Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tiling Job In Kerteh


It was the most inopportune time to do such a heavy job like tiling during the fasting month of Ramadhan. It was planned to be done earlier before the beginning of Ramadhan but due to the delay in completion of other job by the so called contractor, it had to be done during the fasting month itself.
My son in law Lokman had requested me to do the tiling job for his extended kitchen at his home in Kerteh, Terengganu. Since I love tiling job and the prospect of laying large 600 x 600 mm (approx 24 x 24 inc) tiles for the first time, made me accept the offer. I haven't worked on such tile size before and lacked the equipment as I only have 18 inches cutter that can cut tiles below 18 inches. I have checked around at the hardware shops and the cheapest model would cost me RM320.00. So I invested in a cheaper made in China Bossman marble cutter instead which costs only RM210 inclusive of a 4 inch disc blade. It should complement my Makita 6 inch circular saw that can be converted to a marble cutter by replacing the cutting disc to cut tiles. My earlier perception that there will not be much cutting needed since the large tiles will only be for the table tops, sides and pillars. How wrong I was as the table was only 22 inches wide and most pieces of the large tiles must be trimmed to 23 inches, the final width of the kitchen table top. As an advice to any home maker, please ensure that the kitchen table tops are designed for 24 inches and thus avoid lots of trimmings and cutting and save on man hours.
I went to Kerteh some three days before the beginning of the fasting month.

 The tools for the job.
All the necessary tools and some that maybe needed were brought along. Among the tools that I brought along are the Makita circular saw, the Bossman marble cutter, the mini jack hammer, a powerful masonry drill, the 18 inch tile cutter, an angled grinder, 2 lengths of 1 x 3 inches hollow aluminium bars and various small tools.

  The stack of tiles that I will be using.
 I had to wait for several days for other workers to complete the job or demolishing one wall of the house and concreting the floors of the extended area. At the last minute, my daughter decided to have a basinet near the dining area which requires some plumbing job for the water supply and outlet pipe. It required hacking and much dust was generated which spread all over the house despite a large plastic sheet was used as a screen.
While waiting for all these jobs to be done before I could proceed with my job, I spent time helping Lokman to paint up the outside walls of the extended kitchen.

  Balkis is always there to assist. 

  We let 5 years old Balkis to do whatever she could possibly do as a form of training.
 There were ample time for me to enjoy the company of Balkis whenever she isn't attending her kindergarten classes.

Balkis is enjoying herself watching cartoons on her mother's iPad.

Here she watches the cartoons on TV.
 When I told her to pose, these are the poses she gave me.

She is indeed a lively girl.

 Finally the floor was done. The plaster ceiling gang will move in next and they will take up another two days.

After the ceiling was done Lokman painted the ceiling.

 Finally I could start my tiling job. 330 mm square tiles (about 13 inches square) were used. Lokman got it cheap as it was on offer in Paka at RM1.50 each. The tiles were of good quality except for some with chipped sides which I had to watch out and hide them somewhere or use them as skirtings.

 When an area is done with the tilings, painting is immediately carried out. My daughter Azini too helped out.

Balkis is always there to help out.
  The biggest challenge is doing the table top for the kitchen cabinet which involved the use of the large 600 mm tiles. The place where the kitchen hob is to be placed requires cutting out a section of the tiles. My first try ended in a chipped piece and I had to do a new one. The other place that requires such cuttings was the place for the sink. Where no such cutouts were required, the job was a breeze.

The water filter was placed there temporarily as we could not do without it.

I had to invest in the bigger 24 inch cutter which cost me RM400 which I bought in Paka, Terengganu as non of the shops in Kerteh stock the cheaper models. They have the high end model of Eye brand from Japan which was offered at RM750 which is considered cheap compared to other places. Since I am not a professional tiler, the cheaper model should suffice.
The 24 inch tile cutter beside my 18 inch cutter.

 The table top and the splash walls were almost done.

My wife Fatthiyah helped out by filling the gaps with white cements where the white tiles were used.

