Becoming a Yard Champion with Troy-Bilt and The Home Depot Canada

 

A dream of mine when I moved to British Columbia was to have a big piece of land that was close to the water. I pictured something where I could create an outdoor oasis including veggie garden beds, a place to raise chickens, big swaths of lawn for playing sports, with enough space to let dogs run and a place to host friends and family outdoors.

If you want to own a big piece of land, one of the first things you need to think about is getting yourself a big ol’ riding lawn mower. (Insert Tim Allen grunt here)

 

A riding lawn mower is not only a great investment to help ease the burden of maintaining a big lawn but personally, I actually enjoy getting out there, putting a good podcast on or my fave playlist and bopping away in my own little lawn cutting haven.

Spring is in full swing out here on the west coast and the Home Depot Canada and Troy-Bilt wanted to help me become a full-on yard champion this spring by equipping me with the Troy-Bilt 15.5HP 42” Foot CVT Gas Riding Lawn Mower and the Super Bronco Rear Tine Tiller – two outdoor tools that will most definitely help me win at yard work and take steps towards my dream of having a super spiffy outdoor oasis.

My first experience with the Troy-Bilt riding lawn mower was exactly what I pictured. The sun was shining, and this baby was purring! I had let the lawn get pretty long because we had several weeks of rain, and I wasn’t able to get outside. A good test for the mower and boy oh boy did it pass with flying colours. It fired up quickly and easily, and was an absolute beast as I ripped around the property.

The mower’s huge 42″ deck helped speed up cutting time and it also has a 5-position height adjustment setting which really helped me get an even cut. I liked the responsiveness of the foot pedals as I navigated my way around the lawn adjusting the speed or reversing as I needed to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best parts? It even has a cup holder for your fave cold beverage on a hot summer day!

 

Then I moved on to the rear tine tiller.

I have to be honest, I’m a tiller newbie. I’ve never used one before and I even had to explain to a friend what a tiller is! In case you didn’t know, a tiller is used to dig, loosen, and break up hard ground into smaller chunks to create a new garden bed that’s suitable for planting (whether its flowers, veggies or fruit.) A tiller can also be used for removing weeds, blending manure and compost or improving drainage.

Now that we’ve got that covered, you also have to decide between a front tine and rear tine tiller. Front tine tillers are smaller and a bit more maneuverable and rear tine tillers are for larger areas. I went with the Troy-Bilt Bronco rear tine tiller. This tiller has a 14″ tilling width which is great because it works with my current garden (which is a little bit smaller) but it’s also suitable for bigger gardens (like my future dream garden!) To break it down a little further (tiller pun intended!), a tine is another name for a blade found on a tiller.

Being a first timer, I was impressed with how easy the tiller was to use. Learning how to work the tiller with the forward and reverse handles was really user friendly and intuitive. The machine fired up quickly and easily and I didn’t struggle with it at all. I’m often the person that just tries to figure something out without reading the instructions (not always a good idea, but I’m stubborn! Haha) but because I’ve never used a tiller before, I read through the whole manual. The instructions were clear and easy to understand, which was great because there was also a little assembly required.

I really put this tiller to work! Not only was the ground a bit mucky, it was also rocky in some areas and the tiller cut through all of it without any hesitation. This was where the self propelling feature really came in handy. I never had to struggle or really push the machine too much because it did all of the work for me! You can also easily set the depth of the tines from behind the tiller to adjust how deep the tines go into the ground.

It would have taken me all day (at least!) and a lot of achy muscles to do what this tiller did in under half an hour. I can’t wait to put it to use again and I’m so excited to have added a tiller to my gardening repertoire!

These Troy-Bilt products are available in store at the Home Depot Canada or online homedepot.ca through standard or express shipping or free pickup in store. Products over $35 are even eligible for free shipping!

Happy spring and best of luck with your yard, champs!

 

This post is sponsored by The Home Depot Canada. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words.

