Tag Archives: weekend

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012, Continued

More photos from Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012. As can be told, Frightmare has a lot more new and returning carnivorous plant enthusiasts than I realized.

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012

One person in particular struck a chord, because just about everyone who regularly goes to conventions has been in her situation. This young lady came by to take a look at the plants on Saturday morning, and fell in love with the spoonleaf sundew (Drosera spatulata). Unfortunately, she related that money was really tight, and that she had enough left either to buy a sundew or to get back home on Sunday. I asked “So where’s home?”, and she told me “Norman, Oklahoma.” Since that’s also home to a very dear friend from high school and the Sam Noble Museum, I knew exactly how far she’d had to travel, and I told her that there was no way I’d take her money if it meant she’d be stuck.

The girl from Norman

Instead, I told her “I take photos of folks who buy plants, and I’ll put you in the gallery under ‘Next Time, Maybe?’”

The Girl From Norman, Redux

Well, Sunday came, and she took a look at one particular sundew arrangement. Lots of sighing, and I knew that sigh. That wasn’t a sigh of “Oh, if only someone gave me something for free.” That was a sigh of “If I knew a place that bought kidneys in Dallas on a Sunday, I’d cash one in right now.” Count this one as a raincheck, kiddo. Just come back in 2013 and let me know how it’s doing, and consider buying a couple of companions when you have the cash, okay?

The Girl From Norman, Sunday

And that’s it for 2012. Next year, I’m definitely getting a decent lighting rig for the camera, and trying this again.

Things to do in Dallas when you’re dead

A quick note due to various obligations, but let’s just say that the next few weeks promise a reprieve from winter blues if you live in the Dallas area. And if you don’t, what’s stopping you from moving in?

Anyway, the first item of business involves livening up the winter diet, and there’s no better way than with items spicy enough to peel the enamel off your teeth in big floppy strips. This is why we have ZestFest at the Irving Convention Center this weekend. Aside from haranguing the crew at Defcon Sauces for Habby Horse sauce in 55-gallon drums (it just doesn’t last long enough in my house in any smaller container), it’s time to see what new plants and new condiments are due from the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. Anybody who’d develop the “NuMex Halloween” deserves some additional consideration.

Secondly, the first Triffid Ranch show of the season is scheduled for ConDFW on the weekend of February 17 through the 19th, so of course a show of equal interest runs at the same time. Namely, the big ReptiCon Dallas reptile and amphibian show in Ennis. The only thing I can say is that while ReptiCon Dallas promises venomous reptiles on display, ConDFW has the works of famed palaeoartist William Stout on display. The only wise option, of course, is to come out to both. (We have the same conflict between a show at All-Con the weekend of March 16 and the big Fort Worth Orchid Society sale at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, so this is par for the course.)

Thirdly, I don’t have any particular details until after 4:00 Central Standard Time on January 26, but I should soon enough for a new event at the Dallas Arboretum. Just don’t let the Czarina know, unless you like hearing her squeal like a little girl. I imagine a lot of other people will do so as well, once they hear the news.

And lastly, it features a new hotel, with much easier access to DFW Airport. A new lineup of guests. A HUGE new dealer’s room. If you don’t get your tickets to Texas Frightmare Weekend, you’re going to miss out, and not just on new Triffid Ranch specials. Carnivorous plants and horror conventions go together like vanilla orchids and cacao, and I just might have a few examples of both this year. Get your hotel space now, or forever hold your peace.

Next season, on “The Texas Triffid Ranch”…

As of Saturday night, the official Triffid Ranch show season ended for the year. This doesn’t mean that individual events and opportunities won’t open up between now and December 31, or that folks in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex can’t order custom arrangements. It just means that the next next big Triffid Ranch event, at ConDFW in Dallas, starts on February 17. As always, keep an eye on the main Triffid Ranch site for updates and revisions.

As for the MetroPCS Fair Park Holiday show last Saturday, let’s focus on the positives. We met a lot of very interesting folks, including one very considerate woman from Chicago (who unfortunately left without giving a name) who reminded me of why I miss Chicago at times. It may be time for a road trip up that way before too long.

Triffid Ranch events: MetroPCS Fair Park Holiday

For the most part, this weekend is the one I recommend as Dormancy Day for anyone keeping temperate-climate carnivorous plants in North Texas. Temperate carnivores, particularly Venus flytraps and Sarracenia pitcher plants, are already battening down for the winter, and will remain so until at least the middle of March. Now’s the time to put them to bed, or at least a place where they can get outdoor temperatures and photoperiods, and leave them there until St. Patrick’s Day.

