Monthly Archives: December 2019

On 2019

The end of any year in the Gregorian calendar that ends in a “9” always ends the same: innumerable alcoholic amateurs assuming that they’re channeling the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson, massive disappointing clearance sales with clothing stores acknowledging that styles WILL change and soon, and the continuing war between pedants on whether a particular decade ends at the end of the “9” year or the end of the “0” year. Personally, since 1970, which just never rolled over and went away until about 1987, my attitude has been that those “0” years are transition years: the decade that was dies tonight at midnight, but the beast won’t die until the signal travels all the way through its bulk and reaches its tail, and it’ll thrash around for a while in the process. We now have a year to find out what the Twenty-Twenties are going to look and sound like, and we shouldn’t worry about the exact date of death. What matters right now is that as of midnight on January 1, the Twenty-First Century is now one-fifth over, and we should start behaving like it. Want a semantic cause? Start insisting that those still using the term “turn of the century” need to emphasize which one.

There’s no question that 2019 was a year of transition, of what the author Harlan Ellison referred to as “the hour that stretches.” Harlan’s 1988 collection Angry Candy started with an introduction discussing all of the friends, cohorts, heroes, and fellow travelers he’d lost by that point, and how the sudden conga line of mortality directly affected his storytelling. At the time I bought that collection when it came out in hardcover, I was nearly 22, so I had no real grasp of his pain: now, I’m the age he was when Angry Candy was published, and I understand far too well. You may not recognize the names of Jeb Bartlett or Rob Fontenot or Laura Huebner, or of my father-in-law Durwood Crawford, but they made the world just a little more fun and a little more kind, and they’ll always have a spot in the Triffid Ranch pantheon of heroes alongside Adrian Slack and old Harlan himself. (And I have to leave a little room for my late cat Leiber, as his life stretched across nearly a third of mine, and not hearing his happy chirps when I’d look at all of the cat fur in the vacuum cleaner and scream “WHY IS THIS CAT NOT BALD?” has left the house just a little darker and lonelier, no matter how much Alexandria and Simon try to fill the gap.)

As far as accomplishments are concerned, this was a good year because of their sheer number. This was the first year a Triffid Ranch enclosure was entered in a professional art exhibition, and the first year of making more than one trip outside of Dallas to show off enclosures. (Next year will be even more fun, with at least three shows in Austin, one in Houston, and the first-ever show outside of Texas in New Orleans in August.) This was a year for workshops, and a year for presentations, and a year for rapidly changing directions. This was the year, a decade after the first halting Triffid Ranch shows, where I never regretted quitting professional writing less, because those workshops and presentations did more actual good than writing about long-forgotten movies and books ever did. Expect a lot more of those in 2020, too, because the life of a carnivorous plant grower is always intense.

With that year in transition comes a few unpleasant but necessary sidebars. 2020 is going to be a year without Facebook: after a lot of thought about Facebook’s accessibility for friends and customers versus the company’s issues with security, its never-ending throttling of Page access to subscribers unless the Page owner pays for “boosts” (and the ever-decreasing reach of those boosts thanks to ad blockers and the company’s own algorithms), it’s time to leave early so as to avoid the rush. Social media access continues with both Instagram and Twitter (just search for “txtriffidranch”), but the rabbit hole opened every time someone sent a message that lowered Triffid Ranch Page posts if I didn’t respond immediately to yet another discovery of that idiotic Santa Claus Venus flytrap video just takes up too much time. Besides, if you’re wanting news on what’s happening with the gallery, that’s what the newsletter is for.

Anyway, thank you all for sticking around, for coming up and asking questions at presentations and lectures, for buying enclosures so I have room to place new ones, and for coming out to open houses. You’re appreciated, and just wait until you see what’s planned for 2020. The first open house of the year is on January 25: you won’t want to miss this one.

