Welcome, and thanks for your visit!

Arm of the Spiral.com was created to promote the fusion of sustainable and natural building methods and to encourage the would-be owner/builder to take up his or her courage and Do It! We live in a new era; one in which we must take responsibility for our choices. In times past, natural resources were plentiful and renewable simply because human population was relatively small. Now, we can see the evidence that our numbers are severely impacting the environment.

Please visit often and we'll strive to keep straw bale and sustainability info coming your way!

What's New

Updated February 8, 2013. Start your straw bale project today. Research counts.

Site is currently being remodeled. Enjoy our new look.

Expanding our service.

Visit the site of the International Straw Builders' Conference and meet and learn from the top natural builders and building scientists in the world. PDF's of many of the presentations are available on the Speaker's page, and galleries of photos show you what it will mean to join our community of natural builders. The wildly successful conference was brought to you by the Colorado Straw Bale Association.

The Colorado Straw Bale Association (COSBA), is now headquartered in Gunnison Colorado, under the capable hands of Dusty Szymanski and the Mountain Chapter of COSBA. John Rehorn, the developer of this site, now serves on the board of directors of COSBA and continues to work with a dedicated group of volunteers to share information and serve as advocates for the straw bale and sustainable construction movement in Colorado and the Four Corners states. Visit Coloradostrawbale.org and stay abreast of the latest straw bale techniques.

Image Gallery

The image gallery contains an extensive array of photographs and floor plan drawings. Each thumbnail image is linked to a page with larger images and more detailed explanations of how we built the house.

A note about Dr. Katherine Andersen, DOM

Katherine is the better half of Arm of the Spiral, and the success of her practice allowed me to take a sabbatical from my writing to build our house. We scrimped and saved for 12 years before building, but if it hadn't been for Kathy, both of us would have been coming home from a hard day's work to learn from some contractor why the cost of that dormer has just doubled. So please click on her page and maybe learn a thing or two about acupuncture. Thanks. Dr. Katherine Andersen, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, licensed acupuncturist. or visit her brand new web page by clicking here.

Arm of the Spiral


Our strawbale home was three-and-a-half years in the making. We are comfortably moved in, but we're realizing that an owner-built house is never truly finished.

– photo by Carol Elston

Welcome to Arm of the Spiral. Arm of the Spiral is the name of our Animas River Valley ranch south of Durango, Colorado. The name also describes our location in the cosmos. Far from the center of the universe, we aren't even close to the center of our own galaxy. Among the billions of stars of the Milky Way, our Sol rides on a spiral arm on the outer reaches of the pinwheel-shaped system of stars, planets, dark matter and black holes. For Kathy and me, that notion makes us feel both humble and important at the same time.

More than time, more than financing, our greatest need was the audacity to break ground and then see the job through. As first-time owner/builders, it was unnerving to visualize bringing all the steps together that would finally put us in the home of our dreams. But we did it, and so can you! We have developed a record of our challenges and accomplishments in DVD form, so that you can stand on our shoulders for a wonderful view of your own straw bale home.
  The living room features an adobe floor and fish pond. It is a live-in solarium equipped with low-e glass for efficiency and to save the upholstery and rugs from fading. The solar gain and super-insulation of a strawbale performs wonderfully.  
"Work done with the heart and hand is ultimately worship of life itself."
–Soetsu Yanagi, the Unknown Craftsman

"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom."
-- Anais Nin

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
-- Marianne Williamson

"In a world full of people only some want to fly.
Isn't that crazy?
-- Seal

Love your Mother, make smaller footprints.

Embrace Life. Eat Aunt Mabel's Marvelous Pickled Beets!

  Our loft railing was made with Douglas fir and bleeding heart juniper. The juniper was gathered from the property, taking limbs but leaving a healthy tree. The flooring is recycled maple from an old machine shop in San Diego. Start combing the classified advertising in your local paper now for bargains and building treasures! We could not have afforded hardwood flooring throughout the second story if we had had to buy it new.