WHISTLE AND HUM – My Sustainable House Concert Tour – USA 2013

I couldn’t believe it when I logged into my website and realised the last time I’d paid a visit was almost a year ago. It’s certainly been one hell of a year and as my baby daughter Matilda turns one I ponder the epic events of the past 12 months right up to the very last minute.

On April 5th baby Moo celebrated her first birthday. A momentous occasion considering that she was engaged in a struggle between life and death on the day she was born and then some. For those who didn’t know it Matilda was born with a rare condition called a giant exomphalos. Her liver, stomach and intestines formed in a sac outside of her wee body and just before she arrived the sac ruptured. Our baby was just the 2nd in New Zealand to receive a pig skin graft on her belly after having her organs reduced back into her tummy. It was terrifying to say the least. Her tiny body hadn’t grown to accommodate the organs that formed outside so everything on the inside was compromised while an ambitious medical team tried to squish them in. Yet squish them in they did. Her lungs were forced up while her little belly stretched out and out till she looked fit to burst and my husband Locky and I watched on in horrified anticipation. I journalled the whole emotional adventure of Matilda’s first six months and photographed her wound day-by-day so that in years to come she would be able to understand what happened. Last week the NICU medical team sent a gift in the mail for Matilda thanking her for the photos we took and the journey we allowed them to share at an International conference that allowed others to learn from Matilda’s experience. She’s helping people save other babies lives and even though I still sob at the memory of her vulnerability during those critical moments and of not being able to hold her for so long I feel honoured that I have my beautiful baby girl and that her experience was not in vain. What a little champ!

Matilda
Matilda

When we found out about Matilda, just 2 weeks before our wedding day and my 30th birthday Locky and I had been living in Byron Bay, NSW Australia where I was part of a fabulous cabaret-bluegrass duo called The Swingin’ Cowgirls with Australian country music award winner Kathryn Jones. We were pumped and on a musical high, performing in both Australia and NZ and making our first waves on the Australasian music scene. It was a heartbreaking but fast decision we made to move home to NZ to have our baby and the support of our wonderful families, but not before Jones and I did one last fabulous tour together of the South Island of New Zealand and the Northern Rivers of NSW. It was a fabulous experience and we were welcomed back to every venue with open arms. The gig in a mongolian gur (tent) made out of yak skin had to be our most unusual and fragrant gig of that tour, although a huge success. I miss you Kathryn Jones.

Swingin Shoot in Hawea
Swingin Shoot in Hawea

Since moving home and between regular medical appointments, various ground splitting earthquakes and waiting 5 months to finally take my baby home, we’ve been doing our best at living off the land. Based in a stunning valley in Central Otago we call ‘The Nook’, Locky and I feel incredibly stoked to be bringing up our child on the land where my husband was raised. We have apricot, plum, pear and apple orchards, berries, veges galore, free-range meat and chooks down the road and we’re looking into growing our own grains. It really takes getting away from the hussle and bustle of the big smoke, or even small towns, and being in the quiet with your hands in the earth to really realise what tuning into mother nature truly means. Don’t get me wrong. It’s bloody hard yakka some days. There’s always a full days work to be done which is pretty much impossible with a baby. Which is why I’ve recruited the help of wonderful wwoofers (willing workers on organic farms). We’ve had a string of multi-talented travelling hippies from all around the globe pass through our home looking to develop their knowledge of sustainable living so that they can take a piece of it home with them. They work 4hrs a day in return for a bed and meals. The food is always our forte with up to 90% of the meals served up coming from our land or just beyond. It’s something I feel proud of and I have noticed a huge shift in my own body and digestive system since making such a big change. My father-in-law would roll his eyes, having only lived this way and say “You young people”, but I say a discovery like this is better late than never. Bring back the old ways that our bodies instinctively know how to do. Tune in!

The Nook
The Nook

The greatest moment of the past year was when Matilda’s surgeon looked at her and said he didn’t need to see her for a whole year. I cried with joy. Since then I’ve relaxed and enjoyed watching her grow and develop into who she wants to be which is energetic and cheeky. I want Matilda to see me and her Dad shining in our bliss and doing what feels most right. Locky is a beautiful builder and wants to commit his craft to more sustainable options of working and living. Treated timber and using his body like a pack horse is not part of this equation and so although it’s a slow progression he is incorporating natural ways into his daily methods. He used no treated timber when building our tiny home and he is always researching earth building and other ancient building techniques. I admire his passion and his drive to find a better way. One that probably existed hundred of years ago. It’s funny how we humans go round in circles. It seems we have to be sure that the good things we have found are really good so we mess them up before we finally arrive back home again.

Cherrylicious
Cherrylicious

The next phase of our journey is my up-and-coming ‘Whistle and Hum’ tour in the United State next year. Inspird by New York musician Gideon Irving (mynameisgideon.com) who cycled around NZ performing in peoples homes, the plan is to travel with my little family through sustainable homes in the United States performing house concerts and sharing knowledge with like-minded folk. I have a whole swag of new material that I’m excited about sharing and I will be recording my new album in August with a collection of talented friends and family. Because we are travelling through family homes and there will be children around too I am aiming to include a few and exciting project I’ve been working on. Alfred and the Raccoon is a children’s story I wrote some years ago and I managed to record an audio book of it with my good friend Jared Keesing while Matilda was in intensive care. I wanted to create something for Matilda during that time but it turned out so cool I want to share it around. I’m currently illustrating the book with the hope of finishing it before my tour mid next year.

Alfred and the Raccoon
Alfred and the Raccoon

Matilda’s first birthday was eclipsed by the heartbreaking and quite shocking death of my Aunty. She passed away the day before Matilda’s birthday. It shook our whole family, namely her 3 beautiful children and we spent our Easter trying to come to terms with the fact that she was really gone. I still don’t quite get it. What I do find incredibly poignant about the whole thing is that exactly one year on from our experience with Matilda we are once again reminded about the fragility of this life and how important it is to live it to the fullest. There are no second shots. You only have one obligation and that is to shine your brightest. My Aunty certainly did that. She was a star. I’ll miss you Moonie.

Moonie and Moo
Moonie and Moo

I’ve just restoked the pot-belly. Matilda is fast asleep upstairs. Lily dog is dreaming she’s chasing rabbits, however in her dreams she actually gets one. Good girl Lily. I wonder if she can hear me teasing her in her sleep. My goal is to put together some fundraisers and apply for some funding through Creative NZ and anything else I can find that will support me in making this a reality. I have a plethora of wonderful, supportive and talented people all around me and I extend out an invitation to you all to become part of this tour and the sustainable approach of bartering, swapping and good old-fashioned help rather than always depending on money. This is a tour I will talk about for years to come and an opportunity that will teach my children, and yours, that you are truly the master of your own destiny. Graphic designers, photographers, promoters, audio engineers, (nappy changers ;O) harmonizers, word-of-mouthers, promoters and noisy people, dancers, videographers, You name it! I need you.

Thanks for sharing the journey. It’s going to be a goodun!

The Family
The Family

Watch this space

Love Anna xoxo

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