A Pregnant Brown Sugar

Here is Brown Sugar when we brought her home last June.

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She wasn’t quite a year old and very lean.

Here she is today. Pregnant belly.

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Her udder is forming. Those teets better get bigger before I milk her!

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Here is a shot of Halley Berry from the top. No idea if she is pregnant.

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Here is Brown Sugar. She looks a little more pregnant.

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The side views are really different.

Halle                                                                          Brown Sugar.

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Brown Sugar’s due date is April 8. That is day 150. Kids born at 140 days are viable. Typical is 145 – 150 days. Which means anywhere from April 3 to April 8 is expected. Since this is her first freshening we don’t have any history to go off of.

Who knows, maybe the next post about our goats will be birth shots!

I’ll keep you updated,
Karen

Posted in Animals | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

We Boys go Camping!!

So, according to the Espalin school calendar, Karen and the boys had a week off of school, Spring Break. I chose to take a week of vacation during that same week. So instead of going to Daytona Beach like we usually do (yeah right), the boys and I had planned to go camping; camping trips are becoming very elusive now that we have animals to take care of. Our camping trip would accomplish two things: 1) Give the boys a multi-day camping trip to a new area, 2) Give Karen a few days to do her cooking and school planning without us boys causing distractions.

Last winter the boys and I went camping in the Painted Hills of Eastern Oregon. This year we decided to visit the Crooked River National Grassland, which is in central Oregon, just Southeast of Madras and Northeast of Bend. Here is a little map of the location:

Crooked River Map

Where we camped is in the High Desert region of Central Oregon; lots of sagebrush and juniper, mixed with grasslands and medium sized buttes and canyons. The big advantage of this location is the lack of precipitation. The weather was great, and while it rained pretty good a home, we barely got any rain at all.

Here are a few pics around the campsite.

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We took the boys Doodlebug and the dirt bike my brother loaned us, and had the freedom to ride trails all day long; miles and miles of dirt roads. Here is Nicholas after getting a little muddy in a rut. Yeah Mud!!!

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Below is a video of the boys riding their doodlebug on a little dirt track we found just right up the road from the campsite. Boy did they have fun. I must admit it was a lot of fun for me as well.

One day we rode the bikes about 6 miles down the road to find a canyon that was rumored to have feral hogs. We didn’t find any hogs to shoot, but as usual the terrain was beautiful.

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And no camping trip would be complete without good food. Of course there is the aftermath of this great camping food, which are dishes. Fortunately my boys were big helpers and willingly volunteered to do all the dishes after I told them they had to.

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The last day we were there, which was Thursday, we found a great place to set up our steel target and practice some long distance shooting. We first shot at 475 yards, and then moved back to 600 yards. We did awesome, and both of my boys (me too) hit the 12″ steel target consistently at both distances. At the 600 yard distance we adjusted the scope 15.25 MOA, to account for the 91.5 inches the bullet would drop travelling that distance.

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This is from the target area looking downhill towards our shooting positions. The 600 yards position is almost to the two green trees at the far end of the clearing.IMG_1586

And this is looking uphill towards the target area, which is about halfway up the hill.600 yard shooting

Here are a few more pictures of things we saw on the trip. It really is amazing what God has put out here for us to enjoy.

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Thanks for following along,

Michael

Posted in Boys, Outings | 6 Comments

Loss and Gain

Last weekend was very disappointing. Saturday morning we woke up to a dead goose in the pond near the shore. I went out to have a look to try to determine what had happened. The first thing I noticed was that the gate to get into that area from the field was not closed properly. It was open about 12-15 inches. As I walked to the goose I looked for tracks. There are a lot of leaves and other matter on the ground so I couldn’t see any tracks. The goose had been partially eaten but had not been dragged from the water.

Nicholas admitted that he was the last one through that gate and he didn’t secure it. We thought it was most likely a coyote. We discussed the importance of keeping our animals safe by closing gates as we go through them.

Sunday morning we woke up to another dead goose, in the water, by the shore. The boys went and looked at that one. Again partially eaten.

We are now wondering what is doing this. A coyote would have taken the whole goose and eaten all of it. Right?? What about a raccoon? Does the fact that the geese were in the water when they were killed tell us that some omnivore/carnivore is living in the pond? Nutria, mink, ferret???

