ampersandprojectblog

off-the-grid and interconnected

Finding Our Way

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The dedication of holding this place that is Ampersand, is to be actively engaged in being what this world needs. Our planet needs us to use our curiosity and creativity to live in a way that is respectful to our place and intricately linked to our lands and waters.

Those drawn here, hear this call too – in different ways. My job as a steward and teacher is to welcome that instinct and point down hallways and offer tools. I cradle my fingers to provide a step along the route to discovering a healthy humanity. As I discover it too.

We humans tend to be gregarious creatures. We certainly need each other. The economics of that are clear. If we are to wholly connect to a place, to our beautiful Earth, we must embrace the needs and gifts of our hearts and souls. When we see ourselves as part of an ecosystem, there is a niche for each need and each gift. Like water, abundance cycles through space and time. Your gift is needed. Give it. And more challenging, your need is a gift as well. It’s an opportunity for someone else to give. To weave an economy that primarily resides within the realm of our daily circles. We must reclaim the ability to provide for ourselves within the contours of our own landscapes and watersheds. It can begin with friendship.

And not just between people. Making friends with a place. Making friends with the plants and birds and soil. A well-timed quote, a lost button on the sidewalk, the wind’s way of answering questions: these are all the reciprocity of living within an ecosystem.

I enjoy sharing about how to harvest the sun and how to restore the land. But anytime I feel like I’ve got something really important to say lately, it’s about this: taking the risk. Risk scarcity, risk vulnerability – to be humbly present, to be fully connected. To really live as an active expression of your caring and your curiosity. I think that’s an avenue for humanity to find our way.

Written by Amanda Bramble

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Harvest Swap

In order for me to explain my passion for the Radical Homemakers Harvest Swap that I attended last weekend, I have to start with telling you about my obsession with fruit.

All summer, from strawberry to apple season, I glean, trade for, and purchase the fruits of this region. I’ve gleaned shriveled pears from forgotten orchards, and purchased 20 lb boxes of perfect peaches from the San Juan valley of Colorado. I don’t grow much fruit here at Ampersand, partly because we only have rain catchment as our water supply for everything.

Radical Homemakers Harvest Swap

These awesome photos are by Gabriella Marks

If we drilled a well here, it would tap into the same seam that our neighbor’s well draws from. Their water level has been dropping nearly every year. Our draw would make their well go dry maybe twice as fast, or faster if we planted a big orchard. The deep wells in our area tap into old fossil water. Using well water here is is not sustainable over the long term (which is really what sustainability is all about).

Radical Homemakers Harvest Swap

Photo by Gabriella Marks

Raising milking goats here would not be sustainable either. There’s not enough forage on the land. We would need to bring in food for them, and still, all goat-accessible land would be devoid of vegetation. If that ‘s the case, why don’t we support people to have goats in higher elevations where there are lush green pastures? It makes more sense for me to purchase or trade for goat cheese from a homesteader in a lusher micro-climate, than bring in all of the food necessary to goats here, especially when I’m trying to restore the land, not degrade it.

We’ve been exploring sustainable living in this particular spot for over ten years now. In this time we have been able to change our attention from creating minimum impact shelter to stepping into our role in the larger community and economy. As we reach our limits to self sufficiency, we look outside our own property to source local foods and supplies. It is way more fulfilling to interact with our community, cobbling together a locally sourced life, than relying on cheap stuff from China and out of season produce, shipped in from the Southern Hemisphere.IMG_1506

There are things we have to contribute to our community: education about sustainable skills, and design ideas that minimize work, and embodied energy to create a more self-sustaining living environment. But also, we’ve got this thing with fruit. Our solar dehydrator can take more than 60 lb of fruit at one time. A community college class instructor who visited this year calculated that if we were diligent, we could dry 3,000 lbs of fruit in a year. And it costs nothing to run. We’ve got several solar ovens that can be used for making preserves and canning fruits. Our pantry has a sizable shelf dedicated to just fruit.

Happily, there’s a little bit less on that shelf due to the Radical Homemakers Harvest Swap last weekend in Santa Fe. I left the house with arm fulls of dried fruit, and jars of nectarine rose syrup and apricot ginger sauce. My dear friend Erin O’Neill spearheads this event (this is her awesome blog). Thirty six swappers set up their goods on tables around the room. The swapping process was very organized, with time for showing off, for suggesting swaps, and then we were set free to trade.

Radical Homemakers Harvest Swap

Photo by Gabriella Marks

This event still thrills me. Not just because of the bounty of diverse hand crafted products that are now in my possession. But seriously, I took home not only goat cheese! I also got osha infused honey, beet green kimchi, pickled ginger carrots, pesto, elderberry tincture, apple elderberry jam, macadamia coconut butter, a whole fresh apple pie, coconut deodorant, herbal chest rub, arnica salve, sauerkraut, a beeswax candle, and more. All handmade by these lovely women who I got to meet!

No one knows how long our inflated economy that runs on imaginary value will bring cheap household products from China and strawberries from Chile. We need to know who is making what right in our backyard, and support each-other’s industries to make our local supplies strong. So our communities can be resilient. The most amazing part is that this is fun. It makes me excited about the future.

Photo by Gabriella Marks

Photo by Gabriella Marks

Thanks Radical Homemakers! And thanks to Gabriella Marks for these great photos.  You can see more of her photos of this event here.

Erin O'Neill spearheaded this revolutionary event

Erin O’Neill spearheaded this revolutionary event- photo by Gabriella Marks

Thanks Radical Homemakers!

Thanks Radical Homemakers!

Written by Amanda Bramble