Frequently Asked Questions
What is a typical day like?
We follow earth rhythms. We rise early, 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. Morning chores conclude with a well-earned meal. After breakfast is a morning meeting with reflections, check in and logistics. Morning block is experiential―for example, a lesson on sharpening knives or axes followed by practice time. After lunch we take an hour of free time. Afternoon block typically includes physical work on the homestead, such as preparing garden beds and planting, sometimes coupled with a reading/discussion. Evenings are usually free time. We enjoy hanging out, drinking wild tea and eating popcorn, working on a carving project, and making music (we have a piano and assorted instruments in the classroom).
Who attends The Understory?
We appreciate the breadth of people who join our learning community; some directly from high school, some part way through college, some taking time off of work to pursue personal educational goals. We welcome participants from diverse identities and socio-economic backgrounds and strive to make the program inclusive.
How independent is student life?
Self-governance is an important part of the student learning journey. Students are involved in building group culture, lead and facilitate their own meetings, set expectations and weigh in on policies. MLLS staff help to set rhythms and assist with pertinent social/emotional tools and techniques as they see fit. That said, communal living on a working homestead means that chores need to be done, meals cooked, communications made, and projects engaged with. In this way independence is somewhat limited by interdependence. Through it all, supporting the spiritual and emotional health of the community is the responsibility of both students and teachers.
Can I receive college credit?
We are in the process of pursuing accreditation for the program. Unfortunately, Spring 2023 applicants will not be able to apply for college credit at this time. If you are currently enrolled in college you may be able to receive credit through your institution. MLLS teachers can help facilitate this process.
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 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 fresh, seasonal ingredients from this place.
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 spare moments with mindless scrolling, we can cultivate calm, 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 participant may communicate the group’s experiences to the larger world through a blog or other medium. However, books, humans and direct observation remain the primary tools of inquiry.
How do I communicate with home and friends?
We encourage you to use this time to rediscover the lost art of writing letters. There is also a landline phone that is available so you may call loved ones. Cell reception is available a short walk down the road.
Who are the teachers at Maine Local Living School?
Our teachers come from both traditional and outdoor education backgrounds. Chris Knapp, founder and part of the teaching team, holds a Master's of Environmental Education and has 25 years of experience in full time homesteading, ecological living, and experiential education. All staff are Wilderness First Responder certified. Learn more about our teachers here.
What will I do on the weekend?
Weekends are time for personal space and a break from the daily schedule. Weekend meals, schedules and chores are student driven. Think of the Understory as a 10 week retreat; a time to dig deep into new ways of thinking and being while living immersed in nature and a tight-knit community. The weekend, though different, is still part of the retreat. We encourage students to remain on campus or explore the surrounding area, but field trips to nearby Farmington and beyond are also fine.
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; 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.
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, livestock 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?
You need to bring your own sleeping bag and pad, suitable clothing and a knife (available for purchase here). We'll share an equipment list for comprehensive packing instructions. All other specialty equipment and tools will be provided or crafted during the program.
How many years has this program run for?
Various iterations of this program have run since 2008, both as an apprenticeship and as a segment of a longer semester program. The Understory is the distillation of this work and differs in its intention to blend academic inquiry with experiential learning. Though the Understory is a 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. Our staff have led experiential semester programs, taught graduate and undergraduate classes, and guided people of all ages in wilderness contexts.
Is financial aid available?
We want this program to be accessible to participants who have few financial resources personally or in their family, and/or who hold marginalized identities. There is a generous sliding scale for folks who are not able to pay the full cost of the program. 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?
Yes! You can arrange a visit with advance notice (see contact info below).
Additional questions? Don't hesitate to reach out! Please call 207-778-0318 or email us at info(at)mainelocalliving.org.