Monthly Archives: November 2020

Have a Safe Black Friday Weekend

Just a friendly reminder: the Triffid Ranch is closed on Black Friday, but we’ll be open both Saturday and Sunday (November 28 and 29) from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. In the interim, stay warm and stay safe (a call in particular for friends and cohorts working retail), and in the age of COVID-19, be REALLY glad that the gallery isn’t still in a 1970s-era shopping mall. (The movie may be quaint by today’s standards, but it’s still the best documentary about 1980s-era Dallas ever made.)

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions 2020 – 3

Curious about what this is all about? Go back to the beginning.

If anyone had cared enough to ask me back in January about the essential fashion accessory of 2020, “facemasks” probably would have rated somewhere below “glow-in-the-dark codpieces” and slightly above “a revival of bellbottoms.” (Honestly, my fear was “Panama Jack T-shirts, the Next Generation” would be the definitive fashion statement of the new decade, and so my inherent cynicism once again torpedoes fame, fortune, and that honorary degree from the University of Phoenix.) To be fair, those of us who inhaled the Misha Nogha novel Red Spider, White Web 30 years ago had our suspicions, but when we weren’t running around in cloned sharkskin armor, either, it was easy to assume that this was a future that wasn’t going to happen. Until it was.

Back in March, masks were purely a matter of survival: something to block off particles and aerosols of yecch from making contact with your respiratory system. In the first few days of the pandemic, we were too busy screaming “CORAL!” to worry about making a statement, but by the end of 2020, face masks were a previously inaccessible surface for expression, advertising, and letting your fellow humans know that backing off was a really good idea. Even with impending COVID-19 vaccines, facemasks may be the fashion statement of the decade, as they also do wonders for fending off flu and air pollution, hiding silent comments, and adding to headphones and books the notice to public transit users that the wearer isn’t interested in a conversation. All of these are laudable uses.

The question, as always, though, is “which one?” Not all masks are created equal, but we’ve definitely gone beyond the early stagest of throwing ideas up against the wall and hoping something sticks. Now with minimum standards for quality and coverage, it’s all about longterm comfort, allowing the focus to go next on art. Because of that, and because I share sympathies with lionfish and blue-ringed octopi on warning passersby as what they should expect, the pile of new masks to rotate through keeps growing.

(And on a sidenote, a little extra on washing masks that’s only obvious in retrospect. While washing them in a standard laundry load works for a lot of them, handwashing usually increases their effective lifespan. In addition, for those of us of the male persuasion with particularly slow-growing facial hair, shaving takes on a particular focus when wearing a mask because of hair follicles catching on the inside and pilling the fabric. That’s why I wash masks every day after use, with a bit of shampoo to degrease and disinfect, then hang them up to dry over the rest of the day. It’s easy, efficient, and much gentler on fabrics than tossing them in a washing machine. But that’s just me.)

As mentioned, the pile of masks keeps growing, because the selection keeps growing as well. I’m hoping to be able to turn everybody onto Triffid Ranch poster masks soon, but until that happens, here are several designs that will both help keep you safe and surprise your neighbors at the same time. This also gives me an opportunity to return to my modeling days of the early 1990s and do selfies that don’t scare children and small animals. (The model background, by the way, is an absolutely true story, but it’s been published elsewhere if you want the details.)

To start, old friend and paleoartist Scott Elyard is back to his usual hijinx, and that includes introducing unsuspecting passersby to the Devonian arthrodire Dunkleosteus.

You may be most familiar with Dr. Lisa Buckley for her Bird Glamour postings on Twitter (which are essential viewing for anyone interested in both stage makeup and bird plumage coloration, and she has an extensive collection of masks on Redbubble dedicated to ornithological ostentation. Her main research is on ichnology (the study of tracks, trackways, and other trace fossils), and who could resist having a map of Bellatoripes fredlundi tracks across one’s face?

