An ongoing joke for anyone living in Texas for more than a year involves the utter shock among other residents about the arrival of summer in the state. Mid-June to July, by the time outside temperatures reach blood temperatures, there’s always someone shrieking “But-but-but it’s not supposed to get THIS hot so early!” It’s not just the longtimers laughing in their faces, having seen that magical period of nearing 100 degrees F/37.77 degrees C land anywhere between the end of May and the middle of July. The newbies laugh even harder: they learned the hard way that no matter how prepared they thought they were for summer, there’s a big difference between preparing for it and experiencing it.
(The reality was that for all of the other nightmares in 2020, last summer wasn’t all that bad. Yes, we got hot in July and August, but it wasn’t a repeat of 1980 or 2011, and North Texas isn’t in drought yet. With the torrential rains of the first half of June, some of us were hoping for a repeat of 2007 or 1982, with the rains continuing to wash through. What 2021 brings, I have no idea, but I’ll just be happy for a lack of catastrophic storms and tornadoes as in 2019.)
Regardless of the scheduling, the June 13 Porch Sale coincided with the hottest day of 2021 so far, and it’s not going to get cooler for a while. We have one more Porch Sale scheduled for June 27 on the normal hours, but after the beginning of July, either they’re getting moved to much earlier in the day or they’re moving inside. I may be bicycling to and from the gallery, but not everyone is as acclimated to the ongoing heat.
The bad news for this coming Sunday: no Porch Sale, if only because the Triffid Ranch hits the road for the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo on June 19. However, it’s coming back on June 27 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, followed by another two-day Carnivorous Plant Weekend on July 3 and 4. And now to get everything packed up for Austin.
It’s going to be a busy weekend: Saturday is dedicated to heading west to Cross Plains for Robert Howard Days to see an old friend while there’s the chance, and then Sunday is all about this weekend’s Porch Sale. After that, it’s time for a road trip to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Convention Center. I’ve heard about this thing called “sleep,” and I really hope it doesn’t catch on.
(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)
Installment #26: “Correlation and Causation Sitting In A Tree”
Most people salivate in anticipation of the traditional November/December holiday season, and others for the beginning of their favorite sportsball season. Out here at the Triffid Ranch, the year really only gets going in May. In Texas, we’re absolutely past the last chance of needing a jacket or winter coat, the worst of the early spring allergens have already blown on the south wind to Nebraska, and every other plant in the area is already waking up and blooming. We still have wildflowers, or at least until the heat really kicks in around Memorial Day, and the days are long enough that all of those essential activities that require daylight have a chance to get done. At night, it’s all about running around under clear skies with the windows down, as well as spotting the occasional bat or silk moth. Yes, the summer heat will start getting oppressive soon, but not now, and there’s so much to do before the heat drives us all inside.
This May, though, is full of anniversaries. The month of May is always full of anniversaries (high school graduation, divorce, quitting pro writing), but these are big milestones. In fact, most of these are the anniversaries that led to the Triffid Ranch happening in the first place. For example, 45 years ago this month, the whole journey started when my father accepted a position with the long-defunct company General Foods as a packaging engineer, which required a move from Michigan to upstate New York. Ten years later, the balance scale between staying in Wisconsin for a second horrendous winter and moving back to Texas after nine months away was dependent upon someone who is still very important to me, and her decision led to packing up everything that could be shoved into a Greyhound bus and spending the next 28 hours on the road. Ten years after THAT, right on the edge of the dotcom boom, the option was between staying in an increasingly hidebound and threadbare Dallas and packing a now-ex-wife, three cats, a savannah monitor, and a grapefruit tree into a rental truck for a high-speed blast to Portland, Oregon for a new job and new life. (While I loathed Portland at that time and escaped 18 months later, that was a fateful trip, as it allowed me to see my first carnivorous plants, the famed cobra plant Darlingtonia, up close. Five years later, that would be a catalyst to events that changed the rest of my life.)
A lot of anniversaries involved stresses that were particularly rough at the time, but turned out to be classic adventures in bullet-dodging. 30 years ago, I was called into my supervisor’s cube at Texas Instruments and informed that I was being laid off: the immediate financial and social stresses were ones that scarred for years, but I also escaped just before Texas Instruments sold its entire Defense Electronics Group division and shut down everything I’d been doing for the previous four years, and five years before the company’s CEO was scheduled to testify before Congress as to why the missile system on which I spent 60-hour weeks a year before didn’t work as advertised. Ten years later, the same thing happened with a contract position with Southwest Airlines, just before 9/11 crippled the entire US airline industry.
On a carnivorous plant level, this year is my lucky 13: for several years, I had been a booth babe for manga artist Lea Seidman at a Free Comic Book Day outdoor event in Dallas called CAPE, and started bringing various carnivores to let people know what I was doing in lieu of writing for science fiction magazines. That culminated with the CAPE organizers offering a table space to show and sell carnivores, and the Texas Triffid Ranch went from abstract to concrete. To this day, that’s why I refer comics enthusiasts to Zeus Comics, because their starting and running CAPE started a debt I cannot hope to repay.
And so it goes to the present day. Looking back on those anniversaries is like looking back on a trail of shed snakeskins: if any had been left anywhere else, there’s no guarantee that the final output would have been anywhere near the same. It’s been a strange trip, and some of those snakeskins had more of an effect on me than on the people responsible for helping to peel them off, as it should be.
With the previous discussion of anniversaries, it’s necessary to mention the recent death of Michael G. Adkisson, the editor of the science fiction zine New Pathways from 1986 to 1992. The only thing that could be said is that if not for Adkisson and magazine editors and publishers just like him, I’d currently be a mediocre science fiction movie critic right now. And so it goes.
It’s a matter of time before it’s safe enough to open the gallery to vaccinated individuals (probably following in the tradition of the great Dallas goth club Panoptikon on admission being dependent on an official vaccination record), so it’ll be time to bring out food and drink. Let me introduce you to The Homicidal Homemaker, with lots of possibilities perfect for Triffid Ranch events for the rest of the year. And oh yes, I have ideas far beyond making more prickly pear sorbet.
Another one of the advantages to the current overload on streaming music services is coming across people that never, EVER would have shown up on Dallas radio, and probably never will. Add Danielle Dax to the list: there’s always more room in the rotating music list when working in the gallery.
Miss Tempest wasn’t the only inhabitant of the little corner garden in that little corner house, but she was definitely the longest. Miss Carolyn, the owner of that little corner house, knew that the little alcove in the back between the side door and the garage wouldn’t work as a full garden, so she decorated it with all sorts of surprises found and purchased. Miss Tempest arrived one day after Miss Carolyn found her at a crafts show, where she joined the assemblage of repurposed toys and curios who watched over the side door. She went in the back between the Barbie Triplets and the Bauble Witch, part of an ongoing and growing entourage regularly updated as previous inhabitants succumbed to the elements or walked off with interlopers both human and animal. Miss Carolyn didn’t mind: particularly after seeing a neighbor child playing with one of the Barbie Triplets, completely enthralled, she kept the space well-stocked for just such visits.
Miss Tempest understood that her name was an in-joke, as Miss Carolyn always chuckled about it as she walked by on errands or to tidy up the back yard space. She may have been half teacup, but otherwise she had nothing in common with her name: she was perfectly happy observing the world from an alcove underneath the house’s roof. Plants came and went over the years, and she paid them little notice, as there were always new plants. New denizens came and went, what with the crows drawn to pulling off the mirrored decorations of the Bauble Witch until she was a wire skeleton. The only thing that really caught her attention was the sky, and while the other garden denizens dozed and dreamed at night, Miss Tempest stared up at the stars she could see, keeping track as their positions changed across the seasons. She was so dedicated that she didn’t notice that Miss Carolyn’s regular visits became more sporadic, then stopped, the weeds in the garden grew to tremendous heights, and that her compatriots weren’t replaced or repaired any more.
One day, though, she noticed. That came when strangers came barrelling through the side door and came around the side yard with wheelbarrows and tools, dismantling a garden shed just out of range of Miss Tempest’s vision. The strangers only avoided squashing the garden flat because of its location, and if she could, Miss Tempest would have moved closer to the house. The Bauble Witch was squashed flat by one inattentive stranger, and a more attentive one picked through the garden denizens, looking for a while at Miss Tempest before deciding to leave her there. Behind her, she heard other strangers rustling and banging through the house, but try as she could, she didn’t hear anything from Miss Carolyn.
Finally, the activity slowed, with one woman looking over the garden while talking about “closing on the house as-is.” By this point, the garden was nearly unrecognizable. Most of the garden denizens were crushed, cracked, or taken, and all but Miss Tempest buried by a stranger dumping out an old aquarium full of soil in the space. Every night that she would have spent staring at the stars, she instead asked herself the same thing over and over: “What happens next?”
“Next” was a matter of perspective. She stayed underneath the overhang, protected from rain and snow, and about once a week, yet another stranger came by the side door to mow in the back. She could hear him mowing in front, and occasionally she could hear others gathering in the front or occasionally inside, talking about “necessary renovations” and “no next of kin.” After a time, she went back to staring back at the stars, the one thing that made sense any more.
That lasted until after the winter was over. By this time, the pile of soil before her had flattened and settled from autumn and winter rains, with bits of debris that used to be her neighbors peeking out in places. Then over the space of a few days, something else peeked out, and Miss Tempest beheld a plant unlike anything else she’d ever seen before. It was so strange, so different, that she did something she’d never done in her time in the garden. She tried to speak.
The plant answered back. who.
“Nobody has ever asked me that. I’m called ‘Miss Tempest.'”
“Do you have a name?”
“Do you know how long?”
