Monday, November 29, 2010

I Want You, You Want Me - A Love Story

I can think of a number of other titles for today's post:

- Romeo and Juliet, Malaysian style
- Forbidden Love
- Murder, They Wrote
- English, as she is displayed
- Micro Fiction Monday (except that my post is never 'micro' :)

The Malay language is supposed to be an easy language to learn, at least the spelling part, as she is phonetic. Well, some people think it applies to English as well.

Here's the story behind the picture:

"Ah Chong and Mei Ling grew up in the same village. From childhood friends they became lovers by the time they were teenagers.

When they finished their studies they told their respective parents that they wanted to get married. But the parents, being traditional match-makers had other plans for them! They had already chosen their potential spouse since they were kids - a tradition and a promise that could never be broken.

Ah Chong and Mei Ling were broken hearted.

They decided to go into business and set up shops next to each other, so they can see one another often. The nature of their business may be different but they sure express their desire for one another clearly."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ne Me Quitte Pas

I used to be madly in love with this song - If You Go Away - Sung beautifully here by Dusty Springfield. (Dusty's life story was turned into a musical in 2000, "If You Go Away" was chosen for the climax of the show).

The lyrics (French version by Jacques Brel and English by Rod McKuen) are deep and meaningful.

The song brings to fore a heart-wrenching desperation, and hope...( the poignant "But if you stay..." passage comes from Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 3.)

If you go away 
On this summer day 
Then you might as well 
Take the sun away 

All the birds that flew 
In the summer sky 
When our love was new 
And our hearts were high 

When the day was young 
And the night was long 
And the moon stood still 
For the night bird song 

If you go away 

But if you stay
I'll make you a day
Like no day has been
Or will be again

We'll ride on the rain

We'll sail on the sun
We'll talk to the trees
And worship the wind

Then if you go
I'll understand
Leave me just enough love
To hold in my hand

If you go away 

But if you stay
I'll make you a night 

Like no night has been
Or will be again

I'll ride on you smile
I'll sail on your touch
I'll talk to your eyes
That I love so much

But if you go
I'll understand
Leave me just enough love
To hold in my hand

If you go away 

If you go away
As I know you must
There'll be nothing left
In the world to trust

Just an empty room
Full of empty space
Like the empty look
I see on your face

Oh, I'd have been the
Shadow of your shadow
If I thought it might
Have kept me by your side

If you go away 

Please...don't go

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am Thankful For...

I am so lonely. I am all alone - always am at this time of the day. It's so easy to get depressed when you are lonely. But as I write, overlooking the front door and as I watch the sun shines through those leaves and those reflections, I began to reflect on things I should be thankful for.

Instead of getting depressed I am making a conscious effort to be thankful, and say hey, things could be worse, my friend. Much much worse.

Thirty years ago I was advised against thinking in that manner for it was not good for your ambition. You should always compare yourself to people and things that are better, to spur you to greater achievements.

Well, that was thirty years ago, may be I needed that then. For now I'm just thankful:

  1. That on this glorious day I'm at home, writing this, and not on an island anywhere near South Korea
  2. That my families and friends are safe and sound too
  3. That I'm able to do what I like doing, in complete peace and freedom
  4. To Grandma for giving me that space, and for being forever more understanding and caring. Of course she can be many other things as well, but to wish for Mother Theresa, Oprah Winfrey, and Nigella Lawson or Anna Olson all rolled into one is a bit of wishful thinking, isn't it?
  5. That my children, though none with double Ph D's are all gainfully employed and earning an honest living. I would really love to see them and wish that they are with us more often and for longer periods, but that's what you get for bringing them up to be busy and to have their own families. I used to dream of becoming Papa Walton, with all my children, their wives and our grandchildren living under one roof. But it's not meant to be, they had to go away...oh, how I miss them...
  6. That in this country food is still plentiful. Granted the cost is increasing every day but you still get to eat what you like, when you like it. It is depressing though to see food being wasted when there are so many who still go without it. 
I'm thankful that my right and left brain are of equal size, as it were: when
undergoing assessment for entering higher secondary school (when 'streaming'
into arts or science was done), the principal couldn't give me a clear advice.
He told me I was okay in both the arts and the sciences, 
so I could choose either. That was a great help!

