These are Janna’s hands. She is a gardener by trade and by choice. Her hands are in the dirt so much that she cannot scrub away the stain of the chocolaty soil where she gardens along the Pike River in northern Minnesota. Not so long ago Janna had anonymous hands. Then she quit her job as a journalist and became an organic gardener. She sells her produce and products at two farmers markets in a 50-mile radius from her farm, sells wholesale to Natural Harvest Coop in Virginia, MN, and provides weekly allotments to a dozen or so CSA (community supported agriculture) customers. She raises chickens for eggs and chickens and turkeys to butcher. She tends bee hives to make honey and taps silver maples by canoe in the Pike River to make maple syrup. She is busy and usually bushed by the end of the day. Over the course of two seasons when she was starting up her new enterprise, she cleared the land and erected three enormous hoop houses of her own design (not purchased as a kit). Her dad (retired machinist), her mom (retired English teacher), her husband (high school science teacher), and various friends with various degrees of competency in the realms of gardening and carpentry pitch in from time to time. But mostly it has been Janna working from dawn to dark, and after dark when necessary, as was the case in the spring of 2012, when an invasion of variegated cutworms descended on the gardens of our area. Short of poison, the only way to cope with the insidious little bastards, which feasted by night, was to squish them one by one by flashlight on hands and knees. Killing other living things – either because they are killing the plants or animals you are raising or because you are raising the living thing to kill it – is a perpetual backdrop, dilemma, and conversation I have with Janna and my other close friends who garden and raise livestock. We have blood on our hands as well as dirt and it is something we do not take lightly. She and her husband Tim and our neighbors Chuck and Mickey helped us butcher chickens last summer and in other summers helped us dispatch our turkeys. Last year, we helped Janna and Tim butcher turkeys on a freezing cold October day. We will offer our help again this fall.
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