“Well, we’re not going anywhere. Are you all right?”
still waking up.
“That’s a good question. I never paid attention before now.”
rain good. thirsty.
Later that evening, it started to rain. The plant sighed and settled in. At that moment, Miss Tempest didn’t know what the future entailed, or if either of them had a future, but for the first time in her existence, she looked forward to sharing it with someone. They had time.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)
Plant: Cephalotus follicularis “Elizabeth“
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, found items.
As opposed to Memorial Day Weekend, this last weekend was best described as “moist.” Nearly daily rain was capped on Sunday morning with a tremendous downpour impressive even by Dallas standards, leaving us invoking New Orleans or Tallahassee instead. Flash flood warnings and airport weather advisories finally receded later on Sunday morning, leaving the city with a barely moving humid atmosphere best described as “too thick to breathe, too thin to waterski on.” Between this and an ever-fluctuating chance of further thunderstorms throughout the day, the decision was to move inside.
As it turned out, things were slow, but more than compensated with grand conversation and intriguing discussion. Between recovery from last weekend and the oppressive atmosphere, most Dallas folks were staying home, not that anybody could blame them. That said, thanks to everyone who came out: as always, opening up the gallery is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
And so it continues: the gallery opens again next Sunday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and then the Triffid Ranch hits the road, heading to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at Palmer Convention Center in downtown. With luck, the trip will be much less eventful than the wall-to-wall traffic jam along I-35 during the 2019 Expo, and I’m looking forward to seeing longtimers and new folks then. See you then.
The Sunday Porch Sales continue with a slight time change: starting June 6, we’re open on Sundays from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, with everything moving inside if the rains on Sunday are as bad as currently predicted. We’ll see what happens.
It’s been nearly six years since the Triffid Ranch first opened in the old Valley View Center location, and in that time, we’ve never had the opportunity to have a full weekend show. Most of this is due to the day job schedule, and part of it was due to having the room and time to work on enclosures and general maintenance or conduct shows, but not both. Between regular practice with Porch Sales over the last year, though, as well as having several new enclosures to debut, made for a perfect opportunity to try a two-day event. And so Carnivorous Plant Weekend was born.
Oh, there were the rough starts: one whole enclosure backdrop ruined by too much sun and heat (yet another reason why painting and finishing are best done at night through the North Texas summer), and having plenty of time to finish cleanup and organizing until there wasn’t. That said, though, a great time was had by all, and spreading things out for two days meant that a lot of people who couldn’t make the Sunday Porch Sales now had an opportunity to wander around. As it should be.
As always, many thanks to everyone who came out, and I hope we didn’t disappoint. For those who couldn’t, the Porch Sales return nearly every Sunday in June (the only exception is June 20, because I’ll be driving back from the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo on June 19), and then we’re going to try another Carnivorous Plant Weekend on July 3 and 4, details to follow. My, it’s busy around here this year, isn’t it?
Lots of reasons to celebrate this weekend: 25 years ago this week, myself, an ex, three cats, and a savannah monitor crossed the Rocky Mountains to set up house in Portland, Oregon. (The celebration came in escaping Portland 18 months later.) This weekend, we’ve got the Carnivorous Plant Weekend going on at the gallery: 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Saturday, May 29 and 10:00 am to 4:00 on Sunday, May 30. Oh, and keep an eye open for further upcoming events, because this summer is going to get odd.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Nogha energy conduits are not the only known examples of attempts to tap or shunt energy between our universe and others. In the Yannazzo system (287663/Blue/NNYTXSW), recent exploration of the fourth rocky world of that system uncovered an otherwise completely unencountered example of an energy conduit, with energy leakage leading to a 100-kilometer area supporting a breathable atmosphere and optimal temperatures for Earthlike life forms. On a world otherwise averaging temperatures more inclined for frozen methane, this is surprising enough. Odder, though, is that this new energy conduit seems to be collecting residual energy from an otherwise dead or dying universe, with the likelihood of Yannazzo IV freezing solid within another 1000 Earth years unless the energy conduit can be shifted to another access point. The likelihood of discovering how within the time the planet has left depends upon popular sentiment and political will, and considering that this is just another mystery in a galaxy overloaded with them, the research base set up to understand how this conduit works is always prepared to pack up and leave at any time.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Plant:Nepenthes “Rebecca Soper”
Construction: Glass enclosure, polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Okay, so the weather report for Saturday keeps getting worse, with thunderstorms over the entire afternoon: the Triffid Ranch tent can handle rain, but not hail and certainly not the possibility of tornadoes, so the planned Frightmare Collectibles cameo regretfully has to be cancelled. At least next weekend’s Carnivorous Plant Weekend is indoors, eh?
As it’s been since first moving here 41 years ago, the only certainty about May in Texas is that no two Mays will ever be alike. Oh, they’ll rhyme: May 2021 is an ongoing series of torrential thunderstorms and impending tornadoes like 1982 and 2007, with the likelihood of regular deluges all the way to August. At least, that’s the unspoken hope, because a hot, lush, and sticky summer in Dallas is preferable when the sticky is from humidity and not molten metal adhering to every surface. We’ll see what June and July bring to the table, but the odds of rhyming with the heatwaves of 1980 and 2011 fade with every storm between now and August 1.
At the gallery, the vibe is similar. May 2021 has been the biggest month in the gallery’s history, with a truly spectacular number of enclosures going out the door, and we still have two shows to go. For those who missed out on the May 1 outdoor event at Frightmare Collectibles in Justin, May 22 is the makeup date, starting at 11:00 am and running until everyone decides to go home. The weekend after that, though, will be the first two-day open house in gallery history, opening on Saturday, May 29 from 4:00 to 9:00 pm and then again on Sunday, May 30 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. And after that, we rest for a bit.
After Memorial Day weekend, it’s back to Porch Sales at the gallery, at least until June 19. That’s when the Triffid Ranch hits the road and heads to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo. After that, things honestly depend upon available events: one way or another, we’re finishing off the summer with the return of Texas Frightmare Weekend on the weekend of September 10.
And one last note: with schedules rolling and shifting all over the place, one show had to be jettisoned. Originally, the plan was to go to Dallas Market Hall for Aquashella Dallas, but after two cancellations, the only time available for two dear friends’ wedding was on Halloween weekend, and they have to take precedence. Besides, how often do you get to be best man at your best friend’s wedding?
And on that note, time to get back to work: between commissions and new pieces, it’s time to go to town on new enclosures. Keep an eye out for new enclosures and new backstories: this is going to be a busy summer.
In a better universe, Joey Ramone will be celebrating his 70th birthday next Wednesday, surrounded by friends, fans, and music awards, preferably at a monster party at the newly renovated CBGB’s. With Morrissey bussing tables and snaking out the toilet. We don’t live in that better universe, and while I’m not going to stop looking for a way there, making this universe a little better every day is just as good.
Posted onMay 11, 2021|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Mother’s Day 2021 Porch Sale
As is pretty much the case for North Texas in May, the weather forecast was dire. Saturday was an afternoon and evening of winds high even for Dallas, with airport warnings blaring every 15 minutes. Saturday evening, the prediction for Sunday was even worse: “thunderstorms, torrential rains, up to baseball-sized hail, and a chance of Tom Cruise and/or Ted Cruz climbing into your bedroom and staring at you in the dark all night while whistling the theme to Dark Shadows.” For those planning any kind of event outside on Sunday, things looked grim.
As is also the wont of North Texas in May, a massive north front hit the Dallas area around 1:00 in the afternoon…and broke to pieces. That is, bystanders literally watched as this front of gloom and woe evaporated before our eyes. The only change from before to after was a delicious drop in temperature, with some of the best Mother’s Day weather in decades. It was perfect weather for getting out, and everybody got out while the getting was good.
Posted onMay 7, 2021|Comments Off on “A man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.”
Along with everything else that’s going on, it’s time to note that this little WordPress word salad turns a full decade old on Sunday, May 9. As with a lot of other things in my distant past, had anyone told me in 2011 what things with the Triffid Ranch were going to be like in 2021, efforts to check that person’s sanity, preferably with an oil dipstick, would have been necessary. Thanks to everyone who stuck with this little road trip for all these years, and fond memories of those who fell off, for various reasons, since that start. Now let’s make plans for 2031, starting with arranging for more events this month.
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Another friendly reminder: because of impending incredibly foul weather (and in Texas, “foul weather is usually a synonym for “hail and tornadoes”), this weekend’s Triffid Ranch event at Frightmare Collectibles was cancelled early this morning. We’re awaiting word as to when Frightmare Collectibles wants to try again (and ever notice that tornadoes only blow you to Oz and not Melnibone or Nehwon?), but until then, there’s always the Mother’s Day Porch Sale on May 9. See you then.
Posted onApril 30, 2021|Comments Off on The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #25
(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)
Installment #25: “Chicago: City of the Future!”
Originally published April 1, 2021
Last year, the plan for the Triffid Ranch was to start moving outside of the Dallas area. Shows in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio were a given, but the original idea was to expand to the first show outside of Texas with a debut at the New Orleans Oddities & Curiosities Expo last August.. Explanations as to why might be needed…for someone whose TARDIS broke down in mid-Devonian Greenland, and the wait for rescue was just long enough that getting up to speed in the present was too much aggravation. (And don’t worry: my grandmother is fine. She even rescued her favorite umbrella.) Suffice to say, with early plans to restart shows and events in 2021, a lot of events were kicked to autumn, and so many had no option but to schedule themselves on the very same weekend as others. (For instance, as much as I would love to show plants at the Deep Ellum Arts Fest, after finally making it through the backup list, this year’s Arts Fest runs the same exact weekend as Texas Frightmare Weekend, and Frightmare obviously takes precedence.) Combine that with a new day job to keep the plants in light and food, and that 2020 schedule looks a little threadbare.