Now you understand why I'm neither a rocket scientist nor a Shakespeare, 
but just a humble farmer who blogs! I have been blessed with the opportunity to explore and experience the best of both worlds.

Okay I didn't win the Second Crusader Challenge as many one or two thought I would, but, hey, I made a lot of friends and learned more about writing. I'm
grateful for that.

(You'll notice that I've given up on the numbering, Google Chrome is starting to play tricks on me...but no sweat, nobody's counting anyway).

I am thankful that I didn't squander all my money on women wine and song while working, so I was able to build this little nest and buy me this Farm, mua ha ha...

I am grateful that my durians are flowering profusely, and early too. That would mean bountiful harvests and earlier than others to the marketplace, which in turn means some income with much more for family and friends to enjoy.

So the next time you are about to get depressed, remember things could get much worse. Count your blessings.

With every breath we take we have been trained to say two things: God willing, and thank God.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

This post is inspired by L'Aussie. Check out what she's thankful for here. Thanks Denise!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mangosteen - The QUEEN of Fruits

What would the King be, without the Queen. If Durian is the King, mangosteen is known as the Queen of fruits*. If you somehow had gone overboard with your indulgence, nature is at hand to provide relief.

This sweet tasting fruit will neutralise the 'heat' from the Durian. So where possible these two types of fruits are taken one after the other.

Where there's Ying, there's always Yang to balance it up. Life, after all is about balance.

*There is a legend about Queen Victoria offering a reward of 100 pounds sterling to anyone who could deliver to her the fresh fruit.[14] Although this legend can be traced to a 1930 publication by fruit explorer, David Fairchild, it is not substantiated by any known historical document yet is probably responsible for the uncommon designation of mangosteen as the "Queen of Fruit".[14] Wikipedia.

Monday, November 22, 2010

DURIAN - A Quote and A Warning

Writing in 1856, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace provides a much-quoted description of the flavour of the durian:
The five cells are silky-white within, and are filled with a mass of firm, cream-coloured pulp, containing about three seeds each. This pulp is the edible part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience. ... as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed.[22][a]

Quote from Wikipedia.

My Indonesian friends told me the 'saying' is no longer true, so for the sake of good neighborliness I'm taking it out - bisa aja pak!. Durian being an aphrodisiac has not been proven scientifically, so I better don't make any statement which can be construed as a claim. You will have to try it for yourself to find out.

DO NOT however, over indulge: too much of this fruit will overheat your body. Drink plenty of water if you do. Folklore has it that if you drink the water using the husk as a drinking 'cup' your body will not feel the heat. Again this has not been proven scientifically as far as I know.

It is not advisable to consume alcohol after eating durian.

Next: how to balance it all up...

Friday, November 19, 2010

DURIAN - The KING of Fruits

Heavenly - the thick, creamy flesh that everyone's waiting for

It took the husband of blogger Pat, who blogs at The English Cottage to figure out what the Green Berry was. Congratulations!

Who would ever imagine that these tiny berries will develop into huge thorny fruits weighing as heavy as 4kg each!
You can witness the transformation right here, as I walk you through the stages of this amazing, most popular fruit in Asia.

It is the start of the durian season on The Farm. Families and friends will be eagerly looking forward to the 'feast' when the fruits finally ripen. But they will have to wait for the fruit to drop, and then struggle and  manoeuvre their fingers through the sharp thorns to open it, before they can finally savour the divine flesh. It's worth the wait and the struggle, they'll assure you.

Here are the trees from where the photos of those berries were taken:

The kitchen window looks out to the backyard where
a durian tree grows, the afternoon sun shining through.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Green Berry Part II - More Clues

Thanks everyone for participating in the Green Berry Quiz!

 I will now show a few more photos - see if you can figure out with the extra info at hand.

Here are my comments on your attempts, which are very much appreciated:

Melissa, you are right, they are not quite berries yet, but will soon be. Compostpyle, they are neither goji berry nor wolf berry - we don't have them around here.

Jenny, I'm surprised you haven't seen these, but can't blame you, you are a writer, not a farmer...! Lee, they do look like langsat don't they, except langsat grow closer to the trunk (shorter stalks), shown below:

These are 'Langsat', really sweet and tasty fruit

Chai Chai, Nancy, they are not Acai berries even though we have a type of palm tree that produces fruits similar in shape to them. These berries are not from palm trees.

