Gert Swarts brother farmed on Kruispad. In 1910 Gert Swart bought the piece of mountain land, now known as Ravenna. There was nothing on the land except stones and bushes. A man named Adam, built the original house. Gert Swart and his wife Lettie lived here. They had one daughter called Minnie. She was born in 1912, and got married to Koos Nel in 1936 who then farmed on Rietvlei. They had two children. In 1939 Koos went to fight in the Second World War. In 1945 he returned from the war, and Rietvlei farm was sold. Koos then came to live with Minnie on Ravenna (her birthplace)
The piece of land was between two rivers with the Langeberg Mountains at the back. The Huis river came down on the right hand side of the koppie were the old Homestead stood (Thorntree cottage is still part of the back of the original building) and the Dams river on the other side of the “Boesmangate” (The Koppie at the left of the monument). The Huis River was flowing permanently in those days with fresh water from a fountain in the Langeberg Mountains. The farmland had plenty of water and the ground was very fertile along the banks of the river. The rainfall was higher and there was enough grass for a small herd of milking cows and a flock of sheep to graze on. The Mountain at the back of the farm also provided good grazing.
Aunt Minnie’s father, Gert, contacted a surveyor, who was a good friend. He was an Italian who lived in South Africa for two years. The day he arrived to survey the land, he was astonished to find the place looking so familiar. The rugged mountain at the back with its sandstone formations and the beautiful ravine on both sides, sloping downward towards each other looked so familiar. This, together with the variation of vegetation along the banks of the river, and Karoo Koppies reminded him of his birthplace in Italy. He then asked Aunt Minnie’s father, to name the place Ravenna, which is a beautiful town in the fruitful valleys of Italy. Apart from its beautiful scenery, the town is also famous for its cathedrals and Mosaic works.
MORE ABOUT LIFE AND FARMING IN THE FIFTIES ON RAVENNA
When aunt Minnie and Oom Koos came to the farm in 1945, aunt Minnie immediately told her husband that she wanted a garden, otherwise, she would not stay on the farm. The Homestead stood on a dry rocky koppie surrounded by Karoo bush and fynbos. A “bloekombos” was on the West Side of the house. She felled all of them and burned the stumps. The burnt remains of some of the stumps can still be seen in the garden in front of Thorntree cottage. After that was done she started to plant her lawn, but this was not an easy task either. The problem was that there was no soil to grow the lawn on. She then started crushing the sandstone and leiklip with an axe. This loose rocky “soil” she mixed with compost from the cow shed. She got a few loads of kikuyu grass from a farmer down the road and planted her grass. With regular watering, feeding and loosening the soil with her axe, she expanded her lawn to where the Jaarboom is situated today. It was very hard work, with long hours in the hot sun, but she was satisfied that she could now make a living here.
But a nice home and garden, and the milk money ( the old part of the barn still exists where the cows had been milked) was not enough to make a living. Her husband started planting apricots (Beluda) for drying, yellow peaches, guavas, prickly pears, quinces and a few almond trees. He ploughed the land on the other side of the river where he planted wheat for the sheep and cows. During the summer months her husband took the sheep and cows to graze high up in the mountain. Sometimes she made him coffee and sandwiches and then took it to him. It was a two-hour walk to reach him up in the mountains.
In 1981 aunt Minnie had to have hip replacements in both her hips and they had to sell Ravenna and move to Ashton. Aunt Minnie still comes to visit us and always has tears in her eyes, as she loves Ravenna and has many memories here. She is a wonderful lady and I am sure as we do, you can feel the warmth of aunt Minnie on Ravenna to this day. Come and see the before and after Photo Album of all the new improvements at Ravenna since December 2004.