Tag Archives: lectures and events

New Developments


Now that the gallery is open and available for commissions, it’s time to make plans for the rest of the year and the whole of 2018. Dallas has had a relatively mild summer so far as compared to the first half of the decade, but August is still the month where we all take inspiration from my animal role model, the Gila monster, and find someplace cool and dark to plot strategy. While Triffid Ranch strategy might not match Gila monster strategy, which consists of crawling to the surface to suck eggs and swallow baby bunnies whole, we’re not completely unsympathetic. Gila monster strategy pretty much summed up my entire writing career through the Eighties and Nineties.

The first part of Triffid Ranch strategy involves planning local events, both at the new gallery and throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. This starts with a lecture and presentation at Half Price Books Mesquite on July 22 from noon to 3 pm, and several new events between now and the beginning of November that aren’t nailed down yet. As always, check the Shows, Lectures, and Other Events page for schedule changes and additions, and expect some surprising venues if things work out well.

 The biggest change in strategy, though, involves making the biggest jump in show audiences the Triffid Ranch has ever done, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit scary. Last April, an impulse trip to the Deep Ellum Arts Festival was nothing short of a mental explosion: the Festival has grown a LOT since its early days in the Twentieth Century, with a selection of artists and other vendors for whom the word “incredible” was an impotent shadow. Friday night alone was one of the most vibrant outdoor shows I’ve ever attended. no doubt accented by the best festival weather one could imagine. (Yes, summers in Dallas are harsh, but the springs and autumns out here make four months of slow simmering worthwhile.) Since then, checking on the availability of visual artist applications was a weekly event, and the applications for artists, musicians, and food vendors just opened. (And did I mention that the food at the Festival was so good that you could gain ten pounds just by standing at one of the intersections and inhaling for ten minutes?) This doesn’t just mean preparing for the huge crowds at Texas Frightmare Weekend during the first weekend of May, but having to prepare even more plants and enclosures for the Festival a month earlier. Applying is no guarantee of being accepted, and nobody will know anything until November, but considering that May 2018 marks a solid decade since the first-ever Triffid Ranch show, it’s time to make the jump. Here’s hoping I don’t faceplant any harder than usual.

And just in time for early preparation for local teachers in search of something different for their classrooms, watch this space for a big announcement next week on affordable enclosure acquisition and maintenance. This won’t be exclusively for teachers: doctors, lawyers, and dentists might have a big interest in this as well. However, teachers will appreciate the maintenance advantages. Details will follow.

Upcoming events: August 2013

It’s been a bit busy at the Triffid Ranch as of late, and with good reason. Typical Texas summer weather hit this week, naturally occurring the week before the biggest show of the year, meaning that experiments with water-conservation-friendly cooling systems in the greenhouse just went from “urgent” to “designing and developing solar-powered liquid nitrogen generators to keep everything from bursting into flame”. The weekend was spent working with silicone and urethane sealers, to the point where what leg hairs aren’t permanently veneered into my flesh are now the length and strength of porcupine quills, and just as dangerous to pets and furniture. I even managed to get some of the urethane into my eyebrows, and I now know the familiarity of co-workers at the Day Job to Nineties-era cult science fiction television based on the number who ask me if I’ve seen Mistah Garibaldi as I walk by. In fact, the best part of the ongoing severe drought is putting freshly painted items out into the sun and having them dry almost instantly: I’m half-tempted to try applying metal enamel to see if that would work as well.

Oh, and today is the Czarina’s birthday. Cue the musical accompaniment.

Anyway, in previous years, August was the month where the Triffid Ranch went dormant, waiting until the rains returned in September to emerge and feed once more. Our surprising cool and (relatively) wet July means that rainwater rationing in the greenhouse isn’t as extreme, and that means that a lot of plants are ready for sale and already adapted to the heat. Because of that, this August is a month of ongoing shows, all new venues, and a lot of opportunities. Who knew back in 2008, when the Triffid Ranch first started, that things would get so interesting?

With mention of shows comes the big one: the North American Reptile Breeders Conference now runs at the Arlington Convention Center twice per year, and that means that the Triffid Ranch makes an appearance this weekend, August 10 from 10:00 to 5:00 and August 11 from 11:00 to 4:00. We’re going to be in good company with lots of friends and fellows from previous NARBC shows, so be prepared to have a blast. I might even pick up a crocodile monitor while I’m there.

