High country — isolation goes with the territory

Bringing up the rear ... Hazel and Riley McRae helping to move stock on Alpha Burn station, west...
Bringing up the rear ... Hazel and Riley McRae helping to move stock on Alpha Burn station, west of Wanaka. PHOTO: ALLANNAH MCRAE
Adjusting to the isolation of Covid-19 restrictions has been difficult for many urban dwellers but for families on high country stations isolation goes with the territory.

Duncan and Allannah McRae run Alpha Burn Station, a 4519ha high country beef, sheep and deer farm at Glendhu Bay, 15 minutes drive west from Wanaka.

Before the Covid-19 crisis their two sons, Archie (15) and Riley (13), were at boarding school in Dunedin but they had returned home and were learning online.

Mrs McRae said both she and her daughter, Hazel (10), have had to adjust to having the two big boys back in the house.

‘‘There are more people to be fed and more mess to clean up but our kids are such a great age they are just part of the work team,’’ Mrs McRae said.

It was one of their busiest times on the farm, weaning cattle and deer and conducting pregnancy tests, but this year it has felt a bit more relaxed.

‘‘The kids have been helping a lot with mustering, and pest control of rabbits and goats. It has been great having them doing that.’’

The lockdown did necessitate one major change on the farm, and that was the installation of a bigger satellite broadband dish for the online schooling.

Starting at 9am, it involved between two to four Zoom meetings with teachers and was usually finished by 12.30pm, ‘‘at which time the boys would race to do their homework to get outside.’’

Having to spend the lockdown in the Alpha Burn station bubble had meant more time for herself.

Her garden tours were not running, and she no longer had after-school activities.

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