From Timid Newcomer to Power Tool Aficionado

I'll never forget arriving at my first straw bale related jobsite. We were to whack down a barn to provide the posts and beams for the house. I arrived a day later than the first work crew, so everybody else was already dirty, grubby, and experienced. I felt severely inadequate, unprepared, nervous — that is, until I took my first crack at a wall with a sledge hammer! Soon I, too, became an expert, guiding the newcomers and doling out jobs.

From that first act of demolition, I was present for every possible aspect of the straw bale project, my work schedule permitting. I especially loved the gut-slugging jobs, such as hauling heavy beams and digging impossible holes in the ground. At the straw bale work sites I've been involved in, all ages, abilities, and genders are welcome! There are jobs to be done, and whoever wants to claim them, does.

Eight years later, I have left my full-time position of teaching elementary school to become a full-time straw bale builder. It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was shown how to properly use power tools for the first time in my life, and now I find myself in the position of directing others on a jobsite (and I especially have to emphasize safety equipment with those who are quite comfortable with power tools!).

I am now as comfortable using a power nailer or skilsaw as the food processor in my kitchen— interestingly, I once heard on a radio talk show that the skilsaw was invented by a Quaker woman, who thought of the invention while watching her spinning wheel go round.

All these years later, I am still the mixer for our plastering crew. People often ask me how I got stuck working at the mixer all day long. In fact, I choose to be there I take great pleasure in knowing exactly how to make a good mix, and it feels good for my five-foot-one-inch frame to haul heavy bags, watch my mix form, and then pour it into the waiting wheelbarrow or stucco pump. We now have a new pump which has a mixer attached to it. It is mostly a one-person job, unless we are doing an earthen plaster or lime putty plaster job, in which case a few people need to be on hand to feed the mixer. The new pump is a diesel machine, which can also run on biodiesel, so I look forward to switching over! ^

be given compromised service, but the reality is that you might be.

Be clear from the start about your expectations. Arrange to inspect or receive regular reports on the progress of any work being done for you. If you are unhappy with the quality of work or the pace at which it is proceeding, voice your concerns and try to work out a solution. Your hired help should be told how to deal with unforeseen needs for changes. Make sure you can be reached if you are not onsite to make critical decisions, or give someone the authority to make decisions on your behalf.

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