Residency for Resilience!

Some folks go to a cave in the mountains to focus on the work of survival: making fire with the friction of sticks, melting snow for water, constructing shelter from needle-covered branches. This experience is likely to elicit prayers of thanks to the trees and sun. But Ampersand is not that. We have hot running water when the sun is abundant. We’ve spent the past 20 years setting up these life supporting systems so that we can just cut up that extra box of apples we gleaned and lay the slices on a tray in the solar dehydrator we made. It’s great for making kale chips too.

Some folks see themselves harvesting arm-fulls of produce from a big field of lush crops, or food forests. Ampersand is not that. We live off rain catchment for all our water needs. So we are not just frugal when we need to be, but prayerful in relation to the water here in the high desert. We grow food in greenhouses which conserve water and require careful tending. We honor the desert landscape and do our best to restore her to health.

We practice this way of life to care for the living beings who sustain us. We live this way to be right with ourselves in a crazy world. We devote these life-ways to the healing of our planet, as unlikely as that may seem. Those who join us here at Ampersand come to learn and enjoy these practices, to share in this devotion for whatever period of time this focus lasts. Within this dedication there is abundant room for fun, creativity and community celebration.

We live within carefully designed systems that we pieced together with handfuls of mud and salvaged car parts, essentially. After a couple decades here, our systems are pretty dialed-in. But we are always learning, unlearning, and adapting- fine-tuning and remodeling to keep it all regenerating. To keep our human community in alignment with each other as well.

We can show you sacred places in the hills and valleys of Ampersand. Places where the ancient Puebloan ancestors speak through time. Places where the wind is always strong and the perspective wide. Creases where flood water plunges off rocks. Spots where the bobcat likes to mark her presence. You are likely to discover parts of your heart and soul in the depths of this land-loving experience.

This Strawbale Cottage is the first structure that we built at Ampersand, and we lived in it for four and a half years. It’s now called the Residency Cottage. Our favorite elements are the earthen walls, the layered wood slab ceiling that reminds us of a beaver dam, and the special sunrise window. This structure was lovingly crafted out of earth from this site, salvaged materials, and straw grown and baled in Colorado. Living in this house informed our sustainability journey, and gave us a sense of abundance that comes with simple elegant design. The many people who have lived in it since have also fallen in love with the space.

We have designed our sustainable systems to make it easy to live consciously with our resources. Our site is a living system in itself; plants growing, water flowing, people working, the sun heating everything we need it to. We find it a great privilege to live within this beautiful land with it’s rich history of ancestral puebloan use. Usually people find renewal in how the essentials of life here feel so abundant. We find that it’s easy to live on 5 gallons of rainwater a day. We smile with every solar cooked meal. Participating in a residency at Ampersand is an opportunity to live this low impact life and have a great time doing it. This is a place to grow one’s intimacy with the earth and the rain and the sun. This is a place that can give you a life that revolves around the rhythms of the environment. And there’s electricity and wireless internet so that you may carry on the life that you came from.

There is a lot to gain from a taste of this lifestyle, and it requires certain attention from the residents. For example, you will learn to only turn on lights that you are using, and to monitor the level of power in the photovoltaic system while you use your laptop on a long winter night. This place asks of you to pay attention to what you pour down the drain. Salts, solids, and products with sodium are limited in order to keep the plants in the greywater system healthy. In the winter you will notice that it takes a few hours of direct sun for the water to heat up. You will learn that opening and closing the insulated curtains is essential to keeping your space at a comfortable temperature, and you will be impressed with the comfort. If you want to know what it means to live off-the-grid in a conscious way, this is a great opportunity. We have a month minimum stay.

The nitty-gritty details…

Residents pay $150 per month to help pay for utilities. While we are off the grid and don’t pay much in the way of bills, residents have access to a refrigerator and stove run by propane, which costs money. The photovoltaic electric systems and water and wifi systems etc, need upgrades from time to time. So funds help contribute to those costs. Residents at Ampersand come to learn about sustainable practices, designs, and life-ways as well as experience a much more simple way (some would call it primitive) of life than mainstream America.

The work portion of the arrangement entails ten hours a week. We work together two mornings a week and we provide lunch on those days. Local apprentices often join us on those mornings. Residents are also given chores to be done at other times, like greenhouse care, composting, and chicken feeding etc. Residents take care of their own food needs (besides eggs and whatever produce is abundant in the greenhouses) besides those two lunches. We integrate learning experiences based on the interest of our helpers. We do not allow residents to bring pets, sorry.

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. So community is an aspect of life here too and we may do other things together- go for hikes or other outings, share other meals spontaneously, or sit around a fire together when the weather permits. We have wifi available, so working from here is a possibility. But the daily life of an Ampersand resident takes more interaction than a mainstream lifestyle. We have discovered through experience that when residents plan to commute off-site more than three times a week, or even have a full time online job, they can have a hard time fulfilling the requirements that this live-and-learn experience requires. This land, this collection of living systems that we inhabit is a special sanctuary that holds us with a lot of silence and healing possibilities. Folks who are well suited to our residency experience appreciate that opportunity.

We look for a mature person who has some experience with physical labor, good communication, and a deep desire to learn and be helpful. Also some experience with primitive or simple living. We generally have a month’s minimum stay. If the residency doesn’t fit for you but you still want to experience ampersand, you can consider coming to Ampersand for a tour and maybe stay overnight in our tipi.

Contact to inquire or apply for a residency.