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


Available Date:
May 14, 2010


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.


"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

"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

"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

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.

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.


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 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.


Rebuilding the Foodshed

Rebuilding the Foodshed

By Philip Ackerman-Leist

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.

But now it's time to take the conversation to the next level. That's exactly what Philip Ackerman-Leist does in Rebuilding the Foodshed, in which he refocuses the local-food lens on the broad issue of rebuilding regional food systems that can replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead.

Changing our foodscapes raises a host of questions. How far away is local? How do you decide the size and geography of a regional foodshed? How do you tackle tough issues that plague food systems large and small—issues like inefficient transportation, high energy demands, and rampant food waste? How do you grow what you need with minimum environmental impact? And how do you create a foodshed that's resilient enough if fuel grows scarce, weather gets more severe, and traditional supply chains are hampered?

Showcasing some of the most promising, replicable models for growing, processing, and distributing sustainably grown food, this book points the reader toward the next stages of the food revolution. It also covers the full landscape of the burgeoning local-food movement, from rural to suburban to urban, and from backyard gardens to large-scale food enterprises.

Available in: Paperback

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Rebuilding the Foodshed

Deborah Madison, Philip Ackerman-Leist

Paperback $19.95


GMC The Stream

GMC The Stream

Chelsea Green Book Talks: Philip Ackerman-Leist on Rebuilding the Foodshed

Chelsea Green Book Talks: Philip Ackerman-Leist on Rebuilding the Foodshed

Rebuilding the Foodshed - Green Mountain college TV

An Interview with Philip Ackerman-Leist

An Interview with Philip Ackerman-Leist (Extended)

Public Lecture at Shelburne Farms

Public Lecture at Shelburne Farms


A Handmade Life

A Handmade Life

By William Coperthwaite and John Saltmarsh

William Coperthwaite is a teacher, builder, designer, and writer who for many years hasexplored the possibilities of true simplicity on a homestead on the north coast of Maine. In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and Helen and Scott Nearing, Coperthwaite has fashioned a livelihood of integrity and completeness-buying almost nothing, providing for his own needs, and serving as a guide and companion to hundreds of apprentices drawn to his unique way of being.

A Handmade Life carries Coperthwaite's ongoing experiments with hand tools, hand-grown and gathered food, and handmade shelter, clothing, and furnishings out into the world to challenge and inspire. His writing is both philosophical and practical, exploring themes of beauty, work, education, and design while giving instruction on the hand-crafting of the necessities of life. Richly illustrated with luminous color photographs by Peter Forbes, the book is a moving and inspirational testament to a new practice of old ways of life.

Available in: Paperback

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A Handmade Life

William Coperthwaite, Peter Forbes, John Saltmarsh

Paperback $25.00

The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat

The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat

By Cole Ward and Karen Coshof

Vermont-based master butcher Cole Ward delivers a comprehensive guide to whole-animal butchery that goes beyond conventional “do-it-yourself” books and takes readers inside the world of truly sustainable meat production. The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat demystifies the process of getting meat to the table, and its wide scope will be welcome to those who not only wish to learn the rudiments of butchery, but also want to understand how meat animals are raised, slaughtered, and marketed in a holistic system that honors both animals and consumers.

Written in Cole’s unique voice of humor and simplicity, the book celebrates the traditional art of culinary butchery, introducing readers to stand-out butchers in America and Europe as well as a diverse group of farmers committed to raising the very best animals with respect.

The many methods of raising and finishing meat animals are clearly and thoroughly explained and compared, and sensitive issues like hormone and antibiotic use in meat production are assessed. Readers will learn all the terminology associated with meat and butchery, as well as the complexities of meat grading, carcass yield, marbling scores, and issues with inspection.

Also included are recipes, a detailed glossary, and more information on:

•    The real definition, work, and role of a culinary butcher;
•    The history and tradition of butchery;
•    Meat: selecting your breed, grading and aging, tenderness, storing; and reheating;
•    How meat gets to the table: farmers, slaughtering methods, stress, and animal welfare, the role of meat inspectors, cut sheets, what’s legally allowed/not allowed when purchasing meat for further processing, keeping integrity in the local meat movement;
•    Understanding the commercial meat food chain and recognizing deceptive practices;
•    Processing your own meat: what you’ll need, tools, safety, prep;
•    Beef: domestication, terminology, how cows work, raising methods (grass, grain, etc.), meat-safety issues, hormone growth implants, antibiotics and feed additives, carcass yield and marbling scores, and a partial list of beef breeds;
•    Cutting up a beef forequarter and hindquarter;
•    Pork: domestication, terminology, raising methods, grading and inspection, and a partial list of pork breeds;
•    Cutting up a side of pork;
•    Sheep: domestication, terminology, raising methods, and a partial list of meat breeds;
•    Cutting up a whole lamb;
•    Chicken: domestication, terminology, how to cut up a whole chicken;
•    How to make sausages;
•    Value-added products: what they are and how they can help increase your bottom line;
•    Your own butcher shop: size, equipment, display, marketing;
•    A better way of thinking about meat: a holistic overview and some conclusions.

