Rusty Bowman

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since May 30, 2009
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Recent posts by Rusty Bowman

Ted Abbey wrote:Dang.. if I wasn’t locked into my own project, I’d be glad to come and help you. Looks like a good build, and you sound like a solid person. Best wishes in your endeavors, and I hope you can find the help that you are looking for..

Thanks, Ted!

Are you in or around S Idaho?
11 months ago
HELP NEEDED. School will be in session again soon so I will be losing the young lad I'd normally reach out to. I also have a bit of elbow tendonitis which has put me behind schedule. So...... I'm am looking for help ASAP. The project is located in Twin Falls. Currently, I need help stacking the last remaining bales, and stuffing the voids with a mix of locally harvested clay and straw. There is roughly 1 - 2 weeks of easy-to-learn work. However, it could possibly turn into more. The work days can be as long as one likes.

No experience needed. However, I would need the following:

  - the two most important things I'm looking for is integrity and someone who is as interested in learning as they are in getting a pay check. This is an opportunity to  get hands-on experience with the different facets of straw bale construction as well as learning about design, passive solar, and more.
  - decent strength, good stamina, and an eye for detail
  - knows how to efficiently handle a shovel and pitchfork
  - not afraid of work (the work isn't farm/ranch hard but IT IS tougher than mowing a lawn)
  - someone willing to get their hands dirty (will be immersed in clay)
   -a self-starter who catches on quick
   -positivity and a quick smile

Pluses but not required:

   -an interest in art and philosophy
   -knowing how to efficiently use a drill and other simple tools
   -being raised on or has worked on a farm or ranch

What I DO NOT need:

   -one who is not interested in asking questions
   -a know it all
  - a boss

I would like references...character and employment.

This job could be for an individual or a couple, younger or retired.

The job site is 100' off the Snake River canyon rim. All the work will be under the shade of huge overhangs and porches. There is a stream on site and lots of trees. I see a surprising amount of wildlife while building. There is also a trail into the canyon which makes for a beautiful hike after work.

One could camp on site during the work phase. There are shady areas next to the creek, well water, and electricity. If one doesn't have a van or RV to stay in, my restored sheep camp (sheep wagon) is on site and available.

I'm flexible, friendly and easy to be around and talk to. You can learn more about me at

The best way to get in touch with me is through the above website.

11 months ago

Gerry Parent wrote:Yes Rusty, that's all it is.
Just make sure your fasteners penetrate deeply enough into the wood to firmly support the weight of the plaster. Burlap can also be used in more curvy places.

Thanks! That's what I was hoping to use in my place I'm currently building. Trying to get an idea of what to expect. How far apart did you staple it, roughly?
1 year ago

Gerry Parent wrote:Hi Rachel,   I would suggest that you need something for the plaster to adhere to that is a little more substantial than just the insulation. Also, the expansion and contraction between the studs and insulation (being dissimilar materials) would most likely cause cracks that will never stop reoccurring. Some sort of stiff and non smooth surface such as conventional steel lathe or more natural reed mat should do the trick. In the days before drywall, the norm was putting up narrow horizontal boards with small spaces between and plastering over that.
Here are some reed mat pictures to give you an idea...


I like your photos. Question for you: Is that simply reed privacy fencing stapled to the wall studs?

1 year ago

Megan Palmer wrote:How are you getting along with your greenhouse Rusty? This might be useful if you haven’t already completed it

Thanks, Megan! I skimmed through. Will take a closer look when I get more time.

I have not started a greenhouse. Figured I'd focus on building my house first. At the rate I'm going on that though, it's going to be a while. 🤔
3 years ago

Christopher Westmore wrote:Minimum wage does not buy a living but it could be fair if you provide a place to stay and some basics.

I have seen a lot of people abuse these situations and claim they are offering a "learning experience" or "apprenticeship". A couple of things I see that repeat themselves.

A real apprenticeship is teaching someone a life trade that is marketable, someone doing ______ for the fist time is not teaching anyone anything, they are still figuring it out themselves. Doing manual labor on someones property is not learning marketable skills, it is labor. These situations usually the low paid of free labor leaves in a few days.
Now if you have a rocking organic farm with years of fine tuned growing and building experience with a crew of friendly young people to socialize with you can offer some value and people will stay. If you have a piece of secluded land a shack with a colmen stove you better be paying someone for their time or they will not stay long.

Then you have the issue of insurance, if someone brakes their back and sues you for everything you own ?

Just a couple of thoughts.

Point taken. I think.

This wouldn't be my first rodeo....

My plan would be to find someone that lived locally....someone who has seen or is generally familiar with my work....and wants to learn how they too can craft something similar.

My wife is an insurance agent so I haven't many worries on that front.

I was primarily interested in what a fair wage would be for someone to be my assistant in return to learn a variety of get first-hand experience under my tutelage. I'm not looking for someone to simply slave away.  The first responder, Trace, mentioned $12-$15. Sounds like a reasonable place to start to me.


3 years ago
Thanks for the replies, everyone!
3 years ago
Hi all,

I am preparing to build a passive solar straw bale home and shop this summer. While I will have some help in the evenings and on the weekends, the rest will be done by my two hands...minus the concrete and plumbing.

I am considering taking on an apprentice....someone with limited to no construction knowledge or experience... someone who otherwise is good with their hands, ambitious, and most importantly....wants to learn how to use tools and build using both conventional and unconventional methods.

Stud framing, post and beam, standing seam roofing, steel fabrication, reclaimed and new materials, cedar siding, earthen plasters, earthen floors, cob, natural finishes, principles of passive solar, etc, etc will be some of the facets to this project. This will all be done with an array of tools...from the most basic to a variety of modern power tools.

As much as I would appreciate having the help, I am genuinely interested in helping someone who is keen to learn. So, this could be a great experience for someone. What is a fair wage to pay though?

Thanks. Before we know it, the flowers will be popping and birds chirping. Spring's coming!

3 years ago

R Scott wrote:Here is one with comparisons and numbers.

Are you looking for totally off grid or will you have grid power for fans and such (you just want to avoid buying a tanker of propane every year)? There seems to be a difference in design to think about--grid tie is much easier to pump the heat out of the storage.  

Are you looking at rock, dirt, or water as the mass or a combination?

Holy smokes.... there's heaps of valuable info on that site! Just what I was hoping to find. Thanks much for that!

As to your questions, my new place will be on grid. And you're correct: I don't want to be paying for or burning a bunch of propane. As far as mass.... it will likely be mostly if not all dirt... but with a fair bit of rock on site, I could incorporate that in as well, depending on the design.

4 years ago

James Freyr wrote:Hey Rusty, may I suggest the book Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. He has been doing what you're asking about using cold frames and unheated greenhouses where he lives in Maine. It is an excellent book that I believe thoroughly covers the topic and offers a wealth of information, ideas and techniques to garden year round. Hope this helps!

Thanks, James! I actually have that book. It is where I learned how to harvest salad greens throughout the winter. As I recall though, his greenhouses were more conventional and he didn't use them for growing fruit... and I think the veggies he was growing in them required a second covering for protection. That said, it has been a while since I've had that book open. I'll have to take another peek. Thanks again for the recommendation on an awesome book!

4 years ago