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2012 Straw Bale Olympics and the Celebrated Golden Bale Hammer Relay


January 7, 2013

Olympic Highlights

photos by John Rehorn


Olympics photos by various participants. Write us if you'd like photo credit.

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Mid-week fun at the 2012 International Straw Builders' Conference


September 11, 2012


News Flash! From the RMNP Ranger Station: Bear spotted carrying Golden Bale Hammer towards the Continental Divide on early Monday morning!

September 9, 2012

After paddle-boarding for 67 hours non-stop from Hawaii, Bruce King makes landfall near San Francisco, USA with the Golden Bale Hammer.

August 27, 2012

Sven Johnston carries the Golden Hammer across the majestic Canterbury Plains of southern New Zealand on a gorgeous late winter day.


August 16, 2012

The Golden Bale Hammer gets some culture in Central Australia.


August 9, 2012

Richard Presley of the Auroville Earth Institute sets out from the Matrimandir in Auroville, India, to complete the Golden Bale Hammer's extensive journey across southern Asia.

Richard Presley with Golden Bale Hammer

July 17, 2012

In the frigid air of an unlikely summer snowstorm, Darcey Donovan (at left), Surkhab Khan (right), and other currently unnamed volunteers transport the Golden Bale Hammer over a high mountain pass in northern Pakistan.

Bale hammer in Pakistan

July 2, 2012 -- Somewhere in Germany

The Golden Bale Hammer takes a well-deserved break at a local beer festival in Germany.



May 8, 2012 -- Assington Mill, Great Britain

Barbara Jones of Amazon Nails and Straw Works checks out the thatch-roofed, straw bale Story Hut at Assington Mill before speeding across England on her leg of the Golden Bale Hammer Relay.


Representing straw bale nations worldwide, Derek Roff (Builders Without Borders) arrives in the British Islands with the Golden Bale Hammer after successfully navigating his pedal-powered boat "BummyThumperOne" across the Atlantic Ocean from the USA.



April 17: Ontario, Canada

Escorted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Golden Bale Hammer bearer Chris Magwood makes his way into Peterborough.

After more than a month on the road (straw balers aren't known for their running speed), the Golden Bale Hammer has made its way from Nebraska through the Great Plains and the corn fields of Iowa. From Michigan, the relay route continued east and north into Canada and the great city of Peterborough, Ontario. Known as an original hotbed of Canuck straw bale construction, the area boasts a vast collection of progressive, state-of-the-art straw bale buildings and outhouses. Both getting started with straw bale construction in the mid-1990’s, Chris Magwood and Tina Therrien (pictured in this article) are two of the area’s founders of alternative construction.

A former rising star in the Ontario Hockey League, Magwood’s hockey career was cut short by a series of injuries and unfortunate circumstances. After a few years of dead-end jobs and a short-lived comeback into the hockey world, Magwood would discover his real calling with the help of his parents. “Yeah, my parents wanted to build a little place out in the forest. We found this book called ‘The Straw Bale House’ and got really excited to try it out.”


Chris Magwood of the Endeavour Centre and Tina Therrien of Camel's Back Construction take questions from the press in downtown Peterborough this afternoon.

Since that first project in 1996, Magwood hasn’t turned back, founding Camel’s Back Construction with Peter Mack and Tina Therrien. Now the author of three books on straw bale construction, Magwood has recently launched the ambitious Endeavour Centre, which promotes sustainable construction through education and outreach programs.

Moving on from successful careers in modeling and the perfume business, Tina Therrien wanted to get her hands dirty and ran into Magwood at the Wednesday night bingo tournament. Now, Therrien runs Camel’s Back Construction and has recently helped build a straw bale house in Haiti. “I’m so honored to be a part of the Golden Bale Hammer Relay,” says Therrien. “It’s a great thing for the progression and awareness of straw bale construction world-wide.”

March 16, 2012: Nebraska, U.S.A.

The Golden Bale Hammer Relay has begun in dramatic fashion from an historic straw bale church in Arthur, Nebraska, USA, beginning a 6-month lead-up to the 2012 International Straw Builders’ Conference in Estes Park, Colorado.


matts with the golden hammer
Matts Mhyrman kicks off the historic Straw Bale Hammer relay from western Nebraska. See below for history of this epic event.

ISBBC 2006 Highlights




The Champions revel in their victory.



The women of straw bale swept the medal take in nearly all categories at the 2006 Straw Bale Olympics. Not to be outdone, male straw balers are lobbying fiercely to add new events like beer glass hoisting and taking important cell phone calls during work hours -- events they'll be sure to win.

The Flakey Relay with COSBA's own Laura Bartels vying for the lead.

History of the Golden Bale Hammer:

The Sand Hills of western Nebraska, USA are known to be the home of some of the oldest straw bale structures in North America. On his myriad bale-searching treks through these barren lands decades ago, one of our founding fathers of the modern straw bale revolution, Matts Mhyrman, came upon the forgotten wonder that is the Pilgrim Holiness Church in Arthur, Nebraska. Springing from the raw earth in 1928, some say the structure was conceived and assembled by the gods themselves. In the presence of this magical house of worship, Matts walked up to the church’s wall and pressed his hands deep into the gumbo mud. A connection was made. Suddenly, a bright light pierced the surrounding air and from the bales’ interior the Golden Bale Hammer emerged. As Matts grabbed hold of this new symbol of peace for all humanity, a voice called out from the dirt… “Matts, go now forth… and build it with bales.”

Now, just 6 months away from the start of the 2012 International Straw Builders’ Conference, Matts has returned to the Pilgrim Holiness, with Hammer in hand, to commence an around-the-world journey to the far reaches of the global straw bale community.


Cheered on by the 117 residents of Arthur, Matts set out in the clear, midday air accompanied by a team of supporters and media. Matts dedicated his relay run to his late yet equally-inspiring wife, Judy Knox, who is considered by most as one of the founding mothers of the straw bale revolution. Heading east with the wind, the torch would soon be passed to other early straw bale pioneers including Bill and Athena Steen of the Canelo Project, Steve and Nena MacDonald, and David Eisenberg, founder of DCAT, the Development Center for Appropriate Technology.

Travelling across Nebraska, the Hammer will pass through the capital city of Lincoln, where it will reportedly be carried by Joyce Coppinger of the Last Straw Journal. The relay route is planned to continue east from there, visiting Canada and the eastern USA before traveling to Europe, Asia, Australasia, and eventually back to the west coast of North America.

Carried by thousands of inspirational volunteers, the Golden Bale Hammer will touch the lives of millions along its path to its final destination in Estes Park, Colorado, USA.

The Hammer's journey will culminate in a dramatic and symbolic bale whacking on the grounds of the YMCA of the Rockies that will declare the 2012 SB Olympics officially open.

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