bearing, fire-resistant, highly insulative building material. With a little thought and concern for the state of the environment, one may realize that strawbales are an ideal construction material. Lime plaster from the farm supply store is used to finish the interior of the straw walls. Have you seen the soft curved walls of a strawbale home? They are well worth seeing. And more of our neighbors are considering it for outbuildings and even their homes. I can name at least 11 locations where a straw structure has been built in New Brunswick.

(photo: Leland Wong-Daugherty)

You are aware of the romantic symbols we identify with in a rural setting - the crowing rooster, the nosy pigs, the fresh blackberry pie cooling off in the open window? These are real, yet are only a portion of the entire picture. Strawbale structures play a small role in reinforcing these classic images of the agrarian world, because today, so much of that poetry has been lost on the farm. I've chosen to see if a livelihood can be built upon the realities that created our remote rural memories. My structures are built primarily by hand, that glorious five-digit implement that lies waiting to be used at the end of our arm. The human body is a wonderful, capable instrument. In fact, strawbale construction depends on hands being involved. Our strawbale home owes thanks to many helping hands along the way. Mudding day brought together 11 friends adorning gloves and old clothes to plaster the outside wall with local riverbed clay and sand.

(photo: Leland Wong-Daugherty)

Tegan and I are both urban youth, yet have adopted the rural countryside as our home. On February 16th, 2003?, Leona Naomi Daugherty was born into this amazing world. Ever since her birth, we have begun the most incredible adventure of our lives. She has renewed a special appreciation for the natural world with her wonder at the colours, textures, smells and tastes of everything around her. Indeed, South Knowlesville will be more of home to Leona than we may ever know. In the same special way that so many hands have helped build a cozy abode out of straw, we are hoping friends and neighbors will fill Leona's life with love, caring and experience. The richest gifts by far of the rural backcountry are the people, the community they make, and the land on which we live.

(photo of Tegan, Leona & Leland Wong-Daugherty)