Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Spring Cleaning for the Labyrinth April 2018

All is ready for the summer!

The lab is mowed, freshly painted and fertilized.  It is supposed to rain this afternoon and I expect a great lawn of grass this year.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Grass Labyrinth

  Planning the Lab

I'm partial to the classic 11-circuit Chartres labyrinth pattern.  I have made a smaller one once and can someday include the plans for that one.  For now, I'll show you how to make the 11 circuit labyrinth.

OK--Here is a photo of the smaller one.  It was custom made to fit a 24 foot room (I think the canvas is actually 20 feet square).  Because there are fewer circuits the path is a bit larger and easier for an adult to walk freely.  I intended to walk this one indoors in the fellowship hall of this building but you can see how pretty it was outside that day:

The first thing you'll do when planning a labyrinth is figure out how big you want it and there are two ways to approach the issue: (1) are you limited by the size of the lab?  (Does it have to fit in a rooms of a certain size or a field of a certain size?) or (2) do you have a specific path size in mind?

Your magic number is 26.  I ended up with this number because you have the circuits plus the center and the center is twice the size of the circuits so your measurements will be 11 circuits plus 2 and that's just the radius.  Double that for the diameter.  11+2=13  and 13X2=26

If you have all the room in the world,  maybe you have a pasture of fairly unlimited size and you want a good size path--say, a 30" path-- then you will take 30" and multiply that by 26, giving you 780 inches or 65 feet.  You will want a space that is at least 65 feet across for this labyrinth.

But if you have a room that is only 30 feet square and you wonder if you can fit a lab in it you will take 30 and transfer that into inches:  12X30=  384 then divide it by 26 giving you 14.77 inches for a path.  I would round down generously to give myself space to paint and expect a 14 inch path in that room.

Twelve inches is about the smallest you could comfortable go for a labyrinth path and even then you might need to walk with only one foot in the path at times.  Kids could walk this path easily but it wouldn't be as comfortable for adults.  It would be much better to go with a lab that had fewer circuits and a wider path.


The good news for making a grass labyrinth is that it doesn't take a whole lot of equipment to make initially.  It does, however, take a lot of paint to maintain once you have it painted--especially in the growing season.   To lay out the lab only takes a few feet of rope, a painting stick, three tent stakes, a yardstick and a paint marking stick.......and a case of paint.  To maintain the lab takes a case of paint about every other time you mow.

You can get around paying for paint by not mowing the pattern and only mowing the path with a push mower but that's another category for another day.  It's much easier to mow the lab with a riding mower and spend the money on a case of six cans of marking paint.

Start by printing off a copy of this diagram:

Now, let's go out to the field and start laying it out.  There about three parts to the layout.  The circles.  The turn-arounds on three of the quadrants and then the entrance.  

Watch the video to get a feel for how I lay out the lab.

The turn-arounds are a little trickier:

I'm going to show you three diagrams.  The lab is broken down into four quadrants.  I call them North, East, West and Entrance no matter what direction your lab is in.  I never was good at directions and they mean nothing to me anyway.  I hope it doesn't matter to you.  They are just arbitrary names.  The North, East and West quadrants are the easiest.  I'll save the Entrance for last since it's the hardest.

Let's start with the North quadrant and mark it off:

Attach a rope to the center stake and run it straight to the edge of the outside of the lab opposite your entrance.  Take your measuring stick that's a path wide and mark a path width one side of the center stake and place a tent stake, running a rope out to the edge of the lab.  Place another tent stake on the other side of the center stake a path width and run the third rope.  Make sure all three ropes are parallel with a path width space between them.  .  Check the diagram.

Now refer to your numbered diagram to see which numbered lines make the turns.  For the North quadrant this would be lines 1 and 3 wrap around 2.  4 and 6 wrap around 5....7 and 9 wrap around 8 and 10 and 12 wrap around 11.  Take the paint stick and paint the ground.

Here are the diagrams for the other two quadrants:

East Quadrant


And this is when you have to refer to the diagram a LOT.

And then Shift over to painting the entrance.  To me, this is the hardest part of the whole process.  And there is a little trick.  You have to move the stake over ONE-HALF a path width instead of a whole path.

