Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader

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Overview

Ever since Thoreau's Walden, the image of the American homesteader has been of someone getting away from civilization, of forging an independent life in the country. Yet if this were ever true, what is the nature and reality of homesteading in the media-saturated, hyper-connected 21st century?

For seven years Philip Ackerman-Leist and his wife, Erin, lived without electricity or running water in an old cabin in the beautiful but remote hills of western New England. Slowly ...

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Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader

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Overview

Ever since Thoreau's Walden, the image of the American homesteader has been of someone getting away from civilization, of forging an independent life in the country. Yet if this were ever true, what is the nature and reality of homesteading in the media-saturated, hyper-connected 21st century?

For seven years Philip Ackerman-Leist and his wife, Erin, lived without electricity or running water in an old cabin in the beautiful but remote hills of western New England. Slowly forging their own farm and homestead, they took inspiration from their experiences among the mountain farmers of the Tirolean Alps and were guided by their Vermont neighbors, who taught them about what it truly means to live sustainably in the postmodern homestead--not only to survive, but to thrive in a fragmented landscape and a fractured economy.

Up Tunket Road is the inspiring true story of a young couple who embraced the joys of simple living while also acknowledging its frustrations and complexities. Ackerman-Leist writes with humor about the inevitable foibles of setting up life off the grid--from hauling frozen laundry uphill to getting locked in the henhouse by their ox. But he also weaves an instructive narrative that contemplates the future of simple living. His is not a how-to guide, but something much richer and more important--a tale of discovery that will resonate with readers who yearn for a better, more meaningful life, whether they live in the city, country, or somewhere in between.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The Boston Globe-
Homesteader Philip Ackerman-Leist has a sense of humor - apparent when he gets locked in the henhouse by an ox - and an open mind, two qualities not always associated with back-to-the-land types. For seven years he and his wife, Erin, lived without electricity or running water in an old cabin in Pawlet, Vt., before they built a bigger home with more amenities for their growing family.

Ackerman-Leist's new book, "Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader", is a chronicle of the couple's adventures in sustainability and a meditation on the future of homesteading.

Director of the Farm & Food Project at Green Mountain College, Ackerman-Leist doesn't pretend to have all the answers. He acknowledges that there may not be enough land to go around for every potential homesteader. From one of his students he learns about a young man living on a boat in Manhattan, burning driftwood and scrap lumber in his woodstove and generating electricity with a wind turbine. Is this the future? Ackerman-Leist wonders.

Meanwhile, he and his wife are consumed with a big question concerning the present: Is Internet access at home a pleasure or a plague?

LA Times-
Perhaps my favorite book in this crop is "Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader," in which Philip Ackerman-Leist writes about homesteading, using his experience in Vermont as an example. Ackerman-Leist challenges conventional notions of homesteading (owning one's own land, self-reliance, independence). Those days are gone, he writes. Today, you can homestead anywhere (a student of his has founded the "back to the yard" movement), not only in rural settings, and the key to successful homesteading is interdependence, not independence. It is no longer possible to fully retreat from society. "Homesteading is an act of defiance and of reliance: defiance of cultural norms and habits and reliance on self and local community." It is, he writes, "much less about location than it is about intent." "Up Tunket Road" raises the issue of mentors, literary and practical. Ackerman-Leist cites Thoreau, Helen and Scott Nearing and others who have written about the experience. (Thoreauvians try not to disturb the land; followers of the Nearings bring "shelter, order, and a whir of activity to a place.") He writes with great reverence about a local farmer-gardener who gave Ackerman-Leist time, tips and help. "Up Tunket Road" takes us through the choices the author and his wife made about their lifestyle: how to create light, how to bathe, how to eat. Homesteading brings you "face to face with ecological choices," forcing the homesteader to confront, to realize the effect we have on our environment. The book also contains an excellent reading list for people dreaming of a different American Dream.

"There's something to learn on every page of this fertile and powerful book. One will find not simply good information, but also a fine and well-honed wisdom. In a voice that manages to be both teacher and student, Ackerman-Leist joins the literary tradition of Thoreau, the Nearings, and Harlan Hubbard. This is an honest and uplifting look at modern homesteading. What a delight to read this hopeful and iconic account of a sensible, accountable, and richly lived life. Now more than ever, we desperately need what this book offers."--Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

"Philip Ackerman-Leist's book, Up Tunket Road, combines highly literary writing with hard-nosed, down-home practicality about his homesteading ventures, all delivered with gentle good humor and an unerring eye for important details often left out of books like this. In the process, the author lays the groundwork for a definitive new approach to the classic back-to-the-land philosophy. A great book for thinkers and doers alike."--Gene Logsdon, author of Small-Scale Grain Raising and Living at Nature's Pace

