Truly a labour of love, Helen, David and their five children always referred to their home as The Dusun or the orchard. At first, all the rubber trees on the 12-acre lot were removed, and durian seedlings were planted. Without water, large metal barrels were used to water the young saplings.
In the 80s, they had a crooked little fireplace where they cooked and enjoyed some warmth. In those days, it was cold and windy at night, and a blanket of stars spread across the sky. Food would be brought up the hill in a cold box, and ‘showers’ meant scooping cold water out of a large earthenware urn.
When the family moved out of the little house (now Tembusu House) and into the Ibu House (still the residence of Helen and David), they got a gas-run fridge, which you had to light with a fire through a tiny hole close to the base. Imagine having your head on the floor with a lit match in your hand, trying to get it into a little hole while clicking the gas button with your other hand.
We used candles and oil lamps for light, along with fluorescent lights clamped onto car batteries. We only had electricity in the mid-2000s when one of the children had a small wedding at The Dusun, and the priority was suddenly fairy lights in the trees.
The Dusun has always been about being embraced by nature, having drinks together while watching the sunset, giant cookouts and lingering meals, poring over books and intentional walks where we notice the small and large members of our ecosystem.
When it became apparent that others loved The Dusun experience as much as we did, we opened it to the public in 2009. It was also a great excuse to build a pool.