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Beverly Godfrey column: Spring cleaning of a different sort

As we move forward together as a community into spring, I'm going to ask an important question: Are we all done cleaning up after the dog?

You know what I'm talking about.

You might want to set this aside until after breakfast.

It was a good year for me regarding dog-poo cleanup season. One day, it seemed, everything was still frozen and covered with snow. The next, we were standing in sunshine and brown grass dotted with doo-doo.

Sure, I try to clean it up as we go all winter, but I can't believe I'm alone in falling behind the task as mess after mess gets covered in snow. "Smells like spring" can mean different things to different people, and it's not always pleasant.

The kids are old enough to help, which is nice. We all got gloves, boots and shovels and made quick work of it. I usually don't give the kids money for doing chores; those are normal responsibilities belonging to a family, in my mind. Except chores like this. "I'll pay you for helping," I said, not that the work was optional, but still. I do try to be nice sometimes.

Having the kids help reminded me of years ago when they were little. I was involved in setting up for a big event. I was going to have my kids with me, so I didn't know how much help I'd be. Another mother said she'd "have her boys" with her, too, so I thought we were in the same boat. Turned out, she arrived with a crew of teenagers, and she started pointing out directions to them: "Move this table here," "go get more chairs," "hang these signs on the doors." That kind of thing.

It was an eye-opening glimpse into my future. As the mother of young children, I hadn't yet imagined a day when they'd make my life easier. But that day did come. Of course, it's a pretty narrow window between when they get helpful and when they move out of the house, but still, I'll take it.

The teamwork wasn't quite as strong as I mucked out the chicken coop. The chickens are my deal; I get that. I'm the one who keeps getting more chicks at Dan's Feed Bin in the spring. I deserve the fallout.

And the fallout in that arena was pretty bad this year. Layers of old straw, food, mud and chicken droppings were compacted into a deceptively solid surface across the coop floor. Once I started poking at it with a pitchfork, I knew I'd need to go down several inches.

It was gross.

I dug; I flung; I raked and scraped.

I took a lot of fresh-air breaks.

And then I put fresh straw over the clean dirt and breathed deeply. Straw really does smell sweet.

It felt good in the end, spending an entire sunny Sunday afternoon in coveralls. My muscles ached; my nose itched.

And the chickens were grateful. They walked around, a little confused, maybe. They dug through the straw, kicking their feet up, pecking the ground. They dug little burrows in the dirt and sat in the bright sunshine.

The dog was out there, too, in the dry, clean grass.

So I joined them, soaking up the sun, smelling the clean, fresh air. It's the real scent of springtime, even if it requires a little work to get there.

Beverly Godfrey is features editor of the Duluth News Tribune.

Beverly Godfrey

Beverly Godfrey is the News Tribune features editor. You can reach her at  

(218) 720-4104