Chelsea Connor already has my heart due to her unrelenting love of anoles, but her mask design is the best answer to the question “is that snake venomous?” ever made. (I have a great appreciation for the venomous snakes of North Texas, and spotting a big cottonmouth basking alongside drainage ditches near downtown Dallas is always a highlight of the day. I also agree without reservation that the best way not to be bitten by a snake, venomous or not, is not to do anything dumb enough to allow a bite to happen in the first place.)

In addition to creating comics (Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, I Feel Sick, Fillerbunny) and TV shows (Invader Zim), Jhonen Vasquez creates masks. So many masks. In particular, the Space Jerk design was essential for starting my new day job, so I can blend in among all of you other filthy human bloatlings until the day I finally escape this horrible planet long enough to blow it up. But perhaps I’ve said too much.

Finally, Mónica “Monarobot” Robles Corzo is already justifiably renowned for her frankly stunning Mesoamerican interpretations of kaiju and other monsters, and you’ll have to wait only a short time to see one of her works incorporated into a new Nepenthes hemsleyana enclosure out at the gallery. (If you know anything about N. hemsleyana, you’ll have a hint as to what to expect, and I guarantee that you’ll still be wrong.) She’s taken her distinctive style to mask design, and both the Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc designs are personal favorites around the gallery during both porch sales and weekend plant tours. And if the Shin Godzilla print is more up your alley, who can complain?

Next week: books. Lots of books. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, December is going to be rough enough, but January is going to be a month for staying home and reading.

New Triffid Ranch Plant Tours: The Holiday 2020 Edition

Okay, so it’s the beginning of the holiday season. Travel out of town is right out this year, and let’s face it: if Die Hard is a Christmas movie, the only movie that sums up Thanksgiving weekend 2020 is Alien. For those for whom the holiday season is problematic or unbearably painful, we’re looking for something reasonably safe in the year of COVID-19, with not a trace of tinsel. Far too many of us working retail have wanted to be in a position where the manager who insists upon running Christmas songs all day starting November 1 gets tied up, eyes propped open like Malcolm McDowall’s in A Clockwork Orange, and forced to watch The Polar Express until his ears bleed. Things aren’t as bad as they were 40 years ago, where television, radio, and theater gave no other options, but it would be nice to take a break once in a while.

That’s why we’re proud to announce the upcoming Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours, starting on Saturday, November 28 at 10:00. The idea is to open the gallery on Small Business Saturday to allow new visitors to view the entirety of the gallery and returning visitors to see the new enclosures made since their last visit. (For many, they understandably haven’t seen the inside of the gallery since our Lunar New Year open house back at the beginning of February.) After that, we’ll open again on November 29, take a short break for a private event on December 6, and then resume on December 13, 20, and 27. After that, well, that’s what 2021 is for. As always, masks are mandatory and their proper wear is vital, with the gallery sanitized between visitors. (Due to Dallas County ordinances, no more than 10 visitors can enter at any given time: we apologize for the inconvenience, but this is for everybody’s health.)

The best part of all of this is having the opportunity to debut new enclosures every week: including commissions, 2020 has been exceedingly busy, and the plan is to average out at one new enclosure every two weeks since the beginning of the year. Will we do it? CAN we do it? Well, you’ll have to come out to the gallery every week to find out.

Otherwise, the gallery is as always open by appointment through the end of the year for those wishing to view or purchase an enclosure outside of the Plant Tour schedule: unfortunately, a new day job prevents keeping the gallery open every day through the season, so appointments will be vital. Anyone with questions is free to ask: otherwise, we’ll see everyone starting November 28.

Enclosures: “Innovator” (2020)

Assumption: when cataloguing examples of advanced technology throughout the known universe, most students attribute the developments to a specific species or civilization, and further attribute those developments to some sort of racial will to forge and refine it. Reality: with far too many of the really esoteric discoveries throughout the Five Realities, everything comes from one individual or one small group, and the rest of said species or civilization wouldn’t have recognized it if they had been beaten over their nervous system with it. This can sometimes be dangerous, as the people of what is now catalogued as Devenport’s Rotating Holiday (SCC918/256/AMCHH4) discovered the hard way. It can be far more dangerous to those left behind to stumble across isolated innovations, as subsequent visitors keep discovering the hard way.

