Category Archives: Gallery

The Aftermath: Groundhog Day 2019 Open House

Even if the tradition behind Groundhog Day made any sense, North Texas weather throws the tradition under the bus. This year, the groundhog wouldn’t have seen his shadow, because the thick fog that morning would have had him screaming “THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE MIST!” That fog stuck around, too: as odd as it was, at least it beat the deadly cold up in Chicago: I survived the Blizzard of 1979, and that experience is a big reason on why the gallery is titled “the Texas Triffid Ranch” and not “the Illinois Varga Shop.”)

Fog aside, and aside from the local missing stair who was removed in short order and told not to return, the latest open house was a grand success, including one family that drove from Tulsa just to attend. Thanks to everyone who made it, other than the missing stair, because you were all braver than the groundhog this year.

The date for the next open house is in flux, dependent upon getting confirmation on an upcoming event. When it’s nailed down, though, read about it here.

No Sleep Til Perot

Perot Museum's glowing frogs

For those attending tonight’s Social Science night at the Perot Museum, see you there. For everyone who can’t, that’s why the gallery is hosting a Groundhog Day open house on February 2. Either way, it’s time to hit the road.

State of the Gallery: January 2019

January skies: cold and dark

Coming up on the new gallery’s second anniversary, the main theme around the Triffid Ranch this month is…cleaning. Lots of cleaning, shifting, moving, sorting, cataloguing, and launching into the sun. Pots and containers that almost made sense when they were originally purchased three years ago but simply can’t cut the mustard today. Glues and other adhesives that didn’t age well.  Electrical fixtures purchased years before the gallery originally opened that are now desperately obsolete based on today’s technology. Equipment and supplies purchased for big projects that fell through, usually when the client only wanted to pay in exposure. Items that fell literally between the cracks in those frantic days during and after the move from Valley View Center. Combine this with a renovation of the actual toolspace, and the gallery is as close to ergonomic as it’s been since the beginning of 2017. You know, when the space was empty. 

(Seriously, folks, take it from a professional: DO NOT STOCKPILE GLUES. Buy what you need when you need it, or what you reasonably think you can use within a month. Most of your cyanoacrylate superglues will last longer, but there’s nothing quite like desperately needing silicone sealer for a project, slapping a presumably fresh cartridge into the caulking gun, cranking it up to put down a bead of fresh silicone, and getting instead a bead of what looks and feels like transparent cottage cheese with no adhesive properties whatsoever. Don’t even get me started on wood glues: old wood glue looks like snot, it smells like snot, and it has a third of the holding power of snot. Not only will your projects fall apart, but then everyone visiting will assume that your workspace does double duty as a preschool.)

That’s the situation at the moment: with everyone still recovering from holiday stress, the best thing to do is get everything around for the rest of the year, and that’s very nearly literally complete. I can’t say that previous visitors won’t recognize the new gallery, but it definitely has a lot less of the Doctor Who/The Red Green Show mashup feel than in previous months. Well, I SAY that, but you should see some of the odd Halloween pots picked up when a Pier One distributor shut down their local showcase office two years ago. And this applies until it’s time to restock glassware after selling everything during the spring show season.

As far as events are concerned, we had to make a tough decision earlier this week, and the Triffid Ranch won’t be at All-Con in the middle of March. This wasn’t done lightly, and it mostly involved schedule conflicts with the day job, which is why we really had no choice. The schedule is going to be filled with more one-day events through the rest of the year, but four-day events aren’t going to be an option for the foreseeable future. The Oddities and Curiosities Expo at Dallas’s Fair Park on March 30 is still on, though, as well as other events to be announced very shortly.

Likewise, we’re still on for the Perot Museum of Nature & Science’s Social Science: Wild World 21+ event on January 25: the flytraps and North American pitcher plants are dormant for the winter, but the Mexican butterwort blooms in the gallery make up for it. For those who have already picked up their tickets, the Triffid Ranch exhibit will be on the fourth floor, not far away from the Protostega skeleton. If this works well, negotiations are ongoing about returning for the Social Science: Science Fiction show on April 26: between this and Tim Curry’s guest appearance at Texas Frightmare Weekend the very next weekend, I’m honestly looking forward to fictional carnivorous plant references that don’t involve people yelling “Feed me, Seymour!” over and over and my inevitable response.

Oh, and another benefit of the final gallery cleanup: besides freeing up room for new projects, this also allows the opportunity to restart a program put on hiatus after the Valley View exodus. Some of you may remember Sid, the Nepenthes bicalcarata pet at the long-defunct and much-missed Role2Play gaming store in Coppell, and it’s time to expand the rental program that allowed Sid to make such an impression. Bookstores, dentist offices, classrooms, business lobbies: Triffid Ranch enclosure rentals offer the opportunity to show off unique carnivorous plant displays without having to deal with maintenance and upkeep. Keep checking back, because the details will be available very soon, or feel free to drop a line to become an early implementer.

Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2018: The Aftermath

Well, the 2018 holiday season is nearly over, and the Triffid Ranch open houses are definitely done until 2019. On behalf of Caroline and myself, we’d like to thank everyone who came out for this year’s Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses, because all of you made them work. For those who couldn’t, January is dedicated to inventory and reorganization before the spring show season, as well as to the construction of new enclosures, so make room on your calendars for the Groundhog Day open house on February 2. We’re going to have a lot to show off by then.

Because Jack Skellington Had the Right Idea


A little over a quarter-century after the movie’s premiere, only one thing still bugs me about The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s not the idea of Jack Skellington appropriating Christmas, or his not listening to Sally’s advice, or even the lunacy of his entrusting Santa Claus’s care to Lock, Shock, and Barrel. It comes from the movie’s resolution: you’re trying to tell me that in all of the world, there wasn’t ONE kid refusing to give back Jack’s presents? Not ONE CHILD anywhere who would have guarded that bat puppet or haunted wreath with his or her life, and anyone trying to take it back would pull back fewer fingers than they started out with? Or one adult who grew up with Aurora movie monster models and Alien action figures who wouldn’t be asking Santa “You know, if they don’t want their toys, could I have them?”

In a roundabout way, this helps explain why the Triffid Ranch will be open on Christmas Eve from 6:00 to 9:00, and not just for those last-minute shoppers who aren’t going to find carnivorous plant satisfaction at the local home improvement superstore. This is also for us who would have left coffin-shaped cookies for Jack Skellington if we could. Come on out, grab a Vernor’s ginger ale, and take home a plant, in the only place in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex where you can do so, because it’s nothing but us weirdos all the way down.

The Aftermath: Halloween 2018 Open House at the Texas Triffid Ranch

The fourth Triffid Ranch Halloween event was, well, unexpected. For those keeping track, every previous open house this year has gone up against weather disasters: rain, hail, tornado sirens, and even a thick fog when torrential rains encountered a hot-enough-to-cook-flesh parking lot. The October 2018 open house? Clear skies, cool temperatures, enthusiastic crowds…everything we could have asked for. Many thanks to everyone who came out, because you’re the reason we do this.

As for the next open house, that’s going to have to wait until December because of a troika of shows in November and the necessary recuperation between them. The Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas will have to be truncated because of several shows in which Tawanda! Jewelry will be involved, but we’re still on for December 15 and 22, as well as being open by appointment for the rest of this month and the next.

And to add to the fun, while an open house probably isn’t in the cards, one in early February definitely is, probably the weekend after a plant show and lecture at the Perot Museum for its Social Science “Wild World” 21+ event on January 25. As always, details will follow.

State of the Gallery: October 2018

“We are now approaching the end of 2018, and will be crashing into 2019 shortly. Please return your solar cell array to its upright position, stow all weapons and sublight propulsion devices in the bins provided below your seat, and place your order for drinks or objective reality inhibitors with the flight attendant at this time. If you are a native to a reality with more than a 45 percent difference in strong nuclear force or Hawkwind music catalog from your destination, please let the flight crew know at this time to prevent spontaneous explosion when disembarking. Your checked-in luggage has been sprayed for most animal and plant pests, parasites, and symbionts, but please check for nanometal phages in a safe location in any reality with a tech rating above 3.73.998. We thank you for flying with us today, and a special message for Lanny: stop it. Stop it NOW. The authorities already know, and they’re not giving it back.”

 

Twelve weeks to the end of the year, and this is when life starts getting lively out at the Triffid Ranch. For the temperate carnivores, we’re only about six weeks away from the beginning of the traditional winter dormancy, which means the Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, and triggerplants are about ready to sleep until April.  The tropical plants in the gallery already think it’s winter, with lights set for a December 21 photoperiod, in order to encourage them to bloom around the beginning of March.  Pretty soon, the dragonfruit cactus by the front door comes inside, the next batch of hot pepper seeds go into propagation, and this year’s collection of Sarracenia seeds go into cold storage until March. That’s not even starting with the new plants grown from cuttings for next year’s show season.

 

A lot is going on besides getting the greenhouse winterproofed and the Sarracenia pools mucked out, too. The fall show season starts on October 13, with an inaugural tent set up at the Garland Urban Flea in downtown Garland, Texas, with the usual bets as to how the weather will go.  The default assumption for autumn in North Texas is “cloudy and a little cool in the morning, with temperatures dropping significantly with any storm front.” In other words, bring a jacket just in case, and come out to see Sarracenia pitcher plants in full fall color. 

 

After coming out for Garland Urban Flea, take the next weekend off. Seriously: take it off, because the gallery will be closed that weekend. That’s because the next Triffid Ranch open house opens on Friday, October 26 at 6:00 post meridian, and a lot is happening in the intervening week. This includes the premieres of several new enclosures, including a commission for a longtime Triffid Ranch supporter, and the last big flytrap and Sarracenia display until next year. Traditionally, open houses run on Saturday evenings, but on the request of several longtime customers (including one that has been visiting the booth at various events for the last decade), we’re going to try Friday night so as to free up Saturday night for Halloween events.

