Frequently Asked Questions
What is a typical day like?
We follow earth rhythms. Today we rise early (you'll get used to it―maybe love it?!), we circle as a community to greet the day and share a morning practice: some yoga, a look at the sky, a poem. Then we all depart to make life happen―we carry water, chop wood, milk goats, start the cook fire, make breakfast. At the sound of a drum everyone wraps up morning chores and heads in for a well earned meal. Today is a sugaring day. The journal prompt asks you to consider your personal relationship with work. After journaling, Morning Meeting opens space to share where you are at in body and spirit, read from journal entries and make a plan for the day. Some will gather sap, two will keep the evaporator going, others are thinning in the maple woods as part of the Applied Forest Ecology course. Lunch is hot chili with fresh cornbread cooked by your classmates on the wood cookstove. After lunch there is an hour of free time. A few play music, some carve, some nap. Part of learning is time to reflect. Afterward we gather around the evaporator to sip hot sap and dig into a discussion on yesterday's assigned reading. Before dinner there is an optional snowshoe trek to check out the beaver activity on Mud Pond; others make supper to the tune of some goofy songwriting that is happening upstairs in the loft/lounge. After dinner we circle for Evening Meeting to process and integrate lessons and impressions of the day. See you tomorrow for another day of creating the world we want to live in....
Do I need to be in school / not in school?
We welcome people ages 18 to 28 who are seeking the type of transformative learning The Understory offers, regardless of your current or previous school background. We appreciate the breadth of people who join our learning community, some directly from high school, some part way through college, others coming from work in the world and pursuing their own non-academic educational path.
Can I receive college credit?
Our partner in The Understory, Kroka Expeditions, is in the process of accrediting the program through Sterling College. Unfortunately, Fall 2022 applicants will not be able to apply for college credit at this time.
What will I eat?
Food is a very important part of daily life on this program. You will be involved in harvesting, processing, preserving, and preparing food. We eat local, organic, fresh, fermented, wild and wicked-good food. We organically grow 70-80% of the food consumed on the campus right here. Scared to take this leap? In addition to amazing stir-fry, seasonal salads, homegrown hash-browns and duck eggs, there will also be pasta, fresh baked bread, pie, acorn brownies, and plenty of homemade maple syrup. We want you to get excited about what you eat, how it affects the world we share, and how to use your creativity to make amazing meals with whatever is on hand.
What is the role of technology in daily life?
This program offers what is becoming a rare gift: a solid block of time to live free from screens and devices. Our screen-free environment facilitates connection with earth, self, and each other. It can be a burden to always have the answer in your back pocket. Living daily life without cell service (there is none on this property) asks us to dig deeper, look closer, wait for answers, search for connections and utilize each other’s knowledge. We believe that by not filling the “dead space” that many modern humans fill with mindless scrolling, we can cultivate silence and out-breath which in turn allows inspiration to flow in.
What is the role of technology in academic life?
We are not anti-technology, we are pro-direct-experience. The internet is available as a research tool in the MLLS office and a chosen scribe will communicate the group’s experiences to the larger world through a blog. However, books, humans and direct observation remain the primary tools of inquiry. For academic papers you can choose to utilize the editing advantages of word processing, or we also encourage handwritten work.
How do I communicate with home and friends?
You are encouraged write letters. There is a land line that is available so you may call loved ones. We wish for you to be present here and the whole community shares a single land line, so for these reasons calls are limited to one per week unless special circumstances exist.
Who are the teachers at Maine Local Living School?
Our teachers come from both traditional and outdoor educational backgrounds. Chris Knapp, founder and core teacher, holds a Master's of Environmental Education and has 25 years of experience in full time homesteading, ecological living, and experiential education. Learn more about our teachers here.
What will I do on the weekend?
Think of The Understory as a 9 week retreat: a time to dig deep into new ways of thinking and being while living immersed in nature. The weekend is part of the retreat. No matter what the day of the week, our learning community must meet its needs: the goats must be milked, water carried and food cooked. Therefore, daily chores are as normal. That said, we absolutely value down-time, celebrations, dance, pizza parties, etc. and weekends are much less structured. You might work on personal handcraft projects, play music, or spend time exploring the local mountains and streams with friends.
Where will I live during the term?
Students live communally in a variety of structures all of which are off-grid, sustainably built, and heated with wood. The earth lodge is modeled after the traditional homes of the Cree People; wall tents are large canvas tents with wood floors and wood stoves. Housing is all-gender, separated by gender, or some combination of the two as decided by the group, via facilitated discussion.
What is the campus like at Maine Local Living School?
The campus is an ever-developing experiment in sustainable living. We have a large central classroom and workshop, a root cellar, subterranean greenhouse, ice storage house, composting toilets, outdoor kitchens, solar food dehydrator, goat and duck barn, gardens, orchards, perennial plantings, etc. You can read more about the Homestead and Campus here.
Do I need to purchase special gear and equipment in order to attend the program?
You need to bring your own sleeping bag and pad, suitable clothing, and, if desired, a laptop for word processing. Check out our equipment list for comprehensive packing instructions. All other specialty equipment and tools, including axes and knives, will be provided or crafted during the program.
How many years has this program run for?
Although this is a brand new program the founders bring over twenty years of lived experience in homesteading, earth connection and facilitating powerful learning spaces for people of all ages. We have staff who have led semester programs, taught graduate and undergraduate classes, and guided people of all ages in wilderness contexts.
Is financial aid available?
We are actively fundraising to make this program accessible to participants who have few financial resources personally or in their family, and/or who hold marginalized identities. Equity-based and need-based scholarships are available. Please check out our admissions page for details. If you have the means to contribute to our scholarship fund, we gratefully accept donations here.
Can prospective and admitted students visit the campus?
We are excited to meet students during the Admitted and Prospective Student Weekend, dates TBD. Prospective students can also arrange an individual site visit. Please email us at chris(at)mainelocalliving.org.
What is your policy on drugs and alcohol?
Maine Local Living School has a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. This experience requires your full presence and awareness. Possession, use or distribution of drugs or alcohol is grounds for dismissal.