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Re: GSBN:TLS material for review

<x-charset iso-8859-1>Mark,

Great reviews...good writing, and good thoughts.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark Piepkorn" duckchow@...
To: "GSBN" GSBN@...
Sent: Sunday, April 07, 2002 8:50 AM
Subject: GSBN:TLS material for review

> I was asked to review a couple books for the next TLS. Now I'm posting
> those reviews here for any comments, suggestions, casual fact-checking,
> etc., anyone cares to do in order to help TLS have the most reliable,
> clear, entertaining and educating content possible.
> If you have to be brutal to be constructive, so be it. Replies can be
> posted here, or sent to me and I will forward them to Chris and Joyce. In
> any event, I'm very interested in seeing all pertinent replies. Thanks.
> - - - - - - - - - -
> Reading Barbara Jones' succinct yet full-flavored book, Information Guide
> to Straw Bale Building for Self-Builders and the Construction Industry,
> my imagination whirring in the same way that the early booklets "A
> Straw-Bale Primer" (by Steve and Orien MacDonald - the Xeroxed,
> flat-stapled precursor to Build It With Bales) and "Plastered Straw bale
> Construction" (by David Bainbridge with Bill and Athena Steen - the
> newsprint precursor of  The Straw Bale House) did.
> I don't know if it's because I've lately been missing the simpler, more
> winsomely direct, and even primal (but no less thoughtful and intelligent)
> stuff of earlier times in the strawbale resurgence; or if it's because the
> bigger books leave less room for reader creativity... but for whatever
> reasons, I had a greater sense of wide-open possibility in the wake of
> book than I've experienced from any strawbale publication in years.
> It covers all the basics with soulful intelligence, and gets into a few
> not-so-basics as well, such as "self-draining" and "rammed earth car tyre"
> foundations, quicklime plaster (which is not at this time much of an
> in the USA, though hydrated-lime plaster is), and an
> interesting-but-sketchily-described "light-weight frame" system. And the
> astute balehead will have as much appreciation for the questions and
> that this fairly brief book raises (both subtly and overtly) as for the
> hard information it contains.
> The only important caveat I might offer can be lifted from its own pages:
> "You must be careful about what you read in books and on the internet
> strawbale building and how it must be done." Truer words there never were.
> Despite my being misty-eyed for the romanticized sweet simplicity of the
> 'good old days' of the strawbale movement, the growing pile of excellent
> information available now is a real boon. I'm a staunch believer that
> before a person starts building their bale home, they ought to have
> digested far more material on how to do it than they ever thought they
> could possibly tolerate. That way there's a basis for recognizing
> situationally-inappropriate generalizations or climate-specific
> information, allowing the applicable facts to be winnowed and synthesized
> into the particular unique project at hand, making it the best structure
> can be.
> Synopsis: This one's got a compelling mix of heart and information, and
> includes some material little-discussed in other strawbale literature,
> offering value for novice and veteran alike.
> - - - - -
> At first, I kept thinking that Carolyn Roberts' new book, A House of
> A Natural Building Odyssey, was the diametric complement of Barbara's. It
> took me a while to realize that while these two books do on one level
> coexist in a beautiful symbiosis on opposite ends of a how-to spectrum,
> through another lens they're extraordinarily similar.
> Carolyn's book is a wide-as-life account vividly encompassing all of the
> foibles and follies, hopes and dreams, heartaches and heartbreaks,
> breakthroughs and celebrations, large and small joys that the author - a
> single mother of two teenaged boys - experienced pursuing her goal of
> building a beautiful, affordable, high-functioning strawbale house.
> The story covers both learning and doing, which are often uncomfortably
> overlapped despite her admirable efforts to inform and educate herself
> (which anybody would do well to emulate). The thorough, readable, and very
> human record of her travails and celebrations contains a tidy wealth of
> usable details and tips as well.
> One thing that I most appreciated was its narrative sense of time and
> effort. Where how-to books might be filled with factual material on topics
> like how to prepare a foundation or sheathe a roof, this book describes in
> grueling detail not only just what such innocuous-sounding instructions
> actually entail, but that things which have absolutely nothing to do with
> the house - let alone the task at hand - also keep happening at the same
> time... and they have to be dealt with.
> Even though I'm not a desert-dweller, or a woman (this book is very much
> from a woman's perspective), and the whole of the author's circumstances
> couldn't be much more dissimilar from mine, I found it easy to identify
> with and learn from the story.
> I think this kind of powerfully-grounded narrative volume has been
> noticeably missing from the strawbale bookshelf for quite a long time, and
> I applaud its arrival.
> Synopsis: A well-told real-life tale for all audiences which contains a
> more specific information about building than one might expect.
> Mark Piepkorn is a natural building gadfly and a former editor of The Last
> Straw. He currently lives and works, and sometimes plays, too. You can
> him around the DC/mid-Maryland area, or the Pacific Northwest, or
> in between. Email him at gadfly@...; or visit him at
> www.potkettleblack.com
> *
> A nice quote from Carolyn's book:
> ""I wanted to know that straw bale houses were within the reach of
> people like me who didn't have lots of money, who didn't have extensive
> construction experience, who had to work for a living, and who needed to
> live within the city limits and commute to work."
> (It continues: "But maybe they weren't. If they were not for ordinary
> folks, then who did they benefit? Perhaps they were only suitable, after
> all, for Mexicans, yuppies, and the independently wealthy who could live
> rural areas with no building codes. Perhaps they were just another
> fashionable fad for rich hippies.")