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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pandemic project: South Hill resident built 25 garden trugs, or carriers

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

When your wife is a past president and longtime member of the Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane, involvement can be inevitable.

“I had no intentions of being part of a garden club, but it kind of crept up on me,” said Jim Fox, whose wife, Gloria, had a hand in his recruitment. Jim currently serves as treasurer for the organization.

The Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane is a consortium of independent garden clubs, founded in 1933. For more than 30 years, the organization has beautified the area by sponsoring grants for community garden-related projects within Spokane County.

Those grants are made possible by a yearly plant sale, and Fox used his downtime during the pandemic to create a product that netted $500 for the grants at this year’s sale.

“I’d torn down an old fence and had a whole stash of nice cedar pickets,” Jim Fox said. “Most people would have thrown them away or used them for kindling. Not me. I’ve always loved the idea of repurposing the material.”

At a club meeting, members floated the idea of selling trugs filled with six small pots of herbs at the plant sale. The South Hill resident jumped at the idea, knowing he’d found a great way to use his stash of wood.

His original prototype wasn’t quite what they had in mind, so he went back to his basement shop and created a trug that could be used for anything from carrying seedlings to toting tools. He built 13 of them for the 2020 plant sale. They sold so quickly, he volunteered to double the number this year.

He shrugged.

“What else were we doing?”

Through the gloomy months of winter, Jim worked on the project. Each trug unique, because of the variety of materials used for the handle.

“For the trug he made for our son, he used a branch from a bush that used to be in our yard,” Gloria said. “A friend asked him to use a branch from a tree in our yard that our kids used to play in for her trug.”

Jim nodded.

“I know where each of the handles came from.”

He repurposed a handle from an old ax for his own trug which he uses to carry tools from project to project.

When he ran out of cedar fence pickets for the bottom and sides of the trugs, a neighbor offered grape stake cedar staves.

“Those required each trug to be individually cut and shaped; no mass projection here,” he recalled. “Once I get going, I can make two a day.”

By the start of the plant sale in late April, Jim had finished 25 trugs. Halfway through the sale, they’d sold out.

While the trugs proved popular, it looks like there may not be any at next year’s plant sale.

“It’s a finite resource,” said Jim. “Basically, I’m out of material.”

Purchasing new wood isn’t an option, as it wouldn’t have the rustic patina of the original trugs. Plus, part of the fun for Jim is repurposing scrap wood that others might toss.

“There was much satisfaction coming from constructively using that lockdown time, and from repurposing that which looks a lot like junk to create out of that something that others have found attractive,” said Jim.

He enjoyed the hours spent designing and making the trugs.

“It was like a good book,” he said. “You put it down to do something else, but you can’t wait to get back to it.”

For more information about Associated Garden Clubs, visit associatedgardenclubs.org.

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Correspondent Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com.

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