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Earthbag Building & Other Natural Building Methods

Turning Round Straw Bales into Rectangular Building Bales

More and more farmers are switching to small round bales. Consider rebaling them into rectangular bales for strawbale construction.

More and more farmers are switching to small round bales. Consider rebaling them into rectangular bales for strawbale construction.


Cliff, one of our long time readers, sent me the photo above and the following email.

“Just a heads up on something I see coming in the future in the straw bale world. Small round bales. Lots of reasons. There are a lot of lifestyle or small farmers who can’t afford or need the big expensive bales. These smaller balers are much cheaper to buy and operate. The bales are much more weather resistant than square bales. Here in NZ they can fit down a row of vines in a vineyard. Any other baler can’t go there. I think we may see some innovation in the straw bale building world. You use what is available and as these become more available people will adapt to using them.”

Owen: Farmers have been shifting to round bales for years, you’re right. However, I hadn’t seen these little bales yet. Trouble is these round bales would easily topple over without some sort of support. This is easily demonstrated with toy blocks. The rectangular blocks will lay flat, overlap each other like bricks and make stable walls. The cylindrical blocks will topple over.

One option is to feed the round bales into a baler that makes rectangular bales. Adjust the machinery to make tightly compacted bales of uniform length. Use heavy duty poly twine. These could be sold as a sideline business if you live where building with bales is popular. Yes, it’s an extra step, but people are willing to pay extra for high quality ‘builder quality’ bales that are not rain damaged.

Strawbale is so popular in parts of the world – the US and UK for example – that building officials routinely approve SB houses without second thought. That’s what we’re going to use for the Wiki Natural House (which is moving along nicely).

Image source: Small Farm Innovations.com

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3 Responses to “Turning Round Straw Bales into Rectangular Building Bales”

  1. r_w says:

    There are machines built by farmers to unroll round bales into a square baler. They can make sense for a farmer converting bales in the “off” season. Not something you want to tackle for one house’s worth of bales.

    I do not see small rounds being popular–they will be a niche product just as they are today. The big thing is the machine is small–it fits in orchards and under managed pines and places the other machines won’t.

    What you will see more of are the BIG squares–2 1/2′x3′x8′ or 3′x4′x8′–they stack on a semi trailer really neatly for transport. They would make an awesomely warm house if you were willing to build with a tele-handler rental. Not manual labor friendly.

  2. Paul says:

    All the round bales that I have seen (I haven’t seen the smaller ones either) are composed of alfalfa, not the wheat, oat and barley straw that is used in straw bale building. Straw has little nutritional value, compared to alfalfa, and it is less expensive as a result. Straw is also useful as a garden mulch and does not often contain weed seeds like the alfalfa does.

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