Nuns learn to operate Bobcat loader to restore new home

NUNS in the Czech Republic have been learning to operate a Bobcat skid-steer loader in the restoration of their new home.

After more than two centuries living in a monastery in Hradčany Square in the centre of Prague, the order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns has moved to the village of Drasty, to the east of the city.

The former farm has a history dating back to 1305, but when the nuns moved there in 2018, it was in a dilapidated state. Bobcat revealed the sisters have worked hard to turn it into a new convent complex that will serve the local community.

The nuns have employed a variety of techniques, including the use of a 1997 Bobcat 773 skid-steer loader, which they have learnt to operate themselves.

Because of its age, the owners of the machine did not use it regularly and lent it to the sisters. The nuns have been using it in a basic configuration with a bucket and fitted with pallet forks to transport materials about the site.

Sister Milada, a member of the order, said, “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 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.

“At the start, when we needed machines, we would source them with operators. But we soon found out that we could operate some of them ourselves, so we decided to buy or rent the machines and operate them ourselves. We had the long-term loan of the Bobcat loader, and our Sisters Terezka and Sára found that after renewing their driver’s licenses when we moved, they were only a short step away from operating machines like the Bobcat.”

Sister Terezka, who has been operating the loader, added, “I like the very simple, intuitive operation of the Bobcat loader and the fact that it can be used for many different tasks that need to be done here. 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.” 

Reconstruction of the convent complex has been gradual. 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 following three years of work by the sisters and volunteers to prepare the land and forest.