Look at the diagram for a minute:

On my lab I have a permanent center stake and I never touch it.  So I bring in an extra stake and place it one-half the path width to the left of the center stake and push the stake into the ground.  Then attach the rope and run the rope to the outside of the lab.  THEN I mark a full path width to the right of that rope and put a tent stake and a rope and run it parallel.  Then a third rope to the right of that one.  I end up with three ropes and two paths.  The center of the left-most path goes to the center stake.  You can see how this ends up being the path that leads you into the labyrinth at the culmination of your walk.

Then mark the left side of the entrance

I have to confess that this little "half-path" trick took me a long time to figure out and I am still correcting up some of my mis-calculations made over time. (You can see my confusion in my earlier diagram of the line markings on the diagram....it shows the center stake in the wrong position. A clear sign of how wrong I was back when I made that diagram.  I am very embarrassed.)

The nice thing about grass and paint is that neither one is permanent.  You can always fix mistakes.  You might even get a can of brown paint to paint over big errors.  Brown or green paint.

And you can always fix mistakes:

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Maintaining a Grass Labyrinth

Let's say you have your grass labyrinth and you love it.  You now enter the maintenance phase.  There are two things you will need to do.  And you will need to do it often.  Maybe more often than you want to.  But it pays off in a gorgeous lab.

1.  You should mow it often and mow it correctly.  Remember our North, South, East and West approach?  Approach your lab from one end--we'll say the south end.  Mow straight through to the opposite side.  Turn around and mow the opposite way,  mowing one width to the west, headed south.  At the south end, turn and head back north going one mower's width to the east. 

Each time you mow across the lab you will not only cut the blades of grass but you will blow the cut grass away from the center.  Yes, you will be mowing the same dead blades of cut grass.  Yes, it may pile up and you'll have to mow over that pile.  But look back at the inside of the lab: how clean it is.  Nothing but live blades of grass.  Like a pristine carpet.  You can also see the lines marked on the path much more clearly.  It's like you vacuumed the grass.  And, in a way, you did.

2.  You should keep the path clearly marked.   Usually, it's best to mow first and mark after you've mowed.  You will need to refresh the lines about every other time you mow.  If you keep the lines marked clearly you will only need about six cans of paint to refresh it.

Yes, six cans is a lot.  And it will cost about $25 for six cans.  You can get a case of six or 12 and it's cheaper. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chalk Labyrinth

Making a labyrinth on concrete with chalk is easier than spray painting one in a field of grass.  For one thing, it's easier to fix mistakes.  And being able to tape to the surface of the lab makes marking the lines a lot easier.  The good/bad thing is that rain washes a chalk lab away. But with a forgiving landlord you can paint a permanent one using the chalk version.

Here is what you will need:

  • a full roll of painter's tape
  • a bold sharpie
  • a length of rope (for the exact length see below)
  • a piece of corrugated cardboard 1 foot by 2 feet
  • tape measure
  • 3-4 pieces of sidewalk chalk.  (the rougher the concrete, the more chalk you will use)
  • either a spray bottle of water and a dry rag or a very wet rag to erase mistakes

To figure out how much rope you will need you can approach it two ways:

First, understand that you will be drawing 12 lines.  The first line is 2 path-widths because it forms the inner circle.  So think in terms of 13 (12+1extra for the inner circle)

If you have limited space and need to adapt your lab to that exact space, take the shortest length and divide by 26.  For example, if you have a space that's 26 by 30, take the shortest length (26) and divide by 26 and this will give you the width of the path.  Your paths, in this case, will be one foot wide. You will need a rope that is at least 12X1foot plus a second foot for the first line (basically 13 times the path width.)  You will need 13 feet of rope

Or, if you have all the room in the world and are not limited by space, decide how wide you want your paths to be.  If you want two-foot wide paths you would multiply (13 times a 2-ft path) 26  by 2 and know that your lab will cover 52 feet. Your rope will be 2 feet wide times 13. That equals 26 feet of rope.

To make a jig for the rope take the cardboard and make a hole in the center of one half.  The hole is for the rope to go through.  Tie a knot at the end and thread the rope through the hole until the knot stops it.  Fold the cardboard in half and tape it shut.