For the tropical carnivores, though, they get one more big show before the end of the year. This Saturday, look for the Triffid Ranch booth at the MetroPCS Fair Park Holiday in Dallas’s Fair Park, benefiting the Friends of Fair Park. I don’t know exactly where we’ll be located, but we’ll be in the Holiday Gift Market between 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

After that, the next Triffid Ranch shows will be in 2012, starting with ConDFW the weekend of February 17. For the rest of the year, please feel free to keep tabs via the Upcoming Events and Past Press page on the main Web site. And now, back to getting ready for this coming Saturday.

Discovery Days: Day Two

I’ll have pictures from this weekend’s Discovery Days: Discovering Reptiles & Other Critters event at the Museum of Nature & Science after we’re done, but now it’s time to go back. Saturday’s crowd was extremely impressive, with a lot of kids stopping by on their way to see the mineral or light exhibits, and a lot of parents coming back after taking their very young kids to see the Bob the Builder Project: Build It! exhibit. (The only issue so far, and it’s really minor, is that the Triffid Ranch booth is right next to a big Bob the Builder display, with a motion sensor that makes Bob utter three inspiring messages when people walk by. The motion sensor was apparently damaged a while back by well-meaning kids walking on the display, so Bob goes off randomly, all day long. In other words, he’s just like me. Interestingly, a few buzzes with my scorpion detector, brought specifically to light up plant structures with UV, and Bob quiets down for a while.) Either way, everybody’s having a blast.

Although this has been like a typical show, where I’ve rarely left the booth, this encourages me to do more reptile shows. In particular, the turtle exhibit on the ground floor is full of the expected wonders, including softshell turtles and a huge Sulcata tortoise that begs for romaine lettuce. I won’t be ready for a big show right away, such as next February’s North American Reptile Breeders Conference show in Arlington, but I’m definitely getting lined up for the 2013 show. In the meantime, if the folks at the Museum want me to come back next year, or to participate in any of the Beer & Bones evening shows for adults, I’d have to be an idiot to say “no”.

Things to do in Dallas when you’re dead

The rest of October is going to be relatively quiet for the Triffid Ranch, but things start livening up in November. Specifically, four weeks from this coming Saturday, come out to the Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas’s Fair Park for its “Discovery Days: Discovering Reptiles & Other Critters” exhibition. And before you ask, just because it’s listed as a kid’s event doesn’t mean you have to be one to show up. If you’re really self-conscious about asking questions around a herd of sharp-as-whips third graders, don’t feel badly: I’m going to be the target.

As to why carnivorous plants should be included in an exhibition on reptiles and amphibians, well, I have a secret. If you’re unfamiliar with the Borneo pitcher plant Nepenthes ampullaria, this should be your chance to see the one known carnivorous plant that acts as a frog tadpole nursery. And if that doesn’t intrigue you, I’ve got nuthin’.

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that must DIE NOW

In his classic novella “Frost and Fire,” Ray Bradbury described a world of horrible extremes between day and night. Nights were killing cold, and anything caught outside when the sun rose above the mountains burst into flame. The story itself followed the descendants of a band of colonists, all of whom lived their entire lives, from birth to death, in eight days. These people, and their descendants, rushed out as soon as the ice melted and took advantage of the short hour where plant life emerged, rushing back to hide in their caves before the temperatures became too dangerous. In return, they rushed out each evening, retreating only when the cold became impossible to endure.

This, naturally, is a perfect metaphor for life in Texas. Now you understand why Chicago columnist Mike Royko referred to Dallas as “a shopping mall Shangri-La”: I’m slightly ashamed to say that the malls occasionally keep us sane in the worst of our weather. And now that it’s possible to go outside without getting second-degree burns on the insides of your lungs, we’re going berserk.

(Not that the heat is completely done. We recently broke our 1980 record of 100F-plus degree days in Dallas, and we could get a few more before the end of the week. However, it’s possible to go outside in the morning and think “autumn is here” instead of “the next time the weatherman predicts a chance of rain and it doesn’t come through, I’m going to tie him to a tree, get a stick, and use him as a Viking pinata.”)

