Maple Mustard Salmon

Spring has official rolled in. The garden is growing, the hens are laying, and the hay fields are growing tall and green. At the same time our annual food stores are running on low in anticipation of the coming year’s bounty. There are still plenty of items that we tend to use in lower numbers. The carbohydrate rich corn and field peas are still available in plenty, but the favorites are becoming few. We are all out of the Italian seasoned tomato sauce. The frozen broccoli is gone. All that is left of the dehydrated peppers are tiny bits of broken vegetables at the bottom of plastic baggies.

I’ve been very late in assessing what we have available as well as what needs to be pitched after a year or maybe even two years of preservation. The chickens have been eating well as I clean out the freezer a little bit at a time. Sunday it was freezer burnt corn on the cob and today it was a two year old catering pan of stuffing. I think there is a fairly large stash of frozen field peas at the bottom that I’ll be digging out next. There is a thick layer of ice at the bottom of the freezer back from when Hurricane Matthew partially thawed it during the power outage that will have to be cleaned out as well.

All this comes to mind because I paired yesterday’s dinner entree with one of the final jars of garden green beans. They are a favorite in our house and so we planted a few extra rows this spring knowing that our supply is nearly out. I don’t look forward to the weeks of picking, snapping, and canning, but I do look forward to fresh beans throughout the summer and personally canned beans throughout the coming year. They’ll go great with anything just like they went great with this salmon.



1 lb salmon
1/4 cup real maple syrup – splurge for the real stuff, it is worth it
1/4 cup stock  – seafood, chicken or vegetable will work
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven 425 F. In a small bowl mix together all syrup, stock, mustard, and soy sauce. Pour small amount into a small baking pan. Place salmon in pan and pour remaining sauce over fish. Bake for 20-30 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool five minutes. During cooling time spoon sauce over surface of fish. Plate, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately. Enjoy.


Shrimp and Beetroot Salad

Picky eaters. I don’t understand them. How can anyone possibly not want to explore all the amazing varieties of food out there at every chance they get? I love food. I love cooking food. I love growing food. I love trying new foods. Isn’t everyone like this?

No. And I somehow happened to marry one of those other people. Neal is one of the pickiest eaters I have ever encountered. I don’t think I realized this when we were dating or even engaged. Maybe that was because I was enamored with the amazing man that would become my husband or because I tried harder in the kitchen to impress. For whatever reason, I see clearly now that I’ve married a man who likes consistency and reliability. In other words he eats the same foods over and over again. He’s culinarily boring.

He use to keep quiet and tolerate my cooking adventures well. Not to brag, but it is pretty rare that I steer too far off course and create anything that isn’t pleasing to the palette. As our marriage has aged I’ve noticed he’s more prone to point out to me when he doesn’t care for something and these times are become numerous. Numerous enough that I have come to the realization I am yoked to a picky eater.

I explain this because the recipe I share with you here was one of the ones that was on the “Jenn Only” list because Neal hates beats. I love beats. They have been my favorite vegetable as a kid. Just don’t pickle them. Bless it, I hate a pickled beat, but I digress.

Neal was working late in the machine shop of a friend, working to rebuild two large wagons that had recently been added to our arsenal of hay baling equipment. When he told me he wouldn’t be home until late I knew it was my night to bust out the beats and make this delicious salad. It was fantastic. I even used the left over ingredients (minus the beats) to make two sandwich wraps to take to Neal for dinner while we worked. Maybe I can work with this picky eater I love after all.



8oz uncooked, easy peel shrimp
1T minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
2.5 cups of chopped greens of your choice
1T feta cheese
1T slivered almonds
0.5 cups of sliced beets – cooked fresh and then sliced or canned sliced
2t olive oil
2t balsamic vinegar
2t dijon mustard

Thaw if necessary and peel shrimp. Place in bowl and toss with the garlic as well as the salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat until thoroughly cooked. Set aside.