After that, it’s a matter of getting ready for November and December. November is a month of shows, starting with the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show in Austin on November 11, for the third show in a row. After that, November 24 and 24 are spent closer to home, with the resurrected Dallas Fantasy Fair at the Irving Convention Center. Once we’ve swept up the broken glass and discarded pizza boxes from that one, it’s back to the gallery for the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas, with the gallery open every Saturday evening from December 1 to 22. (For those who want to purchase a particular enclosure but don’t want to ruin the surprise, we’ll deliver in person on December 23 and 24, so feel free to ask for details.)

 

On the newsletter front, the Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale continues, especially as Facebook continues its descent into emulating LiveJournal. (And lower than that I can’t get.) The big Harlan Ellison giveaway for subscribers is done, but expect a slightly more scaled-down version with every issue of the newsletter: I haven’t had this much fun putting together this big a collection of packages in years, and that’s nothing compared to the glee of those who receive them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, there’s always time, as a new installment comes out this week. It may also be time for an archive, too.

 

And that’s about it for the moment. What’s up with you?

Enclosures: Woodrue (2018)

Much to the surprise of we animals, many plants are adept at reviving and growing after appearing completely dead. The resurrection plant of the American Southwest (Selaginella lepidophylla) remains brown and brittle for years until a sudden downpour brings it back to full green splendor until it dries again. Many others, upon being shocked by adverse conditions, die back and marshal their reserves for a new burst of growth. Fire, ice, wind, drought, flood: many others cannot bloom or set seed until after exposure to extremes that could kill them. And when it’s all done, they come back and grow, until the next onslaught.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 36″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 91.44 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes rafflesiana

Construction: 3D-printed mask, polystyrene foam, epoxy putty, glass, wood.

Price: $300US

Shirt Price: $250US

State of the Gallery: September 2018

It’s midway through the month already. We’re now a little over a week away from the official autumnal equinox, and just over six weeks until Halloween. Next thing you know, the calendar will have switched over, we’ll be looking over New Year’s Eve 2631, preparing for the Gorash Annexation to set up outposts and the occasional clearance outlet on the other side of our galaxy, and wondering if it really was such a great idea to de-extinct the moa and let them go feral in the Canadian Rockies…but perhaps I’ve said too much.

Over here at the Triffid Ranch, frantic work for the next open house is the order of the day, especially with the number of outside shows and events between now and the end of the year. After a lot of deliberation, particularly with input from people unable to get free on Saturdays to attend previous open houses, the next open house is scheduled for October 26 from 6:00 to 11:00 CST. Yes, a Friday night. Depending upon the success of this open house, we may try a few mid-week open houses as well, especially as football season gets going and Dallas traffic goes from “typically abysmal” to “blow up every highway in the state and require everyone to ride a bike for a month to learn some humility.”

Related news: partly to improve opportunities for people to see the latest Triffid Ranch enclosures outside of open houses and appointments, and partly to help fill a niche with the best damn reptile and amphibian shop in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the Texas Triffid Ranch is now partnering with DFW Reptarium in Plano to offer new carnivore enclosures at the Reptarium. For those who haven’t visited it already, the Reptarium is a  herpetophile’s joy, starting with the store’s mascot: an absolutely stunning crocodile monitor named “Whisper” who lives in the front window. In addition to the store’s assemblage of panther chameleons, arrow-poison frogs, emerald tree boas, and the world’s most mellow frilled dragon, the Reptarium now has the Nepenthes bicalcarata enclosure “Hans-Ruedi,” and more will be available based on customer response. In other words, this holiday season is going to be VERY busy.

In the interim, October also features an outdoor show on October 13, thanks to the Garland Urban Flea in, unsurprisingly, Garland, Texas. This marks the first Triffid Ranch show ever held in Garland, and the weather should be absolutely stunning. The October Urban Flea runs from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, so feel free to stop by for the last of the season’s Venus flytraps and threadleaf sundews.

And for those who might be coming across these missives via Facebook, be warned that a Triffid Ranch Facebook presence is shrinking and will continue to do so. The constant push to boost FB page posts was already becoming annoying, as they still weren’t reaching the people who chose to receive page updates. Now, new posts disappear immediately after entering them, only to pop back up days or weeks later. And then there’s Facebook’s page messaging system, which penalizes page owners if they don’t respond to any message sent to the page within minutes. This means either hiring someone to manage a social media presence (which I suspect is the hope), or get dinged for getting a message minutes after going to bed for the night and answering it only after waking up. Either way, it’s once again time to note that no such problems exist with the Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale, of which a new installment will be out very shortly. Go forth with the clicky to get newsletter-exclusive news and commentary, and occasional cool and educational prizes.

