New Address:

3016 Mt. Comfort Rd.
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72704

As I work on this post the dog of the house, Prophet, terrorizes anything he can seem to get between his teeth.  Despite his unrelenting need for attention he is a good friend.  At the house I spend several hours each day editing pictures and enjoying some pleasure reading; the gloomy days provide more opportunity for this than I would sometimes like.  Rummaging through folders from months past, I visually follow the events and people that led me here to my new address.

Leaving Morning Star Ranch and California was terribly difficult, especially arriving to a couple weeks of below freezing temperatures and the occasional days of sub-zero windchills.  The weather has become much more palatable now, and allowed for time to enjoy being outside.

Morgan leading on The Roman Wall

At the root of my desire to relocate across the country was the opportunity to pursue a relationship with a girl.  I cannot surmise, in few words, what an amazing person she is, so my word will have to suffice.  Now that our relationship has been affixed with an expiration date, I cannot help but be devastated by the thought of parting ways with such a wonderful person.  Life is challenging at times, and luxuriously effortless other times; now, it seems challenging.

Despite the tragedy of leaving California, I have found opportunity here in ample free  time to dwell on the direction of my life.  Out West life flies by without question or regard for direction or so it was in my experience.  Now, a year and a half out of college with travel and leisure quotas met, I find myself compelled to pursue a path resembling a career.  This is not to say that I am anxious to crawl into a 401k, but rather put to use my education and life experiences.

Grad school, internships, and apprenticeships all appear to be viable options to pursue in the next year.  In the next few weeks, though, I hope know if this will soon be my old address as I head toward a new chapter in life.

Time to Think


Post 3: Slip on those boots

Now that the first week has passed I can feel myself settling into a routine, which makes this all seem more real.  At the begginning no propane meant no hot water and no stove to cook on.  2in x 4in x 2in blocks of reuse lumber make for reasonable cooking coals and an iron pan ideal for grilling veg.  An unidentified leak in the water line meant little water use, though without the propane there would only be cold shower in a box barely tall enough to fit my 6’2″ frame.  Of course the refrigerator also runs on propane, so I found myself walking aimlessly across the ranch in the dark for those midnight munchies to another cooler where I temporarily kept my rations.  And yes, in these conditions food becomes rations.

Waiting for the coals to build

Waiting for the coals to build

Now, the propane is full and with it I can now cook food instead of rations on a stove instead of coals.  And munchies now only require slipping out of my sleeping bag and across the room instead of across the ranch.  The water is to be fixed in the next couple days and at last I will be able to take a warm shower, as cramped as it may be.

Mornings before work I sit by the window in a coffee shoppe on Main St. in Half Moon Bay, a block from the feed store.  Here, I enjoy my Sumatra Blend at McCoffee as I slowly acquaint myself with the locals as they begin to recognize my face and my unhealthy consumption of caffine, at least two refills of the Sumatra.

With each visit I see a woman talking to the owner, who nods to her ramblings with a forced smile.  Later she rumages through the recycled newspapers with loose sense of intent.  Occasionally while at work or waiting for the bus I see her wondering around with recycled newsprint overfilling her large purse.

Yesterday, I completed my traing by demonstrating that I can manage to operate the forklift without toppling pallets of feed and hay.  There is not much to the training at the feed store other than learning the various feeds and their appropriate uses.  I must say, though, it seems with each rancher I discuss feed with I am given a differing opinion from the last.  Nan told me from the start that every horseman has an opinion on every equine topic…and everyone of them is right.  So, I’ve simply settled on spouting off alfalfa, oat, mollasses, etc portions to each question related to feed.  This feed comes in the form of pellets and is only intended to be a supplement to the traditional feed.  At the ranch most of the horses are content with grass hay in the morning and oat hay in the evening.  For the horses that need a little extra protein we toss in a half to full flake of alfalfa.

For the first week my feet were constantly damp and I found myself changing socks throughout the day.  My hiking shoes are not exactly ideal for this line of work and yesterday I purchased a pair of boots and my feet are now dry.  It feels a bit strange to walk around with boots on my feet, especially with the extra 2″ it adds to my height, while at the same time it is comforting.  When I put on my boots this morning it became part of my routine, and with each crunching step on the gravel I feel more at home on the ranch.

Post 2: Steping Foot in the Arena

After several days of unrelenting fog it finally lifted and revealed the sunny beauty of the Half Moon Bay (HMB) area.  Tourists and locals are out in swarms to enjoy Main St. Half Moon Bay and the sandy beaches at Montara Beach, Moss Beach, and Half Moon Bay.

