Retirees living off the land
BEFORE retiring Ong Sun Moi and her husband M.K. Arumugam had already decided that they would move to the countryside to grow fruits and vegetables.
It was a decision to go back to the simple life and away from the city. In fact, they bought three acres of land in Kuala Sawah in Seremban about 16 years before she retired.
“We bought the land because we love nature and it’s a great way to enjoy the countryside. There are so many things to do instead of being cooped up in a terrace house in town. We were looking for land and this one came along,” says the former school teacher, aged 64.
After buying the land, they started cultivating it, although initially they did not know what to plant.
“It was a jungle when we bought it. We had to hire workers and get the tractors to clear the land. The experience of growing fruit trees, vegetables and herbs was accumulated along the years. First we planted the trees with my late brother-in-law’s help. He helped us initially when we needed to measure the distance between the durian trees, for example, because they can’t be too close to each other.
“At first we planted fruit trees, and later on we grew vegetables and herbs when we had more time to spend on it,” explains Ong.
She and Arumugam, 70, who is a former law lecturer and ex-Assemblyman of Rahang, Seremban, take pride in their fruit trees and vegetables.
The fruits they grow include durian, rambutan, nangka, cempedak, ciku, mangoesteen, starfruit, jambu batu, jambu air, soursop, papaya, pineapple, banana, pomelo, mango and avocado.
As for vegetables, they have sawi, kangkung, sweet potatoes, tapioca, okra, eggplant, spinach, pumpkin, cauliflower, chili and kailan.
And herbs: Thai basil, sweet basil, Indian borage, daun sambung nyawa, peppermint, sawtooth coriander, neem, misai kucing, and aloe vera.
They also have flowers! Here’s what they have: hibiscus, water lily, kesidang, rangoon creepers, blue pea, Japanese roses, and passion flower.
“We both love nature. The desire of leading a healthy living free from pesticide, living in a natural environment among plants and animals, and have a really beautiful and peaceful home and a good lifestyle after retirement inspired us to buy this land for cultivation,” say Ong.
She and her husband believe there is no better food than home grown vegetables, and no better and cleaner water than home-dug well water. In addition, there is no better air, than fresh morning, evening and night cool air blown from the trees around the house compound.
They also enjoy the music provided by the birds every day. According to Ong, they have all sorts of birds around them, including the yellow myna, crow, kingfisher, magpie, swallow, stork, hawk, owl, green pigeon, and sparrow.
More joy comes from the fact that their grandchildren love visiting them and seem to be proud of their grandparents and how they live.
Ong reveals that when they started growing the fruit trees, they didn’t realise they would have uninvited visitors dropping by.
“There are lots of wild animals like monkeys and squirrels in this area. At first we didn’t know, so we planted pineapples near the fence and it attracted a lot of wild animals. Now, when the durians start dropping, I throw them over the fence for the animals to eat.
“We learnt along the way. I think it’s fun. With forests being cleared, the wild animals have nowhere to go. We have a soft heart for them, so we share our fruits with them,” says Ong.
In fact, when the fruits are in abundance, Ong and Arumugam sell them to friends at a reasonable price.
While it seems like a lot of work, Ong reveals that they don’t work outdoors all day.
“We don’t use pesticides or weed clearers, so we cut the grass ourselves. It usually takes one or two hours in the morning. Then we have lunch and relax. In the evening, we clean up the garden a bit and tend to the fruit trees, vegetable garden and animals. It’s fulfilling and it’s quite a nice life. It’s time-consuming but we enjoy it.
“It is very good for retirees to cultivate their own land. In town, the old people sitting at home have nothing to do. They seem to be waiting for the end to come. Being out here in the countryside, we have so much to do and we also have our hobbies, and we have the animals around to admire and play with. In fact, we feel that the days are passing so fast. But, it definitely offers a better life for retirees,” says Ong.
She and Arumugam always welcome visitors to show them around and educate them about plants and fruit trees.
Main photo: Ong Sun Moi and her husband M.K. Arumugam in their garden.