The sunchoke stalks were falling over and looking messy, so we pulled them up and bunched them vertically in one corner of the garden. We made sure to keep the spent stalks upright and off the ground so that if there are any overwintering bees burrowed inside that they'd still be protected (laying the stalks on the ground would cause them to stay wet and rot over the winter, killing the bees that might be sleeping inside). We weren't really trying to pull up sunchoke tubers right now, but invariably a few came up with the roots. Kids love inspecting this strange knobby looking food. Sunchokes are delicious sautéed in butter. If any parents would like to take some home to try, just let me know!
Here is the quickest and most succinct version I can muster of what is actually along story:
I found a perfect forest school site to lease in Richmond, and I worked quickly in August to lease it, have it inspected, and begin the in-depth and tedious work of turning it into a forest school preschool able to be licensed by VDSS. There was much involved in this process, including re-plumbing and adding a multi toilet children's bathroom, laying hardwood floors, adding a fenced natural playground area (required for licensing, even if this was to be a forest school), knocking out a wall, and putting on a GoFundMe campaign to pay for it all.
A month into the work, one of my building permits was rejected when a hidden and long forgotten conditional use permit was found attached to the property zoning. The property owners were unaware of it, and even all the county entities I had worked with up to that point had been unaware of it. The condtional use permit stated that I could not have a school of any sort on the property. I tried to find many avenues around it, and even looked into the possibility of rezoning the property completely, but it became clear that there was no way around it. I regrettably had to pull the plug and terminate the lease on the property.
I have spent the past two months trying to go backwards and mend some of the events the potential move and abrupt end have set in motion. This includes deciding what to do with the funds raised (return? Hold onto them for next property? I have received mixed responses from my donors), trying to recoup some of the money I lost on the project, walk backwards on some of the enrollment I generated 😔, figure out my plan for Oakwood House's current group of play school children (improve my property for them until I find a new one?), and just stem the tide of inquiries I've had on the forest school (I'm still receiving dozens of inquiries weekly with no real timeline to respond with).
I've gone back to my original plan of purchasing a large enough property to both live on and have the school on. Since this requires me to sell my current home, move my family, and meet my husband's needs of still being able to commute to Richmond city via bicycle (avid cyclist that will not budge on not-driving), our search is VERY particular and will likely be lengthy. While I am looking, Oakwood House will continue to operate in my lush little neighborhood yard, as it has been for the past 1.5 years. This also means that my capacity is very limited (only 4 children a morning), and that I will continue to add families to the waiting list until spots or a new property become available.
Hopefully, I will find property that will meet all our needs in the next few months. Until then, we will keep playing outdoors and getting dirty in our little residential green oasis.
ONE LAST BIT: I am trying to curb (possibly end?) my use of social media, as it's making me a little crazy. This means I'll be posting less Oakwood House photos on Instagram and Facebook, and will be moving photos of our mornings to this blog, so check back frequently to see them! 😊
For those that don't already know, I have been searching for a new property to move the school to. My lovely little yard just isn't able to meet the growing demand from so many Richmond families looking for a nature-based preschool experience. I've been searching long and hard for the perfect forested area that is accessible to most Richmond neighborhoods. Without wanting to get ahead of myself, I believe I may have finally found the spot! I am currently in lease negotiations, so we shall see. The new site would allow the creation of RICHMOND'S FIRST OFFICIAL FOREST SCHOOL (!), the addition of several teachers, and it would allow me to accept up to triple enrollment (divided among two classes. Don't worry...I plan to keep the small class size). I don't want to say anymore, because I'm just not sure of anything until the lease is signed. Until then, fingers crossed, and check back for, hopefully, good news and the details!