Have your ever noticed how tasks done with the right tools can often go from tedious and tiresome to enjoyable and invigorating?
I helped a friend put in some plants earlier this summer and all she had for the job was a weird half height shovel (actually knee height) whose handle was loose. When I showed up with my regular old garden shovel in good repair it was like a revelation to her (and me too). Suddenly digging a hole was easy and enjoyable and her plants could go in swiftly and simply rather than being painfully back-breaking.
It reminded me that even though I have a far more advanced set of tools than she does, there are plenty of jobs I am not doing, and projects I am not tackling because I dread the labor and difficulty that I know it will entail. Tools – and having the right ones – make all the difference.
Realizing the holes in my arsenal, I made some changes and bought a few things, agreed to try out a few things and generally sought to upgrade my gardening experience. So as we head into the holiday season, I wanted to share with you some of the revelatory tools that I started using this year. These are things whose quality or design have truly made a difference for me and meant that I could create something that previously I could not. All of them have brought me some level of enjoyment, but mostly they have brought me time and they have reduced my stress – which – if you ask me – is wonderful gift to give.
I am going to follow-up this post with at least one more – (there are more tools to share!) – but I am going to start with the Troy-bilt string trimmer.
You may be surprised to know that up until recently, I haven’t used a string trimmer for a few years. Largely I haven’t missed it, as the frustration I’ve come to associate with them far outweighed that of having long grass around a few edges of my garden.
My litany of bad string trimmer experiences started when I bought one at Home Depot some years ago (a Ryobi) and proceeded to have it break more times than I can count (usually immediately out of the box). The only nice thing I can say about the experience was that every time it broke (almost 100% due to engine issues and an inability to start) the woman who worked the return desk at my local store was exceedingly kind, despite a very frustrating series of exchanges. But after the 6th time (no joke) I quit, I was angry, feeling ripped off, completely irritated and tempted, in my annoyance, to write one heck of a ‘don’t buy this crappy string trimmer post’. I hate to be negative here and I never want to be so frustrated with a product as to be tempted to rant about it online.
After that debacle, my mom tried to solve the issue by helpfully buying me an electric rechargeable trimmer that I would never had to worry about starting. Unfortunately, that thing lasted about 5 minutes before it was retired (literally after about 10 uses, 5 minutes was all the battery would hold and it was wimpy – it had no cutting power). So another totally useless mechanical contraption headed to the dump and I since learned to mow close to the edges and the trees and live with the slightly shaggy look.
When Troy-bilt asked me try out their string trimmer, I was a little dubious… how different can a competitor be? Well, when your biggest problem is starting and keeping the thing running, a lot.
Here is what I love about this string trimmer.
1) It is a 4-cycle not a 2-cycle. This means I don’t have to keep track of the just right mix of oil and fuel. I can also worry less about the fuel separating over the winter when it isn’t in use (this was one of the Ryobi’s issues) and causing it to not work. Just to be safe – and since I am done for the season, I emptied the gas in the tank, back into separate storage. A 4-cycle wins me over because I can put the oil in the oil spot and the fuel in the fuel tank (straight from the pump if I want to!) and I can move on. No more hassle required. It will run until the gas runs out (which is thankfully longer than I need it to, if I am cleaning up the garden).
2) It has the option (which I highly recommend) of being started with an engine starter. I have the Jumpstart Lithium Ion Engine starter. An engine starter eliminates the awkward and tiring nuisance that is pulling that stupid cord a million times – until you collapse and give up – and then annoyingly have to go find a ‘man’ to give it a try. And then the man struggles too – but somehow being able to start an engine with a string is tied to his masculinity so he too nearly kills himself. Then, finally, when you are both nearly dead, it will just start like you haven’t been struggling all along. I’ve always resented and avoided this game – I’m not a weakling and I should be able to start a string trimmer or a lawn mower or a chainsaw on my own. It shouldn’t be that hard. But now that engine starters exist – it isn’t. I used it right out of the box and it started like I was an old pro.
I know it borders on pathetic to be overjoyed at a product that actually starts and runs and does what it should until you turn it off. But honestly, there are a lot of trimmers out there that don’t do this very basic thing – (if you are buying something random – save your receipt!); the market for home-use lawn tools is filled with junk – so in my book this is epic.
String trimmers are handy for all sorts of things and not having one for so long I had let a few things go — of course the first thing I chopped down was the shaggy grass edges – but I quickly moved on to a few weedy areas that will stop self seeding now that I have cut them before they mature.
But the best part of all is that this trimmer has attachments that you can swap out. With a quick snap, I can swap in a brush cutter which is what I have really needed for a quite a while. In a matter of seconds I was able to cut through the thicket of wild raspberries that has prevented me from using one whole hillside of my garden. Every year, I have been slowly hand chopping until my shoulders scream in pain. Using hand tools for this job was my own version of the half-height shovel hell. Next spring will be a real treat to seed and plant this previously impenetrable area. I’ve also got the edge cutter… which, so late in the season, I have yet to try but I am looking forward to playing with this tool next year and whipping the garden in to shape in record time.
Dislcosure: This post is sponsored by Troy-bilt. I am not an employee of Troy-bilt and all opinions are my own.