"It is an excellent story, well written, and in my opinion, a "must read" for those contemplating building a Straw Bale home. Unlike the 'how-to' books, this is her story - a single mom with two teen-age kids and limited funds." -- Bob Bolles, Sustainable Earth Enterprises

"This truly is a great read whether you're building a house of straw, wood, recycled soda bottles, old tires or anything else. Although I wouldn't consider this a how-to-manual, it really does provide the reader with a great deal of information you wouldn't usually get your hands on unless you paid a building contractor or consultant."-- Sara Banning, Tucson, AZ

"This book is not as much about how to build a house to me as it is about how to build a life. It's about making decisions based on a responsibility to humanity and respect for life and how doing this will push us to strive for excellence and accept nothing less than everything we can give -- and how marvelous the results are. This book is an exercise in how to live with yourself and triumph by simply standing behind your beliefs and having the courage to pursue your dreams.
"I am utterly inspired by this charming woman who has truly put into practice the theory that life isn't about what you have, but how you live. Read this book whether you are planning on building a house or not."
-- Christina Iizumi, Tucson, AZ
Wow Carolyn,
You have gotten me through this week of 9/11 and personal challenges. I just wanted to thank you for your inspiration...Thank you for your wonderful storytelling in your book. I read it every night in bed. It is so refreshing and beautiful how you are so honest and how you did it!!! Step by step! Your hands have worked a miracle!-- Claire Kellerman, Santa Barbara, CA

"The greatest value of the book, to me, was the emotional impact building the house had on you during the process and sharing your hopes, fears, and financial ups and downs. It brought home the reality of actually building a straw bale house opposed to the technical descriptions of what straw bale homes consist of and how the bales are stacked."-- Bob and Mary Copeland, Yuma, AZ
"Your book gave me more hope than I can tell you."
-- Annie McElderry
Nederland, CO

"When I saw your book I bought it without a second thought. I am glad I did. I loved every page... I will remember your story when I am building my home... [especially] when I want to give up due to things getting too hard."-- Doug McCabe, Sierra Vista, AZ

Carolyn's book is a wide-as-life account vividly encompassing all of the foibles and follies, hopes and dreams, heartaches and heartbreaks, breakthroughs and celebrations, large and small joys that the author - a single mother of two teenaged boys - experienced pursuing her goal of building a beautiful, affordable, high-functioning strawbale house.
The story covers both learning and doing, which are often uncomfortably overlapped despite her admirable efforts to inform and educate herself beforehand (which anybody would do well to emulate). The thorough, readable, and very human record of her travails and celebrations contains a tidy wealth of usable details and tips as well.
One thing that I most appreciated was its narrative sense of time and effort. Where how-to books might be filled with factual material on topics like how to prepare a foundation or sheathe a roof, this book describes in grueling detail not only just what such innocuous-sounding instructions can actually entail, but that things which have absolutely nothing to do with the house - let alone the task at hand - also keep happening at the same time... and they have to be dealt with.
Even though I'm not a desert-dweller, or a woman (this book is very much from a woman's perspective), and the whole of the author's circumstances couldn't be much more dissimilar from mine, I found it easy to identify with and learn from the story.
I think this kind of powerfully-grounded narrative volume has been noticeably missing from the strawbale bookshelf for quite a long time, and I applaud its arrival.
Synopsis: A well-told real-life tale for all audiences which contains a lot more specific information about building than one might expect.

(Mark Piepkorn is a natural building gadfly and a former editor of The Last Straw. He currently lives and works, and sometimes plays, too. You can find him around the DC/mid-Maryland area, or the Pacific Northwest, or somewhere in between. Visit him at -- the Natural/Alternative Building Photo Gallery is a must-see!)