As the fog wallows around Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay

Jan kindly lent me her cruiser bike, though terribly small, still rolls as a bike should.  The ride from the ranch to HMB is a spirit-lifting 7.5 miles along the coast on bike trails that parallel CA-1 or “The 1.”  No surprise, my trailer doesn’t feature any laundry facilities, so I strapped my pack on with laundry and computer inside with room left for groceries, and headed to HMB.  The local laundromat cost $3.00 just to wash a load of laundry…absolutely insane!  I think I might just put up a clothes line and wash select articles by hand or I may fork over the 12 quarters this time to save the hassle.

Yesterday I almost sent myself home with 6 new chicks, of the Rhode Island Red variety, but luckily held back the urge.  Robin, the one male who boards at Morning Star Ranch (MSR), offered not only to lend me the materials necessary to raise chicks, but also offered to purchase them as well in exchange for fresh eggs once they start laying.  The hens should start laying once they’re 5-6 months old, but it seems like such a long time to wait for those wonderfully fresh free-range eggs.  In the meantime I will have to perfect my ranching skills.

This morning I learned how to run the ranch tractor through the arena to help level it out.  The who process only took about 15 minutes, but it was very rewarding to know that I’ve begun to contribute to the ranch.  After I put the tractor back in its stall, Nan took me over to the pasture to grab Mud, a beautiful brown mare.  For about an hour Nan, Mud, and me worked on “horsemanship 101” which included how pick up a horses leg to clean their shoes, how to install (not the correct terminology, I know) a halter, and most importantly where not to stand as not to get kicked or stepped on.  We ended the session with 30 minutes of me leading and directing Mud around the arena with hand gestures and occasional encouragement with a whip.  Nan was pleasantly surprised by how well I was able to work with Mud my first day out.  I can’t help but anxiously await when I get to finally toss on the saddle and go for a ride.  There’s a large hill/small mountain just to the east of the ranch that has some good equestrian trails that I’m dying to check out.  In the mean time, feeding and walking the horses will have to suffice.

I think I’ll head over to grab some groceries, see a few people in town, and then head back to the ranch.


Two days ago I packed what remained of my belongings and hoped a train, then a bus, then another bus, then walked another 20 minutes to home or what will now be home.  I’m in Moss Beach, Ca working at Morning Star Ranch as a hired hand.  The deal: feed the horses around 6pm, check on them around 9pm, put the hens and roster to bed.  In exchange I will have a place to stay at no cost.  For about 25-25 hrs/wk I will be working down in Half Moon Bay, Ca at Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel for a source of income, though meager, it will allow me to survive.  In addition, I will be taking care of random tasks on the ranch for a little extra scratch.

The ranch is owned and operated by a wonderful couple Nan & Jan who have been here for almost 20 years.  At the moment I’m quickly learning the names and types of horses, but still struggle to retain all this new information.  We have goats, donkeys, chickens, dogs, cats, and sheep in addition to the 20 or so horses on MSR, which sits atop a hill overlooking the town of Moss Beach and the nearby ocean.

So far I haven’t had much time or energy to put into other projects, but hope to soon.  Robin, owner of Half Moon Feed & Fuel, will be a invaluable resource as I begin to venture into prospects of raising chickens and goats.  I’m hesitant to begin because the duration of my stay is still very much undecided.

In the mean time I hope to learn as much as possible about ranching and farming in this area that is so well known for just that.  As projects begin and experiences multiply I will do my best to post frequently.

Greenpeace Offers an Afternoon of Pragmatic Solutions

From the press release: “While international governments meet to decide the fate of the planet’s health at the United Nation’s climate talks in Poznan, Poland, this month, Greenpeace and Lawrence (Kansas) residents will gather to tell the world they are ready to fight global warming.”

I was a little hesitant to go to this event given some of the negative media surrounding Greenpeace.  Without question Greenpeace has made a name for itself as an organization fighting for resolutions regarding imminent environmental issues, though their means methods have been ethically questionable at times.

The line-up of speakers and organizations listed on the flier were too enticing.  Simran Sethi introduced the event with a casual attitude and invaluable message that set the tone.  Organizations from around Kansas had come to speak about their projects relating to global climate change.  Their projects were about pragmatic solutions, ones that will help maintain, if not improve, the conditions of Kansasans across the state while addressing the most serious issues of today.

Support Wind Energy in Kansas
Support Wind Energy in Kansas

Eileen Horn from the Climate and Energy Project, and Dan Nagengast from the Kansas Rural Center discussed the potential for wind energy in Kansas.  What struck me most about these presentations, was their motives. They have a sincere desire to help the communities throughout the state by utilizing wind energy, and subsequently stimulating economic growth, in areas that have experienced traumatic population decline over the past couple decades.