The specifics on exactly who created what is now called The Innovator are forever lost, but what remains in archaeological sites on Devenport’s Rotating Holiday suggest a random developer with a combination of absolute hubris and an unlimited fountain of resources. Built in an isolated area to take advantage of geothermal power, the Innovator also tapped into a series of radio, gravitic, and synthotelepathic telescopes built into surrounding mountain valleys, thus allowing it access to information streams from surrounding worlds to a distance of as much as 70 million light-years in every direction. The collating and processing system used by the Innovator is still completely unknown, and researchers soon learn why if they get too close.

The basic theme behind The Innovator is improvement: physical, electronic, metallurgic, mental, social, and/or theological, sometimes several at once. In its simplest use, an item is brought to within range of a series of sensory arms, and the item is transformed into an incrementally improved form, with the being bearing the item given powerful synthotelepathic instructions on one possible use. For instance, a lump of chert would be modified via nanosmoothing into a knife with a three-molecule-wide edge, with those molecules artificially strengthened to resist wear and damage, and the individual delivering it informed on its used for advanced tree grafting techniques. Bringing a chunk of hematite may, with three different bearers, present complete plans for a Bessemer steel forge, a detector for near-planet asteroids, or a single-use device for boosting the hemoglobin in oxygen-breathing life forms to offer immunity to hydrogen sulfide poisoning. The ultimate benefit of any improvement is up to The Innovator: a famous example was a Carrik warlord who presented a nuclear device in the hope of creating an ultimate weapon: when detonated, the improved device removed all of the Carrik from both space and time, and knowledge of them today comes from cataloging traces of their absence, like breath on a mirror.

The Innovator’s effect isn’t limited to nonliving forms, either. While most attempts to affect research animals are mostly inoffensive (a noted exception was the use of Earth golden hamsters for a test; the innovation was the ability to digest lignin and other complex polymers without the need for symbiotic bacteria, leading to an even more foul-tempered rodent able to thrive on most plastics), any attempts to access the Innovator’s operating system or physically interfere with its functions are met with massive retaliation AND upgrading. This may be physical, with tools and computers innovated to destroy any functionality that could threaten the Innovator. Sometimes it is electronic, with software and firmware left with widened capabilities but without any way to focus on the Innovator. The most insidious, though, are the social upgrades, ranging from individual morality to that of an entire civilization. This almost definitely led to the extinction of the inventor’s people, but whether this was due to the creator attempting to shut down the Innovator or someone else attempting to improve it is still ambiguous.

Today, anyone can visit the Innovator: any attempts to prevent access, including a six-species fleet attempting to saturation-bomb Devenport’s Rotating Holiday with fusion planetbusters, fail within moments. Some of them return with massive leaps in knowledge. Some don’t return, and arguments persist as to whether the Innovator improves them by making them a part of its network, or if it simply improves them beyond the need to live in three-dimensional space. As always, mileage may vary.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 15 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 39.37 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plant: Cephalotus follicularis “Elizabeth

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: $150

Shirt Price: $125

Have a Safe Weekend

Okay, lots of interesting news this weekend, starting with the fact that since last Sunday’s gallery tour turned out so well, we’re doing it again on November 22, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, 57 years to the day my hometown got its unofficial motto “Well, aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy…” As always, we’ll be disinfecting regularly and mask use over the nose and above the chin is mandatory. Because of sudden developments involving a new day job, we’re still deliberating on opening for Small Business Saturday on November 29, the subsequent Sunday, or both. Stay posted.

