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Hew's Lawn Labyrinth

So, if you have to mow the lawn anyway. Why not make it more interesting? If you adjust the wheels on the mower, you can cut the grass at different heights, and by varying the cutting heights you can cut patterns in the grass.

Last year I was thinking about mowing a crop circle pattern in my back yard, but then I recalled a chapter in Ernest Rutherfurd's historical fiction novel Sarum where one of the characters has some decisions to make, and while he was mulling it over he walked a turf maze. This Spring (2008) I started looking into turf mazes and labyrinths in general and decided on a "mini-Chartres" design, as described by Jo Edkins at Chartres and Other Church Mazes - Scaling Up and Down.

I was thinking that a square version would be easier to lay out, but I couldn't think of a cheap and temporary way to mark out a grid that would survive the mowing and being trampled on. Then I hit on the idea of putting a stake in the middle and fastening a rope between it and the mower, and mowing a series of concentric circles. That was partly inspired by the use of rope in making crop circles. For the first phase of mowing, I adjusted the wheels for maximum height, just to establish the location of the circular paths.

Here (photo below) I've already done the two outer-most circles (barely visible). The mower end of the rope is hooked to a coathanger wire that is wrapped around the bottom of the engine. At the stake end, I slipped a shop-vac extension pipe over the stake so that the loop wouldn't slide down, which kept the rope from dragging through the tall grass.

photo of the lawn mower tethered to a stake
The diameter of the outer edge of the largest circle is 36 feet. The next one is 30 feet. I kept shortening the rope by three feet for each circle, ending up with a 6-foot diameter area in the middle.

Once I got the circles sketched out (ie. mowed to maximum height), I placed a 12" wide board over the areas that were not to be mowed any lower for the radial sections of the walls. I adjusted the wheels for minimum height (almost chewing up the dirt) and cut the short radial paths as well as the main long entrance paths. The board served as a cutting guide.

The next step involved cutting the circular portions of the path again, with the mower adjusted to the lowest height. Before I actually started cutting I went around and marked some spots (intersections of circular and radial path segments) with orange tent stakes, just to make sure I didn't get carried away and mow across radial sections that should remain as barriers.

One week later:

Finished labyrinth

With all the trampling I did while measuring and mowing, I decided to wait a week for the unmowed grass (the "wall" areas) to straighten up. At that time I also decided that the entrance need a bit of something extra, rather than simply having it stop at the edge of the outer circle. I added a rectangular area as wide as the diameter of the largest circle, cut to the lowest setting. For what it's worth, if you draw a line across the middle of the circular portion and made it the top of the rectangle, it forms a Golden Section rectangle. I also recut the path portion to minimum height.

The final step was to adjust the mower for the maximum height, and mow the entire lawn. I didn't need to follow any particular route, I just mowed it normally.

From now until the end of the lawn-mowing season, all I have to do is refresh the paths at the minimum blade height, and then mow everything at the maximum blade height.

If you happen to be in my area, you can see it at 381 Main Street, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada.

Mini-Chartres layout Photo of the real Chartre Cathedral labyrinth
Here's the pattern I based it on, minus the rectangular entrance area. Black lines represent the "walls". The diameter of the middle circle is also much bigger in proportion to the overall pattern, compared to the one on my lawn. This is how the real labyrinth looks, in Chartres Cathedral. It has 11 layers of circular paths.
My lawn labyrinth is almost the same as the middle five circles.

As seen from a stepladder, with Sue in there for scale:

Sue in the middle
Hmm. It doesn't look as steeply sloped in real life. It must be some kind of illusion.

Another view from the stepladder:    

Next project: a circular double-spiral flanked by two serpentine Roman Maze segments, for the front lawn.

Hew's Medieval Stuff <