Friday, May 8, 2009


So, as promised, this is the Haylapa post. During my stay-cation in late April, I went out to Descanso (a small town in the San Diego back country) and stayed in this gorgeous straw bale house, which is named the Haylapa .
For those of you who don't know, straw bale construction is a sustainable building method that uses straw bales as structural elements (kinda like big bricks). It has advantages over some conventional building systems because of its low cost, easy availability, and high insulation value.

The home and property were covered with unique artwork created by the artisan owners. Metal structures, handmade willow furniture, and mosaic tiles decorate this serene get-away. It is absolutely amazing to me how some people have an innate ability to create a space. This couple took a small piece of land and created a dwelling that blends beautifully with the landscape.

On a more practical note, the Haylapa has a composting toilet. This was my first composting toilet experience, so I was a little hesitant at first, but it is really no big deal at all. It is incredibly simple and doesn't stink at all. As I said earlier, the Haylapa is out in the back country and in the back country, there there is very little water. (Actually, San Diego County is a desert climate, so there is very little water in any part of the county, back country or otherwise.) The composting toilet makes perfect sense for a desert climate, as it does not use any of the scarce water resources.

On the outdoor patio, there is a handmade pizza oven, where, after receiving a baking tutorial from the owner, we created six pizzas. The first two were absolute doozies and ended up in the coals. By the time pizza number three was inserted into the oven, it was dark, I was hungry, and dinner was not looking like it was going to come to fruition. Thankfully, amazingly, the subsequent pizzas were successful and delicious. My tip for future pizza making is this: don't waste your expensive ingredients (in our case, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, and goat cheese) on the first couple of pizzas. Save the good ingredients for the last few, when you've figured out what the hell you're doing.

Also, if you're wondering how I found out about this place - I discovered it on the website Vacation Rentals By Owner . I have stayed at two VRBO properties (the Haylapa and an enormous, Spanish-style house on the ocean in Rosarito, Mexico) and both experiences have been really fantastic. I like staying at homes better than hotels because it allows you to have a more intimate and unique experience in a new place. Plus, you are supporting locals rather than hotel corporations. I encourage you to try it out the next time you are planning a trip - there are homes listed from all over the world!

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