Two events that occurred today were absolutely antithetical to each other and a third that is just downright unique to the uninitiated. We got the final plans for the house and we got 6 inches of snow. We also got word we are getting wattles.

The plans are gorgeous. They now have cross sections showing where beams and joists go. The exterior is meticulously conveyed and the floor plans are there too. Snow? We love the first snow of the season. It is always a festive occasion, except when you want concrete for a foundation. But, hey, if you are getting wattled who wants to worry about about concrete?

The wattles that are arriving tomorrow are the first “in the ground” visible actions that moves forward rather than looking back as we removed the damage caused by the fire. We are getting straw wattles.

Not knowing what a wattle was, I undertook to learn about them. If I understand correctly, they are part of an overall effective erosion and storm water protection plan as required under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System of the EPA. These storm water protection plans (SWPP) are required by various jurisdictions, many of whom use the federal guidelines. A core function of the plan is to keep the soil on the site, not rolling down the road or worse yet across other land or into a water source causing destructive sedimentation. This is truly important and helps minimize the destruction of the ecological factors of the area in which the construction is taking place.

In an effort to educate myself, I found a website at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that thoughtly broke down the need and steps for successful wattling. But, with a name like wattle, it is hard not to make good-natured jest. I have edited, with tongue in cheek, the material here.

Purpose: Straw wattles are permeable barriers used to detain surface runoff long enough to reduce flow velocity. Their main purpose is to break up slope length. Objectives: Straw wattle dams are used  as contour felled logs, only where there aren’t any trees.

. . .Straw wattles (straw worms, bio-logs, straw noodles) come in [8-12″] diameter [with a standard length of] 25 feet and [weight] about 35 pounds. The outside tube can be made of jute, nylon, or photo degradable materials. Wattles are generally stuffed with straw, rice or wheat.

Successful Wattling

  1. Purchase the product – The first task is finding them. Supplies are low during sever fire seasons.
  2. Getting wattles to the site -. . .A helicopter can sling them to the site, or they can trucked in if road access available. Carrying them for any distance was a problem. Each wattle weighs approximately 35 pounds, the weight isn’t the problem. It takes coordination and team work [to carry a 25 foot wattle].
  3. Basic installation – Installation of the wattles is basic. First, smooth out a shallow depression for the wattle to lay into. Second,  using 1″ x 1″ stakes (not the wimpy ones that come with the wattles), drive a stake through the wattle and into the ground, . . . Put 5 stakes in each wattle.
  4. Design – . . . Consider how contour felled logs would be placed across the slope, and then add a few more wattles.
  5. Safety – There are few safety concerns with installing straw wattles. Basic tool safety with polaski, shovels, and field conditions cover it.
  6. Personnel and Training – Crews used for this treatment can be volunteers and Correctional Institute crews. Work could be contracted out, anyone can wattle.

workers carrying wattles uphill

I confess I am very excited. I am going to be trained to to inspect and report on the function of our SWPP implementation. If there has been deterioration or if any part of the plan is not functioning, we will immediately remedy the problem. Although I am not yet trained so do not know if I have this information correct, it seems you have to inspect and write a brief report about every week or two. So, this is going to be one of my jobs since we are trying to save money. Soon, I will go to the SWPP class and learn how to inspect the actions taken to stabilize the land.

Even with the snow, we are still optimistic about starting. If we can move “SWPPly” and avoid wattling our way toward getting the work done, we will see a foundation before true winter and a home by spring.

architectural drawing of truss system