Plate the salad by layering the greens, feta, almonds, beets, and the shrimp. In a small bowel mix the oil, vinegar and mustard. Serve on the side.



Upside Down Peach Cake

Peaches! My favorite fruit on this entire earth. I have yet to have any luck planting peach trees here on the farm. No luck, as in I killed two of them. Probably because I brought them home and then failed to put them in the ground for several months. Not my best plant parenting. Luckily, we are a stone’s throw away from the great peach producing state of South Carolina which actually out produces Georgia in peaches. This year I received a text from a friend that one of her other friends would be making a trip to a nearby peach farm and was willing to take orders. Between myself, my mother, and my mother-in-law we ordered two and a half, twenty-five pound boxes. I was in peach heaven!

We enjoyed a few fresh ones and froze the majority for future use, but one recipe that I absolutely had to make before the summer was over was this fantastic variation on Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I love it so much and will likely never make the traditional tropical version again if I have the option. Give it a try and see if you agree.

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 Upside Down Peach Cake

11 tbps unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3-4 large peaches, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tbps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk

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Preheat the oven to 350 F. Using a 10” cast iron skillet, melt 3 tbps of butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and let melt until it melts and bubbles to make a sticky, thick syrup.

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Remove from heat and allow to cool five minutes. Place the peaches in the pan in a circular pattern.

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In a large mixing bowl, beat 8 tbps of butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla then the eggs.

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In a separate bowl, mix the flower, baking powder, and salt. Stir half of the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Stir in the milk. Stir in the remaining dry mixture and stir just until mixed. Pour the batter of the peaches spreading it to the edges of the pan.

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Place in the preheated oven for 60 minutes or until the edges of the cake pull from the sides and a knife poked into the center of the cake comes out clean (pushed only through the cake portion, not the fruit).

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Allow the skillet to cool for 20 minutes before flipping it over onto the cake plate. Allow to cool slightly and then serve while still slightly warm (with vanilla ice cream as a bonus treat).

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Time Management Tools for the Homestead

For anyone out there following The Pony Draw blog regularly, you probably have noticed that it has been several months since anything new has been posted. That is because back in March 2016 I returned to full-time work after working only part-time since August 2015 shortly before this blog was started. In the hustle and bustle of establishing a new schedule the blog fell by the way side, but has not completely disregarded.

One of the questions I hear all the time regarding our homesteading adventures is ‘how do you have time to do it all’? The answer is simply that I don’t. There is never enough time in the day, the week, or even the year to get done all the things I plan or desire to do. The green tomato relish wasn’t canned because the tomatoes all turned red before I got to them. Seeds weren’t harvested from the cilantro because they had all dropped before I had time to trim and hang them. The horses are all unfit, the cow pasture remains without fencing, and my dissertation is so far behind schedule it is shameful. The biggest time commitment by far is employment. Two full-time incomes are required for our family right now and with mortgages, student loans, tractor payments, and our own personal activities it probably always will be. Heck, sometimes picking up part-time work is needed to fund expenditures outside our norm. Combine that with the duties of the farm, the completing of a doctorate degree, and maintaining (somewhat) a functionally clean home it is no wonder a little supportive care is required to juggle it all.

As a professional educator with a master’s degree and nearly completed doctorate in higher education administration, I have found that many of the time management tools we teach students are just as useful on the farm as they are at the university. Two of those tools that have become gems in my daily life are my weekly schedule keeper and my journal.

The schedule is a concrete component of my time management that is meant to serve as a road map for the week. It details in half-hour segments exactly what I need to be doing and when in order to make sure everything gets the attention needed throughout the day or week.

Time Management 01

The journal on the other hand is the flexible piece. Unlike literary journals where you write your thoughts and reflections, I use my journal to keep track of the tasks, appointments, and other important information that comes my way throughout the day. I set it up to contain a to-do list on the left hand side and a weekly calendar on the right. The to-do list is what I need to get done while the weekly calendar along with the schedule is when I need to get it done. Important notes and thoughts also get written down in the journal such as the phone number of a pet sitting client or an important date in the future. If I were to misplace the journal I’d be in real trouble!