Kansas ranks 3rd in the country for wind energy potential, yet falls down to 11th for actual production.  You don’t have to be an environmentalist to agree that this could be a serious source of income for communities that are seriously struggling right now.  The wind production will happen, but it’s left to be seen whether or not our communities will utilize this opportunity.  We have allowed oil wells and refineries to pollute our land and skies for the past century for the sake of economic development.  So, why are we so opposed to wind?

Kansans have developed this negative association with anything related to the environmentalist movement.  I can just hear my dad now, “well aren’t you just the biggest fern-fondler I ever seen.”  Yes, wind is more “environmentally-friendly,” but I support it based on the potential good it could do for our state.  This was the tone throughout the day: pragmatic.

So, why not wind?  Sunflower Electric would like us to think that it’s better for us to choose coal over wind or solar.  Yet, the Kansas Department of Health & Environment denied an air-quality permit for the construction of a new 700-megawatt plant in Holcomb, KS.

Coal=mercury, sulfur, carbon-dioxide…which lead to serious environmental and health problems.  I understand that this is a bit of an oversimplified statement, but one would be hard-pressed to legitimately promote coal as a sustainable source of energy.  Scott Allegrucci of the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy (GPACE) did an excellent job of objectively drawing a comprehensive comparison of the two sides: coal vs. renewable.  In the end, I felt well-informed about the issue and terribly frustrated that Sunflower Electric might be allowed to build a new coal-fired power plant.

So, in the end there were no acts of ecoterrorism, just an afternoon of informative speakers with encouraging projects and efforts.  Please take the time to check out the following organizations and do what you can to help:

Climate and Energy Project


Kansas Rual Center

-Ashton Martin

Two Wheels To Freedom: Intro

In recent years we have seen gas prices rise and fall at the whim of…well, I’m not exactly sure.  Regardless, prices will inevitably continue to rise as resources dwindle and extraction becomes more difficult.  This has driven automakers and researchers to frantically look for an alternative to fossil fuel vehicles.  Unfortunately, these new technologies are very resource-intensive at the moment, leaving most people unable to afford a Prius or other hybrid/electric/whatever.

Follow the stencil man

Follow the stencil man

Most of us learned how to ride a bike when we were kids, but once we hit sweet sixteen we were dying to get behind the wheel and we’ve been there ever since.  Many people are hesitant to separate themselves from their vehicles, and for good reason.  Combustion-engine vehicles allow us to zip around here and there with great ease, and for some these vehicles are necessary.  It would be unreasonable to expect a family with multiple children to ride around town to soccer practice, grocery shopping, etc.  However, many of us have the luxury of being able to ride, instead of drive.  This is not to say that you have to stop driving all-together, but rather try occasionally riding your bike, you’d be surprised how rewarding it can be.

This section of the site will continue to grow to include a step-by-step process for making an inexpensive, safe, and fun transition to biking.  Look for these topics in the near future:

  • Road, Touring, Single Speed, Urban Assault: Choosing Your Bike
  • Whose Streets? Our Streets! Bike Safety
  • Bike Maintenance 101

If you would like to see any other subjects covered, please comment below or contact me: ashton@greentickle.org

Yummm…Local Food

Last weekend I strolled out of my apartment in SOMA en route to the Ferry Building.  After a nice walk, I reached what I would describe as a farmer’s market on steroids!  There must have been at least 300 vendors, all busy selling fresh produce and homemade goods.  Crisp greens, delicious fruits, and artisan cheeses filled table after table, not to mention my grocery bag.

Delicious Fresh Greens
Delicious Fresh Greens

A good farmer’s market will feature vendors who adhere to sustainable agriculture practices.  With loads of buzz words floating around, it can be very confusing to determine what you should purchase as a conscious buyer.  So, in preparation for your next trip to the farmer’s market, read up on what it means for food to be organic or sustainably grown.  In California, the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) is the agency responsible for determining if a farm meets the established standards of an “organic” farm.  Most vendors will have their products labeled with the logo shown below, if they have been certified by the CCOF.

Look For This

Is your produce certified?

The CCOF has done an excellent job with not only their certification program, but also with their active support of local farmers.  Purchasing your produce from local farmers helps reduce the amount of energy required for transportation of goods.  In addition, you are supporting individuals in the local community.  For a listing of Bay Area farmer’s markets, visit the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) “The Green Gate.”  Get to know your farmers, know their practices, know your food.

*(If you would like to see more entries about this subject, send feedback to ashton@greentickle.org)