Once you know the width of the paths, mark the rope with the tape.  The first mark will be TWICE the width of your paths.  All the others will be one path width.

Here's a snap of the cardboard thingy-

Decide where you want the center to be.  With painters tape mark a beginning.  It's best if you have someone to help hold the tape and make sure it's straight.

figure 1
Piece of cake, right?

Now lay tape parallel to the cross--one path-width on either side.
figure 2
Easy enough.

In this example, I had a limited amount of space and it measured 25 by 40 feet.  I made the paths one foot wide.  The first mark is two feet from the where the rope emerges from the cardboard.  I put some tape at TWO feet and marked the tag "1".  The next tag was ONE foot after that one and I marked the tag "2"....and so on until the 12th tag.

Here's a picture of what the rope should look like:

Now tape the rope thingy to the center of the taped lines on concrete or floor. Then make some marks on the lines

figure 3

OK!  Are you with me?

Now it is getting a bit harder.  Using the following diagram mark each circuit according to the diagram.  This will be the most crucial step.  Look at the diagram carefully.  Talk out loud to yourself.  Get a friend to check behind you. Compare the numbers on the diagram with the numbers on the tape.  You could print this out or enlarge it so you can see it better.  This is the key step.  Careful attention to this step can avoid messing it all up. 

Now take your rope and make some more hash marks between the North, South, East and West lines.
figure 4

figure 5

 Mark the curves of what I call a "wrap-around" where lines 5 and 7 will curve around line 6

Then fill in the voids that the wrap-arounds create.  With chalk, you can just make hash marks instead of solid color.  The goal here is to smooth the lines out and solidify the path.

Now you pull the tape off. Voila!  You have a labyrinth!

Stand at the entrance for a quiet time and pray over your creation.  Ask God to set this space aside as holy ground and bless the ones who will walk here.

Go home and stand by your mailbox waiting for the Noble prize for labyrinths to arrive in the next post.

This can also be the basis for a permanent one by going over the lines with paint.  To take it to an even higher level, paint it in Glow in the Dark paint.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Labyrinth Redux

This is your word for the day: "redux."  I thought I knew what it meant but wasn't sure so I looked it up.  And it means revisited or revived.  That's a good word for what I've done.

I painted a labyrinth years ago.  In fact, I was so proud of myself that I did just what I'm about to do now:  I published it on the internet via this blog.  When I got frustrated with the current one I thought to myself, "I'm sure I'm not the only one having trouble with this.  I'll check the internet and find instructions from someone else who has so much wisdom that there are wisdom "left-overs" I can glean.  So I went to the internet and the first How To that came up was my own posting here on this blog telling others how to do this.

For the last three weeks I've measured and sketched and calculated.  I bought a case of marking paint. And I did it.  I have a new and much easier method for making your own personal labyrinth.  Try this method:

Find about 50 square feet of space.  Mow the grass in such a way that you're blowing grass towards the outside of the circle.

In the center of this pristine plat of grass drive a strong stake into the ground.

You can do this next step inside where it is cool and comfortable:   Get four lengths of good rope that measure about 25-30 feet in length.  Tie a knot at one end that will let you slip the knot over the center stake.  From this point at the stake measure 48 inches and draw a line on the rope with a bold black marker..  At the line wrap some duct tape to make a little "flag" a couple of inches square.  Leave that flag unmarked.  Measure out 24 inches (or whatever you want your path to be) and make a flag.  Mark this flag with a "!" on both sides of the flag.  Then measure another 24 inches and tape flags for "2" through "12". Make three more ropes just like this one.

You'll need a fifth rope the same length but you don't have to mark it.

Line the four ropes at the center stake going straight out.  Call the ropes North, South, East and West.  The entrance to your lab will always be South no matter what the real direction is.

Mark the North quadrant first.  Standing at the center stake and looking to the outside of the lab lay two of the marked ropes 24" to the left and right of the center rope.I call these lines Larry and Ralph You can stake the rope with a tent stake to keep it into position. 

Take the fourth rope that you're not using to mark lines and use it like you do a compass to mark circles like you did in geometry class.  Except and this is VERY IMPORTANT don't hold the rope and make sweeping lines because you can stretch the rope doing this and everything will be all gummed up.  Instead lightly place the rope and make a little hash mark with just a spritz of paint.  When you get to the turns and have a good feel for line which going around line whatever to meet another line to make your turns you can free hand these lines. Like the green lines below. Now you will start to see a pattern emerge.