Do I always stick to the schedule? No. Does the to-do list always get done before the next journal page is turned? Absolutely not. But these tools do help me stay on track a lot better than if I worked solely on my own memory. These tools work for me because a state of organization is my happy place. For someone that thrives better on a more hectic pace these may not do the trick and may be more torture than anything else. There are a variety of other time management exercises out there and a simply internet search will reveal many of them as will browsing the self-help section of just about any library or book store. The key is finding what works for you no matter what it happens to be.

Happy Homesteading and God Bless!


Riding the Sandhills Game Lands

Over the past few years we haven’t had too many opportunities to wander far from the farm and with spring nearly upon us the likelihood of that chance remains slim to none. Last weekend though we took advantage of a quiet, yet beautiful Sunday afternoon to haul the horses out to the Sandhills Game Lands with friends.

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Despite this amazing public land resource being right here in our home county we often forget that it is such a gem. The Sandhills Game Land is a one of many large natural reserves set aside for public land hunting opportunities. Horseback riding is allowed within certain regulations on designated game lands throughout North Carolina though not all. We are lucky in that the Sandhills allows horseback riding year round except for one small block that is restricted during the months of October and March which leaves vast amount of land to be explored on horseback. The terrain is soft with wide cut roads and paths making riding easy and enjoyable for even the most novice of trail riders.

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While at first glance it is easy to say there is nothing to be seen here except pines and sand. While it is home to the largest stand of old growth long leaf pine that just isn’t true. The lands are dotted with streams and ponds that give rise to multiple varieties of wildlife including deer, squirrels, reptiles, song birds, birds of prey, fish, and even bears (though I have yet to have my first sighting).

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The United States Army is also active on the Sandhills using the game lands for military exercises including parachute jumps which can be a whole new experience in your horsemanship when you encounter them. It usually takes a horse or mule a little bit to figure out those figures dressed in camouflage are actually people and not horse eating monsters. Folks who know the game lands well can lead to special spots that include old military equipment such as tanks and burned out helicopters as well as churches and houses that date back to years when this land was rarely visited by outsiders. Camping is primitive so come prepared if you plan to spend the night.

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Maps of the Sandhills can be found online, but don’t expect to find specific trail maps. I enjoy the rides here most when I have an experienced Sandhills native such as Neal or other long time trail riders with me, but you can navigate the lands with a GPS and compass just fine if you are savvy in that department.

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That short evening ride just a few weeks ago was just the thing I needed to relax as well as be mentally ready for the up coming spring and work that comes along with it. Hopefully, we are able to manage our tasks and time in such a way that we can return more often than we have in the past as these are the moments that remind us why we live here and do what we do to stay.

Happy Homesteading and God Bless!


Starting Plants from Seed

Last month I shared the growing rack that I had put together to start seedlings and grow plants indoors. I was so frustrated that it took me this long to carve out a time to get my seeds planted, but this weekend I made it happen. My sister-in-law, Martha, inspired me with pictures of her seedling sprouts that are just about ready to transfer into their own individual pots. She was also very generous and shared some of the seeds she had harvested from her garden bounty last year. I had also saved tomato seeds from last year as well had some herb seeds that never made it into the ground. My preparation for this adventure was to read up on starting plants from seeds in books I found at our local library as well as picked up from a second hand store. To start I gathered all the needed materials and set up on a folding table outside. My materials included…

1 bag peat moss
1 bag vermiculite
Five gallon bucket
Handheld garden shovel
Seedling trays
Four seedling trays
Seedling cell inserts – enough for four trays

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I pulled out all the seeds I had put up last year and separated them into four groups. Commercial herbs, commercial flowers, commercial vegetables, and harvested seeds from our family’s various 2015 gardens. The vegetables and herbs took priority today. I ran out of soil mixture by the end of the task so was not able to get the flowers planted, but will do that during the next round.