Enclosures: “Witchstone” (2019)

witchstone_12292019_1A pulse. A glow. A flash. A strobe. Sometimes nothing at all. Of all of the wonders of Burin IV, the most renowned is the Witchstone Array, near the outpost town of Cottingley. Many swear that the stones visible in the Array glow in sequence at night, while others relate sudden bursts, random or nonrandom patterns, color changes, and even a beam coming from the lens in the center focusing on a hilltop on the other side of the Cottingley Valley. A few, a sensitive few, swear that they can hear the stones buried at the base of the Array, mostly random noises, but occasionally a voice murmuring about past glories, and sometimes a warning about the future that slides by before the conscious mind can perceive it. Everyone sees something different, even those standing right next to each other, and the mechanism as to how or why is as lost as the Array’s creators.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plants:  Unknown Nepenthes hybrid

Construction: Plastic fixtures, polystyrene foam, resin, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

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Have a Great Weekend

The last weekend of the year, the last weekend of the Twenty-teens, 40 years since this song came out, and Caroline’s and my 17th wedding anniversary. Let the music commence.

Enclosure: “D-Ring” (2019)

The galaxy is positively littered with artifacts, structures, and detritus from any number of otherwise cryptic civilizations, but the greatest mystery documented by the existing organizations endeavoring to track those archaeological sites involves what are commonly called “dimensional rings” found on approximately 5000 worlds and counting. The worlds themselves seem to have no common factor: superVenuses, the moons of gas giants, dwarf planets in a system’s Kuiper Belt or locked in orbit around neutron and X-ray stars, and rocky Earthlike worlds with atmospheres of nitrogen, oxygen, sulfuric acid, or methane. All of them share two attributes: all of them are composed of metals that are completely nonreactive in the atmosphere of that world, if applicable, and all available analysis techniques suggest an age of the rings at approximately 25 billion years old. Since our universe is at best approximately 14 billion years old, the arguments between experts in physics, archaeology, metallurgy, and xenoengineering are spectacular just within one species, and the debate on the D-rings between any significant consortium of sentients is something to witness.

Contrary to their popular name, no evidence exists to confirm that the rings come from an alternate dimension, reality, or quantum state, other than their immense age. Further, although remains of later outposts and cities can be found in abundance, sometimes in layers, not the slightest hint of the builders remains anywhere. The metals of which the rings are composed are not found elsewhere, and of the few carefully disassembled, no unique machinery, chemical activity, or other action can be found. The most common theories are that the rings are a portal either through space or time, albeit with no evidence to back it up, and military forces have been set up in front of rings for millions of years by a succession of species in the assumption that someone or something will come through a newly active gateway. Less popular is that the rings were an escape route for the peoples of the universe before the current Big Bang and universal expansion, thus explaining their age, but with no explanation of how they have only been found on planets and moons and never floating in deep space. A very unpopular theory, because of the implications, is that the D-rings are deliberately inactive while awaiting a signal so as to stymie further analysis and possible replication, and the list of possible sources of signal bandwidth have been proposed over the last 300,000 years by some of the greatest scientists ever produced in our galaxy. The problem, of course, is whether the signal was sent before any current species could detect it, the signal has yet to be sent, or if the signal will be recognized as such before the D-rings accomplish their purpose. As of late, strange gravitational wave signals possibly suggesting an intelligent origin coming from a series of cluster galaxies near the perceived center of the universe have kept social, military, and religious leaders from either sleep or meditation, but nothing is certain until the rings activate, if they will or even can.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12″ x 18″ x 12″ (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x30.48 cm)

Plant: Heliamphora minor

Construction: Polystyrene foam, polyethylene, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: $150

Shirt Price: $125

The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2019

With everything happening in November and December, many thanks to everyone who came out for the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas, because it made all the difference. As always, we had a great crowd of interested bystanders, and plenty of folks who came out later to buy individual plants or order commissions. Best of all, everyone got to see the old gallery one last time before its reorganization, so here’s hoping that it met with your approval.

For those who had to miss out, either because of the short holiday shopping season or because of prior commitments, the next open house is January 25, and naturally you’re invited. Heck, feel free to get the word out, and turn this into the biggest gathering we’ve had yet.

Making Christmas 2019


The Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas may be over, but the Triffid Ranch never sleeps. For those getting off work early and in need of carnivorous plants, the gallery will be open on December 24 from 1:30 to 6:00 pm. Just ring the doorbell.

