Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, November 06, 2017
Life on Muzzle - NZ's most remote station
Random House NZ
Life on Muzzle
Photography byDerek Morrison
‘After the wedding, we went on our honeymoon to
Akaroa. After the first day, we got pretty bored and decided to come home
early. That’s how it’s always been with us — there’s always so much going on
here that if you are not home you feel like you are missing out.’
Guy and Fiona Redfern may have missed Muzzle Station
when away on their honeymoon but they aren’t the only ones to have pined for
the station when away from the place.
Dwayne, the big tabby cat, clearly wasn’t happy with
having to move to Kaikoura with Fiona’s parents when they retired. Not long
after Colin and Tina Nimmo had settled in to their new home, Dwayne
disappeared. The family joke was that he’d packed his bags and headed back to
the station, but that’s exactly what he’d done! Astonishingly, he turned up
back at the Muzzle some five weeks later. Not only had he walked for weeks,
Dwayne would also have had to cross a mountain range and swim the mighty
Clarence River to get back to his beloved station.
Remote Muzzle Station in southern Marlborough has
captured the hearts and minds of generations, including Fiona Redfern and her
parents before her, not to mention cats.
Now Fiona and her husband Guy, both Lincoln University
graduates, are running the station and raising their two small children in this
wonderful but challenging environment.
And, as if she doesn’t already have enough on her
plate, Fiona Redfern has now written their captivating story in a new book, Life
Although Redfern would argue that she’s just an
ordinary mum, juggling busy family and station life and trying to get a
work-life balance, the book’s cover with Guy, Fiona, baby in backpack, toddler
and dogs in tow, set against the breath-taking, snowy mountainous backdrop
suggests life up at Muzzle is far from ordinary.
Taking over the station from her parents Tina and
Colin left Fiona Redfern with mixed feelings and she still very much misses
having them there to guide them but there’s no doubt that the young couple are
relishing the chance to make Muzzle their own.
They’re not only facing the same climate extremes that
generations before them have, they are determined to make the station the best
it can be, navigating all of the thorny environmental and best practice issues
facing farming today.
Although Muzzle over the summer months is a
surprisingly social place with people coming and going all the time, the
Redferns have decided not to look to tourism as an alternative income stream,
instead opting to focus on farming. They believe just as important as
protecting the fauna and flora, they are also committed to protecting
traditional high-country culture and ‘retaining a reasonable extensive
traditional farming system’.
Most of their merino wool is contracted to Icebreaker.
They run a large herd of Hereford breeding cows, and the house cow herd. They
also have horses on the station and run a stallion for broodmares.
Like for most women, life with two busy youngsters has
meant Redfern has had to put her ‘day job’ — which she has always adored — on
hold, but she still runs a large and productive dairy herd and helps Guy
whenever she can. She alludes to the fact that, although having a young family
is the most rewarding of all, she does miss not being able to give the station
her undivided attention just at the moment. As the children become less
dependent, she looks forward to being back at Guy’s side as his ‘main labour
Although day-to-day life varies enormously, a ‘normal’
day for Fiona will probably be something along the lines of: organise the kids,
feed the chooks, milk the dairy cow, feed the lambs and pups, shift fence
breaks, smoko, correspondence pre-school work with Arthur, their eldest, and
then the rest of the day’s work will vary enormously depending on the season.
And, although the internet has meant that even the
most remote high country stations like Muzzle have never been more connected,
the 2016 quake was a dramatic reminder of just how vulnerable these remote
stations will always be at the hands of Mother Nature. The main vehicle access
through the Kaikoura range was completely gone, slipped away and littered with
rocks as a result of the earthquake and the only way in and out of the station
was by aircraft for over a month.
As the crow flies, Muzzle Station is not too far from
Kaikoura. But quakes and other natural disasters aside, it’s never been easy to
get there. First, the truck — and it has to be a truck — must make it across
the Clarence River. If the river is swollen or in flood, there will be no
journey. Once safely across, there are more than 25 smaller river crossings and
a 1370-metre-high mountain range to get across. If all goes well it takes three
hours to make the drive, but it is often blocked with rockfalls and slips, not
to mention snow, or rain that turns the track’s clay surface to mud, rendering
it completely undriveable. There is another option. On a good day, it’s just a
15-minute flight by Cessna 180 four-seater aircraft to Kaikoura. But good days
are not always easy to come by in this part of the country, especially when
they are needed!
This is the story of family life and a modern young
couple on New Zealand’s remotest station, and what it’s like to live and work
in what is literally the back of beyond.