Michigan’s natural beauty is important to writer and illustrator pair Gijsbert and Robbyn van Frankenhuyzen — so much so that they’re opening their 40-acre property, Hazel Ridge Farm in Bath, to the public to share what inspires them. The land, part farm and part wilderness, has influenced the books the couple make together.
“The books in our ‘Hazel Ridge’ series are all true stories,” said Robbyn van Frankenhuyzen. “We rehabilitated wildlife for 25 years. Our most recent book, ‘I Love You Just Enough,’ is the story of our daughter Heather, who found a baby wood duck and raised it on her own.”
The book, released in 2014, was recently nominated for the Missouri Association of School Librarians Show Me Award, which recognizes popular books for children in first through third grades.
Robbyn van Frankenhuyzen is “strictly the writer” when the couple pairs up to create a book, while husband Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen illustrates the stories. He has also illustrated several books for other authors, including Kathy-jo Wargin’s “The Legend of Sleeping Bear,” which was named the official children’s book of Michigan in 1998. Other projects include a series of books dedicated to retellings of Michigan Native American myths. He is working on this 34th book.
Those who are interested in learning to paint in the style of the van Frankenhuyzen’s books can attend a painting demonstration with Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen at Eggleston Gallery 1:30 p.m. Oct. 22. The workshop is free, but requires registration at egglestongallery.com.
For nearly twenty years, the van Frankenhuyzens have hosted an annual open house at Hazel Ridge Farm. The event started in the winter, but after several years of harsh weather, the couple moved the event to autumn. Visitors can enjoy the artwork of Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, purchase the couple’s books and art prints and explore the five miles of trails crisscrossing the property. Door prizes and refreshments are also available.
“It has worked out so well,” said Robbyn van Frankenhuyzen. “We’ve got the forty acres, and the gallery. People can visit one or the other, or both.”
Those who venture out for a hike can expect to see an array of Michigan scenery decked out in fall colors. The trails pass through wetlands and forests, as well as fields for the farm’s resident animals.
“Historically, the land was a sheep farm, so we followed suit and have had raised sheep and lambs ever since we came here,” said van Frankenhuyzen.
One book by the couple, “Itsy Bitsy & Teeny Weeny,” is about one of their lambs who befriended a baby deer being rehabilitated in their home.
The farmland has been with the couple since 1980 — the two were even wed on the farm — and four years ago they put it on a conservation easement, preventing any future development.
“The 40 acres has the wetlands, the woodlands and the open fields, and now it’s going to be protected forever,” said van Frankenhuyzen.
Hazel Ridge Fall at the Farm
4-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13 and Friday, Oct. 14;
11 a.m.-6 p.m.Saturday, Oct. 15 and Sunday, Oct. 16
Hazel Ridge Farm 7409 Clark Road, Bath
(517) 641-6690, hazelridgefarm.com