This week we volunteered with Zvoneček, a local affiliate of the Czech Union for Nature Conservation. The group educates, promotes and advises on the importance of conservation throughout Prague and its surrounding towns. One of its areas of focus is the maintenance of natural meadows in the region. Our family knew very little about meadows prior to working with the group. While we still couldn’t consider ourselves to be experts, we definitely left the experience with a greater understanding and appreciation for the ecosystems existing within these important grasslands.
Semi-natural hay meadows have become one of the scarcest grassland types remaining, yet they are important habitats for many different plants, insects and other wildlife. An important step in maintaining these areas is, surprisingly, cutting them. By mowing meadows at specific times of the spring and summer seasons, farmers and, in this case, conservationists, ensure meadows and the many species living within them continue to exist.
We woke up early and drove west from Prague to reach a gravel road outside the town of Cerhovice. While we waited to meet up with the folks from Zvoneček, the girls spotted two deer frolicking through a nearby field. It set the tone for the day quite nicely. Gabriela, Teresa and Peter arrived soon with their van full of equipment and supplies. After walking through a field together, we arrived at the meadow we would be cutting. Throughout the day, Gabriela mowed and Peter weed-wacked, while Teresa and the rest of us raked the grass into piles which will later be hauled off and fed to local livestock.
Though Gabriela and I weren’t certain how much the girls would be able to participate with this project (given the behemoth grass cutter and loud weed wacker) they did a great job of raking. Plus, there were plenty of trees to climb and forts to invent in the woods bordering the meadow when they needed a little break. The only downside of the day came when Emily got stung by a massive hornet. However, the little trooper was back at raking a short while later.
Our day was cut short when dark clouds rolled in and began dumping rain on us, forcing us to make a mad dash back to the cars. We send out a big thank you to Gabriela, Teresa and Peter for letting us help them for the day. We’re going to try to give them a hand in another meadow before we leave the Czech Republic in September. That’s 9 service projects down, only 91 to go – slowly but surely we’re getting there!