Well, back to the linen mines. Expect a few new enclosure premieres before the end of September, including a fun little commission: it’s either ramping up the enclosure releases or having a really slow holiday season. And on the holiday season, expect some extra surprises with this year’s Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas events. It’s absolutely amazing how much you can get done when you’re not unpacking from an unscheduled move…

The Aftermath: Third Anniversary Open House

It’s only taken 18 months, but life at the gallery is now a gentle routine. Said routine consists of frantically composing and constructing new enclosures, frantically sending out press releases for the next open house, running a Google search or five every hour to see if the press releases reached their intended targets, overdosing on pineapple frozen fruit bars (since I can’t drink) and needing to be tased before I can commission a giant mural to go on the outside back wall, going back home and crying on the cat, squeegeeing snot and tears off the cat before she’s stained green forever, finishing up the enclosures just before the open house, and opening the door to the public. I then listen for thunder, sleet, hail the size of hedgehogs and twice as friendly, tornado sirens, or what other meteorological atrocities Texas has in its quiver, and promise to take a local meteorologist out for dinner and tell him/her “there’s NO WAY you can be blamed for this, when you only got five minutes’ notice.” Then, once the last person leaves, it’s time to start it all over again. Just be glad I don’t do the enclosure construction in public where people are within reach, and when the cat is too far away.

Seriously, aside from the raging thunderstorm that blew in out of nowhere right at opening, and threatened to blow the whole of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex back to Lankhmar, this last open house really turned out well. The promised horsecrippler cactus ice cream was a hit, and we had enough left over that we’ll share the rest at the next open house. An old and dear friend brought his whole family, just in time to watch the sky open up atop nearly-white-hot pavement and watch the whole city become a communal steambath. A lot of new folks came out for the first time, and they didn’t seem to leave disappointed. And now for preparation for the next open house.

As for that next open house? Prepare for Saturday, October 13: the heat should break by then, that weekend won’t interfere with Halloween festivities, and the last of the drunks in town for the big UT-OU football game will have returned to doing whatever it is they do. We might even have wonderful weather for once. Watch for details.

Enclosures: Tezcatlipoca Blues (2018)

The novel Smoking Mirror Blues by Ernest Hogan is only obscured by his more famous novels Cortez on Jupiter and High Aztech because of its original publication during the dotcom crash of 2001. Working on the idea of an electronic avatar of the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca and his rapid expansion into and domination of a nightlife “twenty minutes into the future,” the novel examines not just the resilience of myth, but the concern that some myths may do better in the future than in their past.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 18 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 46.99 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plants: Assorted Mexican butterworts (Pinguicula spp.)

Construction: Plastic fixtures, polystyrene foam, resin, epoxy putty, black glass tile.

Price: $150US

Shirt Price: $125US

Enclosures: Raptor (2018)

In many environments, it’s hard to believe that seemingly abandoned structures and equipment are still used and maintained frequently, just based on weathering and wear. Paint chips from thermal stresses and powders from exposure to ultraviolet light, metal rusts quickly or slowly depending upon the rainfall and ambient humidity (even in deep deserts, iron rusts due to water condensing on the cold metal at night), organic compounds rot and crack, and stone and concrete change color from sun, rain, and algae. Under the right conditions, a military installation temporarily mothballed can look completely abandoned within years or even months without steady maintenance, and that maintenance may be withheld so long as the equipment still works. Are the weapons left pitted and worn because of abandonment, because of neglect, or to encourage enemies to get close?

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18 1/2″ x 18 1/2″ x 18 1/2″ (46.99 cm x 46.99 cm x 46.99 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes ventrata

Construction: Plastic fixtures, polystyrene foam, resin, epoxy putty, green goldstone.

Price: $200US

Shirt Price: $ 150US

State of the Gallery: August 2018

The days end the way they begin: covered with glue, paint, epoxy putty, and random bits of styrofoam. First comes the watering, and you don’t want to know how much water moves through the gallery on a weekly basis. The floor of the gallery is a concrete slab, and yet you’d swear that it listed back and forth like a sailing ship deck. Either the sundews have evolved speaking apparatus or the sleep deprivation has reached the point of no return, because their conversations are so BORING. And then there are the people wanting to come by at 3 in the morning, and I have to explain “I don’t care if you’re from D magazine! I don’t have any coca plants here! No, wait, I don’t have any at all! No flowers in this town: only carnivorous plants.” And that’s when I start screaming “The floor is LAVA!”, because I’ve wandered outside into the parking lot and lava isn’t anywhere near as hot. At what point will the heat break and my brain stop impersonating a toasted marshmallow?

Oh, hi. Um, never mind me. Just getting things ready for the next gallery open house. Just do me a favor and look behind you. Do you see my dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife in her teeth? Cool: so it’s not just me.

A bit more seriously, the best analogy for August in Dallas comes from what the late author Harlan Ellison described as “the hour that stretches.” Apparently space-time is as bent and warped by overstressed air conditioners as by gravitic anomalies, because you wake up one morning and figure “Oh, I have five weeks to get everything done, and I’m not going to slack off, so I’m going to start now.” Look down for a second and then back to the clock,  and everything has to be finished in an hour before everyone arrives. You KNOW you’re working, and you KNOW you’re making better progress than ever before, and it’s still not fast enough to deal with that hour that stretches. Hence, after this gets published, it’s back to the workspace, because carnivorous plant enclosures don’t make themselves. I know this from experience.

