Layers of history on Rietpoort Farm

Fancy a stay on a historic Karoo farm? Try Rietpoort, 30 km north of Victoria West on the road to Britstown.  This farm lies right alongside the N12 and its “modern history”, say owners Dirk and Naomi Ras, begins in the 1700’s, when nomadic European farmers moved into the hinterland and started settling down. They chose this spot because it was near a spring, a. source of life for ancient people and animals. It still supplies sufficient water for household needs, irrigation and a poplar grove as well as an ancient orchard with 150-year old pear trees. Ruins of an old watermill bear testimony to the fact that flour was once milled at this spring. The foundation stones of the first cottage are still clearly visible near the current homestead, which is over 200 years old and was built from stone and clay brick. Its walls are half a metre thick.  Floor and ceilings planks are of yellow wood brought from Knysna by ox wagon.  In time, sash windows and Oregon pine shutters were added as well as a Victorian veranda. “In the 1920’s, when my grandparents married, pressed steel ceilings were installed in the dining room, reception rooms and main bedroom,” says Dick. A slave bell adorns the front porch.  Other structures, once built as dwellings still stand but, over the years, have been turned into stables and barns. Fortunately, many interesting original features, such as “brandsolders” (old fire-ceilings) of reeds and clay and lofts with wide support beams still exist. There are also signs of ancient civilisations across the farm and there is a fascinating patch of fossilised mudstone. Dick once found a stone tool in an ancient “work area” near some ostrich egg shards. There are also rock engravings of eland, elephant and other animals. “One depicts a creature that looks like an ancient sabre-tooth tiger,” says Dick. “We also have a Bushman piano, made from specially positioned sections of dolerite which emit different notes when struck with another piece of rock.”  Old stone kraals date back to the early 1800’s when predators roamed the Karoo and it was essential to bring in all livestock at night.  “Over the years, the dung in these kraals became so thick that sheep could jump over the walls. The dung was so compacted that a special implement had to be used to cut it into sods which were used to heighten the wall,” said Dick.  Rietpoort is now part of the modern world and runs on solar and wind power.


© Rose’s Roundup, February 2011 (No 205)

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