Amanda Bramble

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since Feb 16, 2011
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Amanda is the director of Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center. She and her husband Andy built their home off the grid in the Cerrillos/Madrid area of NM and it grew into a demonstration site for sustainable living.

Amanda’s professional background is in ecological restoration. Her passion for this work comes from a deep love for the workings of ecological systems. An early commitment to discovering harmony between human systems and ecological systems led to an exploration of organic agriculture and permaculture while she was still a teenager.

Amanda is proud of her work with the Center for Biological Diversity, Arcosanti, and the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners. She feels privileged to have studied under the guidance of John and Nancy Todd, Fritjof Capra, Barbara Kerr, and Steve Baer.

At this point Amanda’s favorite accomplishments are embodied in the land of Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center where she has lived for the last decade. She designed and helped build an excellently functioning off grid passive solar house that reclaims waste water and grows food. She has guided the development of the passive solar techniques and appropriate technologies on site, having designed and directed the construction of nearly all of the systems that keep people fed, clean and appropriately temperature moderated on site.

She has been teaching about land restoration and organic agriculture since the mid 1990s, and about passive solar design, permaculture and appropriate technologies for the last eight years. She appreciates the rain and sun and earth through the way she lives her life. Sharing this with others is her greatest joy.
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Cerrillos, NM
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Recent posts by Amanda Bramble

Thank you! We are getting some good interest in our local area so far. We hope to reach other drylands people and places!
1 month ago
Hello! We've been doing this off-grid homesteading stuff for 20 years now. Our classes and events have mostly been local but now we are launching an online mentorship, with the opportunity to gather here at Ampersand, in New Mexico, for a three day intensive. This is especially appropriate for those in dryland environments like us! We live off rain catchment most years- that's on 8 inches of rain. And we did all this on a low budget over time. Greenhouses are a main focus- we are especially thrilled with our new sunken greenhouse named Flora.

Anyway, please check us out if any of this sounds interesting. We are taking applications now for the 6 month mentorship program.
It's called the   Earthstar Land Practice Mentorship. Follow the link for all the details.

2 months ago

Barbara Allen wrote:I am too old for your community, but it sounds like a fabulous place and ideas!  I love New Mexico, land of enchantment.  Best of luck to you.

Thanks for your well wishes!
1 year ago
We are seeking community members to share a permaculture lifestyle with us at our off-grid demonstration site, Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center. We've been living here and developing our low-tech systems for 19 years. We host classes sometimes, we also have tours and school groups once in a while but mostly it's a place to live.  After almost two decades of building some great things like solar water heaters, an earthen oven, a solar dehydrator, 3 kinds of greenhouses, solar ovens, etc, we want to share what we've got with like minded folks. We are seeking a couple (any gender combo) to enhance our community vibe. We (Andy and Amanda) are currently the only full time residents. We built the place and have a lot of experience and knowledge to share, and we are happy to do so, but we are also looking for camaraderie with like-minded folk who want to share in the joys of simple living.  Our mature permaculture site (where we live off rain catchment as our sole source of water) comfortably holds four to six residents. We don't plant to build much more, but we do need community members to help maintain the place, tend the chickens, do composting, and help with meals and repairs and upgrades.

This is a great opportunity for those who like making food! Bake bread in the horno, make kale chips in the solar dehydrator, forage a wide variety of herbs and greens. Make quiche with our fresh eggs in the solar oven!

Our center is well respected in our community and we are located in a queer friendly area full of artists and off-gridders, where fundraisers are often held for those in need. We are a couple miles from the village of Madrid, and a 40 minute drive to Santa Fe, an hour to Albuquerque.

Our reciprocity arrangements in the past have been:
Summer: work 20 hours per week, share lunch and dinner with us three times per week (food provided on collective work days). Live in a yurt or strawbale cottage, use an outdoor kitchen.
Winter: 10 hours per week per person plus $300 per month rent for a cozy and warm strawbale cottage.

We are hoping our new friends and community members will arrive sometime in April or May 2023, and stay for the summer. Winter residency can be discussed as well.

Look at our website Ampersandproject, listen to our radio show, or see our videos and if this seems interesting to you, contact us! We will want to video chat with you a couple times so we are sure to find a good fit for everyone.

We also take shorter-term (month minimum) work-exchange positions during the summer months. Please contact us with questions!
1 year ago
Hi Veggie Cowboy!
I'm running a permaculture project here between Albuquerque and Santa Fe for 18 years now.
We only have rain catchment here so it's not a farm, but more of an educational homestead.
Called Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center.
We take interns during the warmer months and residents sometimes.
You can find out more about our project and contact us through the website:
Thanks and good luck!
2 years ago
Here's a little clip from our online class called The Rain Provides: Living Systems for Rainwater Reliance.

