Book Review: Up Tunket Road

I just finished this one. Took me something like two months to read, which I consider a good thing! More bang for my buck. It was a great read, and I was sad to finish it.

Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader by Phillip Ackerman-Leist is a personal account of building ‘the good life’ in rural Vermont, mixed in with a more philosophical look at the history, current expression and future of homesteading.

But that’s not what makes it good. It’s never about content is it? It’s the style of delivery for me, and I really enjoyed Phillip’s voice. For one thing, his otherwise fairly scholarly work (he is a professor) is peppered with grandpa jokes. Goofy puns like starting the book off with “Prologue, But Not Clearcut” (it took me a minute too). While I don’t generally go for the grandpa humor myself, this made him seem extremely human. Like a sort of annoying but endearing friend. ‘Oh no, not the prologue joke again. Phillip.’

I also really enjoyed his humility. So often these kind of books go on and on about how they did this and that amazing thing and how you should too. Phillip kept it very real. You can tell that both he and his wife are two of Those People, who can run from dawn to dusk, survive on a perpetual 5 or 6 hours of sleep, and love it. And they do accomplish lots of great stuff on all that energy. But he spent a large portion of the book describing in detail all the local people who had taken them under their wing, shared knowledge, tools and time.

In fact, a central and overriding theme to this book is the importance of community and interdependence as opposed to the classic homesteaders independence. I am so happy to see the concept of interdependence rising in the DIY world lately.

Another thing I loved about this book is that he has a wife, and you can tell he adores her and thinks she kicks ass. You can really tell that they are honest and equal partners in their adventures. This is another thorn in the side of many homesteading classics. (I love the Nearings’ books, but you can imagine how their relationship went. He talked. She listened. Not that Helen Nearing wasn’t totally kick ass too, but I wonder how much Scott knew that…)

I would love to read the same story from his wife, Erin’s point of view, who stayed home to take care of the homestead and raise their 3 kids. But until she takes up the pen, or computer herself, I’ll be quite happy with her man’s version.


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Up Tunket Road

  1. I’ve been hankering for a new book and maybe this will fit the bill. I hope my library has it. I’m just finishing re-reading Herland, the lost feminist utopia novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (perhaps most famous for the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper). A facinating read, to be sure, even if the pacing is somewhat awkward. Interesting views on motherhood and childrearing.

    Thanks for the suggested reading. I’ll put it on my list.

  2. If you want a great read from Helen Nearing, try Loving and Leaving the Good Life (I’m pretty sure that’s the title). She wrote it after he died and she discusses their marriage.

  3. I’ll have to look that one up at my library too. Currently reading “Everything I want to do Is Illegal” by Joel Salatin and “The Town That Food Saved” by Mark Hewitt. More women need to write books about their homesteading and mothering experiences (hint hint). My husband’s cousin says everyone should write a book about their lives, because it would bring understanding about people’s motivations.

    1. Have you read Farm City by Novella Carpenter? It’s totally awesome. I should start book reviews as a regular thing.
      I think there’s not as many books by women partly because we’re busy being mamas. A book is like it’s own baby, no exageration I think. Occasionally I fantasize about having written a book, but I never fantasize about the writing of it, let alone the re-writing, re-writing, editing, re-editing or haggling with editors about content. yech.

  4. Yes I’ve read Farm City! I was obsessed with getting a pig after reading that, as I live 4 blocks from the asian district in OKC and would probably have plenty of food to get for it. But my husband was the voice of reason, “let’s start with ducks”. I also regularly read her sister, Riana’s, flicker blog “These Days in French Life”. Fantastic.

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