The urge to get outdoors means that half of north Texas wants to evacuate the hydrogen bomb shelters we laughingly call houses all at once. This means that we have lots of outdoor events. LOTS. Live music shows, hot air balloon races, Renaissance fairs, the State Fair of Texas…heck, even Lewisville takes a break from singing the high school football fight song for a hearty tournament of bobbing for French fries. (Actually, I kid. Lewisville is a lot more civilized than it was when I lived there in the Eighties. I understand the place even has indoor toilets these days.)

Because the weather will, with fits and starts, remain roughly like this between today and Christmas Week, this means that people try to start their own events to go with or compete against existing ones. That’s about the time the Triffid Ranch gets letters and phone calls, from all over, asking about about participating in lectures, fairs, tours, and the occasional Discovery Day. This usually culminates around Halloween, because carnivorous plants just make Halloween a little sweeter. After that, not quite so much, but there’s still a lot to show, a lot to talk about, and a lot to do, and every event keeps me from having to deal with cleaning out the greenhouse. I mean, you should see it these days.

I try to do as many as I can, weather and season permitting, but sometimes circumstances get in the way. (An old friend regularly invites me to show plants at a show she manages in Dallas every year, and the only reason I regularly have to decline is because it runs in February. When all of the temperate carnivores are in winter dormancy and the tropical carnivores are muddling along, waiting makes much more sense.) Sometimes, an invitation coincides with an event already scheduled months or even years earlier. Other times, logistics get in the way, such as with well-meaning invitations well out of state. (The cost of permits for commercial transport of plants across state lines means that there’s simply no way to recoup costs unless the show is huge.) And others…well, it’s about time to talk about that.

Now, one might assume that because we don’t have children that we dislike them. Anything but. Shows for kids are the best kind, because kids ask the best questions. I’ll drop just about anything to show plants to students of all sorts, because there’s something about the light in their eyes when they learn about, say, the bats that roost in Nepenthes rafflesiana elongata pitchers. Adults try to hide their interest with snide comments and Little Shop of Horrors references, but the kids really want to know.

On another side, many might assume that because of my background in science fiction literature, I’d stay away from science fiction conventions. In fact, I’ve argued for years that most conventions are full of serious gardening enthusiasts who are neglected and ignored by standard garden shows and garden centers. It’s to the point where I’m half-tempted to organize a gonzo garden show, just for the enthusiasts with no time for cutesy garden gnomes and packets of cosmos seeds. I only draw the line at gaming conventions and literary science fiction shows, and that’s purely because of economics. Gaming conventions attract gamers, who generally climb into tournament rooms and refuse to leave for the weekend, so they rarely visit the dealer’s room. Literary conventions are instead full of wannabe writers who preface every sentence with sob stories about how they spent every last penny they had to get to the show: the old Comdex joke about how attendees come out with one shirt and one $20 bill and never change either for the entire weekend is, sadly, far too true for literary conventions.

No, the one absolute is with music. I’m not talking about events where vendors and musicians work together, such as with the Fort Worth Music Festival. It’s the events that advertise a deejay that should be avoided at all costs. The problem is that the deejay who works in a dance club or between sets at a live music venue is mostly interested in getting as many people as possible out on the dance floor, not only freeing up seats along the side but getting everyone hot and sweaty enough that they want lots of drinks. The focus is on the music. At a show and sale, invariably the alleged deejay is some fedora-wearing hipster who’s determined to jam his tastes in music down everyone else’s throats. It’s a sale, so customers try to talk over the horrible whiner rock or Seventies nostalgia trips. The deejay gets hurt that the customers aren’t paying attention to him, so he starts turning up the volume. Customers try to yell over him, so he cranks it up even higher. Before you know it, the decibel level rivals that of an F-16 at takeoff, and potential customers leave because they’re tired of having to scream to communicate basic concepts. The Czarina and I were at a show a few years back where the deejay was so obnoxious that we could only communicate via dry-erase boards, and trying to explain the vagaries of carnivorous plants is nearly impossible under these circumstances.

(I say this because several friends have already brought up the upcoming Etsy Dallas Jingle Bash in November, and I’ve tried to explain that we’re not attending because of the nightmare that was last year’s show. Apparently, the complaints about the deejay racket at last year’s event caused the Etsy Dallas crew to organize a Bash Pass, allowing those willing to pay an extra $20 to shop an hour early without musical accompaniment. While that’s a brilliant way to bring in an additional $1400 for the show, why not skip the access fee, put the hipster back on “funemployment,” and encourage even higher attendance for those with an aversion to Pomplamoose and Marcy Playground?

Silly question, that. Yet another reason to talk about organizing that gonzo gardening show.