Do all three:  North West and East alike.

Don't worry about filling in the lines just yet.  Just get a big picture of the turns   Later you can use the flags on rope to fill in the path markers.  Your back probably hurts by now, anyway and you still have the hardest part ahead.

Mark the Entrance at the 'south' position.

Take an unmarked rope and lay it from the center stake straight down past the entrance to the lab. This rope doesn't have a name. It's only purpose is to help position the other.  Lay ropes on either side of the unmarked rope BUT instead of your normal 24' distance lay these ropes half of the path size (in this case, 12 inches)  Call these lines Larry and Carlos.  Carlos will end up as the center of the south entrance ropes. Mark two feet on either side and call them Lucy and Ralph. Finally one more rope 24" to the west of the ropes and call it Rita.

If you are paying attention you will notice that you're a rope short.  You can mark Carlos first because it is an unbroken line.  Once you have Carlos marked you can use that rope for Rita.

Mark the path lines and turns using this diagram.  And that should finish the hardest part.

All you have to do now is finish the path by fluffing a marked rope and making hash marks then filling in the hash marks.

Pack it all up in a box for the next time.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Where the Jackrabbits Were

Here's one of my favorite pieces of writing.  It was written by Bill Moyers for Newsweek magazine and published on October 21, 1974:

Where the Jackrabbits Were    

 When I was born in 1934 my father was making $2 a day working on the construction of a new highway from the Texas border to Oklahoma City.  We were living in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma in an area known as "Little Dixie" because so many people had come there from Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
     I have not spent any time in Oklahoma for years, although my childhood impressions were sharply etched in my mind and I have always felt that men like my father, coming to maturity in the '20's and laid low by the '30's, were a special lot; they were born before Oklahoma was admitted to the Union and the state took shape around their labors and losses.  They had no option but to cope, and their experiences fueled a whole generation's determination not to repeat them.  As "Adam Smith" wrote a few years ago, "it is the first generation off the farm that provides the longest hours and the most uncomplaining workers." It wasn't sheer ambition alone that drove my crowd in the '50's to hallow the success ethic; we had memories

     I went back last week and the memories were still there.  My father, who is 70 now, came up on the bus from Texas and we drove from Oklahoma City down through familiar parts of the state.  His brother, my uncle Harry, still lives in Pauls Valley, an hour south of Oklahoma City; he and Aunt Emily have moved into town from the farm they rented and worked for more than a quarter of a century.  Even at 68, however, Uncle Harry can't stay away from the land; partly to earn money--their old-age assistance is less than $200 a month--and partly from habit, he hires out when someone needs him.  "I'd make good w in those days he and my father and men like them qualified to vote in local elections by helping to build country roads-two days wages if I could just find the work," he said.  This summer he took a hoe to 100 acres of soybeans and earned $2.50 an hour, which he says "was a big help to Momma and me when the inflation bug hit."  They still grow potatoes, corn, tomatoes and okra, and at lunch Aunt Emily served strawberry cake and three pies.
     A late afternoon sun the size of a prospector's imagination was hanging in the sky as we drove out to their old farm.  We turned off on a levee along the Washita River that Uncle Harry had built with a team of mules; in those days he and my father and men like them qualified to vote in local elections by helping to build country roads--two days of work to qualify if they brought a mule, five if not. "There was a time during the Depression when the only meat we had to eat was jackrabbits we caught in the fields," my father said.  "And sometimes," Uncle Harry added, "we'd fun alongside 'em to feel their ribs to see if they were fat enough t'cook." Uncle Harry has never been able to pull a Republican lever when he votes; he always thinks of jackrabbits and Herbert Hoover.
     The old house to which Uncle Harry brought Aunt Emily from Little Dixie in 1030 is still standing in the fields a hundred yards from the river, abandoned and beginning to fall apart--a simple frame house with two bedrooms where eight children were born."I couldn't even afford to buy this land when it was selling for $200 an acre 30 years ago," Uncle Harry said, "Now they're gettin' $2,00 to $3,000 an acre for shoppin' centers and stuff like that."  He signed and said: "Even in the worst times I couldn't leave it.  It almost killed Momma and me, but this place needed us as much as we needed it.  They got bulldozers now, and they don't need us anymore."
     My father and I drove on southeast through an Oklahoma that is changing fast and prospering, in ways to be discussed in this space next time.  But now we were putting the past together again.