The biggest news, of course, is that the Triffid Ranch celebrates three years as a gallery this month, which means it’s time for another open house. Specifically, the Texas Triffid Ranch Third Anniversary Open House starts at 6:00 on Saturday, August 18, and ends pretty much when everyone goes home. Besides the novelty of the event itself (I look at pictures of the first ArtWalk at the old Valley View location and jawdrop as to how far everything has come since 2015), this open house includes the premieres of new enclosures, a custom cake designed and baked by the one and only Angela Nelson, and samples of that horsecrippler cactus ice cream mentioned last month. This is, of course, in addition to the opportunity to take home your own carnivorous plant enclosure or talk about commissioning a custom enclosure. As always, Triffid Ranch open houses are family-friendly events, too, so don’t feel obligated to leave kids at home.

As far as outside events and shows are concerned, one of the best things about living in North Texas is that autumn lasts until the end of the year, and as soon as the heat starts letting up in September, everyone rushes outside to breathe fresh air. (Every vendor familiar with outdoor Dallas shows can appreciate the Ray Bradbury novella Frost & Fire, because it hits all of the notes on show setup and teardown.) This means that everyone waits until the middle of August to get word on acceptance into big shows in late October. Since we’re not quite there yet, the wait for word from several local shows in October is almost painful. In the interim, though, the next three big shows in which you can expect to see the Triffid Ranch booth include:

Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 5: November 11 in Austin. It may be a one-day show, but the Horror For the Holidays events have three things going for them: the people running them, the people attending them, and Central Texas when the heat breaks. Not only is this a chance to say hello to a lot of Triffid Ranch regulars who can’t always get up to Dallas for every event, but it’s a perfect time to get out of town for a road trip without worrying about the plants cooking on the way down. (It also revives good memories of when the litcon Armadillocon used to run opposite Texas/OU Weekend, instead of just before fall classes started at UT-Austin, back when the convention actually encouraged attendees under the age of 60.) Of course, that’s not the only reason to come out: if you’d told most anybody of the untapped potential for dark and dire gifts before the release of The Nightmare Before Christmas 25 years ago, they’d have laughed and pointed. Horror For the Holidays just screams back “WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?”

Dallas Fantasy Fair: November 24 and 25 in Irving. A quarter-century ago, the autumn Dallas Fantasy Fairs served a very specific purpose for those of a certain bent: when the house was full of distant relations, the television full of either Christmas specials or football, and most public venues full of Dawn of the Dead cosplayers, it was a chance to get away from the house, talk to people who wanted to talk about something other than work or raising kids. Things have changed a lot since then, as the internet was just getting going when the last Fantasy Fair ran in April 1996. Sometimes you have to let something go fallow for a while in order for it to come back stronger and better, and nearly 23 years should be plenty of time.

Texas Frightmare Weekend: May 3 through 5 at DFW Airport. Every year, I look at the lineup of guests and events and figure “There is NO WAY that the Frightmare crew will be able to top what they’ve accomplished here. NO WAY.” Every year, the Frightmare crew comes by my table and laughs and points over my assumptions. That’s fair, because at the rate Frightmare exceeds the previous year, we may get a panel with special guest speakers Lon Chaney Sr., Mary Shelley, Clark Ashton Smith, and Lemmy in 2020. In the meantime, the 2019 Frightmare gets Tim Curry as its headliner guest, which means I have even more to accomplish over the next nine months than ever before. (For those unfamiliar with Tim Curry’s horticultural accomplishments, his hacienda garden in Los Angeles is world-famous, and he’s also a leading authority on agave cultivation and propagation, so I will NOT be caught flatfooted in 2019 if he decides to come by the Triffid Ranch booth to look around.) And this is just the first guest announcement after opening up ticket sales: the next nine months are going to be interesting.

In other developments, expect a much more enthusiastic schedule for the poor neglected newsletter, partly because of the ongoing Port-O-John fire that is Facebook. The other reason is that I’ve missed email newsletters, and I’ve missed the community that invariably sprouts up with them. Because of that, it’s time to do a proper relaunch, and that includes free surprises for randomly selected subscribers. Expect details within a few days, but trust me: it’ll be worth it.

Finally, for those in the Dallas area or those sympathetic to the area, it’s time to vote in the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Awards. This isn’t a plea to enter the Triffid Ranch for any number of categories. I won an award last year, which was more of a surprise to me than anyone else, and that’s good enough. Instead, it’s a matter of letting everyone outside of Dallas know what we have going for us, and that the cliché of big hair and shopping malls is one we’re killing one inch at a time. Besides, the last five years drastically changed my view of the Observer: it’s not the smarmy entitlement farm that it was back at the turn of the century, and I bow to no one in my admiration for dining critic Beth Rankin‘s articles and essays. (As far as I’m concerned, the biggest and best example of the paper’s change was with her recent essay on why she wouldn’t and couldn’t take publicity freebies sent her by various restaurants for ethical reasons: those who remember the paper around 2000, especially with the film and music sections, can understand why this was such a big deal.) Now go vote.

