What Ampersand Is

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Ampersand is located within a magical sandstone canyon that has views of local mountain ranges and significant land formations. We strive to steward all 37 acres of the property, while modeling and teaching stewardship practices for our whole watershed.

Our built environment is clustered on a west facing slope which we use to our advantage for gravity fed rainwater, and earth-bermed solar designs. We began building our structures in 2004. All are made of natural materials, from adobe and earthbag construction, to pallet-style wattle and daub, strawbale, and straw-clay. Since our high elevation desert climate can be quite extreme, our structures are designed with passive solar winter heating and natural cooling techniques as a design priority.

All of the life on our site is maintained by rainwater collection. Since we only get 8 inches of rainfall a year on average, water budgeting and conservation techniques have been an important part of learning to adapt to our environment. Most people are surprised that we can sustain ourselves with no well or imported water. But through conscious design strategies we live quite comfortably and grow a significant amount of our own produce on site. We have several greenhouse growing spaces as well as water harvesting earthwork perennial beds for food production.


Learning to live without dependance on fossil fuels has been a primary goal of our project. We have found that by using appropriate technologies like solar cookers, water heaters, a solar dehydrator, and photovoltaic panels, we can replace fossil fuels with sun power. While we do use gas for our vehicles and propane for a back-up cooking source, we have collected enough skills and techniques to ensure we are resilient and prepared. Sustainability means meeting our needs without compromising the needs of future generations and other populations. Ending the addiction to fossil fuels is imperative for sustainability work.

Stewarding the land of our site has also been a priority. There is evidence of Ancestral Puebloan use of this land from the 12th century, and it’s clear that this place was revered and held sacred. We honor this history and are eager to learn about connection with the Earth through our land’s ancestral teachers.

There has also been a history of mining and grazing in the area, along with the impacts that accompany those practices. We have are dedicated to restoring the watershed functions on the land we steward, and building fertility and abundance for our wild lands. (link to restoration project page) This is one way that the work at Ampersand goes beyond sustainability to a focus on regeneration. Creating a sustainable lifestyle is a key component to making our world sane and treating our Earth well. But when we talk about development strategies for human habitats, regenerative development is necessary to heal the impact that many generations of short-term-thinking-design has wrought. Any design for human use should integrate conscious use of resources, zero-waste strategies, and facilitate diversity and abundance for all creatures that we share a place with. Ampersand designs for humans to be a natural part of the ecosystem. Stepping out of a consumer mind set and into a focus on reciprocity and gratitude is an important part of this.

Healthy community connection is the other crucial part of sustainable living and regenerative design. Our world has many design solutions, but social cohesiveness necessary for implementing them is sorely lacking. Over the years Ampersand has hosted scores of students, residents, and contributors who have co-created sustainable community for different lengths of time. In this way we have been a social laboratory. We provide a flexible structure for decision making and resource sharing, and each personality contributes their unique characteristics to make our social system function like an ecosystem, with important niches filled and regular feedback. It’s important to keep listening and adapting to the context of the place and time. That way, as a community, we can flex and relax the muscles needed to surf the wave of community sustainability. We integrate seasonal ceremony that reminds us of our connection with the sacred cycles of the earth.

Ampersand is part of a larger community within our watershed. We offer what we can to help our neighbors create healthy habitats of their own, as it takes all of us tending to our own soils and homes to create abundance and sharing within our community. And we benefit from the generosity of our community of neighbors, supporters and volunteers.