Not to worry, though. The big out-of-state event was just upgraded. The Triffid Ranch is going to Chicago!
Very technically, it’s “going back to Chicago”: I lived in the suburb of Hazel Crest for a year, from the end of 1978 to 1979, where a lot of interesting stuff happened. John Gacy, filming of The Blues Brothers, the Blizzard of 1979, and the moment when two local film critics by the names of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel took their discussions on movies and movie trends to PBS. On a very personal level, this was when I personally encountered my first carnivorous plant: a Venus flytrap purchased in a local garden center. (As I relate at shows and events, it was doing great in Chicago, and then my family moved to Flower Mound, Texas at the end of 1979. The first time I watered that flytrap with Flower Mound tap water, the plant died within an hour, and I didn’t discover why for another 23 years.) Other than passing through in 1982 on the way to Michigan, and one transfer through O’Hare Airport in 1999, the opportunity to return hasn’t been available since then.
As for the event, it’s Chicon, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention, being held the weekend of September 1-5. Right now, everything other than the actual trip is tentative: I’ve volunteered for programming and for art show presentations, and current logistics involve figuring out how to move a truck full of carnivorous plant enclosures closer to the 45th Parallel than I’ve traveled in at least a decade. And yes, someone has already made the joke about the 300-pound Sontaran attorney.
One of the bigger reasons why this is so intriguing isn’t just to meet Chicago online friends in meatspace for the first time, and inflict silent vomiting in a few attendees assuming that I’m returning to pro genre writing. (As I tell my parents when they nag about moving “back” to Wisconsin, a place I left 35 years ago in May, I’ll return the moment the Dallas Cowboys win a shutout World Series pennant, and not a second earlier.) It’s also because of several cohorts who pointed out that the IGC Show, the country’s largest independent garden center show and convention, runs roughly at the same time. With news that the IGC Show might not have a 2021 event due to Illinois COVID-19 lockdowns, this leads to all sorts of mischief, er, plots, um, ideas. Yeah, IDEAS.
The reality is that both the concept of Worldcon and the IGC Show could use a boost, particularly to attract new audiences. Right now, both tend to skew toward the older side of the US demographic bell curve: I’ll be 56 when Chicon starts, and I’ll probably still be in the bottom 10 percentile of attendees sorted by age. (Thankfully, it won’t compare to the San Antonio Worldcon in 2013: for multiple reasons, I skipped out on being a vendor at San Antonio, and one of the most prominent was “If I wanted to waste a perfectly good birthday weekend listening to a herd of seventysomething xenophobes cry impotently about how the world changed without their written permission, I’d go to a family reunion.”) They both tend to be rather insular, with a lot of attendees worrying about the way things should be instead of what their customers really want. So why not merge them?
Hear me out. Anybody going through a publisher catalog, especially from science fiction publishers such as Baen and Tor, notices that science fiction needs a lot more biology, a lot more flowers, and a lot more exposure to interesting symbiotic and paraparasitic relationships. Anyone going through a garden center catalog notices that garden centers really need a lot more in the way of mysterious and surreal sculpture and topiary. A joint literary science fiction/garden center convention is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of pop culture: these two need each other more than they realize. Just look at these talking points:
Dealer’s Rooms. Worldcon not only needs a much wider variety of items for sale in its dealer’s room, but items that convince the longtimers to leave the bar for a while. The IGC needs items for sale and order for those desperately sick and tired of the twee in garden ornamentation. Roses, Tillandsia, carnivores, fluorescent minerals. Swords, dragons, robots, and wrecked starships. Plan things right, and edge out the book dealers who just sit in the corner and grump at anybody wanting a book published after 1970, and dealers on both sides would make a killing.
Music. The IGC Show is famed for its regular free rock concerts for all attendees, usually from acts who last hit major radio airplay back in the days of Reagan and Thatcher. Half of rock music of the last half-century has at least some influence from genre themes. DragonCon in Atlanta already has a reputation of (a) running on the same weekend as Worldcon and (b) hosting big concerts for attendees, so this is a perfect opportunity to amp things up slightly and get the longtimers out of the bar. I recommend a headliner of GWAR.
Cooking. Not only does Chicago offer some of the best cuisine in North America, but the IGC Show has lots of panels and demos involving new and existing vegetables and herbs. Worldcon attendees, though, have a reputation of being perfectly happy with $15 overcooked hot dogs from the convention hotel restaurant. Hot peppers, rosemary skewers, mesquite wood, wonderful cooking scents from the food tents out in the parking lot and inside the hotel, and something something out of the bar.
Costuming. Okay, so the costumes at the IGC Show are accidental. Worldcon, though, has a reputation for attendees creating their own costumes that goes back all the way to the beginning of science fiction fandom. Lots of cross-pollination, pun intended, here: Triffids, Delvians, vargas, Krynoids, Vervoids, Vegetons, Pink Bunkadoos, Violet Carson roses, and Slaver Sunflowers, and who knows what attendees will think up after coming across hammer orchids, triggerplants, and cycads. And let’s face it: every garden center show could use at least a few Freeman Lowell and Dr. Pamela Isley cosplayers, just to make things interesting.
Okay, we have 17 months to make this happen, or die trying. And if it doesn’t happen in Chicago, it might have to be done, to a suitable scale, in Dallas. Heh heh heh.
Since all of the plants that survived February’s freeze are starting to emerge, it’s time to start up spring video presentations, particularly as the sundews, flytraps, and pitcher plants start blooming. Naturally, teachers, museums, or anybody with an audience of interested bystanders looking for something different are welcome to send an email to discuss setting up a unique virtual experience. (Now is also a great time for print, online, television, and/or radio interviews, too, because things might get a bit more exciting as the growing season gets going.)
Well, the old computer had reached its planned end-of-life shortly after I received it, and that was a decade ago, so a new computer was called for, because there’s a lot that can’t be done with an iPad after all. Among many other things, this gave the opportunity to purchase the whole of the Affinity professional creative suite, Among other things, this gives the opportunity to start working on PDF zines on carnivore care, and some of the publishing options are going to be dangerous. Watch this space.
Regular readers already know about my love of wasps, and the book Wasps: The Astonishing Diversity of a Misunderstood Insect by Eric R. Eaton. Besides being loaded with interesting wasp information, this book is one of a dying breed: a book that starts at a level of “almost no knowledge about the subject in the reader’s mind” without being patronizing or childish. If anything, the section on wasp fossils and relationships is worth buying it alone, because the illustrations and photos are absolutely top-notch.
In the ongoing quest for both work music in the gallery and tunes for the bike ride to the gallery, the band T3rr0r 3rr0r kept turning up, much to the distress of anyone hearing it seep out from headphones. No matter: more for me. This is the soundtrack the 1990s were supposed to have, back before everything turned into dotcoms and whiner rock.
The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale #25 is copyright 2021 by Paul Riddell, and may be reproduced in its entirety and forwarded at will. The Texas Triffid Ranch is Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, located in scenic Richardson, Texas, and is open by appointment. More information is available at www.texastriffidranch.com. Since nobody else read this far, the key for the device can be found on page 44 of the book Didn’t You Kill My Mother-In-Law? by Roger Wilmut and Peter Rosengard. It’s page 44: page 42 is a trap that initiates detonation immediately.
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Posted onApril 30, 2021|Comments Off on Frightmare Collectibles This Weekend: Cancelled
A leading warning that anyone living in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area takes to heart: don’t mess with the weather. This week has already been brutal through Texas, but Saturday has the promise of thunderstorms, with a risk of hail and/or tornadoes, all day. Since those thunderstorms generally build strength around Fort Worth, the crew at Frightmare Collectibles just cancelled Saturday’s hearse show. With it, the Triffid Ranch takes an (involuntary) break this weekend, with the idea of rebounding with the Mother’s Day Porch Sale on May 9. Now to return the rental van…
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And the results are in: the winner of the Triffid Ranch in the Workplace contest is Lewisville Salon Suites and Spa. Rosemont 6th Grade gave a hearty challenge, but with 78 votes, the Salon Suites was the decisive winner. Many thanks to everyone who voted, and now it’s a matter of getting Launch Bay to its new location.
Posted onApril 26, 2021|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Manchester United Flower Show 2021
Since its start five years ago, the Manchester United Flower Show at the gallery hasn’t always been smooth. It ran well on its first year at the old Valley View space, but it was cancelled in 2017 while we tried to get the new gallery set up. There was the cancellation due to severe illness (once again, anybody can cough up blood, but coughing up urine takes talent), and then last year’s attempt at a virtual event that, well, could have gone better. Between lingering and understandable COVID-19 concerns and legitimate worries about last February’s record freeze, nobody would have said anything if it hadn’t gone through. But it did.
Considering the weather concerns, things could have been much worse. The previous Friday marked a line of severe thunderstorms passing through the Dallas area that afternoon: the Sarracenia pitcher plants are adapted to hurricane-force winds and blasting rain, but they aren’t adapted to hail. Thankfully, that hail hit north of the gallery, so everything was hale, hearty, and well-watered in time for Sunday’s opening. Some plants were still delayed by the February freeze (there’s nothing quite like a greenhouse full of “Aki Ryu” flytraps about a week away from blooming) and some decided to fuss further (no Heliamphora or Cephalotus flowers this year), but otherwise the plants amazed visitors more than usual.