One weekend after, the party moves to north Carrollton. Keith Colvin of Keith’s Comics in Dallas is an old and very dear friend, and the only reason I don’t bring out plants for the kids attending his Free Comic Book Day events in May is because FCBD usually coincides with the big Texas Frightmare Weekend show. This year, Keith decided to expand his usual summertime Sidekick discount clearinghouse event into a Summercon running every weekend in August, and that includes vendors with other, related merchandise. What this means is that you can expect to see the Triffid Ranch booth at the Summercon event on August 17, for the whole day. Any excuse to stay out of the sun in August in Texas is a good one, and if you get the carnivorous plant bug, well, Dallas North Aquarium is just down Trinity Mills Road from the Sidekick store.

Finally, my own birthday comes at the end of the month: I tried to have it changed legally, but the authorities point out that “February 30” doesn’t happen anywhere near as often these days as it used to. Some people celebrate their 47th birthdays with guns, explosions, and crocodile monitors in the streets. This year, it’s time to celebrate it with a combination of all of these, by showing plants at AnimeFest in downtown Dallas on Labor Day Weekend. We’ll be out with plenty of friends and cohorts from other local shows, from noon on August 30 until 3:00 on September 2. (Yes, it’s a four-day convention, much like next year’s All-Con a little over six months from then. Don’t let it scare you.) In between those times, it’s open season.

Oh, and with the mention of Texas Frightmare Weekend earlier, next May marks the fifth anniversary of the Triffid Ranch’s first show at Frightmare, and both guest announcements and advance tickets both saw release last Sunday. One of these days, I’ll explain exactly how The Creature From The Black Lagoon ties into my fascination with carnivorous plants, but both the Czarina and I have very good reason to look forward to TFW 2014. We’re definitely appearing as vendors, and it’s time for even more surprises.

After August, things go relatively quiet as far as Triffid Ranch shows are concerned, with the big highlight being the fifth anniversary show and party at FenCon in Addison in October. However, it’s time to start moving further afield through Texas, and the number of Houstonians who came by the booth at Texas Frightmare Weekend demonstrated a need for a touring plant show through the southern portion of the state. Details follow as I get them, but a trip to a Houston or Galveston show in October might be a necessity. And so it goes.

Last call: Perot Museum Earth Day Activities

As mentioned repeatedly, show season is in force at the Triffid Ranch, so things may go quiet in the interim. I’m very glad that the Czarina usually attends most of these with me, because otherwise she’d be perfectly justified to assume that she wasn’t really married. Instead, she just had a troll living on the back porch that throws mud and crockery about while mumbling under his breath. She does, but occasionally I come inside to get water and pay bills before going once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

And so it goes with the Earth Day activities at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas. Expect lots of giant Sarracenia, other carnivores, and the usual expected stimulation of your sense of wonder. Just buy your tickets now before you head out, because if previous trips to the Perot are any indication, they may be sold out before you get here.

Upcoming Lectures: Dallas – Fort Worth Herpetological Society

The flytraps and Sarracenia pitcher plants are all going into dormancy, and the focus for the rest of the year is on getting ready for next year’s shows. HowEVER, if you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area this weekend, I’ll be the guest speaker for the Dallas – Fort Worth Herpetological Society meeting at the University of Texas at Arlington Life Sciences building on November 17. The subject at hand is a near and dear one: “Absolute Surefire Steps To Kill Your New Venus Flytrap”.

And on a sidenote, I’d also like to make a shoutout for friends on the West Coast of the US, because Sarracenia Northwest just started a series of winter open houses in December. Any excuse to go out there is a good one, and these winter open houses are really good excuses, so go out and have fun.

“Form blazing secateurs!”

While I know my chances of being allowed to join are right up there with G.G. Allin being inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, I keep tabs on the site Great Garden Speakers, mostly because of the number of friends, cohorts, and role models who show up there regularly. (Yes, I actually have friends who aren’t the human equivalent of the Burgess Shale fauna. Shut up.) Even better was discovering that Great Garden Speakers has a listing solely of Timber Press authors, including Fern Richardson and Debra Lee Baldwin. For your next gardening event, hire one or two to discuss horticulture. Hire them all to watch them merge into Voltron.