The Aftermath: Late Canada Day at the Texas Triffid Ranch

Ever have one of those parties where you’re so tied up in getting everything ready that you don’t notice that it’s time to open the door until you’re in the middle of vacuuming? Where so many people you’re glad to see are waiting at the door, and that they keep piling in for hours? Where the only reason you don’t do this every single week is because the gathering requires a week to prepare and a week to recuperate? Where you look at the calendar for the next event, calculate “I have six weeks to get everything done,” and automatically cut off anything that gets in the way of that deadline, like sleep? Yeah, that pretty much sums up a Triffid Ranch gallery show, at least from this side of the display table. The July 7 Late Canada Day show was our largest one yet, not just in general attendance but in enthusiasm, and it was worth the sleep deprivation.

Just as a friendly reminder, since we don’t have any outside shows scheduled for August, the next Triffid Ranch gallery opening is on August 18, from 6:00 to whenever everyone stops coming through the door. This one is an accumulation of special occasions, all stemming from it being the third anniversary of the very first gallery show at our old Galleries at Midtown location. Among many other things, it’s time to celebrate the birthday of Caroline of Tawanda! Jewelry, the hottie holding court in the front of the gallery space, and it’s also a matter of celebrating two old and dear friends who first formally met and got together at that first show. Watching them after three years makes most people fall to the ground clutching their guts and screaming “Ow! My pancreas!”, so they deserve a party as well. And don’t even get me going about the new enclosures on display for this one.

Enclosures: Novi (2018)

An ongoing human compulsion is to update and mark existing testaments left behind by others: some call it “vandalism” and others call it “embellishment,” and for as long as hominins have been building permanent edifices and monuments, others step in and leave their own mark. The bare wall, the lone boulder, the thin sod atop a chalk cliff…some rework, others augment. The motivations may be different but the end result identical: when faced with an industrial structure that sets off pareidolia, was it reworked out of a sense of removing a reminder that the current people in an area weren’t the first people? Did it have religious significance, either as the center of a new faith or a way to hide an old forbidden faith in plain sight? Or did the artist simply hate the idea of something remaining completely utilitarian and want to give a reason for others to visit a long-forgotten artifact?

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18 1/2″ x 24 1/2″ x 18 1/2″ (46.99 cm x 60.96 cm x 46.99 cm)

Plant:Nepenthes burkei x hamata

Construction: Glass enclosure, polystyrene foam, resin, tumbled glass, epoxy putty, garnets.

Price: $ 200US

Shirt Price: $ 150US

State of the Gallery: July 2018

It’s dry. Not standard “Dallas in July” dry: that still implies a touch of atmospheric humidity. We’re talking “the grass along the highway is a grassfire waiting to happen” dry. It’s “sweat bees want to be your bestest friend” dry. It’s “are you washing your clothes or debrining them?” dry. These sorts of dry summers happen very rarely out here, even in the worst brutal heat: even when the temperatures hit “cook your brain like an egg,” there’s usually enough moisture in the air that sweat is visible for at least a few seconds. Not this week. This is the week where getting out during the day leads to salt crusts on clothes and at the corners of your eyes, and where an evening shower isn’t an extravagance but a necessary removal of the day’s mineral carapace. Combine that with an equally dry south wind running day and night, and you can almost hear trees and bushes shrivel. I know this firsthand, as do my poor Sarracenia, because just one day led from “happy and hydrated” to “almost too dehydrated to save”. And so it goes.

Not that this is going to last: with the exception of 2011, where we went from April to Christmas Day with no rain except one fifteen-minute cloudburst in September, we can get sudden thunderstorms without warning. The National Weather Service is making promises of severe thunderstorms through the week, and we don’t blame the weatherfolk for rain predictions that don’t pass. You can bring up weather radar showing a gigantic bank of brutal storms around Fort Worth, and watch them shrivel and evaporate in real time the closer they get to Dallas. After a while, it gets to be a game, where everyone has to take a shot if the storms are deflected north or south. In some years, you’d swear that your neighborhood had a giant glass dome over it, where you can drive through rain coming down so hard that visibility is next to zero to a destination that didn’t get a drop.

Well, that’s Texas for you, where you can either sit and suffer until October, or you can find a good reason to get out, preferably after dark, to keep from growing roots into the couch. Let’s help out with that.

Since the urge to stay inside works for the gallery as well, the next couple of months will involve new enclosures and new commissions, and that’s why we’re having gallery showings. The first is the Late Canada Day show on July 7, with an emphasis on the legacy of Michel Sarrazin. If that’s not enough advance notice, the Triffid Ranch’s third anniversary gallery show is scheduled for Saturday, August 18, from 6:00 until whenever everyone goes home. At this point, the Triffid Ranch has been in its new location exactly as long as it was in its old space, so we have more reasons to celebrate than usual.