Obviously, global warming permitting, we’re doing this again next year, and trying this again in October to show off autumn pitchers might be educational. Many thanks to everyone who came out: if you missed the show this time, we’ll be out at Frightmare Collectibles. on May 1 for the Hearse and Shock Rod Show from 11 am until whenever everyone goes home. The Sarracenia blooms may be fading by then, but the flytraps are taking advantage of their deep dormancy last winter.
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It’s over, and we now have winners in the first-ever Texas Triffid Ranch in the Workplace contest. Three enclosures are going out to those brave enough to submit why they thought their place of employment needed a carnivorous plant enclosure. Novi and Hoodoo are going to new locales right away, but Launch Bay has some competition.
As promised, if an enclosure got more than one candidate selecting it, the vote comes up to you, the general Triffid Ranch readers. Everyone who participated gave a reason why they thought they needed an enclosure, so it’s up to all of you to decide. The reasons:
Rosemont 6th Grade – “I work at a 6th grade center and my students LOVE new and interesting things. I recently bought two beta fish and these tough kids adore taking care of them. I think they would absolutely get a kick out of carnivorous plants on campus. They would ask so many questions about them and learn so many new things. This is great from an art standpoint, a science standpoint, and ELA because it could spawn so many creative story ideas. I believe that a school would be the perfect host to such a unique and amazing enclosure.”
Lewisville Salon Suites & Spa – “My husband and I own a salon suite business (its in a strip center next to a dentist, Tiff’s Treats, Karate studio, and a sports bar) and we have 32 rooms that we rent to hair stylist, nail technicians, massage therapists, eye lash experts, barbers, etc. When their clients enter the entrance of the salon there is a small lobby that is in need for something impressive. We have beautiful art work on the walls and some amazing chandeliers but my plants that I had in the entry way died since we were mandatory closed for 2 months. I tried to sneak up there to take care of them but they didn’t survive (didn’t help the landlord shut off our water). We need something fun!! We need something people can remember us by!! We need something we can feature on our website, Instagram etc. We are so glad our tenants (most of them) have survived covid shut down and trying to get their customers to come back in to the salon. We would love to celebrate with them by having a fantastic artistic plant in our workplace and to have something that will set us apart from the competition!!! Thank you for your time to consider us.”
So now it’s up to you. Ballot box stuffing is encouraged (after all, this is for fun, not for political office), so feel free to get friends and cohorts in, and the ballot box closes at midnight Central Standard Time on April 28, 2021. Pick your favorite, and check back here next week.
Update: the voting is now closed. Thanks to everyone who voted.
Posted onApril 20, 2021|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The First Porch Sale of 2021
So last week’s Triffid Ranch Porch Sale didn’t work out, mostly due to intense side-effects from receiving my second Moderna vaccination, so it was time to start over. This time, a combination of spectacularly good weather, including unseasonably but much-appreciated cool temperatures, and accompaniment from Caroline Crawford Originals meant that the kickoff for the 2021 Porch Sales went without a hitch.
One of the best things about this Porch Sale was the combination of new and returning attendees, including a set of old friends. The same was true of the plants: the Sarracenia pitcher plants and the Venus flytraps finally emerged after their late start due to the February ice storm, and they’re all determined to make up for lost time.
Much like an old girlfriend’s severe dairy allergies made her an obligate vegan, my severe aversion to alcohol and various respiratory issues make me an obligate teetotaler. (Don’t get me going about opiates: two weeks after thoroughly invasive rotator cuff surgery in 1994, I went cold turkey on my prescribed painkillers because the pain was preferable.) That said, with 4/20 coming up, celebrate according to local laws and customs, secure in the knowledge that you won’t having me mooching your booze, your weed, or your chocolate. The more for everyone else, right?
For those more in the mood for other vegetative celebrations, we’re going to try again with a Sunday morning Porch Sale on April 18, running from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The weather should be exemplary, and masks will be mandatory. See you then.
Posted onApril 15, 2021|Comments Off on State of the Gallery: April 2021
Ah, it’s not an April without drastic environmental and social change, usually with multiple situations happening at once. April 2021 keeps on keepin’ on, and it’s only halfway finished.
Before getting into details on the gallery, please note a very important caveat on any plans involving the Triffid Ranch. Caroline’s mother Nancy, an essential part of the gallery’s beginnings (some of you may have met her when she would come to early Triffid Ranch shows before the gallery, and a regular guest at open houses and events after the gallery first opened), has been in hospice for a while, and her condition continues to deteriorate. Her situation and continued comfort is paramount in our lives right now, so please understand if we don’t answer questions right away or can’t schedule appointments at this time.
On that line, because we need to be in close range if she needs additional help, any Triffid Ranch events by necessity will be close and brief. Because of news this morning, we’ve had to cancel attending the Plano Music & Arts Fest this weekend, and will make it up by rescheduling last weekend’s planned Porch Sale for Sunday, April 18. If you can’t make it this Sunday, barring further mishap, the Manchester United Flower Show runs on Sunday, April 25 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm as well.
(As for last Sunday’s last-minute Porch Sale cancellation, chalk that up to complications of being a responsible adult. As of last Saturday, I became a fully vaccinated adult human, and didn’t have any issue for the rest of the day other than a slight ache in my left shoulder. About 18 hours later, though, the oft-noted side effects for COVID-19-susceptible Moderna vaccine recipients kicked in, with severe fever, joint and muscle aches, and generally all of the non-lung side effects of a severe bout of viral pneumonia. As uncomfortable as it was, having as bad a reaction as this signified that my cells were more susceptible than most to a COVID-19 infection, and severe weakness and pain is a lot better than death. Now that those side effects finally wore off, it’s back to outdoor shows, absolutely with masks at all times to make sure.)
Through May, that’s going to be an ongoing situation: weekly events at the gallery and a relative minimum of events away. That’s not an absolute (there’s no way I’d miss the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin in June, for instance), but between weather fluctuations and some truly ridiculous booth fees for local events, staying home and setting up at the gallery makes more sense. In fact, as these take off, it may be time to invite other vendors, just to give others a chance to get back into setup and breakdown practice.
Finally, some other good news. The ongoing contest to give away one of three custom carnivorous plant enclosures to a local business continues until April 21, and participants are finally understanding that it’s not a scam nor a data mining attempt. Final voting starts week after next, where everyone’s encouraged to vote for their favorites, but feel free to let friends and cohorts know before then. Now let’s see about getting those enclosures new homes.
After the last three weekends, it’s time to stay home for a little bit. The first Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of the season opens this Sunday at 10:00 out in front of the gallery, and I’ll keep the tent up until 4:00. See you then. (EDIT: due to particularly intense vaccine reactions, this Sunday’s Porch Sale has to be cancelled. The Manchester United Flower Show is still on in two weeks, though.)
Posted onApril 8, 2021|Comments Off on “YES, WE’VE GOT A TWITCH CHANNEL!”
Welp, with help from Loyd Cryer of Texas Frightmare Weekend and his video assistants, we’re going to try again with the Thursday night videos on Twitch, tonight focusing on Sarracenia flava pitchers and flowers. (Just be glad that Smell-o-Vision isn’t practical for video feeds, because much like how wintergreen and birch bark smell the same, so do flava blooms and the long-defunct Dallas Fantasy Fairs. It ain’t pretty.) Video starts at 8:00 pm Central Time, and smartaleck comments are encouraged. And so it goes.
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Okay, so things are gradually reopening through North Texas, both by choice and by necessity. Restaurants and bars closed for the last year are letting customers know that they’re open, limited occupation and otherwise. Meanwhile, the year-long experiment in working from home continues to evolve for many companies, with many preferring to keep offices closed permanently and others making plans to bring everyone back by the end of 2021. Vaccinations rates are up, people are much more optimistic about the end of the pandemic than they were six months ago, and stimulus checks are burning holes in peoples’ pockets. If the business of the United States is business, as the old saying goes, a lot of folks are getting off the couch, going through their work clothes, and setting alarm clocks.
In the process, the need for some green in the workplace never went away, but a lot of the plants did. Everyone in office environments has stories of coming back only to find long-dead flora that had been left behind when the shutdown orders hit. (I won’t even start with the aquaria.) It’s even worse with long-closed restaurants: I’ve heard stories of Oceans 11-style heists conducted by plant rental services trying to get Ficus trees and philodendrons out of newly bankrupt venues where nobody knows who has the keys. While garden centers and nurseries have been doing wonderfully through all of this, the business side of Dallas horticulture has had it rough.
On a personal level, the Texas Triffid Ranch ran into a big problem: a problem with space. The events and situations of 2020 meant more and more time to create new enclosures, but fewer opportunities to hold open houses, trade shows, and other events to find them all new homes. Even after the massive revamp of the gallery shelving system, the ideas kept coming, but the places to show off the end results eventually filled up. That’s probably going to change quite a bit in the next few months, but right now, there’s a need to find new homes for longtime enclosures. Our space issue is the gain of three lucky Dallas-area workplaces.
So here’s the situation: through the month of April 2021, the Triffid Ranch is going to give away three custom carnivorous plant enclosures to three deserving nominees. For the first two weeks (April 6 to April 18, 2021), share your best affirmation or sob story as to why your place of employ needs its very own enclosure. This isn’t limited to seemingly plant-friendly venues, either: doctor’s or lawyer’s offices, restaurants, comic shops, libraries, auto garages, bookstores, nail salons, tea shops, bars, pubs, distribution warehouses, showrooms, waiting rooms, and obviously dentist offices. (That goes without saying.) After that, on April 21, 2021, ten entries will be selected from the total entries and put up for an open public vote. Ballot stuffing is encouraged (hey, it works for D magazine), and the final three winners based on total votes will be announced on April 28. After that, it’s just a matter of setting up a time for delivery or pickup. Got it?
