A Trip to See Some Birds

Cape Shore Drive 24

Last week, the Pie and his parents and I decided to take a wee road trip out to the Salmonier Nature Park to visit the moose and see some eagles.  What started out as a jaunt of about an hour or two in the sunny afternoon turned, however, into a seven-hour trek across the southern portion of the Avalon Peninsula.  See, Salmonier Nature Park experienced some serious damage during Hurricane Leslie back in September and has been closed ever since, despite what the website says.  We stopped off at Father Duffy’s Well, which is nearby, to stretch our legs and figure out what we wanted to do next.

Father Duffy's Well 17

While Mrs. Nice and I vegged out in the sunshine and appreciated the burgeoning flora, Papa John and the Pie examined the detailed visitors’ guide, which listed all the attractions on the Cape Shore drive, which takes you on a coastal route between St. Mary’s Bay and Placentia Bay, both on the southern side of the Avalon Peninsula.

Father Duffy's Well 21

So we decided to keep going, to see what we could see.  While the Pie and I had driven the Irish Loop (which covers the peninsula containing the Avalon Wilderness Reserve), the Cape Shore was a new one to us.  And what a landscape to encounter!

Cape Shore Drive 15

If you’re interested in fishing villages, rural architecture, climatology, ecology, geology, geography, biology, oceanography, or history, then I don’t know why you haven’t been to Newfoundland yet.  And when you go, take a drive on the Cape Shore.  It’s like going to Mars.  The landscape alters between rocky barrens and verdant bogmarshes, both of which run right up to the edge of 300-metre cliffs falling straight down into the bright blue North Atlantic Ocean.

Cape Shore Drive 11

This area is known as the Eastern Hyper-oceanic Barrens ecoregion, which is one of the world’s most southerly expanses of sub-Arctic tundra.  If you’re interested in that kind of stuff, you will know how fascinating that really is.

Cape Shore Drive 12

If you’re not that interested, just know that it means there are a lot of lichens.

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 1

And very few trees.  And the trees that are there are very, very short.  It’s like the Newfoundland answer to bonsai.

Cape Shore Drive 13

Eventually we ended up at a point where we hadn’t intended to go just yet: Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve.  If you like birds, or you like rocks, or you just want to see some place that is super dooper cool, then you should go there.

I won’t give you a huge educational lesson today (for that you can click on any one of the hyperlinks above), but I’ll let some of the photos speak for themselves.

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 18

The natural trail.  Don’t fall off.

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 9

That’s a drop of several hundred metres.

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 13

Eggshells.

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 22

Feathers.

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 42

Flying Gannets.

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 39

Lots of lichens.

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 44

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 11

I’m a lichen liker.

Cape St (6)

The tundra and the shore.

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 26

And of course, the famous Bird Rock.

Cape St (3)

Cape St (2)

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 53

Totally worth the trip. Bring a hat!

Cape St. Mary's Eco Reserve 57

More photos of the Reserve on my Flickr starting here.

New Found Ornaments

New Found Ornaments 10

I saw something like this at a craft fair in St. John’s and thought that I could easily make my own with some found objects and some hot glue.  The “jellybean row” is an iconic element of St. John’s architecture: a series of brightly coloured and quaintly crooked wooden row houses that line most of the downtown streets.  So every craft fair and gift shop in the area sells some version of this, painted on mailboxes, pieces of wood, in stained glass (similar to the disaster I made last spring), and on pieces of shale, which conveniently break on a rectangular plane.

New Found Ornaments 3

So I found some pieces of this shale, relatively thin pieces that wouldn’t weigh down a tree branch.

New Found Ornaments 2

And I painted them to look like the crooked, shambling houses around here.

New Found Ornaments 4

New Found Ornaments 6

And then I glued string on the back for hanging, with hot glue.

New Found Ornaments 7

An extra dab, for security.

New Found Ornaments 8

And that’s it!

New Found Ornaments 11

Summer in St. John’s

Dandelion Forest

The harbingers of summer here in Newfoundland are not the dandelions taking over the green spaces (although they do that, too), nor are they the rare but blindingly beautiful cloudless skies.

