From the Bar – Stonekeep Mead and a review of our local garden show

tasty fat-filled goodness
tasty fat-filled goodness

Here in central PA, we are known for the Pennsylvania Farm Show which is in January. Essentially a state fair in buildings, people bring their award winning farm animals in for judging, there are huge displays of the latest in farm equipment and the food is famous.  Of course, the reason it’s famous is that people aren’t paying attention to the fat content. There is a reason that milkshakes that have full fat milk and full fat ice cream taste *so* much better than anything else.  They go through around 10,000 gallons of milkshake mix in 8 days. 

The Farm Show is housed in a big complex of buildings to the east of the city that contain it and many other events through the year, most with a agricultural theme, from cow shows, to equestrian events and some other things thrown in like car shows, dog shows and this garden show.  The thing is huge with enough space in some of the arenas to have tractor pulls, etc.

This year, feeling definitely spring-feverish, my husband and I attended the garden show.  In one of the large areas (ceilings are probably around 25’, 7.5 meters or so), close to a dozen landscapers brought in dirt, rocks, trees and many bricks and liners to make life size dioramas of what they can do.  All were gorgeous and many had outdoor fireplaces with pergolas and shelters to allow one to live out side quite graciously.  My big favorites were the outdoor wood fired pizza ovens.  I just wish they weren’t so crazy expensive.  I guess I’ll have to be happy with my chimenea. We have a large cast-iron one.  

PinkFrostOne of the most interesting plants that we saw was the Pink Frost Helleborus (scroll to the bottom; also known as a Lenten Rose).  We have a helleborus but it doesn’t have its flowers held so erectly; the leaves cover them most of the time. They are good in shady gardens and oh do we have that in spades.  I may have to get one but US$25 is a little steep for one plant.  It would be nice with all of the ferns and hostas we have, though.   Having lots of shade is nice in the height of summer but when you want to grow vegetables or anything that likes a lot of sun, you’re out of luck. 

Also at the garden show was a very large vendor area.  A lot of organic stuff being presented, including crafty things.  One thing we were surprised by was the wineries being able to sell their wines.  I suppose it’s no different than the small wine shops now allowed in PA but for someone who grew up with the draconian state store system, any easy way to pick up a bottle is still surprising. 


We gathered up a lot of flyers in order to have some destinations for some day trips this spring and summer.  What will make that even nicer is my husband is imminently going to get a new 2013 VW beetle.  He had a couple old ones from the 60s back in his military days and college.  And when one broke down rather dramatically (the cable to the fuel pedal snapped), that’s when I offered the handsome guy a ride home.  Sneaky, wasn’t I? 🙂 

We did pick up one bottle at the show.  Stonekeep Meadery is perhaps the only meadery in PA.  I believe it is run by folks in the same medieval re-creation group we used to be in, the Society for Creative Anachronism. It’s not much of a website, which always baffles me in this age where websites are the first and foremost way to interact with potential customers.  It’s not that hard to keep the damn things updated. Professional pet peeve there…. 

We sampled two of the meads at the show, the Traditional Honey Mead and the Winter Solstice spiced mead.  The traditional was okay, though not as good as our own.  Ours has a better mouth feel and a stronger honey taste.  The spiced was very good, probably the best spiced mead I’ve had and I’ve had many truly awful ones from our sojourn in the SCA.  So many that we wonder if people actually taste what they’ve made before offering it to others.  The spiced mead had a strong scent of cloves with the taste being more strongly of cinnamon and rounded out with the galangal (a relative of ginger).  I think it is worth getting again, though I’m going to try to spike some of ours.  I think stuffing a star anise, a bit of cinnamon and a chunk of ginger into a bottle might do it. 

Have a pleasant day!

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