    My father's parents married in Tahlequah, in what was then Indian Territory, in what was then Indian Territory, and moved south of the Red River into Texas, to farm the waxy black land.  Grandfather died of pneumonia in 1916 and two years later the family returned to Oklahoma with a new stepfather.  They owned four mules and two wagons, a buckboard buggy, two milk cows, two calves, a pig and some chickens.  The January weather was cold and wet and it took them two days to travel 30 miles.  After they had ferried the Red River near Frogville the two young mules got stuck in the muddy bottom land, became scared trying to get out, and turned the wagon over into the muck.  My father, who was then 12, and his brother Harry tried to recover some of grandmother's canned fruits but they failed.
     They settled in Choctaw County, not far from where the "Trail of Tears" had ended years earlier for the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Creek Indians who had been forcefully removed by the U.S. Government from their old lands in the Deep South.  Sadness and hardship were the lot of most people, red men and white, who tried to impose their hope on the realities of nature in this part of the country, and the incident on the Red River wa only a harbinger of difficult times to come.  Men swore and watched helplessly as it rained when they didn't want it and didn't when they desperately needed it.  Their wives cooked on wood stoves and washed clothes in black pots and buried children who couldn't survive the diphtheria and malaria and bore more who did; twin daughters born to my mother both died, one of whom might have been saved had there been a doctor or medicine nearby.  When the flu and pneumonia struck, people wrapped asafetida gum in a cloth around the necks of their ailing kin and waited often in vain.


   In the winter they shook with the cold and in the summer they sweltered.  My father and his brother used to scoop 15 tons of cottonseed a day from a wagon onto the conveyor belt, in 110 degrees, for 50 centsa ton each.  That was a temporary job when the gins were running and the rest of the time they tried to farm, always on another man's land--fourteen hours a day behind a team of mules.  My father wanted to stay with farming but he had to give up shortly before I was born.  He had expected to get half a bale of cotton to the acre on 35 acres, but it rained all of July and half of August and the boll weevils came like an Old Testament plague and it was over; he went to work on the highway.  Eventually he got a job driving a truck for a creamery--$15 and expenses for a six-day week--and we moved to Texas.  One by one his own brothers--except for Uncle Harry--left the land, migrating to California and into the pages of a Steinbeck novel.
    In recapturing the past last week, we were not trying to do so in some idealized way, to make thins what they never were, nor to escape; a 70-year-old man who has buried four of his five children doesn't extol the good old days, and I still have places to be.  We were looking, instead, for landmarks to share again after years of separate journey, and in ordinary places, while there was still time, we found them.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Complete Note Cards Kit

Springtime brings a couple of occasions to give and receive gifts, namely graduations, weddings.

And this is one of those times when it is much better to give than to receive.  Why?  All those damned thank you notes.

My youngest  daughter enjoyed her wedding:  the trip down the aisle in her over-priced dress and, yes, even a tiara.  I may not be a person who enjoys dressing up but I do know that every girl dreams of wearing a tiara.

But along with the glory of being the center of attention Emily learned about showers that year.  Rather, the Thank You notes that went with them.

I can’t remember how she handled the thank you notes for the wedding but when it came time for a baby shower she begged me to not let anyone give her a baby shower.  And the only thing that stopped her was quite simply because she dreaded writing Thank You notes more than she needed gifts.

So, I've  put some thought to that for the last few years.  I decided this really is a difficult chore because  it's pretty hard to  know what to say.

Do you keep it short and simple?  Or long and loving? Obsequious or obnoxious?

Just in time for 2012 graduation and wedding season  here is Mother Jane’s Complete Thank You Kit.  Here’s what to say and how to say it right down to making your own cards.  Some of the following advice I gleaned from common knowledge amongst women and some I just made up.

There are two main things to remember about sending thank you note:

One:  Send a thank you note for everything.  To everyone.  This shows character.

