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Up Tunket Road Excerpt

Up Tunket Road Excerpt

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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.
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.

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Apr 19, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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06/27/2012

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— 102 —
SIX
The Simple Life:An Ecological Misnomer
The simple life should not involve getting locked in a chicken house byan ox. Such a predicament may, however, involve simplemindedness onthe part of the homesteader and a rather complex strategy on the part of the ox.I’d stepped up into our henhouse, mounted on an old hay wagon chas-sis, and reached into the battered military-green Civil Defense metalbarrel to scoop out several buckets of chicken feed to put into the hang-ing feeder. I’d nished chores and had put our oxen, Pet and Troll, intothe lush pasture surrounding the henhouse. More eager to scratch thaneat at that point, Pet had followed me over as I fed and watered thelayers and promptly cocked his ank up against the wooden sides of thestructure, working out the itches with his rhythmic rubbing. The ftychickens and I seemed to share the sensation of mild seasickness as themobile coop swayed and squeaked with his hip undulations. “Pet—cutit
 out
!” I yelled through the hexagonal chicken wire, punctuating myirritation with the exclamation point of a sharp bang on the plywoodwall right beside his head.Nonplussed, he looked up with half a glance and slowly meandered tothe end of the coop with the door. Deciding to shift to a few other itches,he rubbed the right side of his face and his horn up against the door. Asthe swaying of his thick neck increased in velocity, the scraping of hishorn against the door increased in volume until the Dominique chick-ens all bolted to the farthest corner in one black-and-white blur, withthe exhaust cloud of fecal dust seemingly aimed right at me. I sharplypounded my st at the wall just opposite the scraping sounds: “Pet, gond a tree to scratch on!” Determined to remind me who was boss—orat least
 Bos
—Pet gave a nal scrape and meandered over into the early-morning shade, leaving me on my own.
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The Simple Life: An Ecological Misnomer
— 103 —
I nished lling the feeder and pushed on the door to get out. It didn’tbudge.
 Huh?
I pushed again with my shoulder. The door gave just a bitat my shoulder but not at all near my hip, where the rotating woodenlatch was located.
 Nooooo,
I thought,
 he couldn’t have . . .
Turns out that he did. I was locked inside the chicken house by acloven-hooved prankster. In the middle of the pasture in front of thecabin. I somehow doubted the likelihood of Pet returning to end thejoke—it seemed that he had already delivered the punch line and was inthe shade ruminating on the genius of its delivery. It was the rst time I’dever envisioned cattle snickering—they’re just not that prone to beingself-congratulatory, in my experience.
 How am I going to get out of this one with both my dignity and the henhouse intact?
I wondered. I knew that I could denitely push hardand break the latch, but I hated to tear up the new exterior siding onthe coop. On the other hand, it beat telling anyone what had happened,much less calling for help from inside a chicken coop. Besides, there wasonly one person available to call, and she already had enough dirt on mewithout adding this story to the collection.About that time, Erin stepped out of the cabin to visit the outhouse.I let her go in and take care of business while I decided whether I reallywanted her help. By the time she slammed the outhouse door shut, I’ddecided that I would rather bear the brief humiliation to follow thanspend time xing the latch. Plus, I knew I’d still have to tell her what hadhappened at some point. It was just one more unexpected incident in ourgrowing litany of homesteading adventures.“Erin,” I shouted, “could you please come over here?”“Come over where? Where are you?” she asked, looking downtoward the vacant pasture, seeing Pet but not me.“Here—in the chicken house.”“What do you need me in the chicken house for?” She was mildlyirritated, since it meant changing from her clogs to her boots.“Ummm, to let me out,” I replied, somewhat cowed.“What do you mean, let you out?”“Pet locked me in.” I was wishing that I could mumble it instead of saying it loudly enough for any stray hikers to hear.Erin doesn’t burst out laughing that often, but this time her laughterbolted out and echoed back—any pride I had disappearing with its brief reverberation.
UTR final pgs 1034/8/10 9:39 AM

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