It is impossible, at this point, to know with certainty but I think all of our females are now dead. They might have been unfriendly little things, but they are enjoyable to watch. Now we are down to three. When we moved here there were eight. What are we doing wrong?

On to some news of a happier nature.

Apparently our town has an annual daffodil show the first weekend of spring. Joshua and Nicholas decided, at the last minute, that they wanted to enter some daffodils. We certainly have a bunch from which to choose. Joshua cut three different kinds and Nicholas went with one. They gently cleaned them off and Michael drove them to the grade school where the show was held.

We went back on Sunday to see if they had won any of the contests.

Joshua’s “Fortissimo”placed second and his “Crown Gold” place first.

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Nicholas’ “Dateline” placed second.  Joshua’s “Thalia” placed second.

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Needless to say, this has opened a desire to compete each year. Hopefully our daffodils won’t bloom at the end of January again next year. The lady running the show said this was the earliest bloom in 18 years. They have two more shows over the next two weekends and believe there won’t be any flowers for competition for the second show and only a few for the show before. Early bloom and a big rain and wind storm the night before. Not the best combination of events for a daffodil show.

Our tulips are in full bloom.

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Enjoy the weekend,
Karen

Posted in Animals, Gardening | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Honda TL125 Refresh (aka dirt bike project)

The boys and I have started a new project, refreshing this 1973 Honda TL125 motorcycle. The boys had some money saved up and we were looking at adding another Baja Doodlebug to the stable. You can see their existing one in use here from a previous post: The Boys Doodlebug.

As we were searching Craigslist, we either missed out on the less expensive ones, or they were asking too much money for what I consider a “toy” motorcycle. So, as we kept looking, I suggested we find a cheap motorcycle. With some hard work and skills, and possibly more money spent over time, they could have an actual motorcycle. One with a clutch and gears, front and rear brakes, shocks, all the things their little doodlebug lacked. A REAL motorcycle they could grow into and even ride as an adult.

So, we found one locally on Craigslist, contacted the seller and went to meet him.  They were so excited as we went to meet him. They were thrilled to get their own motorcycle, but I had to keep reminding them that what they see in person might not look as good as the pics on Craigslist.

So, here is what they bought:

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Pretty rough, missing some parts, rust, bad wiring, flat tires, etc. The boys impressed me greatly as they could see the potential. They could visualize an actual motorcycle to ride, not this old rusty rig. I thought they would be disappointed once they saw it in person, but they were even more happy. The guy was asking $200, I offered $165, and Joshua quickly replied, no Dad, $175. Another teachable moment….. and home we went with their new two-wheeler.

It has a seat, gas tank and engine from a 1971 Honda SL100 that will eventually be replaced with the correct year/model. The great thing is parts for these older Hondas are fairly easy to source from eBay, craigslist or even the local Honda dealer. Really the only limit will be money, so we might have to wait a little longer and save up for the things we need/want to do.

Here is what the goal will be down the road:

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For now the plan is simply to get it running, but over time we will get the correct seat and tank, rebuild the shocks, repaint everything from the ground up,  and eventually have a nice older dirt bike. Further down the road we would like to find a TL125 engine to put in her, which would make it almost all original equipment. These older Honda models, some call them vintage nowadays, sure do have a lot more style than the newer ones, in our opinion of course. There is a lot of history associated with the Honda Trials Bikes too, if you are interested in further reading, here is a great website on this history: The Honda Trials History.

As we progress we will add updated pics, and hope to see the boys riding their new bike soon!

Thanks for following along,

Michael

Posted in Boys, Projects | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Soap Making Day with Nancy

Last Monday began our spring break. Michael and the boys left for the week to go camping and I had a long list of things I wanted to get done. The first of which was making soap with my dear friend Nancy.

In the past we have always made soap at Nancy’s house. I wanted to use my canning kitchen and so Nancy and her husband Richard drove down for the day.

Why make soap when you can just buy soap? Well, first of all Nicholas has eczema and he can’t use anything on his skin that has fragrance or coloring. Second of all I have access to Nigerian Goat milk which averages 6% – 8% butterfat. That high fat content increases the moisturizing nature of the soap.