And for those with a local show seeking something different, if this tirade doesn’t dissuade you, give a yell. Next year should be a very interesting year.

I’m living in my own private Tanelorn

A few extra observations for the weekend, because I’m getting paid by the pithy comment. (Go ahead and laugh. Eating fresh grass cuttings and bowls of hot bluejean soup on the front porch of a refrigerator box builds character.)

Firstly, I’m an involuntary teetotaler: I can’t drink, but I’m fascinated by many of the aspects of the history and production of wine and spirits. This scares my family at times, as the filthiest four-letter words that could ever be uttered within range of a Riddell for the last 500 years are “last call”. It really scares my youngest brother, as his appreciation for and consumption of various forms of alcohol is generally exceeded only by the likes of Keith Richards. A few years back, he and I got into a conversation about whether sherry or port barrels should be used for scotch whisky aging, and I thought he was going to have a seizure when he realized I knew more about the meaning behind the term “the angel’s share” than he did. All I know was that milk came out his nose when he choked, and it was 20-year single-malt before it spewed out his nostrils. It should also be noted that I was wearing this shirt at the time, so I caused more damage to the lad than I’d considered.

It’s with that boy-in-the-plastic-bubble attitude that I peruse the commentary of Dr. Vino, and I discovered that he and I have common ground after all. Namely, to deal with the winter doldroms in Chicago, he’s become an enthusiast of moss gardens in rose bottles. I have only two things to add: number one, I’m going to have to do a post on purchased and constructed terrarium tools just for this sort of circumstance, because I know exactly how to fix his schmutz problem. Number two, when I do this, I prefer Jack Daniels bottles for one good reason: they’re square, so they can be set on their sides without worrying about their rolling. Other than that, we’ll have him growing merlot cuttings before you know it.

And the other installment involves the never-ending garden gnome/garden flamingo war, which now involves the police. Specifically, we now have garden gnomes in police custody for their own protection. Custody for their own protection, instead of cries of “KILL IT WITH FIRE!” as sane individuals are wont to do. I mean, c’mon. We have mooning gnomes. We have zombie gnomes. We have gnomes with guns. When are we going to back off and let the flamingos fight this out with saturation nuclear bombardment, before the gnomes get us all?

Contest: Anyone want a free FenCon three-day pass?

Okay, so FenCon VIII is only 16 days away, and the Triffid Ranch booth in the dealer’s room should be quite full. At least, that’s the idea, and the variety of plants available depends upon whether or not our relative humidity (currently running about 15 percent) ever goes up. When the humidity is this low, the Sarracenia can photosynthesize or they can grow, but they generally can’t do both.

Anyway. One of the issues with holding a plant show at a science fiction convention lies with people either unfamiliar or uninterested in the rest of the festivities. Either potential Triffid Ranch visitors are understandably unsure as to whether they’d have the time or the inclination to get their money’s worth out of a day pass, or they’d prefer to put the money for a badge into plants. At the same time, the crew at FenCon has been very good to the Triffid Ranch crew for the last three years, and I’d like to return the favor and make sure that the convention continues to run for a very long time. (I’ve let loose so many mea culpas over my initial suspicions about the viability of the convention that I went hoarse in 2008, and I’m very glad to see it finishing up its first decade.)

So here’s the deal. I currently have one three-day regular membership at FenCon VIII, a $40 value, reserved for one lucky individual. In order to sweeten the pot, four other participants will win Joey Boxes. All you need to do is:

  • Numero Uno: Come up with a plausible story as to why you could best use this membership. You’ve never been to a convention in your life, but would be willing to give it a shot. You’re normally a regular, but finances got in the way. You’re going to be in Dallas that weekend anyway, and you want to do something more entertaining than wandering around Dealey Plaza all Saturday. You’ve been wanting to see carnivorous plants for your entire life, and your head will explode if you can’t see a Nepenthes for yourself. You don’t believe the stories about the Czarina’s elbows, and want to witness them sliding from their sheathes and drooling venom on the carpet all for yourself. If you don’t have a plausible story, lie, but be entertaining about it.
  • Numero Two-o: No matter the story, get it under 500 words.
  • Numero Three-o: Send it in to contest @ txtriffidranch dot com before midnight on September 12, 2011.
  • Numero Four-o: Before sending it in, include a name and contact address, so that a custom admission badge will be ready for you at the convention.