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How did you get into the trades? (The Long Answer)

This question is – without a doubt – the most commonly asked question I get. We still live in a day and age where it’s unusual to see a woman wearing a tool belt. Women are severely under represented in the male-dominated skilled trades sector.

As quoted from a recent Macleans article, “women’s representation in many trades, including automotive service technician, electrician and carpenter, is less than five per cent. (The numbers are even smaller when it comes to women of colour. The same CAF-FCA report says, “nearly half of Red Seal trades have no visible minority women, and the other half only between one and 12 per cent.”)

It’s no wonder that it’s a little shocking to see a woman walking into a job site – let alone running the job site, owning the contracting company, hopping on the tools and purchasing and working on her own houses. But it took me 15 years to get to this place and I had to start somewhere.

This is where my story begins.

I think it’s important to note that there is a short answer. I went to an all women trade school. Full stop. But we all have so many different factors at play in our lives that I believe the whole story is just as important as the short answer.

For as long as I can remember I have been an active person. I love sports and play. Growing up I was incredibly blessed to have a diverse array of activities at my fingertips. I participated in gymnastics, dance, baseball, soccer and took riding lessons.

Reflecting on this and the question of how I got into the trades, it was actually a conversation with my mom where something interesting came up. She mentioned to me, “You know Kate, you didn’t just want to play baseball as a young girl, you wanted to play hardball, with the boys”

kate's baseball picture

 

So like the good supportive parents that they are, they signed me up! She went on to talk about how the first time I walked onto the baseball field, the boys on my team wouldn’t throw the ball with me. And how I sat on one end of the bench and all the boys sat on the other. She mentioned a blissful ignorance of the fact that I wasn’t completely accepted by the team because I was a girl. It wasn’t until I stepped up to the plate and my team realized I could actually hit that they gave me a chance. (and for the sake of the story I always say that I hit a home run, but in reality I probably just held my own, running around the bases with a huge smile on my face). In time I proved myself and was finally looked on as part of the team. She continued to say, “And Kate, you did this year after year, new team after new team, proving yourself and holding your own in a world full of boys”

kate's baseball picture

 

It’s always interesting to look back on certain moments in our life with a different lens, isn’t it?

Fast forward to high school where the pressure really starts to mount on students to choose their career path. I was an academic student, taking all university courses based on the fact that I was told that was what I was supposed to do. But this is where I really started to get confused. I was being told I needed to go to university to be successful, but I didn’t want to just go to university, well, because?

So I did what most students do when they need help. I sought out guidance from my school’s guidance counselor. By this time I was in Grade 12 and apparently really needed to figure out my life path. The interesting dilemma was that I walked into the guidance office and immediately noticed that my transcript was out on the desk. Even though I mentioned that the only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life and that I loved being active, the question wasn’t, “Kate, what do you love to do? What would light you up inside?” It was, “Kate, you’re graduating with a 92% academic average, what university will you be going to?”

kate's high school picture

 

I was so lost and this meeting didn’t help so I did the only thing I thought I had to do. I applied. I applied to five schools and was very fortunate to be accepted to all of them, WITH academic scholarships. I remember clearly, sitting at my kitchen table talking with my parents and feeling so conflicted. I had the opportunity in front of me to go to university, ‘the path to success’ that is prescribed to every student. And I didn’t want it. I couldn’t just go because I was supposed to. I remember voicing these concerns to my entrepreneurial parents. My dad had never gone to school, college or university, yet built and owned several businesses over the years and had had success in his own right. My mom on the other hand, had gone to university but hadn’t pursued her chosen program after graduation. It was at this time that my parents gave me one of the biggest gifts a parent could ever bestow on their child, the gift of unconditional support no matter the choice. I clearly remember my parents saying to me,

“Kate, we believe in you, we’re proud of you and will support you no matter what you choose. You don’t have to go to university to be successful, you need to find something you love doing”

In hearing those words I felt like there was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. In that moment I decided that I wasn’t going to go to university. I was going to TRAVEL! (I’m not sure if my parents were, in fact, completely 100% supportive of their teenaged girl leaving for four months to backpack around Australia and New Zealand, but they put on a really brave front)