Another thing that makes homemade soap so nice is that it still has glycerin in it. Glycerin helps maintain moisture in the skin throughout the day. Soap manufacturing companies remove the glycerin and put it in cream and lotions. In effect they are making the soap not as moisturizing but giving you opportunities to purchase lotions and creams to add moisture back to your skin. Store bought soap is more like detergent.

There are some great websites out there that help with soap making . You can purchase supplies, watch “how-to” videos, find proven recipes, etc. My two favorite sites are: Soap Making Resource and Bramble Berry. I found my goat milk recipe at Soap Making Resources and then found a really boring three oil, milk, lye recipe from somewhere else. That recipe will be the soap for Nicholas.

The first thing we do is combine all the oils (some of which are in solid form) and let them melt together. When making soap you really benefit from having a digital scale. All measurements must be weighed. In the same way that baking is more of an exact science than cooking, soap making is more of an exact science.

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Once you get those melting you need to mix your goat milk with the Lye. When lye is mixed with a liquid it will get very hot. Heat and goat milk don’t work well together. To safely mix the two we freeze our goat milk first. I use ice cube trays. I weigh the amount of goat milk ice cubes that I need into a non-reactive container. Then into another container I weigh out my lye. When I have the proper amount of each of those I sprinkle the lye over the milk ice cubes. Stirring regularly until the lye melts the cubes. When it is done it is quite cool.

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Once both the oils and the lye/milk mixture are done you need to mix them. If we were not using milk but using water instead you would want both mixtures at 100 degrees. Because we are using milk we want both at room temperature. When you mix the oils and the lye/milk you always pour the lye mixture into the oil mixture. Because lye is corrosive, we wear gloves and glasses to protect ourselves. If you did get some of the lye on your skin vinegar is your best friend. Somehow it neutralizes the corrosive and caustic nature of lye. Keep it near.

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Once the two mixtures are combined you need to mix it until saponification. Big word that means all the ingredients have combined to make soap. The mixture will get thick and when you lift the immersion blender out and let it dribble the line will stay on top for a bit before sinking, we call it tracing.

For one batch I added a little ground oatmeal and just a bit of orange essential oil. Then mixed to combine.

At this point it is done. You will need to pour it into a mold quickly. In the past I have used boxes lined with parchment paper. You can really use anything as long as you like the shape and you can remove the soap after it has firmed up. A quart milk carton would make cute little bars. This summer I treated myself to an official five pound soap mold. It was $50 so I only bought one. The weekend before Michael and the boys left for camping Michael made me two extras in about a half hour. He is so talented. My homemade ones didn’t have the hardware that the purchased one has but they work great. I lined each of them with freezer paper.

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I put the lid on top and set it off to the side. Nancy and I made two other batches. It went much faster after that first batch.

Once the soap hardened I pulled it out of the mold and cut it. The purchased mold has a cutting slot and one inch marks.

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Using a bench scraper I cut one bar at a time.

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Here is a finished bar of soap. Ok, so it isn’t finished. It has to sit for six to eight weeks before it is good to use. In that time the excess liquid will evaporate making the bar hard and the lye will be converted and no longer caustic

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So now I have sixteen nice big bars of soap and 32 half size bars of soap all curing on baking racks. I cut the boys bars in half hoping it will be easier for them to use. I need to do all I can to encourage them to use soap. It’s a boy thing.

Disclaimer: I’m not a scientist nor am I an expert soap maker. So please excuse my simplistic explanations. Both web sites I mentioned go into much more detail than I have done here.

But hey, if I can make soap you can to.

Enjoy your Monday! It’s the first one of spring you know.
Karen

 

 

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The Latest Happenings on the Farm

Spring is in the air…. and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Flowers are still popping up everywhere I look.

The tulips have sprung from the ground.          We have many different colors of Hyacinths.

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Daffodils….                                                               and more daffodils.

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Here is one of our female geese making a nest to lay her eggs. I didn’t want to get close to her and scare her off the nest so this was the best picture I could get.

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Here is the raccoon trap we put there after a few days of her eggs disappearing.

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It isn’t as if we need more geese but I feel sorry for her. She kind of reminds me of Jemima Puddle duck from the Beatrix Potter books.

