18 May 2014

Weed ID, please

Can someone identify this weed for me? I'm assuming it's a weed based purely on the fact that I didn't plant it and it's growing incredibly well.  Any self-planter that thrives is suspicious, in my mind.

It has a small leaf, with a reddish under-leaf colour. It forms a thick mat, up to ankle deep. Very shallow roots - pulls up in mats rather than clumps. It runs up/down rocks. At the moment it covers most of our second tier in the back yard - about 15 x 3 metres. It seems to prefer the slightly sunny sections; growing thicker where there's more sun.

Top side of the leaves

Underside, showing red tinge to leaves and stalks

Quite a small leaf

A section that I threw in the wheelbarrow

Growing up the rock wall. That's the toe of steel-cap in the corner.
The section Hamlin-the-Chook (as in I am the Pied Piper) and I cleared this morning. The weed is still thick to the left-hand side.

Edit: Someone suggested Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis). The descriptions I can find certainly fit. Seems it likes a bit of light; doesn't do so well in closed canopy forests - so hopefully smothering it with weed cloth and maybe some cardboard should kill it off completely. Not so sure how I'll tackle it in the retaining walls.

14 May 2014

Insulators

I received this article this morning. The writer is not Australian, probably doesn't even know we've had an unpopular budget handed down. The protagonist of his introduction is a mystery to me; I've never heard of him.

However, I couldn't help but think that many of our politicians (of all ilks and stripes) are insulated. Insulated from the real world of every day people; every day people struggling to pay their bills, provide for their families and feel like they're getting ahead, at least a little. And certainly insulated from the real world of our country's poorest - those doing it tough through no fault of their own. Of course, that insulation means our pollies are unlikely to accept that it is through no fault of their own. And even if it is of their own making, what difference does that make to an empty stomach?

How does a 17 year old who's been kicked out of home keep life and soul together if they have to wait six month for government assistance? How does a family affected by natural disaster and a downturn in the local economy, leading to job loss, keep a roof over their head if there's no financial advice available to them? How does a disabled person, who is turned away from job after job because of their ailment, feed themselves?

I have no idea if this budget will adversely impact my own situation. No doubt it will. My concern is broader than just the budget. Our politicians seem to have become more educated and less intelligent in the things that really matter.

11 May 2014

Carleen and Tom

Carleen and Tom are a young English couple living in Australian. They're getting married soon. I used to work with Carlee and we had arranged to catch up for breakfast this morning. On Friday I suddenly thought I ought to organise a wedding gift. Hardly enough time to make a quilt (bwahaha - my quilts usually take years, not hours or days).

I started with a card. I've been aiming to make a card every day or so, to build up my "on-hand stock". It was nice to have an actual recipient in mind.
The card is 9x4 inches, and based on an idea in the "Cardmaker's Sketchbook" (I will post about it - it's a wonderful resource.) It is black card, with a strip of gold hearts on clear velum. The stickers are el-cheapos, trimmed and repositioned on cream card. The velum is partly attached by the two visible brads, and partly by tape under the stickers. Inside is a piece of silver paper for the message.

I asked my online quilting group, Quilting Down Under, for ideas for a personal wedding present. Someone mentioned cushions. I know Carleen & Tom have two beautiful Bengal cats and they're a bit cat mad, so I looked for suitable images for a matching pair of cat cushions. Instead I found a lovely abstract of two cats. As it was too long to go on a cushion, I changed directions and made a small wallhanging.

When I was finishing it I remembered I had a cat wire hanger. Not sure where it came from; might have been a swap. I've had a small hanging on it for years - my very first practice block of hand quilting. But, really, it's neither here nor there to me and it is perfect for my cat hanging.

The two cats are Australiana fabrics I've had in my stash, left-over from a quilt I made in Perth (over 12 years ago). The border squares are from my 2 inch scrap stash. The background and binding are plain black homespun.

The squares in the border are pink/red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple - there's three fabrics for each colour, two squares for each fabric (i.e. six squares of each colour). I was told years ago that the secret to any scrappy quilt is to repeat fabrics. Apparently, if you repeat fabrics you can basically get away with anything. Where possible I have chosen either Australiana or cat fabrics.

The cats are appliqu├ęd with machine blanket stitch. I quilted in the ditch between the centre and the border, and shadow quilted about 1/4 inch from the edge of the cats. The whole thing is very approximately 20x10 inches.

I'm quite happy with the result.

07 May 2014

Unit value - learn some algebra, save some money

Today I went to buy ink for our you-beaut printer. Actually, I do really like the printer. The paper tray is enclosed, so the paper doesn't get all bent out of shape and dusty. There's a built in scanner, which is super easy to use. And the print quality is good.



But the ink is a scam.

At the store I was faced with a selection of ink for my printer. I really only needed black, but as I have no spare cartridges at home (a dangerous situation) I thought I'd grab some colour ones while I was there.

I had two size choices - normal, which is approximately 250 pages of black ink and 300 of colour ink, and XL, which is approximately 550 pages of black ink and 750 pages of colour. I'm sure the page quantities are exaggerated, based on pages with minimal printing, but that's the quantities nominated on the box.

I also had a choice of multi-packs or single packs. We are trained by ... well, I don't know what we're trained by actually ... but we are trained to think that "bigger is cheaper". But as I looked at the multi-packs I thought perhaps I was being conned. I dug out my notebook and calculator (phone) and did some quick sums.

Now, some people say algebra is a waste of time, but what I did was algebra. Taking the price of the package and dividing by the number of pages it will print will give the cost per page. Multiply that answer by 100 (for ease of comparison) gives you a cost per 100 pages.

And here's what I found:

A single black XL cartridge costs $4.72 per 100 pages.
A combo of 3 normal black cartridge (touted as being a bargain deal) costs $6.47 per 100 pages.

The cheapest way (that this store offered) to buy black ink is to buy the black and colour Xl combo box ($3.50 per 100 pages of black and $3.58 per 100 pages of colour). Online I can buy a pack of four XL black cartridges for $3.50 per 100 pages. Oddly enough, buying a pack of 15 cartridges costs $3.83 per 100, and a pack of 10 costs $4.11 - both cheaper than buying a single cartridge, but dearer than buying a four pack.

It pays to never assume that bulk is best and to work out unit prices, for which you'll need a smattering of algebra.