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.