The hour long video will be available Sept 1. If you are already on our email list you will get the link. Or you can join by sending your email address to

What, free education? No strings attached? That's right. What we want to promote is sane, sustainable, regenerative living practices that help us adapt and live in good relationship with our Mother Earth. Pass it on!

[url=]The Rain Provides Trailer
4 years ago
Jen, I thought I'd write in because I am also in Northern New Mexico at roughly the same elevation.  I agree that the advice you were given deserves a second thought. My property doesn't have nearly the access to water that yours does but I've been growing things here for 13 years.  Actually we live and grow solely on the rain we collect.   Lots of mistakes and successes to learn from. You might be interested in our site- called Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center.
We have some events coming up.
Thanks and I hope things are going well.
7 years ago
We are looking for volunteers to help us with some building projects from early September into October. Two week minimum stay.

Ampersand’s off-grid site demonstrates sustainable systems including permaculture, land restoration, organic gardening, passive solar design, appropriate technologies, and wise water techniques. We build with natural and salvaged materials, cook with solar ovens, and rely on rain catchment. Rain is our only source of water for our entire site in this high desert climate, and we have accumulated years of experience learning how to make the most of this sacred gift.

Ampersand is a working demonstration site and educational center, not a farm. We offer community events, classes, retreats, and residencies as well as volunteer opportunities.  There is a lot to learn here, and we have a casual environment with clear expectations.  Check out our website to learn a whole lot more about us and our place.

Here’s what we can offer:

   Get experience with hand crafted DIY sustainable water and solar systems and passive solar buildings made of earthen and salvaged materials.  Learn about building by doing it. We will teach you how to cook with the sun.
   We provide shared housing in a yurt, tipi, or strawbale cottage. Our solar powered community outdoor kitchen is equipped with solar ovens, a propane stove and fridge, and a system for re-using greywater.
   We ask for only part time work. 20 hours of work per week gives you time to explore our beautiful land, peruse our extensive library, hang out in the funky village of Madrid (in walking distance), or visit different parts of New Mexico.
   We have been teaching the essential aspects of sustainable living in this climate for over a decade and we incorporate learning opportunities into life at Ampersand based on the interests of volunteers.
   Bulk food items like oats, beans, rice, lentils, and olive oil are provided.

Here’s what we ask:

   We look for community-minded volunteers who can be both hard working and flexible. A sense of humor is always appreciated.
   Volunteers will be asked to take on responsibilities like watering garden plots and will keep track of the timing of these tasks.
   Volunteers will maintain the community kitchen and take turns with meal preparation for our small group of 5 to 7. Community meal prep time is included in work hours.
   We will generally work together on building projects 3 days per week, and self-directed volunteer responsibilities will be on other days as well.
   While we provide bulk foods as well as produce as it is available from our small garden, we ask volunteers to provide supplemental ingredients for meals and snacks. We have found that pooling funds for group shopping trips works well.
   Minimum stay 2 weeks. There may be longer term volunteer positions available.

7 years ago
We built our earthbag house (not tubes) with round walls set underground on the W and N sides about 5 feet.  We used plastic (2 6mil sheets) and cardboard to protect the plastic as we backfilled behind the walls.  You don't want moisture getting into the bags so having growing soil right up against the bags inside might be an issue if the earthbag walls are load bearing.  They might slump.  We also protected the walls with foam board wedged behind down to the frost line.  That protects the walls from the freezing temps that can be in the ground in the winter.  Also exterior drainage earthwork is necessary to make sure water flows away from the structure.

I'm actually thinking about adding cement (my former self is shrieking) to the mix in the earthbags to do an exterior retaining wall for a place where we had leveled by backhoe to put a High Tunnel.  I avoid concrete as much as possible but maybe a soil cement is more stable for places that will have moisture.  Better than concrete block!  I actually just got on this thread to see if anyone has experience with adding cement to earthbags to make them stable for outdoors.  How much cement is necessary, is my question.

Round earthbag walls are super strong and can certainly be retaining walls.  You know the bags themselves will break down in UV if the mud plaster wears off, which is likely to happen with a lot of moisture or outdoors.
7 years ago
I can tell you, as I posted before, that the three main things to avoid are Sodium, Boron, and Chlorine.  That's what Art Ludwig says too.  Beyond that there are other chemicals in detergents that you would want to avoid for yourself anyway, like Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and others.  There are so many chemicals used in detergents that are sudsing agents or for color or pourability that may or may not make our clothes and bodies cleaner but make our environment dirtier.  And any solid soaps generally involve some kind of sodium to solidify them.  So it's best to use liquids soaps with as few ingredients as possible, and definitely without the three no no's mentioned previously.  Hope this helps.
7 years ago