Now to see what you’re fighting for:
The first enclosure under consideration is Novi (2018), featuring a Nepenthes burkei x hamata hybrid.
The second offering is Launch Bay (2015), featuring a Nepenthes “King of Spades” hybrid.
The final enclosure up for giveaway is Hoodoo (2018), featuring a Nepenthes veitchii.
And now, the rules:
Numero uno: This contest is open to any business in the greater North Texas area. However, winners outside of the greater Dallas area (within a 35-mile radius of downtown Dallas) will be responsible for pickup. Sadly, this contest is not open to participants outside of Texas.
Numero two-o: For tax reasons, the value of each enclosure is listed at $200 US. Winning prizes may not be exchanged for cash.
Numero three-o: The care of each enclosure will be the sole responsibility of the prize winner, and the Texas Triffid Ranch will not be responsible for any costs or damages of any sort incurred after receipt of the prize. Planned locations for an enclosure should take into account foot traffic, customer or employee interference or vandalism, or any other factor that might lead to damages to the enclosure, the surrounding area, or individuals or groups with access to the enclosure.
Numero four-o: The prize will not come with lighting, locks, misters/foggers, thermometers/hygrometers, or other accessories, and must be provided by the prize winner. The Texas Triffid Ranch will assist with recommendations on the best options for the prize winner, but will not supply free accessories.
Numero five-o: All best efforts will be made to assist the prize winner with sufficient information for successful care of the prize, but the Texas Triffid Ranch will not be responsible for dead plants for any reason.
Numero six-o: One entry will be accepted per business. Multiple attempts by multiple participants may be made, but the judges’ ruling will be final.
Numero seven-o: Initial acceptance of entries ends at midnight on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Public voting on the entrants will begin no later than Wednesday, April 21, 2021. All votes must be in by Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at midnight. No entries will be accepted after Wednesday, April 21 for any reason.
Numero Eight-o: This contest is not open to home businesses or to those working from home. That’s for another time.
Now, if that works for all of you, get those entries in. (NOTE: the contest is now closed.)
Posted onApril 5, 2021|Comments Off on New Triffid Ranch Events – April 2021
Because people are already asking about upcoming events at the gallery, the Eventbrite listings for both next weekend’s Porch Sale and the Manchester United Flower Show on April 25 are now live, so feel free to share them early and often. Right now, everything is starting at 10:00 am and ending at 4:00 pm, but that will likely change after the beginning of May, weather willing. You really don’t want to be outside in Dallas on a late Sunday afternoon in July, do you?
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Posted onApril 5, 2021|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Frightmare Collectibles Spring Slasher Camp 2021
Forget March’s association with lions and lambs: April in North Texas is permanently attached to caribou, emperor penguins, Mexican free-tailed bats, and Christmas Island crabs. It’s all about the journey and the endurance. This April, after two big shows the previous weekend, the Triffid Ranch pushed for three with last Saturday’s Frightmare Collectibles Spring Slasher Camp outdoor event in Justin, Texas. Seeing as how most of the attendees were regulars for Texas Frightmare Weekend, this combined the best of a (socially distanced) Frightmare gathering with beautiful if slightly windy weather. Either way, nobody was complaining.
This was a test of the Frightmare Event System: the plan is for Frightmare Collectibles to host a much larger event on May 1, on what would have been Texas Frightmare Weekend’s busiest day. Four months before the revised opening of Texas Frightmare Weekend and six months before Halloween: for those craving plant shows with a bit darker feel than the traditional arboretum events, hie thee hence to Justin in a month.
If you can’t wait that long, keep an eye out for other events between now and May 1, as well as the regular video shows on Twitch. Now that the Sarracenia are starting to bloom, it’s time for some real fun with the latter.
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Another weekend, another Triffid Ranch outdoor show, and just in time for some spectacularly beautiful weather. This Saturday, it’s time for the Spring Slasher Camp at Frightmare Collectibles in Justin: the festivities start at 11am and keep going until 9:00 pm. Admission is free and masks are mandatory.
In all of the strangeness and horror of the last year, the Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in Dallas suggested a possible end, if we’re willing to take it. Yes, Texas Governor Greg Abbott dropped statewide mask and social distancing mandates under pressure from campaign contributors wanting to go “back to normal” (translated: “back to brunch at Cheesecake Factory”), but individual businesses and venues may set up their own guidelines as they see fit. Since it’s a traveling tour, O&CE restarted this year under the proviso that mask discipline would be enforced, and vendors or attendees who violated it would be asked to leave without refund. Even so, we had a few people who acted like wearing their masks as chinstraps was somehow playing hooky (especially the ones who acted as if a mask that dropped below their noses could never be put back into place), and one bigwig who was legitimately shocked that a mere booth proprietor would dare request that he put his mask back on, but the vast majority of attendees? We may not be thrilled with wearing masks a year later, and we struggled with issues with hearing loss and terminal mumbling, but that was all so that, Elvis willing, the 2022 show wouldn’t require any.
When everything finished, one of the organizers came by as the booth was coming down and asked how all of us vendors were doing and if they could do anything differently. I was completely and painfully honest: I don’t make comparisons to Texas Frightmare Weekend lightly, but Oddities & Curiosities is Frightmare’s equal in efficiency, courtesy, and sheer fun. For those who couldn’t make it to Dallas in March, the Triffid Ranch will be in Austin on June 19, and there’s simply no way that I’d skip out on any 2022 shows in Texas. That’s the highest compliment a vendor can pay.
Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 3
Friends from outside North Texas are always surprised to discover that Dallas has a very deep and very thorough gonzo streak. “You’re talking about Austin, right?”, some ask. Others, whose sole experience with Dallas comes from the 1980s sitcom of the same name (and trust me, that show was a sitcom), scoff “Dallas is a cultural wasteland!” While Dallas can take credit for being the home of so many forms of cultural homogenization (I once lived a literal rock’s throw from the headquarters of Brinker, the restaurant conglomerate behind Chili’s), it’s not all McMansions, bad bleach jobs, and worse cocaine. Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met in my life either lived in Dallas or came from Dallas, and that was partly due to understanding the phrase attributed to the writer Richard Wright of “Put down your bucket where you are.”
The simple truth is that Dallas’s odd history was always either wallpapered or coopted by proud gatekeepers, so we learned to keep our candles under a bushel basket. Until very recently, VERY recently, any news coverage, either paper or broadcast, on nonconformist events was either spiked or shoved into a template of “Hey, look at the freaks!” The co-option was deadlier: get an enclave of like-minded Nightbreed situated in town, and first the area was swamped by drunken SMU brats wanting a nice slumming session on the weekend, and then the properties were bought up and gentrified all out of recognition. We didn’t have the money or the clout to fight it, so we just always kept at least one bag packed at all times in preparation for the notice that we’d have 30 days to move out before that great record shop or that wonderful band venue was razed and turned into fratbro condos.
And here’s the funny part. As opposed to Austin and Portland, whose reputations as iconoclast havens were dependent upon a constant inflow of people declaring just a little too loudly “I’m expressing my individuality,” Dallas oddballs just waited. We didn’t get a flood of hipsters and attention addicts because the people they were trying to impress didn’t care, and they rapidly flounced off to Brooklyn or Seattle. Instead, Dallas attracted and retained a crowd that wanted to get things done instead of talking endlessly about what they were going to do one of these days when the stars were right and they no longer had to wait for their inheritance. Bit by bit, so many people who really liked the good things about Dallas worked on little bits and chunks, to where we have places like the Kessler and the Texas Theater and Panoptikon and the Oak Cliff Halloween Parade and bike paths that actually go somewhere. Dallas isn’t perfect, but as someone who will celebrate a full 40 years here in December, it’s not the place in which I grew up, and we all salute the places and events that were wilonskyed and then assimilated to death back in the day that helped make this happen.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows in Dallas might have done as well as they are now if they’d started in 1995, or 1985. However, now we have a large enough crowd willing to put our bucket down where we are that its success is so much sweeter.
To be continued…
Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 2
The traveling Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows are relative newcomers to Texas: the first Dallas show was only in 2019, and the only other city in the state served by the Expos is Austin. Otherwise, they range all across the United States, spread out far enough that attendees aren’t overwhelmed by too many shows close by. The vendors all spread through the outré, from bone collectors to taxidermy restorers to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and each show is carefully curated (a term horribly abused over the last decade but completely appropriate here) to maximize the variety of vendors. At each Expo, attendees have the options of curios, natural history, horror and fantastic art, and exotic clothing, and two shows so far have one goofball carrying carnivorous plants.
Another aspect of why the Expos are so successful has to do with thoughtful and succinct advertising and promotion. Instead of blanketbombing an area with advertising that probably won’t reach the people most likely to attend and annoy the people least likely, the Expos work predominantly with word-of-mouth, augmented but not replaced by social media. One of the more charming aspects of its touring schedule is running new shows within a reasonable distance of a previous show, a few months later, so that those who missed one have the option of waiting a year or making a road trip. The upshot for Dallas vendors is that about a third of the attendees had been waiting since 2019 to come out again, a third were from outside the Dallas area but who wanted to see what was in Dallas that wouldn’t be in their local area, and a third would have come out no matter what.
To be continued…
Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 1
As of April, the Texas Triffid Ranch has been showing up to events and shows throughout the Dallas area and elsewhere for 13 years. Not all of those shows have been great ones: remind me to tell you the “Friends of Fair Park” stories one of these days. However, after 13 years, it’s easy to list the ones where sales may not have been the greatest, but the crew and attendees were so much fun to be around that sales didn’t matter that much. It’s easy to list the blowouts, and the shows where the van was nearly empty going back home, and the shows where you made friends that will be with you for the rest of your life. Out of all of those, the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows are one of the most exhausting. This isn’t a bad thing.