Have a Great Weekend

Well, the last Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house for 2019 is Saturday starting at 6:00 pm, so it’s time for that one song that best sums up the reason for the season. Sadly, we’ll never get an updated live version, mostly due to guitarist Colin Grigson’s untimely jenkem overdose, but at least we have the memories.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – 12

(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.)

Originally published on November 9, 2019.

Installment #12: “Ain’t No Cure For the Wintertime Blues, Part 1”

No matter how hard we worked to keep it from happening, it’s over. No matter how hard we fought, winter is on the way to the Northern Hemisphere, and with it the dreaded holiday season. It’s worse than the flu. It’s worse than dry and overcooked turkey. It’s worse than working retail for a sadistic corporation that gets off on forcing its peons to have to listen to “Santa Baby” over and over for eight to ten hours a day. Even for those blessedly spared butter cookies and animatronic reindeer and Dawn of the Dead cosplay at the local Walmart, who avoid cable just so they don’t have to hear about the latest Hallmark Channel holiday movie, there’s one thing we can’t avoid on this half of the planet, and that’s the end of the growing season. That’s it. There’s nothing to be done other than wait four to six months for the days to get longer.

I admit that I don’t mind the concept of winter, in moderation. For the last 40 years, Texas made this so much better, and surviving the blistering summers was always so much more tolerable with the promise of winter out here. Four decades ago this month, my family made the trek from the south side of Chicago to the northern suburbs of Dallas right after Thanksgiving, and the disconnect was stunning. The end of 1979 in Chicago wasn’t promising meters of snowfall the way the year had started, but the last of the household goods went into the moving truck just as a patchy snow started as the temperature dropped below freezing, and it wasn’t the good kind of snow that could be used for snowballs and snowmen, either. This was God’s dandruff, that filled hollows in the ground and not much else, and it signaled nothing other than “it only gets worse from here.” For nearly the length of Illinois, the snow followed, with overcast skies preventing it from melting or even ablating away. You can imagine how a kid raised disturbingly close to the 45th Parallel felt about getting to Dallas about three days later and stepping out of a car on a December day without needing to put on two coats and a hat. Comparatively, the grass was still green, and nights only got chilly enough to warrant a jacket, not a full parka and boots. December in Texas? Heck, this was the end of August in northern Michigan, and when snow finally arrived about a month later, it melted off within a day. It was GLORIOUS.

(This isn’t to say that Dallas doesn’t get cold, too. December 1983 brought a week-long cold wave so bad that the Gulf of Mexico around Galveston froze for the first time in recorded history and probably the first time since the last great glacial advance, and marine biologists still pore through the breakdowns of the species and numbers of fish killed that collected in huge piles once the ice melted. A week-long freeze and ice storm in 1985 helped local authorities discover that Texas didn’t have a law against driving snowmobiles on state highways because nobody thought it was necessary. Oh, and then there’s the lowest temperature ever recorded in Dallas, all of one degree F on Christmas Eve 1989, that I remember because of the sheer thrill of moving a movie poster-sized sheet of glass down an ice-covered hill on foot, all to make sure that my then-girlfriend had her birthday present that day…and then watching that sheet crack from thermal stress when I got it inside. It’s just that this doesn’t happen often, at least compared to six months of carving lawn furniture out of blocks of frozen nitrogen in Wisconsin.)

For those of us needing green, it’s rough this time of the year. The outdoor plants are dead, dying, or pining for the fijords, and any Venus flytraps and Sarracenia pitcher plants are either in dormancy or heading toward a long winter sleep. Indoors, the plants with access to sunlight are still slowing down and prepping for the long dark. (If your plants are kept purely under artificial lights, cutting back on their photoperiods over the winter and then lengthening the number of hours they get by about mid-March won’t guarantee an enthusiastic blooming period, but it can’t hurt.) The good news is that you don’t have to stop working with plants: you just have to pivot. Some of the many things you can do now while your plants are resting: Clean your tools and pots.

