Off-Grid Straw Bale Home, Northern California

Off-Grid Straw Bale Home, Northern California

ferncrest off-grid straw-bale living room

The inside of the home. Stan's sculptures grace the shelf over the door

I had been really looking forward to this stop on the tour…some long off dream of living on an acreage with an off-grid home and my own art studio… that is my dream, Stan and Judy are living theirs.

Stan and Judy live off-grid in an area of northern California between Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen. Their home is called FernCrestFarm.

They raise natural coloured Angora goats, as well as spin yarns from the very soft wool. They also have a herd of miniature cattle.

Stan is an artist who does sculpture. He is also a teacher, farmer, naturalist and just about anything else the couple needs in order to earn a living on their mountain acreage. Judy doesn’t call herself an artist, but we would. We saw evidence through her woodworking and weaving projects, showing her natural talents. She works in a college art gallery and is happy that Stan is around to take care of the animals during the day.

sunfrost refridgerator

Stan and Judy's fridge is a Sunfrost, counted as one of the most energy-efficient

Living off-grid is not new to Stan and Judy. Their last home was also off-grid. Judy’s dad required help a few years ago and the couple ended up moving to the acreage. They proceeded to build their eco-friendly Straw Bale home. The home sits facing an incredible mountain view.

When you build a Straw Bale home, the walls are about 24″ thick and the home has great insulation values. Stan and Judy used a rice straw, bought locally, for about $2 dollars a bale. This rice straw is resistant to mold and is a waste product. The rice grower had been burning the product for many years but has found better uses for the product in the last few years.

The home is so well insulated that turning on an oven, or their small propane powered heater, provides more than enough heat in the coldest weather.

Their home was built with mesh covered straw and 3 coats of stucco inside, and with cedar siding on the outside. The inside shows a natural curve from the straw/mesh/stucco combination and is molded and rounded at the windows. The couple loved the colour of the stucco coat so much, that they bought a paint to match. This is a warm white colour that goes well with the wood ceiling and the deep window shelving – milled from a local, very old, steam-powered mill.

Solar PV provides more than enough electricity for their needs. So much in fact, that they keep a ceiling fan on to use some of the additional power. The fridge in this home was a Sunfrost, billed as the world’s most energy-efficient. Sunfrost.com

Judy weaves the wool from their Angora Goats

ferncrest off-grid mini-cows

Mini cows cows produce the perfect amount of milk and meat for a small family. Stan says this is the best beef they have ever had!

Other off-grid people visited to date, usually have a separate fridge and freezer, as this is the most efficient use of energy. With the Sunfrost, one compartment is a refrigerator and the other a freezer, making the Sunfrost even more efficient.

The couple also does not use compact fluorescent bulbs, having opted for Leds. Yes, they are more expensive than fluorescent, but they don’t have a mercury waste and use less energy than even these. They light immediately and screw into an ordinary fixture. You can order these online at LedLight.com. When I looked, they have a standard bulb for $21.99 that is said to last 30,000 hours. This in itself should increase the value, never mind the electricity savings.

A message the couple wanted to bring, was that they are not that different from a family without renewables. They have a TV, a computer, a shop and use appliances that most other people have in their homes (although they have opted for the most efficient). The difference though, is that they are aware of the energy they use and they generate it themselves.

Using self generation cuts down on the wires that fill the countryside and can be so much cleaner for the environment.

They have never received a power bill and that in itself is a treat. If more people insulated their homes better, watched their consumption or even was able to generate their own power, maybe the continent wouldn’t require more power plants or river dams. Stan and Judy are doing their part, living comfortably and are proudly off-grid.

Comments

  1. I really can’t speak for Stan and Judy but they believe in their lifestyle and enjoy educating people. There is a link on this article where you could contact them…

    Cheers, Terry

  2. Melin Holcomb says:

    I wondered if there are these type of farmers in N. Cal that would let a 50 year old help on their farm to learn how to do this herself. Would you?

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