History buffs will delight in the chapter that traces the roots of butchery from pre-history to modern times, and meat shoppers will welcome Cole’s description of what goes on behind the scenes at meat markets large and small. And, of course, new or aspiring butchers will find a well-illustrated slideshow on CD (included in the back of the book) with over 800 images on cutting up a side of beef, a side of pork, and whole lamb and chicken in more detail than is offered in any other book on the subject. Sure to be the ultimate resource on the subject of gourmet butchery, this book will change the conversation and help bring back a traditional art that is in jeopardy, but increasingly important in the local-food and ecological-agriculture movement.

Available in: Hardcover

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The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat

Cole Ward, Karen Coshof

Hardcover $49.95

Natural Beekeeping

Natural Beekeeping

By Ross Conrad

Today's beekeepers face unprecedented challenges, a fact that is now front-page news with the spread of "colony collapse disorder." Newly introduced pests like varroa and tracheal mites have made chemical treatment of hives standard practice, but pest resistance is building, which in turn creates demand for new and even more toxic chemicals. In fact, there is evidence that chemical treatments are making matters worse.

It's time for a new approach. Now revised and updated with new resources and including full-color photos throughout, Natural Beekeeping offers all the latest information in a book that has already proven invaluable for organic beekeepers. The new edition offers the same holistic, sensible alternative to conventional chemical practices with a program of natural hive management, but offers new sections on a wide range of subjects, including:

  • The basics of bee biology and anatomy
  • Urban beekeeping
  • Identifying and working with queens
  • Parasitic mite control
  • Hive diseases

Also, a completely new chapter on marketing provides valuable advice for anyone who intends to sell a wide range of hive products.Ross Conrad brings together the best "do no harm" strategies for keeping honeybees healthy and productive with nontoxic methods of controlling mites; eliminating American foulbrood disease without the use of antibiotics; selective breeding for naturally resistant bees; and many other detailed management techniques, which are covered in a thoughtful, matter-of-fact way.

Whether you are a novice looking to get started with bees, an experienced apiculturist looking for ideas to develop an integrated pest-management approach, or someone who wants to sell honey at a premium price, this is the book you've been waiting for.

Available in: Paperback

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Natural Beekeeping

Ross Conrad, Gary Paul Nabhan

Paperback $34.95

The Winter Harvest Handbook

The Winter Harvest Handbook

By Eliot Coleman

Choosing locally grown organic food is a sustainable living trend that’s taken hold throughout North America. Celebrated farming expert Eliot Coleman helped start this movement with The New Organic Grower published 20 years ago. He continues to lead the way, pushing the limits of the harvest season while working his world-renowned organic farm in Harborside, Maine.

Now, with his long-awaited new book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, anyone can have access to his hard-won experience. Gardeners and farmers can use the innovative, highly successful methods Coleman describes in this comprehensive handbook to raise crops throughout the coldest of winters.

Building on the techniques that hundreds of thousands of farmers and gardeners adopted from The New Organic Grower and Four-Season Harvest, this new book focuses on growing produce of unparalleled freshness and quality in customized unheated or, in some cases, minimally heated, movable plastic greenhouses.

Coleman offers clear, concise details on greenhouse construction and maintenance, planting schedules, crop management, harvesting practices, and even marketing methods in this complete, meticulous, and illustrated guide. Readers have access to all the techniques that have proven to produce higher-quality crops on Coleman’s own farm.

His painstaking research and experimentation with more than 30 different crops will be valuable to small farmers, homesteaders, and experienced home gardeners who seek to expand their production seasons.

A passionate advocate for the revival of small-scale sustainable farming, Coleman provides a practical model for supplying fresh, locally grown produce during the winter season, even in climates where conventional wisdom says it “just can’t be done.”

Available in: Paperback

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The Winter Harvest Handbook

Eliot Coleman, Barbara Damrosch

Paperback $29.95