And as a shoutout to good friends who made the mistake of inviting the triffids across the threshold, two additional developments. For obvious reasons, the Blood Over Texas Horror For The Holidays show in Austin can’t run this year (and I had such plans for a “Back and to the left” gag on Sunday that would fit right in), so they’re hosting a Blood Bazaar virtual event from November 21 until the end of the year. In the same vein (see what I did there?), Loyd and Sue Cryer of Texas Frightmare Weekend stayed very busy over the ongoing shutdown with their new store Frightmare Collectibles, which officially opens on November 21. Go give them both lots of love, and expect some Triffid Ranch surprises from both in subsequent weeks.

As for festivities, there’s one more on November 23, and it’s personal. Whether or not you enjoy the show, there’s one thing for which I have to thank 57 years of Doctor Who: the character that’s the closest I’ll ever get to getting my grandmother back. And if after reading this you think “that explains SO MUCH,” you’re right.

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions 2020 – 2

Curious about what this is all about? Go back to the beginning.

This week in Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions, we’re going to talk about food. Now, for Dallas folks, I could bring up local joys such as The Maple Leaf Diner, Tasty Tails, Sababa, and Blu’s Barbeque, but that’s not fair to everyone else, and the idea of these gift options is that they’re open to everyone, regardless of travel options and lockdowns. Instead, we’re going to talk about heat.

Texas cuisine has a reputation for revving the Scoville scale, but what makes it work is an understanding of the flavor that the heat complements and compliments. That’s an overriding concern with most vendors at ZestFest, the largest spicy foods show in the US: any idiot can dump a kilo of ground Carolina Reaper pepper atop an otherwise perfectly good hamburger and post video of the subsequent prolapse on YouTube, but the artist knows when just a little gets the job done and when the chef needs to take the controls of the Titanic and yell “Full speed ahead! Let’s turn that chunk of ice into margaritas!” Therefore, some suggestions on all aspects of that joy, starting with where to start when you don’t know where to start.

When starting with good and hot food, it’s often best to go with someone who knows what they’re doing and trust their assessments. Just like following a film critic with whom you may not always agree but who makes you contemplate going into new cinematic territory, you may have to poke around and find someone with a similar appreciation of heat, and my personal guru in that regard is Mike Hultquist of Chili Pepper Madness. Recently, he’s been expanding into reminding people of Cajun remoulade and horseradish sauces, and his recipes are never boring. Best of all, if going through online listings doesn’t work for you, his cookbooks are dangerous to read in bed unless you look forward to drowning in a pool of your own drool. May I recommend his recipe for peri peri sauce?

In a lot of circumstances, you may just want something easy: you’re not in the mood to or not able to make a full fiery dish, or you want to kick up something that everyone else in the family wants to keep bland. (Speaking from experience, New England-style clam chowder is always improved with a good dose of Tabasco or sriarcha sauce, but I don’t dare spice it to my preference for guests.) That’s why keeping tabs on a good shaker bottle for your own augmentation comes in handy, and Defcon SaucesMalum Allium spicy garlic powder is an excellent addition to roasted vegetables, particularly broccoli and Brussels sprouts. My beloved wife Caroline, who admits that she can’t handle much heat, has a love for Malum Allium, but also for the Feisty Fish Rub from Mom’s Gourmet. We go through a lot of spices (mostly because we eat a LOT of roasted vegetables these days), but we keep coming back to each of these, and we’ll probably have a more extensive list for 2021.

And for those who want to go past merely eating hot and want to grow hot, there’s really good news on that front, too. Specifically, while a lot of really good seed suppliers offer excellent pepper species and hybrids, you can’t go wrong with the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University and its wide range of pepper seeds. Personal recommendation: my favorite variety from the Institute is its Numex Halloween: not only does the foliage go deep purple-black with sufficient sun, but the peppers go from black to orange as they ripen, and they’re now an essential part of my notorious goth salsa recipe. But don’t pay attention to me: go wild and try something that surprises you, because that range of seeds includes some doozies.

Well, that’s it for this week: things are going to get interesting, what with American Thanksgiving and all. Feel free to expand upon this list in the comments, too: half of the fun is in the sharing.