Thanks also to Clarissa, Laura and Rayna, whose comments I had responded to individually earlier.

Faith, I was about to post this when your comment came in! You made me laugh over googling images for tropical fruit trees to find the answer! And you had analyzed well too - as to why they are not eggplant or longan...

Here are some more clues:

This is how they looked like two weeks before

As you can see they sprout out from  branches
 and trunks of a tree, not a palm tree

Could they be Grapes?

These are at slightly more advanced

Would you care to try again?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Green Berry

Here's a little quiz: What berry are these?

In the next few months I'll be talking a bit more about them...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Monday

Ah great! Monday is here at last!

The wait for the weekend to be over was agonizingly slow...

Sunday night was a sleepless one as you waited impatiently for dawn. At first light you are already at your table in the office.

It's kinda like the farmer sipping his morning coffee on the verandah watching the sunrise.

 Mondays at the office are full of dramas.

There was this story where an office boy was clobbered by his colleagues on a Monday morning: He saw a group of office workers loitering around the water cooler, and had innocently asked: "Is today Friday?". Big mistake.

Friday is a day full of sadness. You are bidding good-bye to a beautiful week. You are not quite sure how to get over Saturday and Sunday before welcoming Monday again.
May be you should spend Saturday at the office. Then Monday will come sooner...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Retirement - what does it mean to you?

I've had quite a few feedback via comments, text messages and e-mails from my last post, especially on the subject of retirement. So let's talk a bit more about that, shall we?

The fact is one day we will  retire - due to age and a host of other reasons. So why not plan for it?

If 'retirement' conjures up the image of you either slouching on that couch, or walking aimlessly around, then you shouldn't be here. I'm not promoting flat screen TV or old folks home!

My definition of Retirement is: "Breaking free from full time employment where you are paid by the hour, (or monthly over here) by the government or the business owner"

It is a time when you can take it easy, or still work your butt out, at your own pace, in your own time. The choice is entirely yours. It is the time of your life when you get up in the morning not because the alarm clock just went blurring and start to jump up and down. You get up when your rested body tells you you've had enough sleep and is ready for another interesting day. That may even mean getting up much earlier than usual.

Upon retirement you may work even harder, provided you choose to do something you are passionate about. That passion can be something you are having fun with, or something that's bringing you a lot of income, or both. You are no longer paid by the hour or a fixed sum at the end of the month no matter how hard you work.


You will no longer miss the opportunity to have fun or to make money, or to do both. Opportunities pass you by when you are still in the 9 to 5 (or 7 to 11) job because your nose is so deeply buried in the grindstone you just don't see them, even if they are right in front of you. Even if you see them, you won't be able to do anything about it because all of your time is taken away by your job.

Think carefully however before taking the plunge. Ask yourself these questions:

Do you love your current job?
Do you get up every morning roaring to go?
Do you spend enough time with your family?
Are you having fun with what you are doing, or is it so stressful that it is affecting your health and your relationship with your spouse/children, and friends?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ten Great Reasons To Retire on A Farm

My last post created more than cursory interest on the subject ranging from owning and living on a farm to goat rearing. I received enquiries and e-mails from people wanting to visit The Farm too.

I realise that farm life is not everybody's cup of tea, so this post is dedicated to those who have the intention of retiring to a farm somewhere, but are not convinced that it's the right thing to do. Well, I'm here to help you make it happen!

In this respect I find it easier to deal with women. So let me deal with them first: Women either love or hate farming. The few in the middle are forced into the life of slavery frugal and healthy living because of circumstances (which is unfortunate, but we can always hope that they will come to love farm life).

The majority of women who enjoy farm life despite the hardships are caregivers - they care for and devote (and I mean real devotion) their entire existence to the family. I follow the activities of more than two hundred such blessed souls through their blogs. This is a tribute to these lovely ladies and their lucky families.

With men it's a bit more complicated. First there's the ego issue. Then there's the dilemma - should it be the beach house or the farm house? Before I go on let me point out that this mid-week note is not for the rich and famous ( I don't think Leornado DiCaprio or Julia Roberts read blogs anyway), nor is it for the filthy rich who can retire when and where they like.

 I am dedicating this to Joe Public -  to people like you and me.

I am talking about wage earners who hopefully have saved enough of their after-tax take home pay plus their 401K or the Employees Providen Fund or their pension money, whatever the case may be, for retirement.