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I mixed the peat moss and vermiculite in the five gallon bucket. I tried hard to make sure it mixed evenly though I did end up with the bottom of the bucket being heavy in vermiculite. It shouldn’t be a problem, but wasn’t my intention. I then lined the seedling trays with the seedling cells. These were all saved from plants we bought from a local plant farm last year so no additional expense for them this year. Once in place I filled the cells half way with the soil mixture then sprinkled the selected seeds into the cells. I didn’t really have any rhyme or reason to the amount of seeds in each cell other than trying to have enough cells to evenly distribute all the vegetable seeds. Some varieties had only enough seeds for two or three per cell while others had much more, just depended on how many seeds I had and how many cells were available.

Seedlings 03 While planting I made sure to clearly mark the different seeds so I didn’t loose track of where I had placed each type which is something that would be in character for me. I then sprinkled more soil mix over the top to fill the rest of the cells.

Seedlings 05Once all the trays were finished I lightly watered them to ensure they were thoroughly dampened, but not saturated. The seeds will not need any more water until well after germination. The most important thing until they sprout is to prevent evaporation and maintain a soil temperature of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. They don’t even need light necessarily though most set ups including mine use the light to help maintain the temperatures. The evaporation is prevented by placing plastic wrap over the trays.

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Once the trays were planted, watered, and covered I placed them on the grow rack and plugged in the lights. Now just time to watch them grow! There is a variety of different germination rates in these trays so they will not all pop up at the same time. As they do start to peek out of the soil though I will be able to mark them with more permanent stakes and move the cells around so that those that still need to be under plastic can remain there while those that don’t can be separated.

Looking forward to sharing an update in a few weeks and having plants to put in the garden and take to market soon!

Happy Homesteading and God Bless!


Reaves Engraving

Reaves Engraving is a family owned business that has been based in Scotland County since 1933. Specializing in quality invitations and social stationary Reaves regularly provides complete ensembles for weddings, save the dates, rehearsal dinners, birth announcements, social correspondence, and many other printed items. In addition to stationary Reaves also offers calligraphy completed through computer-driven plotters which provide perfectly formed calligraphy at an affordable price in comparison to hand calligraphy.

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Invitations and other stationary items ready to be put together for sample packs.

Reaves is owned by Lindsay and Gay Pratt of Pinehurst, North Carolina after being long time residents of Laurinburg. Another familiar face at Reaves is the office manager Barbara who has been part of Reaves since ____. Other employees who work in the typesetting and calligraphy departments are often friends and family of the owners or former employees and have thus known the Pratt family throughout the years.

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A computer-drive plotter does calligraphy for a rehearsal dinner invitation.

Most business is conduct through mail, online, and phone orders though customers who live nearby are welcomed to come visit the shop and see first hand what options are available for their needs. Reaves offers multiple printing techniques including engraving, letterpress, flat print, thermography, or digital printing. Each style offers a variety of colors and fonts to personalize a customer’s piece in either a classic presentation or unique personal flair.

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A collection of multi colored napkins available for customers to select from.

Reaves also offers a variety of services that help make the invitation process as easy as possible. Invitation orders can be finished with stamping services for both response and mailing envelopes including international addresses, number of response cards to keep track of attendees, stuffing completed elements of the ensemble, and even shipping directly from the shop if the customer desires.

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Invitation orders wait their turn for calligraphy before being shipped to customers.

Ultimately, Reaves provides a classic stationary product with expert experience in etiquette and design all with the personalized service that can only be provided through a small, family owned business. A credit to their success can be seen in their marketing strategy which is almost entirely word of mouth. Reaves has successfully brought that small, hometown experience to the rest of the world through their mail order business which makes the experience much more special than purchasing stationary through a mass production corporation.

Happy Homesteading (and local shopping!) and God Bless!