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


The Organic Seed Grower

The Organic Seed Grower

By John Navazio

The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. It is written for both serious home seed savers and diversified small-scale farmers who want to learn the necessary steps involved in successfully producing a commercial seed crop organically.

Detailed profiles for each of the major vegetables provide users with practical, in-depth knowledge about growing, harvesting, and processing seed for a wide range of common and specialty vegetable crops, from Asian greens to zucchini.

In addition, readers will find extensive and critical information on topics including:

  • The reproductive biology of crop plants
  • Annual vs. biennial seed crops
  • Isolation distances needed to ensure varietal purity
  • Maintaining adequate population size for genetic integrity
  • Seed crop climates
  • Seed-borne diseases
  • Seed-cleaning basics
  • Seed storage for farmers
  • and more . . .

This book can serve as a bridge to lead skilled gardeners, who are already saving their own seed, into the idea of growing seed commercially. And for diversified vegetable farmers who are growing a seed crop for sale for the first time, it will provide details on many of the tricks of the trade that are used by professional seed growers. This manual will help the budding seed farmer to become more knowledgeable, efficient, and effective in producing a commercially viable seed crop.

With the strong demand for certified organic produce, many regional seed companies are increasingly seeking out dedicated seed growers to ensure a reliable source of organically grown seeds for their farmer and gardener customers. This trend represents a great business opportunity for small-scale commercial growers who wish to raise and sell vegetable seeds as a profitable part of their diversified small-farm operation. Written by well-known plant breeder and organic seed expert John Navazio, The Organic Seed Grower is the most up-to-date and useful guide to best practices in this exciting and important field.

Available in: Hardcover

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The Organic Seed Grower

John Navazio

Hardcover $49.95

The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm

The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm

By Peg Schafer

A leading light in the field of medicinal herb cultivation, The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm is the first cultivation guide of its kind, and presents invaluable information for growers interested in producing high-quality efficacious herbs in all climates of the US, with the historical connectedness of ancient practitioners.

It has become increasingly important-especially as the market for herbal medicine continues to grow-that we transition to local and domestic medicinal cultivation. Increasingly there are concerns in regards to not only the quality but the purity of imported herbs, and wild herbs picked for medicinal purposes are ever more endangered than in past years both at home and abroad.

Peg Schafer, longtime grower and teacher, guides readers with information on propagating, cultivating, and harvesting Chinese herbs, and presents fascinating new scientific data that reveal the age-old wisdom of nature and the traditional systems of Chinese medicine. Through 79 detailed herb profiles--all tested and trialed on Schafer's certified organic farm-Schafer offers easy-to-follow information, suitable for both growers and practitioners, for growing efficacious wild-simulated herbs. Also included is important information on species conservation, crop integration, and how to avoid the introduction of invasive species. Sidebars on traditional medicinal uses for each herb and delicious recipes are also featured throughout.

Vegetable and CSA farmers will find this book of great interest for adding value-added crops to their repertoire, and beginner growers looking to incorporate medicinals into their gardens will find this an invaluable guide to understanding where herbal medicine comes from, and will make eating-your-medicine more accessible than ever.

Available in: Paperback

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The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm

Peg Schafer, Sean Fannin, Steven Foster

Paperback $34.95

The New Cider Maker's Handbook

The New Cider Maker's Handbook

By Claude Jolicoeur

All around the world, the public’s taste for fermented cider has been growing more rapidly than at any time in the past 150 years. And with the growing interest in locally grown and artisanal foods, many new cideries are springing up all over North America, often started up by passionate amateurs who want to take their cider to the next level as small-scale craft producers.

To make the very best cider—whether for yourself, your family, and friends or for market—you first need a deep understanding of the processes involved, and the art and science behind them. Fortunately, The New Cider Maker’s Handbook is here to help. Author Claude Jolicoeur is an internationally known, award-winning cider maker with an inquiring, scientific mind. His book combines the best of traditional knowledge and techniques with up-to-date, scientifically based practices to provide today’s cider makers with all the tools they need to produce high-quality ciders.

The New Cider Maker’s Handbook is divided into five parts containing:

  • An accessible overview of the cider making process for beginners;
  • Recommendations for selecting and growing cider-appropriate apples;
  • Information on juice-extraction equipment and directions on how to build your own grater mill and cider press;
  • A discussion of the most important components of apple juice and how these may influence the quality of the cider;
  • An examination of the fermentation process and a description of methods used to produce either dry or naturally sweet cider, still or sparkling cider, and even ice cider.

This book will appeal to both serious amateurs and professional cider makers who want to increase their knowledge, as well as to orchardists who want to grow cider apples for local or regional producers. Novices will appreciate the overview of the cider-making process, and, as they develop skills and confidence, the more in-depth technical information will serve as an invaluable reference that will be consulted again and again. This book is sure to become the definitive modern work on cider making.

A mechanical engineer by profession, Claude Jolicoeur first developed his passion for apples and cider after acquiring a piece of land on which there were four rows of old abandoned apple trees. He started making cider in 1988 using a “no-compromise” approach, stubbornly searching for the highest possible quality. Since then, his ciders have earned many awards and medals at competitions, including a Best of Show at the prestigious Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP).

Claude actively participates in discussions on forums like the Cider Digest, and is regularly invited as a guest speaker to events such as the annual Cider Days festival in western Massachusetts. He lives in Quebec City.

Available in: Hardcover

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The New Cider Maker's Handbook

Claude Jolicoeur

Hardcover $44.95

Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money

Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money

By Woody Tasch

Could there ever be an alternative stock exchange dedicated to slow, small, and local? Could a million American families get their food from CSAs? What if you had to invest 50 percent of your assets within 50 miles of where you live?Such questions-at the heart of slow money-represent the first steps on our path to a new economy.

Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money presents an essential new strategy for investing in local food systems and introduces a group of fiduciary activists who are exploring what should come after industrial finance and industrial agriculture. Theirs is a vision for investing that puts soil fertility into return-on-investment calculations and serves people and place as much at it serves industry sectors and markets.

Leading the charge is Woody Tasch-whose decades of work as a venture capitalist, foundation treasurer, and entrepreneur now shed new light on a truer, more beautiful, more prudent kind of fiduciary responsibility. He offers an alternative vision to the dusty old industrial concepts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when dollars, and the businesses they financed, lost their connection to place; slow money, on the other hand, is firmly rooted in the new economic, social, and environmental realities of the 21st century.

Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money is a call to action for designing capital markets built around not extraction and consumption but preservation and restoration. Is it a movement or is it an investment strategy? Yes.

Available in: Paperback

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Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money

Carlo Petrini, Woody Tasch

Paperback $15.95