 Retirement doesn't have to be when you are 55 or 60 or whatever the 'official' retirement age is in your country. Retirement is when you are ready to lift up and take your nose away from the grindstone, look up at life and begin living it. And I say go ahead, get yourself a farm or an orchard and spend your retirement there.

     Consider the following:
  • If you are retiring away on your own, believe me, you will appreciate the space (literally and figuratively)
  • After the initial euphoria of the long-awaited retirement, which lasts about two weeks, you will find it tough going to get through the twelve hours daylight sitting around the house, and another twelve to get you through the night. There's only so much sleeping you can do. So it would be a great relief that you could be away from the house, not just for a few hours, but a few days, weeks or even months
  • The couch and TV remote will have one less competition
  • Consider this: you will be walking around in a vast open space with a pruner instead of a five iron in your hand - I find that a delightfully attractive alternative
  • You get more exercise, fresher air and the same sunshine you get on a golf course minus the stress and frustration.
  • As you walk you get to talk to your animals and your trees which don't talk back to you, unlike your golf buddies
  • You can still go fishing, in fact the river running beside your farm may be teeming with fish
  • You can stop and smell the flowers, as often as you like
  • If you have been working in the city, thirty years of inhaling polluted air is enough, isn't it?
  • Instead of walking your grandchildren in shopping malls, walk them around your orchard where they can feed the animals and climb the fruit trees. It's good for them, good for you too.
But you need to be ready and be committed. Don't say "one day I'll do it", instead say "I will have enough money by ......" (insert date), in order to retire to....." (insert name and location of farm). That's call a plan, not a dream.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Day in the Slow Life

This is a meme.

I was picked by Ohio Farm Girl (OFG) who blogs here to share a day in the slow life.

In her words "This meme is a great way for non-farmy folks to see what really happens in our everyday...and how the slow life rocks". In the case of yours truly OFG wants me to also talk about the transition - from the corporate world to the solitary existence on The Farm. She also wants me to say something to those desiring to take the leap.

Others who had started or who had been involved with this meme in one way or another are:

Mr H:  and


Apart from me other lucky guys picked by OFG are:

So clean your boots, get out of those farm clothings and get into something more comfy, make yourself a cup of your favorite coffee, for here goes:


What lies behind and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what
lies within us.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My first transition was from a cushy government job, where I lasted one and a half years, to the private sector. Not many people were willing to take that risk. More than ninety percent of people from my ethnic background work for the goverment. That made my survival even more questionable. My colleagues said I was insane. May be they were right. But I wanted to apply myself fully and hopefully realise my full potential, something I couldn't do in a govt service environment.

I joined a company that was based in England, but has its roots in France. I thrived on the challenges that the commercial world brought. I enjoyed the interaction, the camaraderie, and the travel, which gave me considerable exposure to the rest of the world which I never would have imagined had I stayed put in my old job. And the perks - ooh, a brand new car fully maintained by the company every four years, full medical cover for the whole family, and a very comfortable income, especially considering our local cost of living was not very high. The company did treat you like one of its valuable assets.

In the course of my work I visited the rural areas and spent a considerable amount of time on farms and plantations (rubber, oil palms). One day an orchard owner told me his old fruit orchard was for sale. Since I had always wanted to own one I bought it without much hesitation. Since I was still working I could only be on  the orchard on weekends and holidays. I planted new seedlings as the existing trees were quite old. It turned out to be quite an investment.

I knew that I would want to get away from the city and live on a farm when I retire. The orchard that I just bought was not suitable as a homestead. Furthemore it was some three hours by car from where I lived. So I continued my search for a piece of land or an existing orchard that I could turn into my retirement home.

I found this place by the river at the foot of a mountain. It was surrounded by jungles and mountains, and was quite far away from the villages. Perfect.

In the meantime things were changing fast in the company. It was the era of mergers and takeovers. I stayed on and helped integrate employees from various backgrounds and cultures so that the new entity could function well. After that it was time to throw in the towel and pursue my personal dream.

I sold the first orchard, at almost double the price I bought, to help me finance and concentrate on the new one. This new place was then without electricity or piped water. I was going back some fifty years.

To get water I stationed a water pump by the river. A hundred foot fire engine hose was connected to it, then to pvc piping which carried the river water into two 200 gallon concrete culverts. From these tanks there were outlets connected to a network of smaller pvc pipes which irrigated the newly planted seedlings.

