"Sometimes we are not really sure how it happened," says Tarina Warren about her family's purchase of Moolooloo Station.
Multi-generational broadacre farmers from Yorketown, Tarina, husband Reece and family say adding a distant property was not really on their radar.
"We love the Flinders and were always looking at ways to expand and diversify our business," she said.
"With rising land prices on Yorke Peninsula, we were pushed to look outside the square, so to speak, and outside of the region. Reece was keen to stay in livestock and the numbers just don't add up to be growing that side of the business around home so he started looking further.
"Moolooloo was actually the first property we looked at and we fell in love with it."
Located 25 kilometres north west of Blinman and 35 kilometres north-east of Parachilna in the northern Flinders Ranges, Moolooloo and Moorillah stations cover a combined area of 609 square kilometres, with holdings of about 60,700 hectares and 60,000 hectares respectively.
Since taking over in 2021, the Warrens have found themselves in a building phase. Though the land has a holding capacity of 10,000 sheep, several years of drought prior to purchase resulted in about 3700 sheep shorn last shearing.
"We only stock and breed Merinos," Mrs Warren said.
"Many pastoralists have gone away from wool sheep, due to issues around getting shearing done. However, we feel that the meat and wool market are both strong so have made a decision to stay with Merinos."
The Warren family is focussing on breeding and buying stock, rather than marketing or selling livestock.
The soils on Moolooloo Station are varied, ranging from sandy soils to hills and rocky outcrops with virtually no soils at all.
"At this early stage we have had favourable rainfall, which has resulted in the Flinders being very green," Mrs Warren said.
"There is plenty of feed for livestock which, in this early growth phase of the pastoral business, is critical.
"We have taken this opportunity to make some major improvements to water infrastructure to open up country that has not had water security for some time so that we can take advantage of areas of abundant feed."
The dry, hot periods are also important for some aspects of the day-to-day running of the station.
The Warrens find it much easier to start trapping sheep and goats in water traps leading up to mustering and shearing in February when it is hot and there is no water on the ground.
As they live at the bottom of Yorke Peninsula, time and distance from the station has been an issue, but distance on the station itself is also a huge challenge.
"Due to the vast size of the station and the rough tracks it takes a very long time to get anywhere," Mrs Warren said.
"For example, it takes an hour to drive from Moolooloo homestead to Moorillah Homestead which is 33km away.
The landscape certainly makes the job quite hard but the views to be enjoyed if you can get up high enough are absolutely spectacular.- TARINA WARREN
"The remote location is also a challenge in getting freight delivered, or getting jobs done by tradies.
"We generally run a list of small jobs that we need each main trade to do and get them done when something more urgent crops up which warrants a visit.
"The terrain is quite steep and hilly with big ridges and hills running through the station.
"This creates challenges with moving around, finding and mustering livestock and even basic communication as it hinders the usefulness of UHF radios. Communication in itself is a challenge as we have no mobile phone reception either so depend on satellite phones, which are not very versatile."
Mustering in such rough terrain can only be done on bikes with support from the air. The Warrens employ a talented and experienced mustering team and a drone and plan to trial a helicopter or gyrocopter to minimise the time and risk to the mustering crew.
Mrs Warren says the name Moolooloo comes from the Aboriginal word for rocky, slippery slope and is fitting.
"The landscape certainly makes the job quite hard but the views to be enjoyed if you can get up high enough are absolutely spectacular," she said.
"Finding shearers is always a challenge no matter where you are. We were lucky enough to have some excellent shearers come up to help out for our first shearing in March this year.
"Some local connections from the Yorke Peninsula came through for us when we really needed the help, and brought along some talent from the south east. Overall, it was a great success.
"No mains power at Moolooloo is a bit of a challenge. We run the homestead on solar, batteries and a generator. This is not very efficient so no electric heating, hairdryers or pretty much anything with an element. We run the shearer's quarters and shearing shed on big generators also, which is quite expensive with fuel prices being so high."
"To assist us with this entire enterprise, including the challenges, are our two managers. As we are still farming on the YP we have a manager at Moorillah and one at Moolooloo.
"We were lucky enough to inherit David Nicholls with the place and his lifelong knowledge of the area and several years of knowledge specific to this property have made him an integral part of the business.
"At Moolooloo we have Alf May who has a great deal of experience with rangeland goats and gets rave reviews from all of our visitors as he helps out with the tourism.
"While sharing this amazing and unique part of SA is the most fun part, our main focus remains on the core business of producing sheep and wool."
Like many stations in the Flinders, Moolooloo has incorporated some tourism in their businesses to improve business sustainability through diversification.
The Warrens joined Station Stays SA to assist with this part of the business as the umbrella organisation has a huge knowledge base about this unique form of tourism.
The station offer various campsites as well as a large shearer's quarters at Moolooloo and has recently opened a spectacular scenic drive and bush walk activity to Ferguson Gorge, which is a private gorge on the property.
This is proving popular with anyone welcome to check in at the homestead and participate as long as they have a four-wheel drive.
The summer months are generally quite harsh and the tourism side of the business closes from end of November to the start of March each year.
The time without visitors on the station is used to get ready for shearing in February and spend some time on controlling feral animals while evening temperatures are suitable for culling.
Moolooloo Station has an amazing history for both traditional owners and white settlers.
"Moolooloo is part of the land of the Adnyamathanha people," Mrs Warren said.
"The special locations for these people on Moolooloo are too numerous to mention but include sites around Third Water and Ferguson Gorge, as well as numerous etchings and paintings around the station, some of which are yet to be discovered.
"White history dates back to 1851 when the station was stocked for the first time.
"Later that decade John McDouall Stuart was employed to survey the area. At that time Moolooloo was part of a much larger run called Oratunga, which has since been split in to several large holdings."
McDouall Stuart later used Moolooloo as his base for his expeditions to try and cross the continent from south to north.
In 1861 he departed from Moolooloo on his final and successful expedition and became the first white man to make this journey.
This later paved the way for the Overland Telegraph.
Copper was also discovered in this early period and there are several very old copper mines across the station, including the popular Nuccaleena Mine, which still attracts many visitors to Moolooloo.
In the intervening 150 years there have been several owners and many changes.
Most recently Moolooloo and Moorillah were owned by the Slade family, who held it from 1962 until the sale to Tarina and Reece Warren in 2021.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.