In other developments, the carnivorous plant workshop at Curious Garden was enough of a hit that it led to an interview in Richardson Living magazine, now on stands everywhere in the city. With luck, this might tie in to other events in the Richardson/Garland area: keep an eye open for particulars as they happen.

And other news? The trip to the International Carnivorous Plant Society show in August had to be cancelled due to finances (I could do it or pay the booth fees for next year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend show but not both, and next year’s Frightmare is the Triffid Ranch’s tenth anniversary out there), but a slew of carnivorous plant growers and enthusiasts are talking right now about a Texas meetup to share notes and cuttings. As soon as I have more details, I’ll pass them along, because a Texas carnivore conference would be the greatest thing to happen to me since the invention of the casual dresscode workplace. Again, check back for details, because this will be GLORIOUS.

Upcoming Events, June 2018 Edition

A month after Texas Frightmare Weekend, and things in the gallery are finally under control. New and reworked enclosures are going strong, the propagation area is full of new and exciting species, and the deep freeze in the back is full of frozen blueberries. (Take this from a longtime resident: about the only thing that makes summer in Texas livable is the explosion of East Texas blueberries in farmers’ markets and grocery stores, and the only thing that makes July and August tolerable is knowing that June was spent filling every refrigerated space in the vicinity with June’s and April’s and Melissa’s blueberries. By the time the blueberries run out, the local craft stores are full of Halloween stuff, which is usually enough to get through the last few weeks of baking heat before things start cooling off. This routine works until the day it’s possible to live like an African lungfish and aestivate in mucus and mud cocoons until the rains return.) This is the time of the year where everyone knows firsthand what a grasshopper on a griddle feels like (there’s a very good reason why sheepskin car seat covers were popular in Dallas in the days of vinyl car seats, especially for those fond of shorts), so the idea is to offer events and activities either indoors or after dark, and preferably both.

One of the advantages of emulating a Gila monster in the summer heat (living underground, emerging only to suck eggs and swallow baby bunnies whole, and dealing with interlopers with a venomous bite) is having plenty of time to organize for the days when the sun’s default setting drops below “supernova”. 2018 has been interesting in that regard: this year’s Deep Ellum Arts Fest was an anomalous combination of torrential rains and near-freezing temperatures, so registering for the 2019 Fest wasn’t even a question. This is also the year to see about admission to the famed Cottonwood Art Festival down the road from the gallery in October, as well as a lot of smaller shows and events through the area. The first showing at the Deep Ellum Art Company was a hit, and that may be a regular showing venue as well.

As far as the traditional Triffid Ranch shows are concerned, things are lively. Texas Frightmare Weekend’s open call for vendors starts soon, with notice on acceptance usually arriving in August. That’s also about the time for applications for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show in Austin in November, and two weeks after Horror for the Holidays is the two-day revived Dallas Fantasy Fair at the Irving Convention Center. That last one is going to be the most interesting, especially since I was a regular guest during my writing days through the first half of the 1990s until the original convention imploded in 1996. On one side, even the kids who were at the last few Fantasy Fairs are in their thirties and forties now, and nostalgia from the older fans might not be enough. On the other, Dallas still has precious little to do on Thanksgiving weekend that doesn’t involve movies or malls, and the Thanksgiving Fantasy Fair weekends in the Eighties and Nineties made that weekend a lot more tolerable for those of us without family plans (or those with families they had to escape for a while). Either way, let’s see what happens.

(As an aside, while it’s great to get invitations to attend other shows as a vendor, please understand that being able to attend is a combination of logistics and scheduling, and those can collide with interstate regulations, weather patterns, or the laughable concept of “personal life.” Please also understand two things, the first being that my having to reject a vendor request almost always isn’t personal, but that every show requires about a week before the show to prepare and a week after to recuperate and reorganize. Therefore, every two-day or three-day show effectively cuts out three weeks per month that could be used to create new enclosures or perform essential maintenance at the gallery, which is why we schedule the regular gallery shows for the months where we aren’t running an outside event. The second thing is that whining, guilt trips, or pushiness, especially of the “don’t you owe it to yourself to come to our show?” type, WILL guarantee a blacklist on even the remotest possibility of coming out to future events. This is a roundabout way to recommend not following the lead of Fear Con in Salt Lake City and taking a lot of care with vendor contact information. Unsolicited entry into a mailing list is bad enough, but texting when the mailing list wasn’t getting an immediate response? Oh, that’s a blocking.)

And for the regular gallery showings? Scheduling conflicts kicked in for the end of June, so the next Triffid Ranch gallery opening has been moved to Saturday, July 7. It’s a touch late for Canada Day, but as a chance to see Michel Sarrazin‘s namesakes in the pulp, it’ll still be worth the trip. Expect details in the very near future, as well as a few surprises, and some might even include blueberries.

