Bale Wall

This past summer, with itchy fingers and back muscles waiting for a work out, it was time to begin the next bale project - a courtyard bale wall. After we formed up the bale wall foundation last fall, we set down coloured bricks in sand from our ditch, and left it all sitting through the winter. Early this spring, my son Ezra, my brother Mark, and I headed off in search of at least 55 bales that would complete the project. We had to drive 45 minutes, but were happy with a load of 65 canola bales for $65, only to find that a farmer just down the road sells small two-string bales. The photo you see above catches the colour wash job half-way completed. The top of the arch is the final colour.

Once the load of bales was safely at home, my daughters, Ezra's girlfriend, and Naomi and I began to lay out the bales, string the electrical wire, and shape and build custom-sized bales. We'd designed the wall on paper, with four windows, an archway, and a high section of wall where our grape arbour would eventually continue its bursting growth. Pineapple juice was purchased and quickly emptied for the tin containers, as my idea was to burrow holes up into the window openings, and insert "pot lights" nicely out of sight. It works superbly, as you can see in the night shots of the wall.

Once the bales were up, we decided to add stucco wire and sew or quilt the wall, as the curvature of the wall and its height, just did not afford the stability I thought it might have. I had planned to simply coat the bales with stucco, not using stucco wire. However, stability became an issue so, once the stucco wire was added, the wall strengthened up really well. With the help of our Mexican exchange student - Renan, and Augusta's strong forearms, we managed to stucco the wall in a few days - the hottest days of the summer! A final coat of stucco - using the usual ratio of 6 sand, 3 cement, and 1 lime, were mixed in a very wet series of batches of stucco that was then smeared on with plenty of texture.

Naomi and Ezra debated what colour we should paint the wall. A water-based wash allows the bales to breath underneith the stucco, which would be a factor in keeping a dry and insulative wall, although R-value is not an issue here. Gus had spent half the summer out at Renan's, in Mexico, in the Yucatan. Her advice pretty well sealed the choice of colour for us. We chose a terracota red for the wall, which glows beautifully at night with the pot lights shining. Then the kids finished the paint job and decided that our grey garage, which had not yet received any colour since being built in 1998, should also receive a bright Mexican colour. So a bright golden yellow colour is now juxtaposed next to the courtyard wall, blue tin roofs, and a pale yellow house. We do feel deeply connected to the vibrant colours of the south, where bright is not offensive, but necessary. Our place will now easily be visible, not just from down the road and through the trees, but likely from space.