Rural Missouri - July 2013 - (Page 10)
built of straw
Homeowner Andrew Bishko stands next to a raw plastered wall in his home near Buffalo. His company, Ozarks Natural LLC, helps others build homes using natural materials.
by Kile Brewer
s you make your way down
Nepasha Lane near Buffalo,
bouncing down a rutted
gravel road, you would
never expect to see a three story,
6,800-square-foot house perched quietly in the forest. Its clay tiles cast an
orange glow on the stucco exterior,
and its walls of windows provide the
residents with a panoramic view of
the Ozark countryside. The structure
looks like it could’ve come straight
from the Mediterranean coast.
Instead, it was built with local materials, including straw, clay and sand, by
owner Andrew Bishko.
Andrew and his future wife,
Rachael, both moved to the secluded
patch of Missouri woods in 2005, as
if by fate, and were engaged ﬁve days
“We both knew that we wanted to
move here and be part of a spiritual
community,” Andrew says. “And we
both really wanted a family. In our
previous marriages we hadn’t had
family and kids.”
While living in a log-sided home
nearby, the two began planning their
dream home on a 75-acre plot, which
included an old cabin Andrew bought
after visiting the area from his previous home in Wasilla, Alaska.
“When I walked on this land,
it just felt so good, it felt like I was
home,” Andrew says. “It felt very
healing in a way, and I love it here.”
Having such a strong connection
to the land, Andrew set out to build
something other than the traditional
home. He wanted to use as many natural materials as possible and play an
active role in the construction of the
house, self-contracting and performing much of the labor himself.
His original plan was to build a cob
house where a clay mixture is used as
the sole building material, but after
visiting Cob Cottage in Coquille, Ore.
he realized that building a cob house
as big as he had planned would be
too labor intensive. Instead he set
his sights on straw bale techniques.
After three years of planning, Andrew
started looking for materials so that
he could ﬁnally start laying bales.
“I was looking for local bales,”
Andrew says. “You need to have a certain kind of bale. You need to have it
The Bishkos’ three-story straw bale home sits on their rural property near Buffalo.
really densely packed and really welltied. It has to have longer straws in it,
which makes it more structural. It has
to be really dry.”
Luckily, Andrew found the perfect
source for his ﬁbrous wall stufﬁng
while shopping at Lowes in Lebanon.
“There was a guy selling bales
out of a trailer there,” Andrew says.
“I talked to the guy and
turned out he was a wheat
farmer from Versailles, so
we talked about it, made an
agreement and he delivered a
couple of truckloads of bales.”
Straw bale construction is
not what you might think.
Andrew takes the square bales
and stacks them tightly on the
framed structure of the home, which
is still under construction. After the
straw is solid and in place, he starts
sealing the bales with a homemade
plaster, which includes clay, more
straw and sand along with a homemade lime putty. The plaster takes on
a stucco-like appearance much different than you would expect from the
combination of straw and some Ozark
Andrew says he likes the raw look
of the plaster, but for a more ﬁnished
look he paints the walls with a creation of his own clay paint. The paint
is a mixture of clay, sand, milk and a
ﬂour paste, and then clay pigment is
added for a variety of subdued, earthy
There are many practical beneﬁts
to this style of building, including
safety and energy efﬁciency.
“Straw bale houses are much better
in ﬁre,” Andrew says. “The walls in a
traditional home are like a chimney,
but straw bale homes have such dense
walls which prevents the ﬁre from
spreading too fast. Straw is also great
insulation and the thermal mass of
the plaster maintains temperature
really well. The clay is also hydrophilic, so it maintains humidity through-
out the house.”
Andrew, who earned a Master’s
degree in music and teaches music
courses at Ozark Technical Community College, started off knowing
only what he had heard from others
and read online or in books. A lot of
planning and work go into straw bale
homes, and after a few years of trial
and error, Andrew has it all ﬁgured out.
Since 2010, Andrew and
Rachael have been living in
the house, which is still a
work in progress. They
share it with three chil•
dren; their daughter,
Honor, 6, and two
sons Joyous, 3, and
Shepherd, 1. Andrew
expects the construction will be ﬁnished up by the end of this year.
However, Andrew is not ready to
give up the specialized building skills
that he’s developed in the last eight
years. Under the name Ozarks Natural
LLC, Andrew hopes to coach others
on contracting and building their
dream homes using natural materials.
His motto? “I made the mistakes so
you don’t have to.”
Those who hire Andrew’s company will learn how to make their
home from start to ﬁnish, including
scrounging for supplies and the techniques for stacking bales, plastering
walls and making paint.
This experience was exactly what
Andrew was hoping for when he
came to Missouri, and he’s eager to
share his trade with others.
“I really like building and really
wanna help people,” Andrew says.
“Building this house has got to be one
of the most fun, satisfying things I’ve
ever done in my whole life.”
For more information about Ozarks
Natural LLC, ﬁnd Andrew on Facebook
at www.facebook.com/OzarksNaturalLLC or call 417-733-3776.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2013
Rural Missouri - July 2013
That old-time religion
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
Keep it cool
On the banks of Bull Shoals
Rural Missouri - July 2013