Enclosures: Antarctica in Decline (2018)

Description: Very little is known about prehistoric Antarctica: with 98 percent of the continent covered with kilometers-thick ice, the few fossil beds accessible at the surface illuminate life there approximately 150 million years ago (including the discovery of the early theropod dinosaur Cryolophosaurus), approximately 65 million years ago, and the period surrounding the continent’s freeze 5 million years ago. Coal deposits and pollen samples from coring rigs are the main views of Antarctic plant life, as well as the inference from DNA analysis of the relationship between sundews from West Australia and Tierra del Fuego. It’s very possible that Antarctica had a wide and diverse population of carnivorous plants through its pre-freeze history, including relations to the Australian pitcher plant Cephalotus, but between the inaccessibility of most of its fossil-bearing strata and the poor fossilization record of carnivorous plants elsewhere, any discussion of Antarctic palaeofauna, especially of the period immediately after the extinction of the dinosaurs, is understandably speculative.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 18″ x 18″ (62.23 cm x 62.23 cm x 62.23 cm)

Plant: Cephalotus follicularis (2)

Construction: Glass enclosure, polystyrene foam, resin, tumbled glass, fiber-optic glass cabochons, polystyrene parts, found items,  aquarium spot lights.

Price: $500

Shirt Price: $400

Upcoming Projects: May 2018

It’s late in the month, and the classic Texas heat settled in a few weeks early, so the lack of updates is more to do with taking the habits of one Heloderma suspectum and working predominately under cover and in the wee hours. (Taking all habits might be a bad idea: the neighbors might take issue with sucking eggs and swallowing baby bunnies whole.) That means, though, that between shows and events, new enclosures are getting ready for premiere at summer Triffid Ranch gallery events. Here’s a taste, as part of a dry-fitting before making final adjustments and planting the final enclosure:

More to follow…

State of the Gallery: May 2018

Well. With Texas Frightmare Weekend recently ended (and photos and discussions on same will be online shortly), it’s time to shift gears, relax, and take a couple of weeks off to recover. And if you believe that, I have some great converted shopping mall live/work spaces at the bottom of the Trinity River that I’ll regretfully let go to someone who will appreciate them, too. Right now, the clock starts for preparation for the next Frightmare, and the real trick is to get everything else done over the next year as well.

Because of preparation and arrangement time, May and the first part of June will be relatively quiet as far as gallery events, but that’s because the Triffid Ranch goes mobile over the next two months. The fun starts with a showing at the Deep Ellum Art Company on Sunday, May 20, focusing on larger enclosures, from 2:00 to 6:00 that afternoon. Three weeks later, the Triffid Ranch gets much more hands-on with a workshop on carnivorous plants at Curious Garden and Natural History in Lakewood, including leaving with your own hand-planted sundew or butterwort enclosure. For the latter, contact Curious Garden to reserve your space in the workshop: the fee for registration and supplies is $30 per person.

This doesn’t mean that the gallery is abandoned: the next big gallery event is scheduled for Saturday, June 30 as a very slightly early Canada Day celebration. This includes a celebration of the famed French doctor and naturalist Michel Sarrazin, for whom the genus Sarracenia is named. Yes, that means lots of North American pitcher plants, as well as some other surprises. As always, admission is free, with lots of plants available to take home.

On the convention circuit, things will be quiet for the rest of the year, with one possible exception. After founder Larry Lankford’s death in 2013, an absolute on Dallas conventions with the older crowd was reminiscing about the long-defunct Dallas Fantasy Fairs, which ran three times a year from the mid-Eighties until their demise in 1996. A few members of that old crowd would make noises about reviving the shows every once in a while, but those noises remained such until about two weeks ago. That’s when the first formal announcements of headliner guests announced the 2018 Dallas Fantasy Fair, scheduled for the weekend of November 23-25 at the Irving Convention Center. It’s still early days yet, so the convention has little more than a Facebook page for further information, but the con organizer is already taking vendor requests for more information. If nothing else, a convention the weekend after Thanksgiving is a good way to get started with regular weekend openings at the gallery all through December. Details will follow as they arrive.

And on longterm trips, it’s official: the 2018 International Carnivorous Plant Society Conference is running the weekend of August 3-5, and the Triffid Ranch is heading to California to hear what the real experts have to say. This is purely a factfinding expedition: no plants, no displays, nothing but notebooks and lots of business cards, just in case. That works out the best: I haven’t been in the Bay Area since the beginning of the dotcom boom in 1996, so it’ll be nice to see it without prior job interview commitments or any other commitments.

Finally, the just-concluded Frightmare show marked a solid decade since the first Triffid Ranch show, and the size of the crowds and their needs confirmed that it’s time for a revamp of the show table look. Among other things, it’s time to enter the Twenty-First Century as far as information and organization is concerned. As before, details will follow as they arrive, but let’s just say that attendees at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2018 will have the opportunity to get questions about plants answered so long as they have a smartphone. Considering that the crowds were four and five rows thick through most of the last show, a change is essential before the next one. This doesn’t even start with a project inspired by Demetria at The Curiositeer, which should go live soon. Oh, this one will be entirely too much fun.