Chelsea Green Publishing

Up Tunket Road

Pages:312 pages
Book Art:Black and white line drawings
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603580335
Pub. Date May 14, 2010

Up Tunket Road

The Education of a Modern Homesteader

By Philip Ackerman-Leist
Illustrated by Erin Ackerman-Leist

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
May 14, 2010

$17.95

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.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

"Philip Ackerman-Leist passionately describes homesteading not so much as a back-to-the-land form of self-reliance, but rather as a Zen-like practice of conscious decision making and being in right relationship. With this new understanding, creating a homestead is something any reflective practitioner can accomplish."--Tom Wessels, author of The Myth of Progress and Reading the Forested Landscape

"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

Kirkus Reviews-
Ackerman-Leist (Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader, 2010) explores how to take food production and distribution away from the mega-corporations and place it in the hands of local communities and small farms. He analyzes energy consumption from the field to the refrigerator; the environment, with 'the idea that a sustainable food system is one that begins and ends with the careful management of the foundation of it all: the soil'; and food security—i.e., how to ensure that everyone in the country has enough food to ward off hunger and malnutrition. The author also thoroughly investigates biodiversity of crops and conducts a study of 'food systems that embrace a diversity of cultural and economic perspectives.' Ackerman-Leist culminates his studies by exploring the latest techniques used to improve food production, such as high tunnels and greenhouses that extend growing seasons or the numerous microbreweries and cider houses that provide delicious products without high energy costs. The author’s image of 'local food' has morphed over time, just as the whole industry has changed: 'The image that comes to mind these days is of dynamic, interlocking systems—a  vast network of differently sized pulsing centerpoints connected to one other by means of surging flows that create exchanges of resources, ideas, and of course foods.' Dense with information and studded with numerous graphs and charts, this book provides a deeper understanding of what principles need to change in order to create local food environments.

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.

Whitney Scott

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Ackerman-Leist

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, directs its Farm & Food Project, and founded its Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems, 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 Tyrol region of the Alps and North Carolina before beginning their nineteen-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.

AUTHOR EVENTS

March 09, 2018

Philip Ackerman-Leist at Organic Growers School

Organic Growers School, Asheville, NC | Philip Ackerman-Leist

See all Events by this Author

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Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural outposts to city streets, they are sowing, growing, selling, and eating food produced close to home—and they are crying out for agricultural reform. All this has made "local food" into everything from a movement buzzword to the newest darling of food trendsters.

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Mals, Italy, has long been known as the breadbasket of the Tyrol. But recently the tiny town became known for something else entirely. A Precautionary Tale tells us why, introducing readers to an unlikely group of activists and a forward-thinking mayor who came together to ban pesticides in Mals by a referendum vote—making it the first place on Earth to accomplish such a feat, and a model for other towns and regions to follow.

For hundreds of years, the people of Mals had cherished their traditional foodways and kept their local agriculture organic. Their town had become a mecca for tourists drawn by the alpine landscape, the rural and historic character of the villages, and the fine breads, wines, cheeses, herbs, vegetables, and the other traditional foods they produced. Yet Mals is located high up in the eastern Alps, and the valley below was being steadily overtaken by big apple producers, heavily dependent on pesticides. As Big Apple crept further and further up the region’s mountainsides, their toxic spray drifted with the valley’s ever-present winds and began to fall on the farms and fields of Mals—threatening their organic certifications, as well as their health and that of their livestock. 

The advancing threats gradually motivated a diverse cast of characters to take action—each in their own unique way, and then in concert in an iconic display of direct democracy in action. As Ackerman-Leist recounts their uprising, we meet an organic dairy farmer who decides to speak up when his hay is poisoned by drift; a pediatrician who engaged other medical professionals to protect the soil, water, and air that the health of her patients depends upon; a hairdresser whose salon conversations mobilized the town’s women in an extraordinarily conceived campaign; and others who together orchestrated one of the rare revolutionary successes of our time and inspired a movement now snaking its way through Europe and the United States.

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AUTHOR VIDEOS

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An Interview with Philip Ackerman-Leist (Extended)

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Public Lecture at Shelburne Farms

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Professor of Sustainable Food Systems; Director, Farm and Food Project at Green Mountain College introduces himself

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