Events past and present

Now that the Halloween insanity is over, you’d think that gardening season joins it. It may for those in northeast North America (my friend Joey Shea just sent me a picture of a little girl with a jack-o’-lantern atop a snowman, thereby setting the stage for The Nightmare Before Christmas 2: Oogie Boogie Strikes Back), but we’re still good for another four to eight weeks. Heck, now’s the time to get prepared for next spring, and I’ve already had my next-door neighbor give me some really odd looks upon watching me throw purloined bags of grass cuttings over my back fence. I tell him “it’s for the Czarina’s tomatoes next year,” but I don’t think he believes me.

Now’s also when lecture season really kicks in, before all of the temperate carnivores go into winter dormancy and the tropical ones need to move indoors. I’ve done a lot of talks and lectures in the last few years, but I have to say that last Thursday’s talk at the Episcopal School of Dallas had to have been one of the best of the lot. The only thing better than showing off carnivores to a gaggle of extremely curious and exceptionally intelligent kids is discovering that most had already been taking Latin, so they understood exactly why I started lapsing into Linnean binomial nomenclature. When discussing the four different and very distantly related groups of plants commonly referred to as “pitcher plants”, that’s vital.

(Sadly, I had no pictures of the lecture, even though the Czarina brought out the camera. She got a bit involved with passing around plants, and I don’t blame her. She also got great enjoyment off watching the girls in the front of the lecture room wince and make “eww” noises when talking about sundew feeding habits, because they were listening to every last word. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear from a few of them in a few years, making serious contributions to natural history after being inspired by those sundews.)

The only problem with the ESD lecture was that it was far too short, which can be a problem when discussing the sheer variety of carnivorous plant habits, environments, and capture and digestion strategies. This weekend’s Discovery Days: Discovering Reptiles & Other Critters event at the Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas’s Fair Park should take care of that. Look for the Triffid Ranch table within the lofty environs therein on Saturday and Sunday until 5 in the afternoon, feel free to let your kids bring grown-ups, and don’t be afraid to let the grown-ups ask lots of questions. I’ll probably be mute by Sunday evening, but it should be a blast in the interim.

And speaking of the Nightmare Before Christmas motif, we’re now 25 days away from the MetroPCS Fair Park Holiday show, hosted by Friends of Fair Park. If things go quiet between now and then, it’s because I’ll be at work on Capsicum pepper bonsai and iTerrariums. Look at it as a live rendition of the Day of the Triffids Holiday Special, and come on out.

And now we start playing with bromeliads

2011 has been a year for experiments. A few worked out well, and a couple threatened to take over. Most of them, from growing various triggerplants from seed to attempting to raise the Excalibur of carnivorous plants, Nepenthes hamata, leave me crying in my sleep. Thanks to the summer and the continued drought, this was a really bad year for horticulture experiments. I really should complain, because the dingbat who packaged up 2011 didn’t label it “TOXIC WASTE” on the label.

All right, so the National Weather Service is predicting ongoing droughts until possibly 2020, and the front yard is full of cracks big enough to eat a puppy. The Sarracenia look at me these days with nothing but horror, and the Nepenthes hold the cats hostage for fear that I’ll put them outside. Don’t get me started about the Spathophyllum that I’ve been carrying around since 1998. It’s going carnivorous just so it can eat my face. That doesn’t mean I can’t add a new face in the greenhouse, can I?

Well, that’s precisely what happened last night. A while back, I made friends with the folks at the Greater Dallas/Fort Worth Bromeliad Society, and brought up that I was looking for a few very special bromeliads. Specifically, I was looking for representatives of the two known carnivorous genera, namely Catopsis berteroniana and Brocchinia reducta. It was an idle whim, comparable to my saying “I wouldn’t mind borrowing Quetzacoatl’s raft of serpents for a weekend,” and I figured that the opportunity would present itself when it was ready. You can imagine the shock when I heard from Aaron and Shawn of the Bromeliad Society, telling me “We have your plants.”

So right now, along with all of the other denizens, I have one plant each of Catopsis berteroniana and of Catopsis subulata. I have no idea for certain that C. subulata is carnivorous or even protocarnivorous, but considering the very alien appearance of this beauty, it may be time to find out.

The absolute best part of this? I recently received an invitation for an informal presentation for older students at the Episcopal School of Dallas week after next, and now I’ll be able to show them some really obscure carnivores. Between Catopsis and triggerplants, those lone flytraps out at Wal-Mart are going to look pretty sedate.