For lighting I bought two kerosene lamps, and much later, a generator set.

Then I had to leave for Australia where I spent a couple of years living and having a great time in Perth, Western Australia (a story for another day, perhaps?).

I had fertilized the farm well before I left. With our abundance of rain and sunshine, but no looking after, the farm turned into a secondary jungle upon my return. It was difficult to walk around with bushes and lalang (Alang alang in Indonesia, or Johnsongrass in the UK) chest high. Some young trees were either gone or were hidden amongst the bushes. Fences were down. Buffaloes had trampled their way in.

I spent a considerable amount of time and energy chainsawing the jungle trees that grew side by side with my durian and other fruit trees, clearing the weeds and bushes, treating diseased and dying plants, and planting new ones. After the weeds were cleared I planted the Axonopus or carpet grass to prevent erosion and more weeds growing. The fences had to be mended.

Then the farm house was built, and the animals brought in. First was the four month old rottie and mongrel, then the goats, and the chickens. In December last year electricity came in, and just before that the water supply. So I am quite civilised now, more at ease in welcoming family and friends to my home.

For those desiring to make the transition, make very certain this is what you actually want to do. Or this is the life you want to lead. It is not instant paradise. You have to turn it into one. I have seen many abandoned orchards after their disillusioned owners found it tough going, or they couldn't stand the sound of silence and the solitude.

You must have the passion. You must have the money, too. You'll be spending to buy stuff, to maintain or repair them. You need to buy food to feed the animals. Income is not a certainty, especially if it's a hobby farm. Work are plenty and endless. In case you missed that: they are plenty and endless. But your passion (or insanity) will take care of that.

I am normally up by 6 a.m. If the weather is good and I don't expect any rain, the first thing I do is set up my four gallon knapsack sprayer for a few rounds of weeding. Not that I have much weeds. But you have to keep at it. The lalang especially. Slashing or mowing will just make this weed spread its underground rhizomes even more.

By 10 a.m I would be back at the house for a light breakfast - toast and a cup of tea. If I feel like it I'll cook a pot of rice and then mix it with tin food for Ella and M. They just love this. Otherwise it'll be just a bowl of dry pellets each.

I then let the goats out. While they roam about feeding on the grass and brushes, I'll feed the chicken and replace the drinking water. But I have to keep watch over the goats too, to prevent them from eating shoots off the young trees. Ella tries hard to be a shepherd too.

One of the goats has an infection on the chest. If I don't treat it it will spread deeper, becomes septic and the goat may die as a result. I use hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound, spray a wound dressing to prevent flies landing and laying eggs on it, then inject an antibiotic.

A quick clean up for lunch, which has to be simple - may be sardine sandwich - since you don't  have the time to prepare an elaborate one, and are not in the mood to change from your dirty and smelly clothes into something cleaner to spend time in the kitchen.

After lunch is inspection time. I'll walk the entire fence perimeter to see if the wild boar is at it again. If during the night the dogs had been barking their heads off and you could hear them chasing and panting, chances are you'll find gaping holes somewhere. These need to be sealed back, at least temporarily before the more permanent work of putting concrete is carried out. That'll be for another day.

I also inspect trees for disease or insect attack. These will have to be treated sometime. Did I tell you it's a lot of hard and never-ending work? At this time I will also prune all water shoots and unwanted branches. This will reduce vegetative growth and encourage flowering, which is really what you want at this stage of those trees.

Towards evening I'll clear the pond and its surrounding, and feed my Tilapia. Today some friends are coming over, so I'll catch a couple of big ones (not the breeders) for the barbi. An otherwise lonely night will be quite a noisy one tonight.

 Yes, it's not all hardwork, we have some fun too.

So you still want to be a farmer? Why not. You will be away from all the pollution and traffic jams. You will be physically very active, which will do your aging body a lot of good. It's good for the soul too, by the way, if you are into praying or meditation. And of course you can WRITE! The tranquility of your surrounding is just perfect for these therapeutic activities.

The English may not be quite right, but I think
you know what this guy wants you to do

I want to pass this on to three others who may wish to share their day in the slow life:

Thank you all for taking the time to read my stories. And thank you OFG for giving me the opportunity to tell them.