(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 December 18, 2019
Installment #13 “Ain’t No Cure For the Wintertime Blues, Part 2’
When last we saw our intrepid newsletter, we were discussing essential operations to keep one hale and hearty through the depths of winter. We now return to our diatribe, already in progress.
One of the great bits of fun about being in the carnivorous plant trade is that we’re always in the never-ending September. If you’re not familiar with the term, it comes from computer network sysadmins, most of whom had their first experiences on university networks and had to train a whole new audience on such basics as printing manuscripts, saving files, and turning it off and turning it back on again. 25 years ago, this hit everyone when the Internet became a diversion, a tool, and a secret addiction, and that first month of handholding turned into an all-year gig, with more people coming in as blank slates than were leaving as fully certified and experienced users. The difference is that those sysadmins looked at this as a chore. We carnivore people look at this as an opportunity, especially when that newbie we met a decade ago now surpasses our knowledge and has knowledge to return.
So many of us in the carnivore trade have tales of those mentors who helped us without expectation of return when we were first starting out. In my case, I owe debts to Peter D’Amato of California Carnivores, Jacob Farin and Jeff Dallas of Sarracenia Northwest, and Michael Wallitis of Black Jungle Terrarium Supply that I couldn’t repay in a billion years, Because of those kindnesses, it’s imperative to return the favor. Since the biggest issue after the holiday season is finding things to do to stay active when the worst of winter weather keeps you trapped inside, it’s time to share some trade secrets, pass on some abstract knowledge, and answer one overriding question asked about Triffid Ranch enclosures over and over: “just where the hell did you come up with that?” In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite sources for everything that goes with the plants:
American Science & Surplus: I have friends who live within the vicinity of American Science & Surplus outlets, full of everything from low-cost lab glassware to screaming monkey puppets, who tell me all about the fun they have loading up shopping carts full of interesting overstocks, rejects, consignments, and castoffs. I spend most nights plotting terrible revenge on them, usually involving my talking them to death. Seriously, both the print catalog and the Web site are packed with thoughtful, accurate, and very funny descriptions of the latest flotsam to come across their loading docks, and I regularly go to AS&S for everything from sculpting tools to pipe cutters to soldering stations, and a lot of details in Triffid Ranch backdrops started as something completely different spotted in the latest catalog. The only regret: AS&S can’t ship overseas, and 15 years of searching for an international resource of this scale has always led to failure. As soon as they start shipping internationally, though, you’ll know. The whole planet will know.
Micro-Mark: It may seem odd to recommend a model kit enthusiast tool source to gardeners, but Micro-Mark is different. Very different. About half of my tools for miniature bottle gardening came from the Micro-Mark catalog or were constructed using Micro-Mark tools, and the company’s heavy-duty hot foam knife (sadly discontinued) is an essential tool used at least once per week. In addition to loads and loads of adhesives, stock styrene, sculpting and scoring tools, and more small-scale power tools than you could shake a lathe at, Micro-Mark also gets odd one-offs that you didn’t realize you needed until you needed, say, tiny heat sinks that double as tiny clamps for holding small vines in place while the glue dries. And for those of us starting to familiarize ourselves with airbrushes, the Micro-Mark catalog is dangerous.
Smooth-On: I’d recommend Smooth-On just for its exemplary moldmaking and casting components, but nowhere near enough people in horticulture and garden design, as well as those working with reptiles, amphibians, and fish, know about Smooth-On’s Habitat line of aquarium-safe freeform epoxy putty and brushable and pourable resin. Over the last three years, I’ve gone through a truly remarkable amount of the Habitat epoxy putty as an adhesive and smoothing medium, and can’t recommend it highly enough for both its versatility and its resistance to both moisture and acid soils. And the look on amphibian-addicted friends’ faces when they discover aquatic amphibian-safe aquarium media options…
Obviously, this is just a start: too many options can be dangerous. However, there’s nothing that says that further collections of dangerous visions won’t be available in the future. Keep watching the skies.
For as long as I’ve been alive, the final year of a given decade was one of transitions, usually exceedingly painful. 2019 was my very own Angry Candy year, with a lot of friends dying, including my father-in-law, and all sorts of tribulations at the end. That’s why we’re having a big open house on January 25 for Chinese New Year: one celebration to the end of a kidney stone of a year just isn’t enough.
Far be it for me to add another review of Jeff VanderMeer’s new novel Dead Astronauts to the pile, but here’s another reason to pick up a copy, help turn it into a bestseller, and facilitate the upcoming television project based both on it and its predecessor Borne. Jeff and I have been friends since my writing days in the early Nineties, and if not for his inadvertent advice to move to Tallahassee for a job in 2002 and my first encounter with Sarracenia pitcher plants on my first day there, my life would have been drastically different. Because of that, after Dead Astronauts melts your brain and causes it to dribble out your nose at the most inopportune time, you can come up to him at a signing or a Nobel Prize acceptance ceremony, throw a Triffid Ranch T-shirt at him, and yell “This is YOUR fault!” And the best part? It is.
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.