IMAG0396-1-1

No, they’re icebergs, and their smaller components, growlers and bergy bits.  Actually, now that I think about it, that’s pretty typical of this upside-down province: ice is the herald of warm summer days.  After all, Gren and I were out in a (short) blizzard just three days ago.

When the Pie and I were here house-hunting in June of 2008, St. John’s was experiencing one of the best years for icebergs in a long time.

ICEBERG

Then we moved here, and, true to form, saw barely any ice for the next three years.  This year, however, is another good one for ice, and you don’t have to stray too far from town to see it. This one was nestled in Quidi Vidi Bay a few weeks ago.

QV Bay Berg

It was worth struggling over slippery rocks in high winds and sleet to get a better view.  Unfortunately I only had my phone with me, so the picture quality isn’t what it could be.

QV Bay Berg

The Pie wasn’t too happy without his touque.

QV Bay Berg

These ones are off the shores of Blackhead, a tiny ancient settlement between St. John’s and Cape Spear.

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

I wanted to get all three in one shot but they were really far apart.

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

We headed a little further south to see if we could get a different angle and ended up at Dead Man’s Cove for these pictures.

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

A very nice lady took our picture with a berg.  Unfortunately the berg looks more put together than we do.

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

Then we found these bits up in Middle Cove.

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

That’s the Pie down there on the beach.

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

There were bits of ice all broken up on the beach.

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

I got to touch a piece.  It was very cold.  If I hadn’t been worried about the pollution I would have taken it home and put it in a drink.

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

Bergs at Blackhead and Middle Cove

Jelly Bean Row

Jelly Bean Row

I love Quality Street chocolates. They remind me of everything good. And I love the colourful wrappers they come in. I’ve wanted to make something out of them for years. This year at Christmas I made sure to save all the wrappers so I’d have lots to work with.

Jelly Bean Row

Quality Street also appeals to my environmentalist side. You can re-use the tins for anything you like. You can recycle the foil wrappers that go under the clear ones, and recently, the company started making the clear wrappers out of vegetable products, so you can actually COMPOST them. How cool is that?

Jelly Bean Row

So what am I making with these?  I’m glad you asked.  St. John’s is famous for its colourfully-painted and artfully crooked row houses.  They’re often likened to a line of jelly beans, stacked on their ends — Jelly Bean Row.

Jelly Bean Row

If you watch any of those ever-popular tourism Newfoundland and Labrador commercials, you’ll see a few of them (though in real life they’re not quite so quaint — or clean).

Jelly Bean Row

So I thought I would make a few out of Quality Street wrappers, something to send people to paste in their windows, or to hang on their Christmas trees as ornaments, something that will catch the light and give them a taste of St. John’s at home.

Jelly Bean Row

Jelly Bean Row

The house construction is pretty simple.  I used black construction paper, folded in half, as a frame.  Then I cut out the frame using a craft knife and inserted and glued down the wrappers in the appropriate spaces.  Then I cut out windows and doors from the black paper as well, making sure to glue them to both sides so the ornament is reversible.

Jelly Bean Row

The problem with this particular material is that the wrappers always want to go back to their wrinkled state, and the construction paper doesn’t do a lot to prevent it.

Jelly Bean Row

A heavier-grade card would probably work better in keeping the stuff rigid, but at the same time, it would be harder to manipulate.  I wanted to make several of these hanging ornaments and create a sort of mobile for Doodle for her birthday, but the physics of it continued to defeat me — the ornaments were simply too light to be able to balance everything properly.  And I had it all planned so the houses went up on a slant, too!

Jelly Bean Row

Alas. In any case, they are pretty enough placed in a window or on your tree.

Jelly Bean Row

Practical Alcoholism: Cutting Glass Bottles

Cutting Glass

This was actually a project that Cait came up with as a guest post eons ago.  Obviously, she took too long to do it, I got impatient, and now I’m going to go ahead and do it myself.  Because that’s what I do.  I do it myself.  It’s kind of the point of this here blog.