In return, here are the restrictions:

  • Only one entry per person and/or E-mail address. If you want to stuff the box, knock yourself out, but you’re going to need more than one story.
  • This membership may not be exchanged for cash or for any other item in the Triffid Ranch inventory. The membership is non-transferrable, except at the sole discretion of FenCon management. If you can’t make it to the convention, you have the option of asking for a Joey Box instead, and the membership will be offered to the runner-up.
  • The judges’ decision will be final. One grand prize of one (1) FenCon VIII regular membership and four (4) Joey Box packages will be given during this contest, based on the judges’ decisions.
  • The winner will be responsible for the cost of travel to and from the convention, as well as for accomodations. Any requests or demands for the Texas Triffid Ranch to cover hotel reservations, food, transport, or any other costs, other than any agreed to by both parties in writing, will both be denied and openly and publicly mocked.
  • The Texas Triffid Ranch will not be held liable for any damages or liabilities, including injury or financial loss, incurred by the winner at the convention. In other words, should you do something really, um, interesting, don’t call us for bail money.
  • All entries become the sole property of the Texas Triffid Ranch, and they may be shared on the main Web site or on this blog at any time. In fact, bet on it. (If you don’t want to share your name with the general public, just say so with your entry.)

And so it begins. If you can’t make it, please feel free to pass on word to friends and cohorts. If you can, get in your entry by midnight next Monday morning, and pull your 300-pound Samoan attorney out of storage. For this weekend, you’re going to need him.

July through October, in the heat

I know it doesn’t help, but I speak from experience. Earth hasn’t been launched into the sun, so things WILL cool off in the Northern Hemisphere. They’ll even cool off in Texas, as heretical the idea may seem. True, we won’t be down to temperatures conducive for carbon-based life for another three months, but it’s something. In the meantime, you can either complain about the heat, or you can sit down, take a nice deep breath of granite vapor, and think about something else.

Now, you could do something to distract yourself, such as watch a nice, tranquil art movie in an air-conditioned theater. Considering the source, though, you have plenty of options for gardening opportunities that don’t directly involve being withered into dust by the big yellow hurty thing in the sky. For instance:

Get in some reading. After you’ve come inside after a hard day at work, and slogged through the pools of molten concrete in front of the door, there’s a lot to be said about doing something that requires you to move nothing but your eyes. With that consideration, I could be self-serving and mention that Gothic Beauty magazine now offers digital subscriptions, and the print subscriptions are ridiculously cheap for the value. However, I’ll also point out that a lot of unorthodox publications tie directly to summer gardening, such as the article on natural vivarium substrates in the current issue of Reptiles magazine. And if your brain is frying in your skull, get into the shade and put in a few orders with Timber Press‘s extensive collection of horticulture books. That should cool you for a while.

Consider something smaller. One word: bonsai. A few more: penjing and Hon Non Bo. When you find yourself feeling like a character in Ray Bradbury’s story “Frost and Fire,” it may be time to reevaluate going outdoors to garden. In that case, consider talking to the folks at Dallas Bonsai Garden for tools and equipment, or peruse the Bonsai Bark blog for ideas. If you’re looking for something more encapsulated, there’s no reason why you can’t consider vivaria, either. (To friends in Massachusetts for various onerous reasons this coming weekend, I’d tell you to head out to Black Jungle Terrarium Supply in Turner Falls and stock up on vivarium goodies, but the whole Black Jungle crew will be at the New York Metro Reptile Expo in White Plains at that time. Do NOT let that stop you. I’ll be at the DFW Lone Star Reptile Expo in Arlington for the same reason.)

Get an early start on the fall season. While the summers are brutal, one of the best things about living in Texas is that the autumns go on forever. I’m only slightly exaggerating, as I’ve gleefully harvested tomatoes and Swiss chard out of my own garden for Christmas dinner, and most citrus, ranging from oranges to Cthulhufruit, isn’t ripe until the end of November. That’s why, when the heat threatens your sanity, start making plans for autumn and winter right now. Considering how well Capsicum peppers work as container plants brought indoors before the frosts start, take a look at the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University and run that Mastercard dry. (I currently have a back growing area loaded with NuMex Halloween peppers that are getting big enough to demand UN membership, and Arioch help me when the Bhut Jolokias start bearing fruit.

Combining all of the above. And what’s wrong with Capsicum pepper bonsai? Add in a suitable recipe for jalapeno poppers, and you won’t be worrying about the heat outdoors. Instead, you’ll wonder about what happened to the time when New Year’s Eve hits and you’re up to your armpits in fresh potting mix.