The Grimes Farm and Conservation Center is a Marshalltown gem, but sadly this phenomenal nature reserve is getting less attention than it deserves. Leonard and Mildred Grimes’ daughter Carrie Barr looks to showcase it in her upcoming book “Leonard and Mildred are playing hide and seek at Grimes Farm.”
According to the Grimes Farm website, Leonard and Mildred Grimes bought their farm west of Marshalltown in 1964, and in 1992 they began donating 160-acre plots of land to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. This plot then became a conservation center in 2003 for environmental education purposes, among others.
Barr enjoys the Grimes Farm very much and is keen to share it with as many people as possible, hoping that they too will enjoy its diverse landscape. This desire prompted her to write the book. While Barr wrote “Leonard and Mildred play hide and seek at the Grimes farm” herself, she said that she came up with the idea for a similar book titled “Mudgy and Millie” by Susan Nipp. “Mudgy and Millie” follows a similar story about a moose and a mouse playing hide and seek, but the trail they follow goes through Coeur d’Alene Idaho.
With that inspiration in mind, Barr wrote his book on Leonard the White-tailed Deer and Mildred the Deer Mouse, named after the late Leonard and Mildred Grimes. In the book, the two animals play hide and seek at Grimes Farm, visiting notable sites before returning to their starting point. Leonard then discovers that Mildred has always been hiding in his woods.
This book is designed to be read while visiting the farm, as it can be used as a guide through the various points of interest. It starts in the wetlands and throughout the journey notable landmarks such as the Leonard Amphitheater and Mildred Tower are highlighted. In addition to the aforementioned sites, there are three other stops found in history. If the book is followed, the hike is about a mile and a half.
Barr’s main goal in this endeavor is to instill a genuine care and appreciation for the local environment.
“I like being there” Barr said. “The more you go out and enjoy it, the more you want to take care of nature.”
Barr’s book is illustrated by Julie Bousum, a talented local artist, and she incorporated a style called paper collage into the project. She has been using this artistic medium since she began teaching art at Marshalltown High School, where she worked from 1994 to 2013.
When Barr asked Bousum to illustrate his book, she was intrigued. The two got together with some of Bousum’s artwork to decide which medium would be best suited, and they opted for a glued paper collage as it would show the depth of the landscapes.
“You can do things with glued papers that are difficult to do with other mediums” said Bousum.
Pulp papers are made with acrylic paint and cornstarch paste. The paint and paste are manipulated with various tools to form the different textures of the page. This makes it possible to change something on a fairly simple part if a modification is needed. This proved to be very helpful in the process of illustrating the book as their ideas were constantly evolving.
Bousum was happy with the result and thought the paper glue collage was definitely a good choice for the project.
“It was so much fun looking at the papers I had made” said Bousum.
Bousum also has his work appearing in some of the “If Picasso …” books by Eric Gibbons, accompanied by other illustrators. Some of his watercolors also appear in a collection of poems by Gerald Johnson.
Barr and Bousum’s hard work is yet to be officially released due to supply chain and personnel challenges, but Barr is hoping it will be available in mid-December. Some local businesses have agreed to sell his book as soon as it is published, and the Marshall County Conservation Board will make them available as well. Barr is preparing a waiting list for those who want a copy ASAP.
All the benefits of “Leonard and Mildred play hide and seek at the Grimes farm” will go to the Friends of Conservation of Marshall County.