The City of St. John’s has just this past year instituted a city-wide curbside recycling program.  Yes, we are about twenty years behind the times on this one, but we’re making progress.  What the city does not recycle, however, is glass.  I’m not entirely sure I understand why, but that’s the way it is.  We previously employed a private recycling plant that would take absolutely everything, including glass, but they of course disappeared once recycling became free.  As a result we’ve now started tailoring our grocery shopping to buying items that come in cans and plastic containers, rather than glass.  But some of that stuff sticks around.  I re-use glass jars as much as I can, especially when it comes to the contents of my spice cabinet.  Even so, we still have a lot of glass that goes in the garbage.  And let me tell you, for a girl who has spent the last 25 years of her life recycling, it feels some weird, b’y, to chuck glass in the trash.

Light Box Tests

So how can we re-use it some more?  You can only deal with so many spare bottles and jars lying around.  Their function is practical but limited.  So let’s create some other sorts of vessels from these things by learning to cut glass.

I purchased Ephrem’s Deluxe Bottle Cutting Kit from Artistry In Glass, based in London, Ontario, for you Canadian shoppers.

Cutting Glass

This kit has been around, pretty much unaltered, since the seventies.  In fact I don’t think they’ve ever bothered to change the photographs in the little projects book that comes with it.  But why mess with something that works so well, right?

Cutting Glass

You need some glass for this project.  Anything that is round, really, with smooth sides will work for you.  Bottles, jars.  You name it.  The reason I bought the “deluxe” kit as opposed to the regular kit is because it comes with an adapter so you can work on the curved parts of bottle necks and stuff, instead of just the straight sides. But I haven’t gotten to that skill level yet.

In any case, you’ll need to clean and dry your glass thoroughly first.  This means soaking off the labels and rinsing the containers out well.  If you can’t get some of the glue off the glass, try peanut butter.  It works really well, I promise.

Cutting Glass

So now I’m all set.  With my little kit at the ready, I wanted to make sure I did this right.

I watched the video about how to do it the way the cutting kit company tells you to in the instructions, with a candle and an ice cube.

And then I watched another video about a slightly easier and more efficient way to do it with boiling and cold water.  I will show you both.

This is the result of my first attempt to cut beer bottles.  As you can see, it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, either.  I needed more practice.  You are not going to succeed at this on your first try either, so make sure you have lots of practice glass around before you start getting into the stuff you actually want to use.

Cutting Glass

Beer bottles are the best to practice on, because generally beer is cheaper than the more expensive wines that come in the nice bottles.  Plus you can get several tries in if you buy a six-pack.  The other bonus of practicing on beer bottles is beer glass is thinner and more prone to shattering (unlike jars of preserves, beer is cold-canned, and the bottles are not designed for temperature shock).  So because the bottles break easier, you have to be more careful in your practice.

Light Box Tests

Scoring the Glass:

So this is how you do it.

The kit has all sorts of knobs and screws that you need to adjust first so the cutter is perpendicular to the cutting surface.  This is important. Follow the directions and diagrams in the kit carefully.

Cutting Glass

Now, exerting firm, even pressure (you don’t have to press very hard either) and without stopping, roll the bottle or jar under your hands.  You will hear the cutter making horrible gravelly noises as you do this.  It is scoring the glass.  Keep going all the way around, until you hear a distinct click.  This is you hitting your original score mark.  Now you can stop.  Don’t score over the same spot twice.

Cutting Glass

If you don’t hit your original score mark, then you’ve messed up that particular cut.  I do this often.  I guess the pressure from my hands is uneven or something so the cutter and the bottle don’t stay where they are supposed to.  This is where the practice comes in. Also make sure all your screws are tightened all the way so stuff doesn’t shift.

Once you’ve got your cut, you can start shocking the glass.  We want to do this slowly and evenly.

