Straw bale homes, long on the energy-efficiency fringe, may be receiving more attention as cost-effective and energy-saving construction methods gain prominence. I stumbled across a significant reference to the time-honored building method while reading through the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency site and decided to follow some of the links provided. An article posted to BuildingGreen.com, explains the merits of the practice: high R-value, simplicity of construction and ample supply of material. As a reporter in Washington state's Skagit Valley, I chronicled the construction of a straw-bale house on a hillside overlooking verdant farm fields and forest. It was more high-end custom than practical, but intriguing. I wonder if any have been built in the San Joaquin Valley. The photo is of a house under construction from Autonomie Project Inc.