Michael put up some temporary fencing around the garden so we could let all the chickens out at the same time. They sure seem to enjoy it.

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I think Michael likes it too.

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For Pi Day of the Century I made two pies.

Peach, from canned peaches.

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And Lemon Meringue.

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Both pies were new to me. I will probably not make the Lemon Meringue again only because I’m the only one who loves lemon desserts and I just can’t eat a whole pie by myself. I gave it the old college try but only managed two pieces.

Last but not least, here are the boys carting off a dead Nutria. Michael had shot it (they are invasive, very damaging and the state of Oregon doesn’t like them) and the boys decided to skin it. Dylan was supposed to have the expertise in this area but he ended up having to go take a shower when he cut a little too deep in the area of the guts. Yuck.

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Just a little sampling of our adventures on our farm.

Have a great day,
Karen

Posted in Animals, Boys, Cooking, Gardening | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Backyard Camping in March

The boys decided that they wanted to camp by the pond with Dylan on Friday night.

The weather has been so unseasonably warm that it was easy to say yes to their request. Our public schools only go to school Monday through Thursday so Dylan is typically over to our house at lunch wanting to play. The boys worked hard this past Friday to have all their school work done so they could set up camp.

They planned the whole thing out right down to their meals. They set up one of our tents by the pond, made a fire ring, and brought all their supplies down to the camp site.

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They worked nicely together.

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The tent was filled with sleeping bags and pillows.

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Our boys made the campfire (a somewhat safe distance from the tent).

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They even collaborated on the menu. Dylan brought the main course of Top Roman with some side dishes of granola bars and crackers. My boys added the applesauce. Together they pooled their money and went to the farm stand and bought a mini Boysenberry pie, a cookie and a small loaf of blueberry quick bread. I warned them of the effect of projectile vomiting in such close quarters.

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An early evening canoe ride.

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Then back to camp.

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Pretty soon they were cooking up a storm and enjoying some humorous conversation. I knew we should have kept the baby monitor. I could have eavesdropped on their conversation.

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It looked like a good conversation.

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But alas, right about the time it got dark Dylan came down with a wicked head ache and headed home. Clouds came in and it started to rain. The boys slept in their own beds that night. Unlike Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, my boys don’t loath “being sivilized” so much that they will turn down a warm dry bed when it suits them.

I hope you enjoyed the adventures of the boys.
Karen

Posted in Boys, Outings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Nicholas Helps in the Making of Cookies

In AWANA this last Thursday Nicholas needed to bring cookies to his small group. I gave him some choices of cookies and he chose Snicker-doodles.

He was kind enough to help me make them.

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He helped with the measuring of the dry ingredients as well as the wet. I taught him to crack each egg into a small bowl before dropping it into the mixer while it is running. We don’t want any broken egg shells in the cookie dough from a whole egg falling in. I don’t think I need to tell you how I learned that tip.

He really is having fun.

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Such focus. I think he has a future in baking.

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Since they are snicker-doodles, we rolled each ball of dough in a sugar cinnamon mixture.

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We made a double batch. He kept insisting that he only needed cookies for his small group but I thought it would be nice to share with everyone.

Here they are done. We both ate so much dough that we were kind of sick to our stomachs. But hey, that’s our pay for making so many cookies.

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In case you too feel like making snicker-doodles I’ve included the recipe below.

Snicker-Doodle Cookies

These cookies got rave reviews from a room full of grade school boys, a few girls I smuggled some cookies to, and every adult that Nicholas generously shared with.

I found this recipe years ago on All Recipes. It is titled “Mrs. Sigg’s Snickerdoodles” and was submitted by Beth Sigworth.

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1.5 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cream butter and shortening together. Add granulated sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing to incorporate between each. Add vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to mixer a cup at a time until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar with the 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Drop spoonfuls of dough into sugar cinnamon mixture until coated thoroughly.

Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cookie will still be soft but set. Remove cookies from baking sheet right away to cool.