Remember last summer, when you were fighting off giant tomato hornworms and swearing that you were going to clean off caterpillar ichor from your prize Felco pruners when summer was done? Now’s the time to get out all of your tools used throughout the year, along with an old towel, and set them all out on the towel. You’re going to need distractions, so don’t be afraid to pull out headphones or put something on the television that you can binge while you’re scraping caterpillar guts. (For most gardening people with Netflix, I highly recommend The Great British Baking Show; for us carnivore people, I recommend Daybreak or Lucifer.) Besides a dishtub full of warm soapy water, you should also have:

A bottle of isopropyl alcohol.
A bottle of window cleaner.
A bottle of Goo-Gone or a comparable brand of sticker and label remover (as if such a thing exists).
A bottle of hand lotion.
Spare rags AND paper towels.
At least one old toothbrush.
A bottle of light machine oil and a bottle of WD-40.
Disposable gloves of your preference. (Try to go for nitrile over latex, for reasons that will soon become obvious.)
Optional: A whetstone or sharpening stone, preferably with a fine abrasive surface.

Some of the items on the list have purposes that aren’t immediately obvious, so let’s go through them. The isopropyl alcohol and Goo-Gone are for labels, stickers, and other stick-ons that are peeling free, cracking, or otherwise getting in the way. (The isopropyl alcohol is specifically for labels that use adhesive resistant to water or ethyl alcohol This is also something handy to remember when cleaning liquor or wine bottles, by the way, because the label paper may come free with soaking in water but the adhesive won’t.) The bottle of window cleaner is for the occasional glue or glop that needs ammonia for removal. The gloves are because you really don’t want your hands soaking in isopropyl alcohol or window cleaner for long periods without some kind of protection, and the hand lotion is an additional level of protection inside the gloves. (It also makes your hands smell nice, which they definitely won’t if you’ve been bathing in Goo-Gone for an entire binge watch of Daybreak.) The reason why you want nitrile gloves instead of latex ones is that latex tends to be attacked by the light machine oil you’re going to use, and they tend to be more tolerant of the other chemicals you’re using. Finally, the light machine oil and the WD-40 are for lubrication: WD-40 is a penetrating solvent that’s incredibly good at loosening up seized or rusted metal parts, but it’s not an actual lubricant, so its use has to be followed up with light oil.

Two clarifications: the reason why the above list includes “spare rags AND paper towels” is that you’re going to come across substances, particularly label adhesives and oil, that you’re not going to want on rags that you plan to reuse or, worse, wash in your home washing machine. (If you’re the sort of monster who goes to a laundromat to wash items like this so you don’t mess up your own machine, several concert T-shirts, several dress shirts, and I are coming over to have a really long talk with your kneecaps.) Paper towels may be overused, but between washer and dryer abuse and the potential for spontaneous combustion, they’re a great way to collect glop that needs to leave the premises right then and there. However, there are cleaning and scrubbing activities that paper towels can’t handle without shredding and disintegrating, so take into account your needs.

And the sharpening stone? I know it’s hard to believe, but a disturbing number of people assume that the current sharpness of secateurs, scissors, grafting knives, hedge clippers, and lawn mower blades is what it is, with no option for improving the situation. Codswallop. Just as a cut from a sharp knife heals faster than one from a dull knife, cutting living plant material of all sorts heals faster with a sharp blade because the blade doesn’t crush or mangle the tissue at the cut. Unless you’ve really let your blades slide or you’re cutting up metal with your Felco pruners, a sharpening stone with a fine grit should handle all of your needs: I personally use an Arkansas whetstone that I purchased in the late 1980s, and still puts a precision edge on everything from scalpels to putty knives.

Okay, now that you have plenty to do, get to cleaning. You’ll need all of this ready to go by the time you get the next installment, available soon.