  The dining table and refrigerator were moved to the new dining area.
The cabinet maker came to make the final measurement. They will only be moving in after Hari Raya as they have their hands full with orders.
Tiling job done. We celebrated by going to Bazaar Ramadan in Paka.

 The whole family at the Bazaar Ramadan.
 Nasi Arab was my choice. Lokman and me opted for Nasi Mandy with beef curry which cost RM7.00. I wanted one with mutton but they said mutton is too expensive.

 Colorful drinks.
 The crowd.
 Mohamad Faiq is currently my youngest grandchild. At 5 months old he had to be carried around.

 Close up of Mohamad Faiq.

 Chickens being grilled.

 Freshly grilled chicken. At this hour everything seems delicious.
 All the work was done and finally we headed for home. We took the yet to be completed Lebuhraya Pantai Timur joining it at the Bukit Besi Interchange after Dungun and exiting at the Kuala Trengganu Interchange. It was a smooth drive but driving during the fasting month made me sleepy. We stopped at a mosque along the way to freshen up. It was very risky and I almost fell asleep when I reached the district of Pasir Mas from Tanah Merah. The stop in Kg. Chekok to collect some durians which I have ordered via my cousin Aminah was a much needed break.
We reached home safe and sound and was very relieved to find our home intact even after a two weeks absence. Thank you Allah for the safe journey home.

My next tiling job will most probably be at my son Azuan's newly purchased home in Shah Alam. After that job, the investment on the new tools can be considered as recouped.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Enjoy Fresh Vegetables by Planting Your Own

This is the third time I worked on this piece of vacant land in front of my house to prevent it from becoming an eyesore and a breeding place for all sort of pests.  By turning it into a vegetable plot it will provide me with fresh home grown vegetables as well as provide me with a good exercise to sweat it out and remove those toxins from my blood system.
The first time I started working on this idle patch of land in front of my house was in March 2009. I had to stop barely after 3 months later because the land owner brought a team of surveyors to demarcate the boundaries of his 3 house lots.
Seeing that nothing was being done by the landowner after a year I worked on the land again but had to stop during the monsoon of 2011 due to the area becoming water logged as the drain that used to drain the area was clogged up with sand and debris. Together with two other neighbours we cleaned up the drain and constructed a concrete sump to prevent further clogging, thus rendering the area to be usable again.

This was how the area looked like way back in 2009. The area was covered with rumput buluh or rumput bulu (lopatherum gracile) and semalu (mimosa sp).
 I had asked my neighbour Pak Mat to join me in working the area as he had done so the fist time with me. Being old he preferred to maintain his small plot of maize and watermelon planted in rubber tyres filled with soil to raise its level for fear that a heavy rain may submerge his plants.
Pak Mat's garden.
 Pak Mat's sole watermelon  fruit only managed to grow to palm size. I doubt it can grow any bigger than this as his soil in the tyre is very limited.

Clearing up the area was much easier this time around as a neighbour had used the area for his cattles to graze and thus the grasses were kept low. In March this year I started to plant up the area with the usual vegetables which is easy to plant and which I love to eat. Yes you guessed it right, kangkong and bayam again.
A few beds were made and planted.

The initial two beds of kangkong (ipomea aquatic) and bayam merah or red spinach (Amaranthus gangeticus). All the beds were four feet wide at the base and 9 inches high with varying lengths.

 A simple shallow well was dug to provide the water. Since the land is close to an irrigation canal, the seepage from it kept the water table high. Should the well dry up when the canal is not functioning during the rice harvesting season, I will have to water the plants using water from my tap.

Another bed was added to accomodate the exess seedlings that needed to be thinned once the seeds germinated. The cangkul was all the tool I need to cultivate the soil.

More beds were created and by now I have added the ubi setelo or keledek or sweet potatoes (ipomea batatas), ubi kayu (manihot sativus) and serai or lemongrass (cymbopogon) to the list of plants found in my vegetable plot.

The kangkong was easy to plant but somehow the red spinach failed me and I had it replaced with sawi or choy sam to the Chinese.
Young kangkong plants will taste great especially if it is fried with belacan. I prefer it in soup with rice noodles garnished with a rich dose of fresh prawns.