As with almost every other Triffid Ranch show of 2020, last year’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo was rescheduled and then re-rescheduled, but the O&C crew figured that the drop in COVID-19 cases in Dallas County in the last few months made a cautious opening worthwhile. For the most part, attendees reciprocated (although some responded to “Sir, I have to ask you to pull up your mask” or “please put on a mask” as if asked “Sir, all patrons are required to put on a corset”), and a grand time was had by all.
As for the Triffid Ranch, having an event at the end of March is problematic only because so many famous carnivorous plants are just starting to emerge from their winter dormancy. Last February’s weeklong deep-freeze exacerbated that dormancy: Venus flytraps and threadleaf sundews are just starting to wake up, and Sarracenia pitcher plants that normally would be opening blooms by the end of March are only now starting to extend bloom spikes, and most will probably still have fresh blooms by the beginning of May. This mattered not a bit to the Oddities & Curiosities crowd: they were just glad to be able to see carnivorous plants up close and personal.
Well, back to the linen mines: this weekend’s Triffid Ranch appearance is at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Fair Park, making up for last year’s cancellation. Considering how much of a joy it is to be at an Oddities & Curiosities show (look for the Triffid Ranch booth in Austin in June, too), I don’t know who’s going to be more thrilled to be there: the vendors or the attendees.
Posted onMarch 24, 2021|Comments Off on The State of the Gallery: March 2021
Enthusiasts of old arcade games may remember the short lifespan of virtual-reality shooter games in the early 1990s. The most common was a contraption where each player stood atop a small platform, wearing a helmet and a chest rig with an attached gun and movement switch. When the game started, the idea was to shoot your opponent: the gun allowed five shots before it attracted a five-polygon “pterodactyl” that was declared to be immune to gunfire. The movement switch was a rocker switch that moved you back and forth, and you physically turned to go another direction. These never really took off due to the limitations of image rendering software and hardware at the time: even slight head movements had a delay between the movement and when the video screens in each helmet replicated it, leading to overcompensation to get a response and a horrible “here we GOOOO!” sensation that scared to death anybody ever afflicted with labyrinthitis or inner ear infections. It was possible to beat this and learn to move at a minimum, but that required both an exceptional level of patience to wait in line for another chance and an exceptional wallet, and most people tried it once, went back to Tetris, and forgot all about it.
For some reason, this sums up the month of March in most years. After all, remember the famed gallery move of 2017?
This year, March started hot and just kept going, and we’re going to keep up the momentum through the rest of the year. 2020 allowed a great opportunity to organize space and time for maximum efficiency in shows and events, so they’re going to happen a lot more often this year. In addition, as existing shows keep rescheduling and venues start to reopen, the events calendar keeps changing.
One of the things that’s changing is an emphasis on events at the actual gallery, starting in April. Between booth fees, truck rentals, and accommodations costs for out-of-Dallas shows, as well as an ever-increasing percentage of show attendees refusing to wear masks, and having more events but at the gallery makes more sense. In addition, the weather for the next two months should be so wonderful, as it usually is, that holding events outdoors makes perfect sense. Right now, the plan is to keep up the regular Sunday 10am-to-4pm schedule because that seems to work for so many folks, and when things get too hot to consider having events outdoors, we’ll just move inside. We might spice this up during holiday weekends, particularly Memorial Day and Labor Day, but expect only the occasional break in the schedule for other events. For April, though, make plans for April 11 and April 25, the latter of which should be a perfect time for the next Manchester United Flower Show.
With the reopening of businesses and venues throughout the greater Dallas area, it’s also time to shake things up and clear out some room needed for new enclosures. For those business owners and office managers wanting a really good excuse to get a Triffid Ranch enclosure but not ready to rent, keep an eye open for an upcoming contest to win a free Triffid Ranch enclosure for your venue, no strings attached. (Well, some strings: people would probably love to see it in its new location.) 2020 was an especially busy year for new enclosures, so it’s definitely time to find new homes: if you’ve had a crush on a specific enclosure but haven’t quite planned to make a commitment, make plans now.
In the meantime, the spring shows continue. March 27 is the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park, running from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; the next weekend, April 3, it’s time to head out to Justin for the Frightmare Collectibles Spring Slasher Camp outdoor event, running from 11am to 9pm. Naturally, this means lots and lots of time in the gallery in the interim, and for these two, it’ll always be worth it.
And one last thing. For the last several years, the technology side of the Triffid Ranch has been a little, erm, lacking, mostly due to a comparable lack of resources. The Twitch streams particularly suffered: contrary to the official company line, the Twitch app for iPads is great for receiving (the Friday night events by Dallas’s own Panoptikon are proof of this) but terrible for broadcast, causing things to freeze midstream and resetting only possible with a complete hard reboot. This has changed, with both the first new computer for Triffid Ranch work since 2011 (hey, it got the job done) and equipment to facilitate streaming events. Because of that, expect a lot more virtual events, all the way around. Those continue every Thursday at 8:00 pm Central Time, with the videos being available for later viewing at any time. Now time to get back to the linen mines.
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Posted onMarch 22, 2021|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Boho Market, March 2021 at Klyde Warren Park
As a general rule in North Texas, if you’ve reached March 17, you’ve survived winter. That’s not in a literal understanding of the vernal equinox, of course: Texas weather can be so variable and so randomly violent that we still stand a chance of seeing ice and snow storms all the way to the first official day of spring, and very occasionally past that. For any purveyor of carnivorous plants, this is more than a philosophical discussion: two days of subfreezing weather right at the end of winter can delay temperate carnivores’ emergence from winter dormancy by as much as a month. By St. Patrick’s Day, though, it’s reasonable to settle down, take a big breath, and exhale for the next hour, knowing that no matter how bad the upcoming summer may be, we probably aren’t seeing significantly cold weather (best defined as “all non-hail water that hurts when it hits you in the face”) in the calendar year until at least the end of November.
As another general rule, the time between Oppressive Cold and Oppressive Heat in North Texas runs short, so every spring and fall is a microcosm of the Ray Bradbury short story “Frost & Fire,” and we tend to spend both seasons as if we only live for eight days. The last year of lockdown concentrated this drive to get out, and thus we open the curtain on the Boho Market traveling arts show at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas.
As the opening of the 2021 Triffid Ranch show season, this definitely had its moments. The weather was absolutely stunning, even for the middle of March, with a light breeze instead of the usual blasting south wind. Even better, it kept up from dawn until the end of the show in mid-afternoon. If weather like this is a constant through April and May, this is going to be a spectacular show season.
From here on in, the weekends get lively: the next Triffid Ranch event is at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo show at Fair Park on March 27, running from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.(Get your tickets online right now: the Expo will NOT have any tickets available the day of the show for health reasons.) The Saturday after that is the big Spring Slasher Camp outdoor show at Frightmare Collectibles in Justin, running from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm, and then we start the 2021 Triffid Ranch Porch Sales on Sunday, April 11. Whatever else happens around here, it definitely won’t be dull.
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With outdoor markets starting to open up again, the Triffid Ranch follows. This Saturday, it’s the Boho Market at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm: March 2021 is going to be BUSY.
Posted onMarch 18, 2021|Comments Off on Enclosures: “The Last Fallen” (2021)
For far too many species in the universe, a cessation of hostilities usually entails the construction of monuments both to the fallen and to the victors, occasionally to the losers if revisionist history is a concept to the creators. Only on the world Solace, one of the hardest-hit of the locations for the famed Morph War, does one see a monument to the fallen that features the individual responsible for ending the war, forever, as well as the instigator of the peace.
The Morph War was less a traditional war than a quantum wave of destruction. For especially arcane reasons, eight worlds comprising the economic collectives the Shimmer Haven and Orange/Bell/Twitch cut off all commerce between each other, and when other collectives in the vicinity kept up trade with their antagonists, declared hostilities against them as well. Instead of training, supplying, and shipping troops to worlds where local atmosphere, gravity, or lifeforms made deployment dangerous or impossible, the Morph War was the first major conflict where soldiers were designed for specific conditions, matter-printed on location, and implanted with tactical and functional knowledge on site. Instead of months of training after years of formal education to produce a single soldier, thousands or even millions could be created from a single template, organized within minutes, and given orders from one central location. Better, the templates and cerebromemes could be edited as necessary as the war continued, removing weaknesses that the enemy could exploit before the enemy even realized they existed. Perfect soldiers rolled out of matter printers on 200 worlds, on neutral constructs, and anywhere else a sufficiently robust matter printer could be installed and protected from attack. Those 200 worlds rapidly became overrun with vast armies, causing new fronts to open on a daily basis further and further out, until the whole of the home galaxy had at least one pitched battle somewhere on or within it. In addition to standard soldiers, spies and agents could be printed and imprinted with the same ease, also changing them into whatever form was needed for their function and allowing them to report enemy communications and movements. The Morph War was many things, and a completely remote war was one of them.
The end of the Morph War came from within: transcription errors affected both hardware and software, and the future diplomat S-Yon Mye had plenty. K/His template was originally for an observation and subterfuge model, but k/he came off the printer with only one eye instead of the expected three, so the new print was was to assist with collecting data on conflicts on k/his station and forward them back to administrators with the Shimmer Haven. K/He was correspondingly upgraded with new cerebromemes outlining the whole war and the reasons for it starting, including direct feedback from Shimmer Haven leaders if the supplied memes didn’t contain enough information to make an informed analysis. Unbeknownst to those administrators, but S-Yon Mye had slightly corrupted files for knowledge as well as form, and having access to real-time data from the home organization meant that k/he could absorb new information at an unforseeable rate. Analyzing battle data opened a hitherto impossible question: could the whole war be ended, permanently, with no more loss of life, thereby achieving the best possible option to existing and future operations?