 

Posted in Boys, Cooking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Mason Bees Have Joined Salt Creek Acres

Many of you have read about our three days spent at the Home Orchard Society Fruit Tree Pruning class. One of the things we took home from the class, other than the new-found knowledge of correctly pruning our fruit trees, was Mason Bees. We have had them stored in the fridge for the last month waiting for the weather to warm up enough to put out their little houses, and yesterday we decided it was time.

Mason Bees are a common species of bee that make little compartments of mud inside existing insect holes usually in trees, logs, sticks, etc. The species of our bees are Blue Orchard Mason Bee, Osmia lignaria propinquaThe Mason Bees are great for pollinating, but unlike honey bees they live alone and every female makes her own nest, commonly referred to as a nesting tube. This makes them much easier to care for as there is no hive to manage. We just put little Mason Bee homes out and when they emerge in spring they will mate and the females will occupy the tubes we provided close by. The male Mason Bees die shortly after; how nice.

The female Mason Bee has a stinger but will not sting unless she is squeezed, while the male Mason Bee does not have a stinger at all. Mason Bees also don’t share the same diseases and parasites that honey bees do, which is great because it sure seems like those poor honeybees are having a hard time these last few years. Another wonderful characteristic is the Mason Bees land directly on the flower stigma, while honey bees typically land on the petal. This make Mason Bees more effective pollinators. You go little Mason Bees!!

When we ordered our bees, we got a handful of tubes with Mason Bees hibernating in them, and then we purchased a lot of empty tubes to build the rest of the Mason Bee home. By doing this we are adding nesting tubes for the growing colony of bees we are expecting, God willing.

Here it is below,

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We took the little cardboard tubes, which were 12″ long, and folded them in half. We then inserted these into the PVC pipe half way in, adding as many as we could until they were all packed in there nice and tight. We then repeated the same process on the other end of the PVC pipe. So, this PVC Mason Bee home has potential nesting spots on both ends of the pipe. As you can see, the pipe was cut at an angle to provide a little roof over the opening to their home. If you look closely you can see the tubes in the bottom left are plugged with mud; these are the tubes containing the hibernating Mason Bees.

Here are the cardboard tubes we inserted in to the PVC home, before and after folding.

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Hopefully we will start to see the Mason Bees emerging soon and doing their magic in our orchard.

Have a great day,

Michael

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Trip to the Gun Range

We are members of a gun range and have been for years. Even though we could shoot on our property , we find that out of respect for our neighbors it is still better to go to the range. The boys have been shooting since probably 5, started out with the air rifle/bb guns, and after a few years progressed and even saved up for their own .22 rifles. Every boy should have his own .22 rifle. We started out with the foundation of shooting being safety, and have tried to get that ingrained into them at a young age. The four laws of firearm safety cannot be practiced enough:

1) Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.

2) Dont aim your weapon at anything you do not intend to destroy.

3) Know your target and what is beyond it.

4) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire.

Over the years we have all grown in our comfort and abilities, and recently the boys and I went to the range for some shooting. They both enjoy shooting the larger .223 rounds now, and have both become quite proficient both in their accuracy, but also in their maturity and safety with regards to firearms.

Here is Nicholas shooting the Ruger Mini-14. This is the first rifle I purchased back in 1992. It is not the most accurate rifle, but it is a lot of fun to shoot. If you are doing your part (trigger control, breathing, sight alignment/picture) the best this gun will shoot at 100 yards is about a 6″ group. I think Nicholas and I both really like shooting it because it is similar to the military M14, or earlier M1 Garand, only a smaller caliber.

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Next up was Joshua shooting the AR15. Oh no, Joshua is shooting an “assualt rifle”! This is actually Karen’s rifle (a whole other story behind that) and is very accurate out to a couple hundred yards or more. It shoots the same 223/5.56 round as the Mini-14 and is the militaries current weapon of choice. But some might argue that it doesn’t have the same fun factor as other rifles, that it is generic and boring. But, if you had to pick only one rifle for everything, this would be a very good choice.

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And here are couple pictures of their targets. Nicholas was shooting open iron sights at a target 50 yards away. Joshua had a magnified scope on the AR15 and was shooting at 100 yards.

Nicholas’ target                                                      Joshuas’ target

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Both should be very pleased not only with their results, but also that they both can comfortably and safely handle these firearms.

Good job boys, you make your Dad proud!

Michael

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