Whenever someone asks me how I gain clarity in my life, one of the main things I always reference is my love of travel. I love it for so many different reasons; the fact that it expands your world view, it grounds you, it introduces you to different ways of living and people of all walks of life. Travelling at this point in my life was formative because I realized that there were so many different paths I could walk down in my own life. Although I was hearing a lot of “What do you mean you’re not going to university!?” from well-intentioned people who were close to me, I now knew that, just because the society I lived in was telling me I ‘had’ to do something, didn’t mean I actually did ‘have’ to.

I came home a different person. Full of life and enthusiasm. I had done a lot of reflecting as I travelled. I always thought my dream job would be a National Geographic photojournalist. It combined three things that I loved. Travel, taking pictures and writing, so I applied and was accepted to college for photojournalism in Alberta, half way across the country (I live in Ontario, Canada).

As fate would have it, a couple of months before I was supposed to pack up my bags and head out west, I had an extremely bad horseback riding accident where I basically ‘90 degreed’ my femur (you know it’s bad when the paramedic cries), which resulted in an emergency surgery, a metal rod from my hip to my knee and multiple pins, bed rest for a month and learning to walk again over the next year.

If you know me (and my parents definitely know this) I’m also very stubborn, so I was determined to still move to Alberta and start my program. I packed up everything (read: my mom packed up everything as I sat and watched helplessly) and we flew across the country to move me into my dorm room. Everything was challenging. I was given the ground floor of my dorm but hobbling around campus on crutches in the winter, with my books, laptop and camera gear proved extremely challenging and painful. I wasn’t in a good place mentally and was on pain killers to get through the day. I was away from friends and family and after a couple of months I realized that it just wasn’t a good time in my life and that maybe, although I enjoyed all of these things individually, it wasn’t meant to be my career.

Kate Campbell

 

I packed everything back up, tail between my broken leg(s) and headed back to Ontario. Now not only had I chosen to not go to University like all of my friends had done and as I was told I ‘should’…I was also a college dropout. To say that I felt broken and lost was an understatement.

Fast forward a couple of months and I was back home, sitting at the same kitchen table where my parents had let me know that I had their unconditional support no matter what. My mom slid a newspaper article across the table to me, casually mentioning that she thought this course would be something that would be really appealing to me. It was an article advertising a Women In Skilled Trades course offered out of The Centre for Skilled Trades in Burlington, Ontario. It was a three month pre-apprenticeship program introducing 20 lucky applicants to the world of skilled trades, including carpentry, electrical, plumbing, fine carpentry and building code while also offering support with employability and workplace preparation, aimed at helping women feel comfortable in male-dominated work environments. It was also a fully paid program supported by the Government of Ontario in an effort to encourage more women to enter the trades.

Initially, I have to admit, I was a little hesitant because I had never considered a career path in the trades, because it had never been presented to me as a viable career path. But something clicked in my mind as I thought it through. I would be working with my hands, I would be active daily (and after having broken my leg and having the ability to walk taken away from me, this was of utmost importance), I would be challenged constantly and I would have opportunities to learn the basics but also to upgrade my skills until I was able to start my own company, if I wanted. Last but not least, I thought, even if I don’t want to pursue a career, I do want to own a home one day and would prefer knowing how to do things for myself instead of relying on someone else to do it for me. I was sold. There were over 200 applicants for the prestigious 20 spots. I consider myself very blessed to have been chosen as one of the women accepted into the program.

I can still remember my first week. Filling my tool belt with my new tools. Getting a new pair of work boots and using a circular saw for the first time. I. Was. Hooked.

That program allowed my confidence to grow amidst the loving support of 19 other women who were equally as enthralled with the work but intimidated at the idea of entering a workforce of mainly men. That course was my safe haven to learn as much as I could before I took my first shaky steps onto a real job site. Unlike the blissful ignorance I had as a girl playing baseball, I knew entering the skilled trades’ workforce would have its challenges. I knew I would stand out. But I also knew, from the moment that I picked up that saw and built a wall for the first time, that I had found something that I was passionate about and that it was worth it.