Water Shocking Method:

I put a towel in the bottom of my sink, just to provide a bit of a cushion should some glass happen to drop. It will also catch the hundreds of tiny flakes of glass that fall off your bottles, so make sure to wash it thoroughly afterwards.

Cutting Glass

I have one jug of water in the fridge, the other boiling away on the stove.

Starting with boiling water, slowly pour a small stream over your score mark.  Turn the bottle so you get all sides of it.  Keep going until you can feel the bottle warm in your hands.

Cutting Glass

Now, pour on the cold water in the same way.  You’ll start to hear some cracking — that’s the glass breaking along its score line.

Cutting Glass

Keep going, alternating boiling and cold water.  There will be more cracking.  Don’t try to force the two parts of your bottle apart.  If they’re going to come apart they will do so on their own.  Just keep alternating your water and it will eventually happen.

You can see here how I etched lines in parallel rings on this jar.

Cutting Glass

And then this is how it fell apart.

Cutting Glass

They didn’t fall apart completely evenly, but as I was only seeing if cutting multiple lines at once was even possible (as the book and the ‘net both tell you to do them one at a time), I wasn’t paying that much attention to my scoring.

Cutting Glass

Fire and Ice Method:

Cutting Glass

For argument’s sake, I also did the candle method as espoused by the kit itself.

Cutting Glass

Carefully hold the bottle just above a candle flame, so the flame nearly touches your score mark.  Rotate the bottle slowly to evenly heat all the way around.

Cutting Glass

When the bottle is heated, take an ice cube to the score lines and rub it all the way around.

Cutting Glass

You will find that you have to do more repetitions for this method, but it’s slightly more accurate.  Because the bottle is more gently treated your cuts will open straighter more times than not.

Cutting Glass

Of course, if you’re cutting rings, like I was here, the fire and ice method is very slow, as you have to do each ring individually.  The water shock method is much better for cutting rings, but I would use the fire and ice method for the lips of drinking glasses and the like, where a completely straight edge is important.

Cutting Glass

Finishing:

When you have finally achieved an edge on glass that you like, you will need to grind down the edges, because this is broken glass — it’s super sharp.

The kit comes with this silicon carbide powder, which you can pour on a sheet of glass that you don’t need to use for anything else, add a drop of water, and rub away until all the sharp edges on the glass are gone.

Cutting Glass

It’s a little messy though.  I prefer emery cloth, which is basically fine sandpaper, just the silicon carbide powder is glued to a sheet of paper.  You can still add a few drops of water to it (this keeps the glass dust down), and grind away!

Cutting Glass

Make sure to get the inside edges as well as the outside edge.

Cutting Glass

You can always dip a small piece of paper in water and sand down the inside by hand.

Cutting Glass

So my first successful efforts of today produced this lovely wee glass.

Cutting Glass

Which I filled with juice.  And which I plan to later etch and give to someone.

Cutting Glass

And these rings, which I will be making into another gift for someone else.  They’re not perfect, but they’re not bad.

Cutting Glass

Stay tuned for some gift ideas and things you can do with your upcycled cut-glass projects!

Cutting Glass

Back on the Rock!

O Frabjous Day!

Today Gren and I head to St. John’s to live with the Pie.  Gren and the Pie can’t wait to meet, but it will be a looooooong journey there.

Very tiring.

Ali Does It In Ottawa

Today’s the day.

I’ve had my life reduced to the contents of five garbage bags and a set of hockey equipment and it’s time to begin some research.

So I’m heading back to Ottawa for the next nine months to work with a hockey team there for my doctoral dissertation.  The Pie is coming with me for a brief vacation with his family and my brother’s wedding but then he has to head back to The Rock in September — he has his own school to do, after all.

I’ve got a goodly set of posts-in-waiting for your entertainment while I try to put my new life (living back with my parents, eek!) in order.

It’s going to be hard to get used to my parents’ kitchen again, which, although lovely, is dark and has unfortunate-coloured counters.  I may have to improvise.

I’m going to try to keep the regular posting schedule up, but with research and everything it’s all up in the air.  Until then, stay tuned!