Special feature: Skid-steer nuns

A group of Carmelite nuns are using a Bobcat skid-steer to help restore a dilapidated farm in the Czech Republic

The order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns have moved to a new home in the village of Drasty

For the past three years a group of nuns in the Czech Republic have been renovating their new home taking on most of the work themselves and even learning to drive a Bobcat skid steer.

The nuns are learning to drive a Bobcat skid steer

After more than two centuries living in a monastery in Hradcany square next to the castle in the centre of Prague, the order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns moved to a new home in the village of Drasty, to the east of the city.

The group have been renovating their new home for the past three years

When the nuns first moved there back in 2018, the farm, which dates back to 1305, was in a poor, dilapidated state. However, the sisters have worked hard since then to turn it into a new convent complex that will serve the people of the local community.

One of the more ambitious tasks the nuns took on was learning how to operate a 1997 Bobcat 773 skid steer loader, but it didn’t take them long to master it.

The 773 loader, like many other Bobcat machines of this age, is still in good condition thanks to its robust construction and regular servicing and is more than able to be used to carry out a lot of hard work.

The machine’s owners kindly loaned the Bobcat to the nuns who mostly used it with a bucket and pallet forks. Sister Milada says: "When we bought the area in Drasty it was clogged up with a number of landfills and overgrown with mature trees.

Knowing that we would not have enough money to repair the whole yard, we decided to do some work on our own or with the help of volunteers. "We soon found out that we needed machines and equipment for these difficult initial jobs, so some of us learned to drive a tractor, use a chainsaw or brushcutter and to operate the Bobcat loader.

The Bobcat helped move around large tree stumps

"The latter helped us a lot right from the beginning when we needed to move around any heavy materials, especially large tree stumps for burning. Later, we used it to transport pallets with bricks, soil, stone, for landscaping in the meadow and to add gravel to the roads in the forest park.

The machine was on long-term loan

"We had the long-term loan of the Bobcat loader, and our Sisters Terezka and Sara found that after renewing their driver’s licenses when we moved, they were only a short step away from operating machines like the Bobcat."

The nuns had decided that their former home was too noisy and did not offer enough space, so by moving to Drasty they have much more room, including a much bigger garden and they are closer to nature and the community.

Sister Terezka added: "I like the very simple, intuitive operation of the Bobcat loader and the fact that it can be used for many different tasks. "It is excellent for transporting any heavy materials, so that we do not have to carry them by hand in wheelbarrows.

It can be used to get to less accessible places and it is very handy for various landscaping and levelling tasks, many of which we have completed with the machine. The loader has saved us a lot of time and energy."

In March 2020 the nuns opened the Manor House, which provides them with temporary accommodation and will later be a welcome point for visitors. In October last year a construction company started work on a new convent and church in a contract signed with the sisters.

This followed on from three years of work by the sisters and volunteers to prepare the land and forest on the estate for the construction work.

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