Other News
In other developments, the promise of stirring up the Triffid Ranch social media environment starts at the end of the year, with the shutdown of both personal Facebook account and the Triffid Ranch Facebook page. This wasn’t an easy decision, but recent changes in Facebook’s algorithm have made it impossible for people to get Page postings unless they’re boosted, and that is becoming increasingly more expensive with less of a return. If you know someone trying to keep up via Facebook who hasn’t read anything in a while, that’s why: the Twitter and Instagram accounts (both “txtriffidranch”) are staying up, but the first act of January 2020 is to shut down the Facebook account for good. (And feel free to forward this newsletter to anybody who might have an interest, because retro media is the new future. At this rate, it may be time to turn this newsletter into a zine.)

Recommended Reading

One of these days, the To Be Read pile beside my bed is going to collapse and kill me in my sleep, but that’s only because of so many choices. However, two particulars stand out: the latest Spectrum Awards collection of fantastic art (because after a quarter-century, it just keeps getting better and better), and the new book The Making of Alien, which goes into detail on the making of the classic film, including a lot of the conflicts and command decisions that almost imploded the production over and over. Both are available in oversized hardcovers, so if you don’t feel like Netflix binging, these are great distractions while cleaning your gardening tools.

Music

It’s been a rough few months for everyone, so I leave you with an introduction, if you’re not familiar already, with Angel Metro. Just trust me on this. Go download the latest album by whatever service you prefer, but give it a good stout listen before the next newsletter comes out.

Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2019: The Final Episode

And it’s all come down to this: the final Triffid Ranch of 2019. The fourth and final Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas gallery open house for 2019 starts at 6:00 pm on Saturday, December 21, and ends when everyone goes home. For those who have been out here before, expect a whole slew of new enclosures. For those who haven’t, come out to peruse Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery. And for those who can’t make it on Saturday, the gallery is still open and available for appointments until the evening of December 24 and the whole week after Christmas. Either way, feel free to come by.

Have a Great Weekend

While the third Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas gallery open house runs this Saturday, take into account that one of the best themes for Dallas in August came out 35 years ago:

State of the Gallery: December 2019

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And so we come to the end of yet another year and another decade. (And please don’t start with how officially the Twenty-Teens end on December 31, 2020. You’re probably the sort who begged teachers for homework over holiday break, too.)  It’s been a very interesting time, and as Harlan Ellison put it, this is the hour that stretches. Now we make plans for the next decade.

Hovering over all of this is that November was a particularly cruel month, particularly with the death of my father-in-law. I’m still composing a proper memorial for him, but without his business advice, the Triffid Ranch would be nowhere near where it is today. Considering how thrilled he was to come out to open houses and shows, I’m already missing sharing new projects and ideas, and while he thought he was being rough, I’ll never forget how he picked apart business proposals, scattered the pieces on the floor, and watched intently to see what I’d pick up off the floor and what I’d do with it. He often bragged about me to his friends with “He isn’t much, but he’s better than the last one,” and I always grinned and responded “Yeah, but I could be eating raw human flesh and still be better than the last one.”

Another factor in November is discovering that after 4 1/2 years, the day job that supported the gallery in its early days ended with little warning. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t go running through the halls shrieking “Dobby is FREE!”, nor did I go on a madcap firefight while the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” played in the background. (I’m not saying the place was run by explorers in the further regions of solipsism: it was just less an organization and more of a bet as to how toxic a workplace could get before the Environmental Protection Agency had to get involved.) What happened, though, is that now there’s a LOT more time to focus on Triffid Ranch activities and projects that had to be put by the wayside. You should be seeing a lot more in the next few months, and never mind the Ron Grainer soundtrack.

And now a word about shows. If you’re late to the conversation, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas continue through 2019, with the next one on December 14 and the final one on December 21, both at the gallery starting at 6:00. This, of course, is in addition to remaining open by appointment until the evening of December 24. After that, the Triffid Ranch show season starts very early, beginning with Repticon Dallas in Grapevine on the weekend of January 4, and a joyous return to the North American Reptile Breeders Conference in Arlington the weekend of February 15. As for other events, that’s pretty much on a case-by-case basis, so keep checking back.

In other news, it’s taken a while, but Facebook has finally become intolerable as a platform for small businesses, so expect the Triffid Ranch Facebook page to shut down as of January 1. (Essentially, it’s a combination of increased pressure to boost postings in order for Page followers to get notices, combined with new FB algorithms intended to crowd out posts from companies in favor of “family and friends.” no matter how many times users chose otherwise.) That doesn’t mean I want people to lose touch: that’s what the newsletter is for, and expect a new one very soon.

