Win a copy of Compost Teas for the Organic Grower this week in the Composting forum!

Amanda Bramble

+ Follow
since Feb 16, 2011
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.
Cerrillos, NM
Apples and Likes
Apples
Total received
1
In last 30 days
0
Total given
0
Likes
Total received
4
Received in last 30 days
0
Total given
0
Given in last 30 days
0
Forums and Threads
Scavenger Hunt
expand First Scavenger Hunt

Recent posts by Amanda Bramble

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.  www.ampersandproject.org
We have some events coming up.
Thanks and I hope things are going well.
Amanda
2 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.  www.ampersandproject.org

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.

2 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.
Amanda
2 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.
Amanda
3 years ago
I've learned about greywater lot from Art Ludwig.  He has a great website http://oasisdesign.net/greywater/
While some plants need trace amounts of boron, it must be applied in correct amounts, not in the greywater, because it can kill your plants. Spraying a diluted baking soda on plants, if that works, seems like not a big deal as long as you are also watering with rainwater or other more pure water. Check out Art's books!
Thanks,
Amanda
3 years ago
I wasn't taught to use power tools even though my dad was an expert woodworker.  I mostly taught myself and got guidance from friends- that's on not only how to use tools but how to design infrastructure.  I started a Sustainable Learning Center in New Mexico with my husband but I've been the main designer, fix it person, and manager of building projects. My husband is the one that's great with the computer stuff.  Whether you are a man or a woman, designing building projects and just diving in to learn a new tool may or may not come naturally to you.  While I'm a larger woman, I still have plenty of physical limitations. My advice is to Build Community First!  As I have developed friendships with people with skills, my self education has skyrocketed.  Also, once you become proficient at something or have some good things to demonstrate, you can get volunteers who want to learn what you know and see your examples.  That's often how I get the strength I need to help my designs come together. (looking for volunteers in Sept/Oct by the way)  Of course I have been at this for a while and developed a reputation so that helps. I do have a blog that I post things on once in a while.  It's ampersandprojectblog
And my website is ampersandproject.org
Best to you!
Amanda Bramble
3 years ago
I don't know why they are reacting but you should try to limit the amount of baking soda that goes into your greywater.  The main 3 things to avoid in greywater are Sodium, Boron, and Chlorine.  Great you are not poisoning your plants with boron, but you may harm your soils with too much sodium as Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.  Flush the soil well with rainwater and that should help.  Saltified soils will stop the plants from being able to uptake nutrients.  Good luck!
Amanda
3 years ago
Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center'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. We are accepting volunteers starting the first week of September and staying through October.  We will be building with Salvaged lumber and earthbags, light clay, and earthen plasters if we get that far before freezing temps set in.

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.  www.ampersandproject.org

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
Let me know if you are interested!
Thanks,
Amanda
3 years ago
May 20 to July 15, 2016
The internship is a very special time at Ampersand. Our site comes to life as amazing folk gather for an intensive learning and community living experience. We share in a lifestyle that is abundant with the essentials.

Our rustic living conditions include, solar electricity, running rainwater (frugal use is expected with both), hot showers, an indoor bathroom with composting toilets, and wireless internet access. We cook primarily with solar ovens and live off rainwater that we harvest throughout the year. We build with earth and salvaged materials.

Living with Ampersand’s sustainable systems is an education in itself. We also teach workshops that the public is invited to. The internship includes several day field trips that highlight local culture, innovation and sustainable practices. We schedule weekly for personal time and exploration.

Sustainable Food Systems: We will experiment with recipes for drying, fermenting, solar cooking, rocket stove cooking, focusing on local foods.

Earthen Building: Interns will get experience with some of the following techniques: cob, sculptural relief projects, wattle and daub, primary, secondary and finish earth plasters and alis finishes.

Organic Gardening: Here at Ampersand we have a small rain catchment fed vegetable garden, a small greenhouse, and several perennial vegetable patches which integrate water harvesting earthworks. We will maintain and learn from the systems at Ampersand as well as other farms and Permaculture sites.

Land Restoration: We use rock and branches to continually restore our acres from historic damage due to road construction, mining, and livestock grazing. Learn how to stitch the watershed back together.

Interns are expected to have a strong work ethic, adaptability an ability to take initiative and follow through with agreements, good communication skills, and a flexibility in working and living with others
Please go to our website www.ampersandproject.org to find out more about our center and contact us. Thanks!
3 years ago
Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center is now accepting applications for their Sustainable Living Internship Program which begins May 22nd. Our off-grid site demonstrates sustainable systems including permaculture, land restoration, organic gardening, passive solar design, and wise water techniques. We build with natural and salvaged materials, cook with solar ovens, and rely on rain catchment. The internship is a two month intensive experiential education program with a strong curriculum. There is a partial scholarship available. You can find the full information about retreats, residencies, internships and workshops on their website.

The internship is a very special time at Ampersand. Our site comes to life as amazing folk gather for an intensive learning and community living experience. We share in a lifestyle that is abundant with the essentials.

Our rustic living conditions include, solar electricity, running rainwater (frugal use is expected with both), hot showers, an indoor bathroom with composting toilets, and wireless internet access. We cook primarily with solar ovens and live off rainwater that we harvest throughout the year. We build with earth and salvaged materials.

Living with Ampersand’s sustainable systems is an education in itself. We also teach workshops that the public is invited to. The internship includes several day field trips that highlight local culture, innovation and sustainable practices. We schedule weekly for personal time and exploration.

Sustainable Food Systems: We will experiment with recipes for drying, fermenting, solar cooking, rocket stove cooking, focusing on local foods.

Earthen Building: Interns will get experience with some of the following techniques: cob, sculptural relief projects, wattle and daub, primary, secondary and finish earth plasters and alis finishes.

Organic Gardening: Here at Ampersand we have a small rain catchment fed vegetable garden, a small greenhouse, and several perennial vegetable patches which integrate water harvesting earthworks. We will maintain and learn from the systems at Ampersand as well as other farms and Permaculture sites.

Land Restoration: We use rock and branches to continually restore our acres from historic damage due to road construction, mining, and livestock grazing. Learn how to stitch the watershed back together.

Passive Solar Design
Solar Cooking and Sustainable Kitchens
Land Restoration
High Desert Gardening
Rain Harvesting
Greywater systems

We see sustainability as an approach to life, which includes our relationships with everything- our resources, our waste, our interactions with the earth and fellow humans. We take our work seriously and get great satisfaction from it. We also integrate a patient attitude that values an inquisitive, fun and peaceful work/live environment. This community comes together to support each other in our paths towards living harmoniously with the earth in a way that values our individual passions and visions.

We are a 30 minute drive to Santa Fe, and a 40 minute walk (or 10 minute drive) to the eccentric village of Madrid for your greater social fare, coffee shop,tavern, many galleries, community garden and chocolatier! Horseback riding is accessible locally. Housing for interns includes the yurt, the tipi, and two strawbale cottages. Tent camping is also an option. We are accepting 6 interns for 2015.

Our program includes four days per week of guided and scheduled participation, weekly talking circles, morning coordination meetings, weekly planning meetings, and assigned readings for discussion. Generally three days a week interns will have time to explore, study, play, and rest on their own.


Internship Cost is $550 per month. This covers meals, lodging, classes, field trips, and a guided personalized experiential education in sustainable living and skill building. The internship lasts two months.

Read what our past interns (and others) say about their time at Ampersand.

Interns are expected to have a strong work ethic, adaptability an ability to take initiative and follow through with agreements, good communication skills, and a flexibility in working and living with others
Please go to our website www.ampersandproject.org to find out more about our center and contact us. Thanks!

4 years ago