"Having walked up the real Tunket Road many times over the past ten years to visit Philip and Erin, I have seen firsthand how they have transformed not only the landscape, but themselves and their lives. It is a model for us all to follow, rural or urban."--Shepherd Ogden, editor of GreenRFD.com

"Up Tunket Road makes a delightful addition to the literature of homesteading. As persuasive and current as this book is about such subjects as grass-farming, composting toilets, and on-site generation of power, its strongest appeal to me is as the story of one intrepid family putting down roots in Vermont with the help of a generous, if highly eccentric, cast of mentors. Ackerman-Leist's deft use of dialogue, and his inclination to view even disasters humorously, also let him escape completely from the self-righteous tone that has sometimes marred America's literature of self-sufficiency. As a memoir, a piece of social history, and a reflection on farming and food at the cusp of the twenty-first century, this is a timely and valuable work."--John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home and The Frog Run

"Up Tunket Road captures the heart of homesteading by exploring its many tensions: romanticism versus pragmatism, humility versus bold determination, interdependence versus self-reliance, and vulnerability versus fortitude. Any thoughtful homesteader will find their perspective challenged and broadened by the anecdotes and reflections in these pages."--Abigail R. Gehring, editor of Back to Basics and Homesteading

"Anyone seeking a life characterized by noble intent will find this elegantly portrayed journey up Tunket Road both challenging and heartwarming. Philip Ackerman-Leist masterfully wrestles with homesteading tensions like independence versus community and ecological economy versus efficiency. I couldn't put it down." --Joel Salatin, founder of Polyface Farm and author of Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal

"Anyone who has heard Philip speak, seen his garden and home, or watched him teach about heritage breeds and heirloom seeds, knows that there is magic in this man. Now we are blessed with a story of his homestead that not only honors the past, but builds toward a healthier, richer future. Join in the magic!" --Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Where Our Food Comes From and Coming Home to Eat, and editor of Renewing America's Food Traditions

Whitney Scott

Booklist-
Is living a simple life a solution for coping with chaotic times? Is it even possible today? In 1997, conservation biologist Ackerman-Leist and and his wife, Erin, moved into an old 12-x-28-foot New England cabin lacking electricity and running water, and found, over seven years, that homesteading is as much about values as about skills, as much about “why to” as “how to.” As readers learn about shedding old notions and making new choices, they’ll enjoy Ackerman-Leist’s relaxed style and self-deprecating humor: “My feathers are getting a little bit ruffled,” the chagrined homesteader admits when he asks Erin to free him from the hen house: their ox locked him in. He describes the ferocity of New England winters, including what it’s like to visit the outhouse at 10 below, and the increasingly dangerous impact of frost on the cabin footings. With “crafting common cause” at its core, Ackerman-Leist’s chronicle of the not-so-simple simple life will intrigue readers curious about what it means to go back to nature.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781603580335
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/14/2010
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 749,948
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Ackerman-Leist, author of Rebuilding the Foodshed and Up Tunket Road, is a professor at Green Mountain College, where he established the college's farm and sustainable agriculture curriculum and is director of the Green Mountain College Farm & Food Project. He also founded and directs the college's Masters in Sustainable Food Systems (MSFS), the nation's first online graduate program in food systems, featuring applied comparative research of students' home bioregions. He and his wife, Erin, farmed in the South Tirol region of the Alps and North Carolina before beginning their sixteen-year homesteading and farming venture in Pawlet, Vermont. With more than two decades of "field experience" working on farms, in the classroom, and with regional food systems collaborators, Philip's work is focused on examining and reshaping local and regional food systems from the ground up.

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Table of Contents

Prologue...But Not Clear-Cut ix

1 Once Upon a Tunket Time 1

2 Learning One's Place 18

3 When Time Was Made of Trees 37

4 Oikos: A Household Economy and Ecology 53

5 Looking Forward to Yesterday: Weaving Chronologies for the Future 70

6 The Simple Life: An Ecological Misnomer 102

7 Framing a Life 119

8 Of Scale and Skill: Homestead or Farm? 133

9 The End of Petrol 143

10 Plowshares into Swards: Grass Farming 152

11 The Smallholder as Placeholder 163

12 Building a Future 181

13 Crafting a Croft 191

14 Technological Cascade 213

15 The Clock, the Wallet, and the Hand 236

16 Rewired Rewards 250

17 To Gather Together 263

Epi+log 275

Acknowledgments 277

Endnotes 279

About the Author 285

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2013

    Thoroughly Enjoyable Book!

    If you have ever thought of homesteading and living off the grid this book is a must read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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