Anyway, it’s time to get back to the linen mines, so stay in touch, and have a great set of holidays of whatever holiday you celebrate. Me, I’m going to be ten years old all over again.

Enclosures: “Gyre” (2019)

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Galactic history is best described as flowing in waves, as major movements of all sorts leave huge amounts of flotsam to be dealt with those on the shore. Major expansions by new species qualify, as do wars that spread outside of planetary systems and particularly those that spread outside of a particular arm of the galaxy. The military expansion of the En/Snap/Blue, a species originating on the rim of the galaxy, qualified as both. Combining an enthusiastic birth rate, a common language that was exceedingly hard for those species unable to view nuances in ultraviolet to decipher, and a powerful lust to be recognized, the En/Snap/Blue both shoved themselves into intergalactic affairs and took rapid offense at any mistranslation of their needs. War was perhaps inevitable, and the creations of the brilliant war designer Ar/Click/380nm allowed his people to plow across the galaxy before finally being stopped by what still qualifies as one of the greatest and most enduring alliances in history. The En/Snap/Blue were utterly destroyed, fighting to the last outpost with no quarter asked or taken, and every last war construct only stilled with overwhelming firepower that left little more than occasional bits of scrap. To this day, the ultimate goals of the En/Snap/Blue are unknown, and the search for understanding leads to huge expeditions seeking even rumors of a surviving settlement or outpost, occupied or not.

Unknown to the rest of the universe, one last outpost remains, hidden in plain sight. Ar/Click/380nm’s labs and testing yards were built not on an individual planet, but within an entire planetary system on a star orbiting the whole of the galaxy but not actually part, concealed from most detection with an array of neutron stars arranged in a dodecahedron pattern. Not only did this warp light around the system, essentially rendering it invisible to those without advanced gravitic manipulation technologies, but the neutron stars could also be shifted for attack, albeit slowly. How Ar/Click/380nm could develop gravitic theory thousands of years ahead of any other species in the galaxy, much less in a single lifetime, is unknown, but its war apparatus, combining both killing power and a keen artistic aesthetic, could jumpstart the ambitions of a dozen species if one example could be collected and studied. Also unknown to the rest of the universe, the space-time bubble created by the neutron star array is full of the greatest weapons Ar/Click/380nm ever developed, all collected in one place for one final movement.

What no other scholar of the En/Snap/Blue ever learned was that not only was Ar/Click/380nm the last survivor of its species and the guardian of its species’s legacy, but it was increasingly horrified at the ongoing war. As the war ground to its inevitable conclusion, Ar/Click/380nm sequestered itself in its enclave, obsessed with apologizing for the actions of its people. For the last five years of its life, long after the rest of its species was extinct, it converted the automated war yards not to new weapons development, but to a composition: a song of grief, a song of remorse, a song of regret, all to be broadcast via resonation of the neutron star array and detectable by any species with the ability to detect gravity waves. The first broadcast was the key, the second was the symphony, and the third would be the explosion as the neutron stars closed in on the war yards, destroying everything within before they collided. Ar/Click/380nm prepared for the best and the worst: knowing that any survivors of its species would attempt to stop it, after finishing the composition, it sat in a mobile gun mount on the face of the array manipulator and took one last breath while viewing a new sunrise in an otherwise black sky. As with everything else, it remains in place, waiting for someone else to start the music.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 36″ x 36 1/2″ x 18 1/2″ (91.44 cm x 92.71 cm x 46.99 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes attenboroughii

Construction: Polystyrene foam, polyethylene, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: Consignment

Shirt Price: Consignment

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Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2019 – The Second: tonight

Things are coming back together, so it’s time for the reminder that the latest Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas gallery open house starts December 7 at 6:00 pm. See you here.

Have a Great Weekend

For Paul Mears, who has had to put up with me for 40 years as of tomorrow and hasn’t buried me in an unmarked grave…yet.