I was fortunate to have that Skilled Trades course under my belt (pun intended) because it really did help me get my boot in the door in the “real world”. I wasn’t walking onto a job site blind. I had skills – I knew how to use tools – so for any young girl or woman who is thinking about entering the trades, it is my hope that you also have access to a course. I love that mine was all women, but not everyone is that lucky.

I don’t know if I would have ever found myself in the trades if it weren’t for my parent’s encouragement and the WIST course. I believe everything happens for a reason and every single step leading to that moment contributed to my decision to enter the trades. And that’s why I like to tell the whole story.

Love and Light,
Kate


It is a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions of people have ceased to use their hands as hands. Nature has bestowed upon us this great gift which is our hands. If the craze for machinery method continues, it is highly likely that a time will come when we shall be so incapacitated and weak that we shall begin to curse ourselves for having forgotten the use of the living machines given to us by God. -Mahatma Gandhi

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Taking Off the Mask (and not the one you’re thinking about)

For as long as I can remember I have journaled. I can even recall, as a very young girl of 5 or 6, receiving my very first diary as a gift. I was SO excited. It was white and pink (as most young girls things were at the time and still are – much to my chagrin – more on my thoughts about that in a later post) and I can still remember its ornate golden lock and clasp. It was all mine and I was so excited to have a place where I could write.

I remember journaling half sentences – misspelled words and all – about everything and anything in my life. Many things I wrote about I didn’t understand, some I did, but I wrote anyway. I wrote about my grandpa passing away (I didn’t really understand but could still feel the heavy sadness surrounding me) and I wrote about my Aladdin Soundtrack on tape (yes, tape – as in music, on tape) and my bright yellow walkman that I had and loved because it gave me the freedom to listen to music any time I wanted…and I wrote about anything that popped into my mind, caught my attention or piqued my curiosity.

English was my favourite subject in school (other than gym – I’m a tomboy and super sporty so gym wins every time) and I loved writing so much that initially I thought that I wanted to be a photojournalist for National Geographic and (little known fact) I even went to school for it at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), which at the time, had one of the only Photojournalism programs in Canada. (In another blog I’ll also address why I didn’t end up in Photojournalism…life has some interesting turns and this was one of them)

All of this to say that I’m starting a blog…about, well, everything.

I’ve been privately journaling for years but when it came to thinking about writing and putting it out there for the world to see, I either never felt the need, didn’t make the time or to be honest, mostly felt like I didn’t have something valuable to say.

The funny thing is, I actually think everyone has something valuable to say but much like myself, feel they aren’t good enough, aren’t smart enough, aren’t interesting enough, to share themselves with the world. I believe most of us walk around with masks on (and I’m not talking about the medical masks we all now wear because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic). The mask I’m referring to is something we have all been wearing way before the pandemic began – maybe even since we could start thinking for ourselves – for our own self-protection and self-preservation in a society that asks us to fit in, sit down, don’t be too loud, don’t stand out. So we wake up daily and put our mask on because to take it off and be truly ourselves seems incredibly scary and utterly impossible. Sometimes I think we wear our masks so long that we really do believe that’s who we are.

I’ve been doing A LOT of reflecting since my dad passed away two years ago and I’ve found that whenever I share the realness of my life, my happiness, my grief, my weirdness aka my uniqueness, my mistakes and in reality, whenever I take the mask off and share “me”, the real ME, I feel so much more connected , big picture, to humanity and life in general. I believe we all yearn for connection, to be seen and to be understood. I know I do.

So here’s to taking my mask off and to a new chapter of sharing…the good, the bad, the goofy and everything in between.

Love and Light,
Kate


Ps: Here’s one of my favourite poems that I read periodically to remind myself to let my own light shine <3

Text on paper

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