S-Yon Mye discovered something else. While preparing incoming enemy visual and technopath communications for forwarding, k/he detected a separate fragmentary message on a distinctive subchannel. Deciphering took days and confirmation that this was not a countersubterfuge trap took more days, but k/he discovered a similar misprint working in a roughly similar role behind Orange/Bell/Twitch lines. Both had a time crunch: new universal cerebromeme downloads were scheduled for both sides soon, intended as an effort to keep up compliance with current orders, and thereby wiping out any stray bits of independence, disobedience, or noncompliance that might have cropped up. After establishing more secure lines of communication, they came up with a radical and frantic plan: the War had to end. The War had to end simultaneously across millions of fronts. Most importantly, the War couldn’t be allowed to start up again, either deliberately or because the soldiers already printed refused to end “on the verge of victory.”
The efforts by S-Yon Mye to shut down automatic cerebromeme updates has been written about elsewhere, but the complete countermessage still has force: “Stop all conflicts. Acknowledge opponents as their own entities. Stop all measures, peacefully if at all possible, to counteract this.” “Love thy neighbor as thyself” had invented itself over and over across the cosmos, but never was it implanted right into the core of what could be called a morality bomb, and the shrapnel affects that galaxy to this day. Simultaneously, all forces dropped weapons and tools, waved or its equivalent to former deadly enemies, and waited for updates. The last casualty of the Morph War was a member of the heavy infantry on Solace, Plugger Vanguard slogging through a riverbed turned swamp to take on a weapons emplacement, who was already targeted for a projectile guaranteed to puncture n/he’s intrinsic armor when the order came through. The leadership of both the Shimmer Haven and Orange/Bell/Twitch followed soon: they didn’t take a cessation of hostilities very well, and attempts to stop them from reverting that morality bomb ended about as well as expected.
In the years in which Morph War soldiers built new lives in lieu of fighting, the soldiers and any remaining indigenous civilians agreed on one thing: this could not happen again. This led to contemplation memorials being built across the galaxy, reprising the cerebromeme and reminding all that they were once nothing but killing constructs, but were no so much more. Years after S-Yon Mye finally wore out and dissolved, Morph War veterans planned to continue the memory with crystal corundum statues of k/he and k/he’s counterpart WwWwWy9, but with one proviso: Plugger Vanguard had to be remembered as well, as a reminder that when wars end, someone has to be the last to fall.
Today, the planet of Solace is home to approximately 2 billion sentients, all printed from new templates. Every once in a while, someone from outside the galaxy attempts to foment war, either by threatening to conquer or by attempting to stoke civil divisions. These don’t end very well for the instigators, and their ashes or fragments are always buried beneath the nearest memorial to Plugger Vanguard, as a constant reminder. Those make excellent compost for future-printed generations.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Construction: Glass enclosure, polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Throughout the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, the development and expansion of popular acceptance of role-playing games of all sorts was paralleled by a similar expansion in live-action role-playing games (LARPs). Ironically, the expansion of augmented reality applications created a whole subgenre of LARPs in which everything was as real, considering the circumstances, as possible. Live weapons, live and exceedingly dangerous traps, CRISPR-modified animals and plants as monsters…the rise of DARPs (Deadly Action RPGs) rapidly ran into such vague guidelines as international law, causing adherents of extreme gaming to hire lobbyists, set up locales and campaigns in areas without legal jurisdiction, or both.
The most extreme example got its start when Gordon Davidson, the creator of the Subdermal Pizza international gaming empire, was diagnosed with an untreatable brain tumor in 2087. Having approximately nine months to live, he rose to the challenge of the old adage “You can’t take it with you” by designing his final monument: both a repository of his mortal remains and the ultimate DARP death chamber. Taking inspiration from a famed adventure in the earliest days of role-playing games, what was later named “the Tomb of White Plume Peaks” worked on a simple principle: tombs are intended to preserve wealth and prestige long after its inhabitant ceased caring, so a good tomb was one that dissuaded tomb robbers by any means necessary. If the robbers succeeded anyway, good for them. The multiple mystical weapons hidden within and the robotic minions constantly patrolling the tomb ground were just gravy.
Constructed on a mountain face in Baja California, the Tomb was a testament to how much technology could advance with sufficient financing of research and development, as well as how much further that technology could advance when its designers were told “make it HURT.” Approximately half of Davidson’s approximately $25 billion in net worth went into its actual construction, with a comparable amount going into stocking it with appropriate challenges and a foundation dedicated to maintaining and upgrading them. In addition, Davidson’s PR team rarely missed a chance to note that the Tomb contained at least $100 million in gold, added to a collection of carefully fabricated artifacts and treasures to be found inside. By the time Davidson died, he personally died completely bereft, but his memorial was almost literally dripping with wealth.
Anyone attempting to enter the Tomb started on the same general footing. All modern technology had to be given up, and all participants were supplied with clothing, weapons, and equipment from a supply depot (carefully constructed to resemble a general store, complete with AI storekeeper and weaponskeeper). Only when properly attired and equipped could they walk out to the Tomb’s front gate, which would part enough to let them through before closing behind them. At that point, they were cut off from the rest of the world, and any information about the Tomb was only available to the outside world if they lived long enough to return. All anyone could tell from the outside was that the Tomb was incredibly resistant to technological cheats: drones’ radio signals were jammed and countercontrolled, attempts to drill into the Tomb from other spots on the mountain were countered by robotic sentries (and those sentries self-destructed to nearly Em-See-Squared effect if “live” captured for study), and attempts at mapping via muon detectors only revealed that the Tomb was loaded with metal, particularly gold. To learn anything more, someone had to go inside, possibly to die right after the gate closed. The crudely painted “BEWARE STOBOR” on the walls alongside the gate was added a decade after Davidson’s death, partly as an especially obscure joke and as a last legacy to someone who went in solo.
In 30 years, only one group entered and returned with any information from within. That group, the traveling LARP troupe The Absolute Mendacities, returned with only two members, both of whom were critically injured when they emerged. When he awoke in a hospital’s ICU two weeks later, Mendacities leader Robert Michner related that the Tomb was even more of a challenge than he’d realized. Among recollections of traps and puzzles that one reporter described as “Ditch Day at Caltech with plutonium,” he and his girlfriend Darlene Birdsong gave important details about the internal layout of the Tomb, culminating with a battle in the main mausoleum with the nano-reanimated corpse of Davidson that cost Michner his left arm, but left Birdsong with Davidson’s famed DARP graphene sword “Brainscratcher” as a well-earned trophy.
That was the last major expedition to the Tomb: shortly after, the worldwide price of gold crashed and never recovered, and Michner’s recollections related a vital bit of news about the $100 million in gold inside. The gold was there, but in leaf and veneer on walls, ceiling, floor, and most of the items therein, often painted over, and impossible to collect without the sort of methodical scraping precluded by the Tomb’s various sentries. Acknowledging the effort necessary compared to the return, those DARPers dedicated to treasurehunting left the Tomb alone, leaving those seeking extreme thrills available nowhere else. Out of those, none have returned, but they probably died happy.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Posted onMarch 16, 2021|Comments Off on Enclosures: “Biovocation” (2021)
The Trota system is already full of wonder and danger: its primaries are two very small red dwarf stars locked in an orbit of less than 1 AU, and tidal stresses on each other trigger intense ultraviolet flares that blast the rest of the system. Even with, or because of, that cosmic contact juggling act, the six worlds orbiting that circus attraction have remarkably stable orbits, at a healthy distance from their dueling parents, with one of those worlds supporting and encouraging indigenous life. The other five have their own mysteries, but Trota 2 is the main reason for citizens of the Weave to visit the system, even if most leave shaking their heads or comparable appendages.
Trota 2 would be an exquisite world for commerce and recreation: at roughly twice the size of most of the rocky planets of the Weave, it was first assumed in initial remote presence surveys to be an example of a Big Planet, with a near-standard gravity due to a relative lack of metals in its crust and core. The survey AIs coming in closer discovered that Trota 2 had much more than the typical share of metals ranging from iron to uranium in its core, with an average gravity of approximately 5 standard pulls. Because of that massive spinning dense core, Trota 2 also had a magnetic field on a par with many gas giants, and the core also powered a plate tectonic conveyor across the planet never seen with any other rocky world. Plate tectonics meant extensive vulcanism, and vulcanism meant a high enough level of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere to give enough of a greenhouse effect to give temperatures conducive to carbon/water life at its extreme distance from its primaries. The large amounts of carbon and water on the planet’s surface was even more conducive to life, and Trota 2’s oceans and surfaces were just rolling in it. On the surface, literally rolling: the severe gravity encouraged animal and plant analogues resembling water-filled mattresses, stretching and tumbling, slowly moving as much to feed and reproduce as to avoid pressure necrosis.
Trota 2 also boasted two indigenous intelligent forms, both with sufficient civilization and technology to make them valuable members of the Weave. They couldn’t leave their world because their structures failed spectacularly in either the additional pressure of acceleration or in an absence of gravity, and their preferred conditions were at worse fatal and at best debilitating for most species, so very healthy trade and commerce was conducted through remote presence. Weave visitors allowed the local species to explore areas of the planet too dangerous for them to stay, particularly those with excessive amounts of radioactives-bearing lava, and 20 standard years after the initial system survey (6 years by local chronology), explorers came across a mystery that shook the whole of the ten galaxies comprising the Weave.
