So We Begin

Horseshoe Summer 2010

A large expanse to mow

“1080.  That’s three revolutions,” stated Richard matter-of-factly of our house number.  He always offers a new and refreshing perspective to the world.  And,  I knew that he, as a mathematician, was the “go-to” guy to help create the labyrinth out front.  We are not much for mowing for lots of reasons, but more, we are into creating, nurturing and rehabilitating the land.  For over three decades at 1511 we introduced, transplanted, encouraged and enjoyed the spreading of native flora both woodland and prairie.  At 1080 we have different habitat requirements, but the process will be similar.  Time…patience…access to plants…ideas…flexibility…and love of nature.  I was reluctant to have just a prairie out front as it can be messy, it’s not real friendly to walk through or to “use” and after all this is a neighborhood and front lawn with a privet hedge. Hmmmm, makes me think of Harry Potter on Privet Drive.

So, the 1080Labyrinth idea formed.  I’ve walked several labyrinths in Iowa and NJ.  Some have been indoors, some outside.  Most have featured rocks to delineate the path boundaries.  But, Iowa is a bit short on rocks (we had some hauled in to help!  Can you imagine what my Yankee father would say about bringing in rocks?  Our first and main crop each year in our New Hampshire garden was harvesting rocks.  “Oh, foah Gahd’s sake.”)  So, I decided and then researched to find that my idea of a natural labyrinth is not far off.  Plants will make the boundaries between pathways.  The magnolia tree would be the center.   Albeit a rather large center.  Ahh, Manny of the Magnolia Tree immediately knew who to call.  Enter Richard of the Three Revolutions! For most labyrinths a central point helps with design and focus.  Here is Richard’s reply.

Rock lined, shade defined

“Laying out a labyrinth design is not trivial — especially one like that which you are contemplating with its extended wildflower beds.  But I will be happy to help you with it.”  And then: “From your annotated photo, it looks like we are talking a maximum radius of 36′ for the labyrinth, with the magnolia tree as center, based on the minimum distance of 39′ to the driveway shown, minus 3′ for the desired car park border. Also, I see you’re talking a 3′ open space around the tree.  
“This last (a 3′ open space around the tree) is important, since this dimension pretty much sets the width of the wildflower bed.
“As a rough calculation, then, if we’re talking a 3′ width for the wildflower beds, and a 2′ width for the path, this would correspond to a radius of 7 x 5′ = 35′, which would appear to conform with the overall dimensions you show. In actuality, we could probably split the difference and make it 2.5′ for the flowerbeds and 2.5′ for the path width. On the other hand, according to another of your annotations, I see you are looking for a 3′ path width to accommodate two passes of the mower.
Let me know what you think about these rough calculations, and we’ll take it from there.”
And more information:  “The only issue I see is dealing with the tree, which takes the place of the prominent stone at the center of the ‘Holford’ labyrinth. There are actually two issues. First, as I mentioned before, the 3′ space around the tree will somewhat dictate the width of the flower bed that has to incorporate it. Second, where I could lay out our labyrinth simply by placing a stake at the center and attaching a rope to draw circles (dropping marble chips as I walked around, keeping the rope taught), you will have a more complicated task. I’ll come back to that in a minute after briefly describing my layout.
“I started by using a diagram I found shown in Scan 1. I then turned the paper over, laid it on a makeshift light table and drew evenly spaced circles to match the pattern as best I could; see Scan 2. I broke the circles in the lower half of the diagram where called for to follow the underlying pattern, as shown by the dotted and dashed lines. To facilitate the construction outdoors, I drew a couple of radial lines to help locate the circle break points. Finally, I added the red radial to serve as a reference for subsequent measurements.
“When at the site, I first laid out the complete seven circles using a rope attached to a central stake and dropping marble chips. Then I put in place the radials to help locate the circle break points, using strings stretched between stakes, together with a red string to mark the reference radial. Then I got down on my hands and knees with the marble chips to distort the circles into their proper patterns.
“If you want to follow a similar approach, instead of starting with a single stake at the center you will need, say, eight stakes around the tree, in a rough circle, using each stake in turn to draw appropriate 45-degree circular arcs. (Eight 45-degree sectors should join to make a fair approximation to a circle.) Also, the diagram you will need corresponding to my Scan 2 will, of course, have twice as many circles to delineate the two edges of the flower bed.”
So, the plan was essentially laid.  In my “rough calculating is good enough” nature I followed Richard’s instructions using free stakes that Rich finds at construction sites.  These were the eight radial markers and then as I put in plants they mark location of various plants. 
What are the sources of my plants and seeds?  In early spring 2010 I transferred plants from 1511 property to 1080 property to later be added to the labyrinth.  Come late summer friends graciously donated plants to add to the labyrinth.  We rescued plants from the Grandon property, gathered prairie seeds from several prairies, and bought lilies from Kramer’s Flower Farm.
In October while the weather was warm and before my foot surgery I put in”75″ plants, which really came to about 150 with little ones tossed in and extra large ones that could be separated.  Then, the cold set in and I was settled back with my foot up recovering from a bunionectomy.  (To Be Continued)
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About marionpatterson

From the Heartland: Marion is a master educator, writer, Veriditas Trained and Certified Labyrinth Facilitator, creator and workshop promoter, and environmental educator. A Holy Fire II Usui and Holy Fire II Karuna Reiki Master Teacher, Healing Touch Spiritual Ministries Certified Practitioner (HTSM-CP), Advanced Integrated Energy Therapy practitioner she seeks to connect with others in their knowledge and spiritual quests. She leads Healing Talking Circles using the principles embraced by indigenous populations and in Restorative Justice Circles. She and her husband, Rich, co-own Winding Pathways LLC and live in Eastern Iowa. "Encouraging people to create wondrous yards." Go outside and Play!
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