Two:  Send it as soon as possible.  This also shows character and takes the pressure off.

Mark your calendar.  Get the thank you notes out two weeks after graduation.  You will feel better with the load off your mind and your mother will have to shut up.

** HOWEVER:**  There is one bit of advice I need to point out for Gift GIVERS:  Make sure your card is FIRMLY attached to your gift.  If the recipient doesn’t know who gave them the gift they certainly can’t thank you, can they?  After Elizabeth's wedding we spent the week after the honeymoon trying to match up a set of spaghetti bowls with no card to the cards people brought without a gift. So, for Emily's wedding we stationed someone at the gift table with a roll of scotchtape.  Problem solved on our end.  But you people really do need to do your part if you expect a thank you note. For God’s sake don’t just sit the card on top of the gift and think it’s going to stay there!  And I know you people do this because I used to do it myself.  No more.  

OK.  Now:

Nobody likes to write thank you notes.  I think that’s mostly because they're not sure what to say or they're afraid they’ll say it wrong.  This is where my Thank You Notes Kit comes in handy.  Follow my simple and fool-proof formula and zip those notes out at record speed.

It is more important to be prompt than it is to be eloquent.  No one has very high expectations of high school graduates nowadays, anyway.  They have read your text messages and facebook updates and if you  manage to just use actual  words in the note they will be impressed. 

The basic  Thank You note  should have three sentences:  (1)Thank you.  (2)This is why I liked it.  (3) Then a third sentence to close the note. Try to say something about your relationship with the giver.  This way the note reinforces the idea that the person means more to you than the gift.

You don’t have to do any more than that.  Fill in the blanks with me here:


1.    Thank you for the (laptop, car, sheets, pillow, Frisbee)

          2.  I love (the color, size, having one)
                   I’ve always wanted one.
                   It fits perfectly (unless it doesn’t then don’t mention that part)

          3    I will be going to Podunk College next year studying the philosophy of Fig Newtons
                You have always been an important person/good friend/ to me (my family).
                 When I win the Nobel Peace prize I will be sure to mention you in my acceptance speech
                 I remember the time you helped me get my cat out of the tree.

Your name here

Now that you know what to write down, please be careful how you do it.  This will be tempting.  You will  be all like “Wow, this is cool.  It’s so easy now that I have the Jane Els formula. I can zip these off in no time.”  Don’t write like you are rushing.  Your handwriting is important.  Write as clear as you can to make it look like writing the note is something you’re enjoying. Your handwriting should convey the image of yourself sitting outside under a shade tree with a glass of lemonade enjoying yourself.  Slow down.  Especially if you have the handwriting of a homicidal maniac.

OK.  Now to the cards themselves.

Because I am both cheap and imaginative I sometimes make my own personalized note cards. It’s not as hard as it may sound.  And it is infinitely easier if you know what you are doing.  One of the things I miss about having a real job and working in an office is how much you learn from your officemates. The Microsoft Word boat has sailed without me and I’m floundering around figuring out stuff on my own. So—you might know a better way to do this and, if so, please let me know.   Margins seem to be my weakness.

Set up a document in landscape orientation with two columns.  Put your name toward the bottom of each column.  Arrange the font type and size to suite you and keep it centered in the columns. Pick a color you like.

You can print a test.  Fold the paper over and cut the two columns apart.  Do all your testing on regular paper.  Once you get it the way you like it print the final copies on hard cardstock paper—32 or 64 up to 110 pound weight, The office supply stores have this paper. I'm not sure exactly what the weight stands for but the higher the weight the stiffer the paper. And the heavier the paper the better quality the note.  My daughter once received an invitation from her billionaire boss that was printed on wood.  I'm not kidding.  A littly slab of wood.

The cards will fit in envelope that is 4 3/8 X 5 3/4.  You can also do big cards by using just the one column and portrait orientation.  Then fold the whole sheet in half.  They have envelopes to fit this size, too and they are 5 3/4 X 8 3/4..  I especially like this size for Christmas cards. 

I'm sure this technique will help you.  No--no, no.  Don't try to thank me. 

But, if you do, send it to PO Box 142  Winnsboro, TX  75494   I will try not to judge.