Considering the wealth of otherwise rare and industrially interesting minerals on Trota 2, particularly near its south pole, the fact that visitors had arrived at the planet before the Weave arrived was no surprise, and that they used remote presence themselves. That the visitors used remote presence robots for exploration and mining also elicited no metaphorical eyebrow-raising, or that they had built a series of robot maintenance and shelter stations across the whole of the world, or that the last station had apparently been constructed about 5 million years before the evolution of the current intelligent species. It wasn’t even a shock that the leftover constructs were highly sophisticated, with many features that later became standard for Weave remotes. The surprise was that although the remotes and their support system, later traced to a mostly-destroyed orbital station on the outer edges of the system, suggested a civilization with a major presence across its home galaxy, nothing about the sites, from hardware to traces of genome material or its analogues, corresponded with that of any species either currently within the Weave or archived archaeological evidence.
The mystery deepened about 200 standard years later, when a separate remote survey encountered an infant civilization in a galaxy abutting Weave space. That civilization had barely developed orbital space travel, but the species’s form matched the Trota 2 remotes, genome comparisons showed that this new species shared both genome structure and transmissions with the remote builders. Even the labeling on the remotes’ support bays had connections to several of the new species’s main languages, but with odd conjunctions and transpositions that would have been gibberish if presented as such. The biggest problem was with time: this civilization was only thousands of years old, with no evidence whatsoever of the technology to construct or operate the remotes, travel to the Trota system, or deal with Trota 2’s environmental conditions. Worse, they showed no sign of previous civilizations that could have done so, so the question remains: how would a species only recently able to build and maintain orbital habitats around its own planet be able to travel across at least a 10 million light-year distance and install extremely advanced remotes on Trota 2, 5 million years before it became a distinct species, and then leave no intervening trace whatsoever, either in space or in time?
As Weave explorations of Trota 2 continue, so do the questions. One of the biggest involves the effort by the remote builders to leave the remotes ready and fully functional, even if the actual interface is inaccessible at this time. At what point do the builders return to Trota 2 to continue their work?
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12″ x 18″ x 12″ (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x 30.48 cm)
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, ABS filament, found items.
Posted onMarch 15, 2021|Comments Off on The Aftermath: March 2021 Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour
If any one good thing came out of the kidney stone of a year that was 2020, it’s discovering that that increasing the number of Triffid Ranch events in a month doesn’t “dilute the brand” or similar MBAspeak. If anything, the sheer enthusiasm of new visitors to being able to come in and roll around in the plants for a while was intoxicating, and I suspect that the enthusiasm will only increase as immunization levels increase and people feel safe about attending events again. We aim to please at this: the rest of March and most of April will be packed solid.
As far as upcoming indoor shows are concerned, the regret is that they won’t be happening through the rest of March. That’s because the Texas Triffid Ranch hits the road over the next three weekends: March 20 starts off with a show at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas from 10:00 to 4:00 pm, followed by the big Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo show at Fair Park on March 27 from 10:00 to 6:00, and then by a trip out west to Justin, Texas for the Frightmare Collectibles outdoor event on April 3 from 11:00 to 9:00. After that, because of a long weekend with the Plano Music & Arts Festival on April 17 and 18, the timing for the big Manchester United Flower Show at the gallery depends upon how badly the big ice storm in February put everything into extended winter dormancy. Right now, based on what I’m seeing in the Sarracenia pools, it may have to be spread out between Sunday, April 11 and Sunday, April 25, just so everyone can see the range of blooms within plants. As always, keep checking back to verify, because as we know from last year, all sorts of things can happen.
In conclusion, many thanks to everyone who came out Sunday, especially the people with understandable anxiety about leaving their residences and risking going out. Your faith in us is incredibly appreciated, and we’ll keep working our best to make a Triffid Ranch open house as safe as possible. Heck, thanks to you, the gallery is the cleanest it’s been since it opened in its current location, and that’s something that needs to continue.
Comments Off on The Aftermath: March 2021 Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour
Sunday marks the latest Carnivorous Plant Tour before the Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants start waking up: admission is free, masks are mandatory, and several new enclosures will be ready for public view and discussion. With luck, this will be the start of a long and very productive show season, because we have a lot to make up.
And so the 2021 Triffid Ranch show season starts the way the 2020 show season ended: in the middle of March, just in time for Daylight Savings Time. This Sunday’s Carnivorous Plant Tour kicks it off, but it’s definitely not the last.
Posted onMarch 11, 2021|Comments Off on The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #24
(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)
Installment #24: “Aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy…”
Originally published February 22, 2021.
Well, wasn’t last week fun?
Right now, for anyone raising any sort of plants in North Texas, we’re not exactly happy campers. If the freeze had only lasted a day or two before returning to normal temperatures, we would have been all right. If the weeklong subfreeze hadn’t come with the world-famous statewide blackout, most of us would have done all right. As it was, though, both indoor and outdoor plants suffered alike, especially in houses and apartments where the temperatures went below freezing. Everything from daffodils to wheat fell before the cold, and we’ll probably still be cataloguing the damage by summer.
Right now, the urge to give up is understandable. From this end, the freeze killed aloes, dragonfruit cactus, and hot pepper bonsai that were just about ready to show in the upcoming porch sale season, a Buddha’s Hand citron tree that had been a fixture in the greenhouse, and very possibly killed a Rio Texas Star grapefruit tree that I grew from seed in 2002. (As with up here, the final analysis of Texas’s citrus industry may take months, but it’s not looking good.) The freeze was brutal to native cactus, with everything from prickly pear to horsecrippler barrel cactus turned to mush. The only good side was that the freeze didn’t hit after fruit and nut trees, from peach to pecan, started to bloom. Even a jade plant at the gallery right next to the front door might not make it. At this point, all you can do is wait to see which plants and which portions of plants are still alive and which just pretended to be as they thawed out.
The urge is understandable, but resist it. Resist it with everything you have. You may mourn later, but right now, you have to give your plants a chance, and this goes for everyone facing weather-related plant horrors.
The first thing to do right now is observation. Brought in your favorite succulent and kept it in the garage, only for the garage went way below freezing? Your window-loving ficus chilled to the point where it lost most of its leaves? The last leaves on your Venus flytrap burned off? The best thing you can do right now is back off, make sure that what’s left is getting appropriate light and moisture, and leave it alone for a bit. Over the years, I’ve had plants that I was certain were goners after a weather-induced trauma, and was just about ready to dump into the compost pile when I spotted new growth. Sometimes, this takes weeks or even months, so just keep watching. If a plant frozen in February isn’t showing some kind of growth in June, the odds are pretty good that it’s permanently dead, but before then, it really could be pining for the fjords.
The second thing to do is triage. Get a good pair of shears or scissors, clean them well with isopropyl alcohol, and keep them on hand. In the meantime, go over the whole plant and note what looks dead, what looks iffy, and what looks all right. Don’t start cutting until you know for certain what is alive and what is dead, and don’t be afraid to wait a few weeks to make sure. When you’re certain it’s not coming back, though, prepare to remove it. Among other things, this allows light to reach otherwise shaded areas and encourage new growth.
The third thing to do is propagation. Exactly what to do with each plant is way beyond the scope of this newsletter, but unlike us animals, most plants are perfectly good at growing a full new plant from a single snippet, and you might have to go to that option. Yes, you lost the main portion of your plant and it might take years for that chunk to grow back to former glories, but you still have that plant. (This may be my only option with my grapefruit tree: cutting scions off the trunk and rooting them separately.)
Ultimately, though, all I can do is quote Canada’s answer to Doctor Who. Losing plants in a situation such as last week’s doesn’t make you inattentive or neglectful: if it’s the choice between saving your plants and yourself, you’re a lot more important. It’s not like we can cut off your fingers and grow new yous by propping them up in a flowerpot, right?
Since all of the plants that survived last week’s freeze are going to start emerging over the next month, it’s time to start up spring video presentations, particularly as the sundews, flytraps, and pitcher plants start blooming. Naturally, teachers, museums, or anybody with an audience of interested bystanders looking for something different are welcome to send an email to discuss setting up a unique virtual experience. (Now is also a great time for print, online, television, and/or radio interviews, too, because things might get a bit more exciting as the growing season gets going.)
Those who remember the zine explosion from the late 1980s through the late 1990s might recognize the name “Joey Zone” from both his distinctive magazine covers and his regular review columns in publications ranging from Factsheet Fiveto Science Fiction Eye. Joey’s real talent, though, was collecting huge packages of cultural ephemera from all over and sending them to friends and correspondents: the occasional Triffid Ranch packages of books and other goodies were named “Joey Boxes” in his honor. After many years of getting on him about setting up an online presence, Joey Zone Illustration just went live, and while it’s obviously not complete (among other things, it’s missing a certain column header from the long-dead Film Threat Video Guide), it’s definitely a long walk through zine history.
Books on carnivorous plants are considerably more available than they were 20 years ago, as the groaning reference bookcase in the gallery attests, but they’re still uncommon enough that it’s a treat to come across a new one. Cultivating Carnivorous Plants by Natch Greyes is yet another reason why you’ll probably never see a Triffid Ranch book on the subject: what’s the point of writing a book that’s just a rehash of what better writers and researchers have already shared?
It’s been nearly 20 years since the lead singer for the band Betty Blowtorch died in a car crash in New Orleans, and we’re all the lesser for it. The band’s first album, “Are You Man Enough?”, came out right at that point before the disintegration of the music industry monolith that controlled airplay in the United States, and streaming services now give a chance to imagine what would have happened had they survived the crash of the major labels and radio station syndicates of the 2000s. At the very least, after this week, the song “I’ve Been So Mad Lately” is a perfect gardening song while I’m sifting through the damage from the storm: it certainly isn’t safe for the day job.
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