The sawi (Brassica sp.) or choy sam to the Chinese isn't our favorite vegetable and after the first crop, I stopped planting it.

My first bed of sweet potatoes and beside it the newly planted tapioca bed.

The maize plot is growing very well. Soon I will have them boiled.

The plot is enlarging.

Where I threw my previous crop of red spinach, a new crop emerges. What luck.

My gardening tools with my gardening shoes.

My sweet potato is nearing maturity after 3 months.

The exposed tubers after some digging.

The harvest from the first bed of keledek. Though not much, the nearest neighbors will get them too.

The proximity of the vegetable plot to my house made it possible for me to tend to the plants daily.

With enough exercise working on the plot, I am eating well and putting on weight. I am looking forward to Ramadhan and hopefully a month of fasting will help to shed off some fat. The produce from the plot will be shared with the neighbors some especially those that suppled me with seeds and manure. It will be payback time and thank you Allah for allowing me to gain some pahala sedekah.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

DIY And Save Yourself Some Money

When my daughter in law Noralyani wanted to prepare a concrete working area at the back of her house covering an area of approximately 100 sq.ft., she was quoted at RM3,600 for the job. She felt that the amount was too much as it would only be a temporary feature as one day she may want to extend the kitchen as being done by her two immediate neighbours. After discussing with her husband, they decided to enlist my help since I was coming to Kuala Lumpur for my 40th  Year Reunion Dinner with my classmates, The Class of '72 College of Agriculture Malaya. on the 16th of June. I had a few days to spare before I leave for home on the evening of the 19th of June.
Having told Yani to order some sand and cement and a few tools such as the spades and a piece of 4 mm plywood for the job, I came to KL bringing along along from home some of the required tools such as the cement trowels and whatever else I could carry in my bag.
To help me with the job, I had roped in my son in law Ridzuan who happened to be home for the weekend.
The work area measuring 10 ft by 13 ft need no earth cutting as the highest end is at the right height and only the lower end needed to be filled in. A low brick wall was laid on the lower slope using cement bricks. Then sand was used to fill in to the desired level.

Ridwan helping to fill the area with sand while grandson pretended to work.
Work was continued the next day. Some manual compaction was done to prevent sink holes from developing. When that was done a lean cement mixture was laid and leveled so that water will flow towards one corner nearest to the drain hole.
The day ended with Ridzuan asking to be excused for the next day as he needed to rest his aching body on Monday to be ready for work on Tuesday. (Monday was a holiday for Israk Mekraj in Negeri Sembilan where he works).
I was in a fix as I need to lay another layer of cement rich concrete before I can consider the cement rendered surface done. I didn't have anybody to assist me on Monday and doing the job alone could be too much for my 62 years old body. Suddenly Yani volunteered to assist me saying that she was eager to learn a thing or two on how to do the job. 
Yani helped to carry the sand from the front of the house to the back using a wheel barrow, making the dry mix, later mixing the cement/sand mixture with water added.  When we were laying the final layer, she even volunteered to do the back breaking job of the final plaster and finishing stroke to bring the surface to a shine. Wow! That saved me a lot of backache.
That night Yani offered to take me for a massage so that I will recuperate fully before my trip back to Pasir Mas. I declined the offer as I know my body could repair itself and thus saved the money for other things.

Who says menial jobs are for men only? My daughter in law proved that women can do it too and even first timers can DIY (Do It Yourself) if you are willing to try.
All in all we spent less than RM600 for the purchase of the following items:
                    3 cu. yds of sand.
                    4 bags of portland cement.
                  100 cement bricks for the retaining wall and sink stand.
                    1 length of half inch diameter PVC pipe and pipe fittings.
                    1 faucet
                    1 second hand stainless steel sink.
                    1 roll of brick mat which I forgot to use.

With a saving of RM3,000, don't you think DIY is worth a try? The reward is numerous among which you learn how to do things new to you. You also learn to appreciate how tough it is for those who do such work for a living. The biggest reward is of course proving that you too can do it if you set your mind to it.
During difficult times, saving a few thousand ringgit is definitely good for the family.