Maiko and I went down to Higashikawa for the big meeting last night. With the flat I (Toby) had in my post-work bicycle ride, I was wondering what the stars had in line for the rest of my evening. However, it ended up being a great evening of talking about how we can obtain this great material for our future house/cafe. From the moment Kawai-san gave us his meishi (business card), we were off to the races for we immediately noticed that his home and business are very close to where we are currently living. This was a surprise for all of us and a "sign" that the stars are indeed aligned right....again.
We talked about how we are to prefer rice bales to straw or hay bales. He brought up hay bales for there is a professor at a local university that built a house with hay nearby and he helped him make the bales for it. In the old days, hay bales (i.e. ones that have large amounts of seeds or grain in them) were used, but the grain attracts insects and other animals, and is inclined to rot. Therefore, it's said that "Hay is for Horses" and "Straw is for Houses". Straw bales (ones with minimal or no grain) are indeed best for building and from what we've read (ref. Bruce King's "Design of Straw Buildings"), rice is the best quality when looking at the common options of using straw from wheat, barley, oats, rye or rice. The reason being that it has a higher silica content (resists decay better) and is more coherent. In other words, the slightly barbed surface of the individual rice stalks tend to "grab" each other better, even when cut or untied. Apparently in California, many builders import rice bales from many miles away even though other straw is available nearby. For us, rice is literally right next to our property. Perrrrrrfect!!!!
We then talked about straw bale building a bit and I showed him some pictures from a few books/magazines I brought with me. It was a bit of an eye and mind opening experience for them as they were able to see how it's stacked and we were able to explain all the beni's of using this awesome material.
The next topic was Kawai's ability to make square bales to our liking. We drilled him on the dimensions and how we are very specific in what we need. Before we even asked, he mentioned that he uses polypropylene for the string and can make nice and tight bales. We asked about consistency and he said with the setting on his bailing machine, he can pretty much guarantee the width and depth of all the bales, but the length will sometimes be off. We pushed him on this and he finally gave in and said that the most it will be off is 10-15cm (4-6 inches). We talked with Stefan afterwards and agreed that this probably won't be a problem. We asked about seeing a sample bale and he said he has a bunch at his house/property. Since he lives so close, we are planning on heading down there on Saturday morning to check one out.
The next topic took up most of the evening as we discussed where to store the bales for the Winter (actually until next Summer when we have a roof up and can store the bales ourselves). They didn't have any immediate ideas so I jumped in and asked about two buildings very close by that I thought might be vacant and doable for the job. With that said, the picture on the right here is from a vacant silo and warehouse less than 3 minutes from Aoki's farm. Aoki-san believes the silo is destined to be demolished in the next few years so it is a good option for storage. However, we need to get in touch with the farmers association of the area to see if we can rent it out until next June. Behind this silo, there is another building that Aoki immediately started talking about as a better option and I told him that I had a picture of it, as well, for I was thinking the same thing. The picture here on the left is a a vinyl/plastic warehouse that would be "better" for it would allow the straw to breathe better while we keep the bales stored there. This building is; however, being used during The Fall and then will be vacant. Aoki-san tried to get a hold of the farmer that is currently using it for soy beans storage, but couldn't get him on the phone last night. With regards to both of these buildings, we are going to get in touch with the farmers association and ask them what our options are for storage. The above two options are just two that I stumbled upon myself so we believe that there are certainly more options out there. Aoki-san also brought up a great point as he suggested we have Yanome-san (our contact at the local town hall who sold us the property in the first place) introduce us to the farmers association. Hopefully, this will pave a nice smooth road for us to obtain some storage for the rice. We only have a few weeks left before the snows come so we need to do this ASAP.
Aoki-san will be done with his harvesting in the next couple days. He has 23 hectares of land and we determined that we'll be needing about 3 of those hectares straw. He has offered us the straw for free. We'll have to pay for the bailing, though, so that is something we still haven't figured out with Kawai-san...even when we asked for just a ballpark figure. Normally, I'd be worried when I cannot get a monetary figure to work with up front. However, we do believe the stars are aligned and when Kawai-san says he'll give us a super discount, we believe him.
Now, back on the search for storage.