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Margaret Hartley's Greenpoint
by Margaret Hartley


A Daily Gazette community blog
Ideas on greener living

Spring cleaning tricky when the outside moves in

The March snowstorms never bother me. I’m always happy for a last round of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the woods.

And besides, no matter how much snow gets dumped mid-March, we all know it will be gone soon enough. The sun rises higher in the sky each day, and the snow piles are receding.

Which means it’s time for spring cleaning.

Once the snow goes, we can open the doors and windows and sweep winter out of the house. The amount of dirt that wanders in on the bottom of our boots all winter long is truly remarkable, as is the amount of hair that one whitish dog can deposit in every nook and cranny of a house.

I always think up grand projects for spring cleaning — washing and repainting the ceiling at the front of the downstairs, scrubbing the wall behind the wood stove, washing behind and under things, refinishing floors. But frankly, I’m far more comfortable mucking out a chicken coop than cleaning a house.

The coop ceiling gets covered in cobwebs over the winter, and I knock them down with a broom. I have a short-handled, all-purpose manure fork that slips under the general bird-and-bedding detritus on the floor, making it easy to lift. I pile that into our ice-fishing sled, then pull it out to the manure pile.

It’s simple, and it’s gratifying because you can see your progress. Fresh bedding on a clean floor, fresh straw in cleaned-out nesting boxes, happy hens.

It’s different inside. People tend to complain if you just toss everything that’s been left on the table or the floor. I can’t get rid of a ripped T-shirt or a broken toy without someone insisting that its useful life is far from over.

Jars, bags, cardboard, paper, small and oddly shaped bits of plastic or metal — all these things are vital to someone in my house. Not important enough to be removed from the floor or counter or tabletop, but vital nonetheless.

That’s not the only problem. Being a garden- and animal-oriented family, we have things in the house that are not normally associated with indoor living, like axes and buckets of soil. And six ducklings.

The rabbit lives in the house, which is quite normal, I assure you. The recovering hen and her friend, the extremely loud rooster, were just visitors to the living room and were moved back to the barn last week.

That made room for the ducklings my husband brought home one cold and snowy afternoon.

“I love ducklings!” my son said, as my husband put them into a cage with a cardboard bottom. He added a big metal dog-food dish, half full of water, and a smallish log for them to scramble up onto to reach the water. We watched as they drank, then jumped in for a swim.

“I love ducklings!” the boy said again, as the dog whimpered and lay down next to the cage, attempting to lick the ducks as they moved from water dish/pond to food dish. The rabbit watched.

Even I have my limits. The chickens were OK with several layers of broken-down boxes to make a floor for that bottomless cage the ducks inherited. But water and cardboard do not mix.

Luckily, we never throw anything out.

Upstairs, I found a plastic under-bed storage bin that used to hold my daughter’s broken-down pointe shoes, which we inexplicably saved for years. I meant to get rid of the bin when the lid broke, but somehow I was convinced it would come in handy.

Turns out it makes a perfect indoor duckling pen. The cage fits right inside, and the plastic flooring and 6-inch sides means our wooden floors don’t get wet when the ducks go swimming.

And, like this March snow, the situation won’t last too long. Soon enough the ducks will grow their feathers, and it will be warm enough for them to move outside. My son is already designing the pond and slide he’ll make for them.

By then it should be warm enough to open the doors and start indoor cleaning for real. But it probably won’t include any extra projects. Before we get to walls, ceilings and paint cans, all our daylight hours will be spent in the garden.

I can hardly wait.

Margaret Hartley is the Gazette’s Sunday editor and features editor. Reach her at href=””popup=”800,600”> or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter.

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