Aspen Princess: Harvesting my attention |

Aspen Princess: Harvesting my attention

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

It’s no big secret I’m not the most socially conscious person in the world. Hell, I’m hardly conscious at all.

I’m the girl who bumbles through life barely aware of my surroundings. That’s just how I am. I’ve been that way since I was a little kid. I’ve always had pretty blurry vision when it comes to the world around me, and when it comes to reality in general. I’d rather not see what I don’t want to see. Ignorance is bliss: That’s my motto.

But with this new administration (if you can even call it that), they’ve got my attention. I find myself thinking about ways my family can become self-sufficient, just in case, say, there was a war that started with a tweet. I’ve also been thinking more about how we can do our part for the environment, since it’s now a DIY project. Plus, if my kid is gonna be a pro snowboarder, protecting our winters is pretty important.

I find my thoughts wandering into dark places, thinking about previous world wars and how people who had everything were suddenly left with nothing, and they never saw it coming. I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but still. Ryan can hunt, and there’s a river across the street (assuming it won’t be contaminated with radiation), but where would I get my organic kale?

The other day I interviewed a gardening expert for a blog post I was writing and she was telling me that gardening in Colorado really isn’t that hard; you just have to know how to do it. We tried planting a vegetable garden once and it was a total disaster. The rabbits ate all my leafy vegetables, the birds left beak gashes in the two tomatoes that did come up, and the deer took care of whatever was left. That, combined with the direct sunlight and crappy soil, pretty much killed everything else.

I tried planting flowers, too. I have these fantasies about a yard filled with big, stalky sunflowers, walls of hollyhocks taller than me in all different colors and fragrant lavender growing wild. The hollyhocks I planted turned into these leafless sticks that looked like they’d been set on fire. The only flowers that came up were the ones attached to all the weeds.

I was so not born with a green thumb. I can’t even keep a vase of flowers alive. As soon as they enter my house they wilt and the petals fall off as if they want nothing to do with me.

But this gardener lady makes it sound so easy. She tells me to use a raised bed, to make my own soil with two-thirds top soil and one-third fertilizer (or was it the other way around?). She says I should put mesh beneath my bed to keep the ground animals from digging it up and use deer netting to keep the wildlife out. She says if I plant onions, garlic and fragrant herbs that it will also detract animals. She says I should organize my crops so that the tall, leafy veggies provide shade for the plants that need it. She says I should start with things that are easy to grow like lettuce, chard, kale and potatoes so that I can gain some confidence in my first year. She says our growing season is June 10 to Sept. 10.

Then I interviewed Lara Whitley from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, which I’ll admit I didn’t even know existed. And plus, I thought Lara worked for the Aspen Writers Foundation, which isn’t even called that anymore, but it turns out she hasn’t been there for years and I wasn’t paying attention.

She was telling me all about the High 5 Energy Pledge (named for the five high-elevation towns in our valley) and how you pick five ways to be more energy efficient out of a list of 25. I was surprised to find there were a lot of things on that list that we already do, but that there was a lot more I could be doing.

Of course I care about the environment, silly. But it’s not like I’ve been out canvassing for Greenpeace or driving a Prius. Still, I found the high temperatures this winter alarming. And now that the federal government has left the building and it’s a free-for-all for corporate polluters to do whatever they please, I’m actually, finally, seriously worried about the health of our planet and what kind of future is in store for my child. Will it eventually get too hot for him to go out and play? Will there always be a winter?

One of the goals of High 5 is to show people how individual steps make a difference collectively. Even though we’re in our own little bubble at home, it’s still important to understand that our choices do matter. It does add up.

Here are the five items for my High 5 pledge: 1. Get a home energy assessment. 2. Learn what solar options there are to power your home. 3. Plant local species in your yard and garden. 4. Upgrade to Energy Star appliances 5. Unplug electronics and appliances when not in use.

Now all we need is a chicken coop and a rainwater/gray water system, and I can grow my hair long and curly and start wearing ripped jeans with patches and big straw hats and let my baby run naked through the flowers and take photos that will embarrass him later.

I guess having a baby changes things. I might live in my own world, but now that I brought him into it, the stakes are so much higher.

Then I pulled into the parking space that I won’t remember later and wonder, “How the hell did I get here?”

The Princess is excited for the High 5 event Friday at the Launchpad in Carbondale. Email your love to

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