Sunday Carnivorous Plant Tour: November 15, 2020

After a very long hiatus, regular events in the gallery, as opposed to out on the front porch, started up again on November 15, with full mask and cleaning protocols in place. It’s been a long strange trip, but the Triffid Ranch is back and open for business.

As for the future, we’re taking a cue from our friends at Frightmare Collectibles and planning a much more regular schedule for Sunday events. Keep an eye on the schedule for the rest of November and all of December: the gallery will be closed on December 6 for a private event, but we’re also planning post-Christmas events for those who need a touch of green after the winter solstice.

Anyway, the next Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour (that’ll work for a name) starts at 10:00 am on November 22, and runs until 5:00 pm that evening. If you can’t make it then, we’re shifting the schedule slightly for Small Business Saturday on November 28, and will be open on November 27 by appointment. See you then.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #20

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 October 16, 2020.

Installment #20: “An Ode to a Plastic Watering Can”

In the greater scheme of things, especially these days, it’s not a big deal, but it’s time to mourn just a little. After 31 years and innumerable liters of water, my first watering can died of age-related wear and tear, and it deserves a fair eulogy.

The long strange trip that currently ends with the Texas Triffid Ranch originally started in the spring of 1989. Like most Gen Xers, I previously had precious little time for gardening both because of endless hours of doing the zut work in my parents’ gardens over the years and with the general “I don’t have time for the likes of YOU” attitudes of garden centers at that time. One day at the grocery store, though, I found a packet of luffa squash seeds dumped on a shelf where someone had decided that they didn’t want to take it back to where they’d picked it up, and remembering reading a magazine article about a week before about how those odd sponges occasionally offered for sale came from a plant and not from some odd sea creature, I figured that I didn’t have anything to lose. Besides, I was working nights: back then, that meant that a weeknight home life consisted of watching the one or two television stations that hadn’t signed off at midnight, reading, or staring at the ceiling.

Raising luffa squashes was definitely a diversion.
That year’s gardening plan was about as pathetic as you could expect from a pre-Internet 22-year-old with no guidance and no mentorship. Said luffas were planted in reused gallon milk jugs full of potting soil purchased from the 24-hour grocery store next to my apartment, with lots of “compost” (orange peels and dead refrigerator leftovers) in the bottom, with no idea of what the adult plants looked like or what they needed. That first year, expectedly, was a nightmare, but one of the side benefits was realizing that watering a good dozen jugs every day meant needing a sturdier container than another recycled milk jug. This meant making another trip to that 24-hour Skaggs Alpha-Beta and grabbing a watering can from its “Seasonal” aisle.

The can itself wasn’t anything special, but it was. That year, several grocery stores in the Dallas area carried the same green plastic watering can with a white plastic rose (sprinkling rose, not flower rose) on the end, with a stout handle and a sturdy short neck. Apparently multitudes of younger gardeners than I have very fond memories of their grandmothers using that same style of watering can, and more memories of said grandmothers searching for a replacement when it finally wore out. In my case, it was large enough to be practical for apartment gardening without necessitating constant trips back to the sink for refilling, short enough that it could get into tight places, and tough enough to handle sitting on an apartment porch in a North Texas summer without cracking or degrading. For what I was trying to do, it was perfect.

Even better, it kept being perfect. The next year included a move to a new apartment with a much larger balcony, which necessitated a much wider collection of plants. During the winter, that can was essential in watering a big philodendron chunk I had rescued, and that plant stayed with me for years. That can stayed with me for a further move to Dallas’s Exposition Park, where it was invaluable in assisting the owners of the long-defunct Club No in turning a former dry cleaners storage area into a vine-covered back patio. It moved with me to Portland, Oregon, and then back to Texas. It lasted through two marriages, the whole of my writing career, several subsequent moves, and the beginnings of the Triffid Ranch as a hobby with delusions of grandeur. Even after the start of the gallery, it saw use in the greenhouse for watering individual plants for shows and events, and it acted as if it would last forever.

Well, it lasted until it didn’t. One day while ladling out rainwater from one of the rain barrels, it started to leak. That little watering can, which had survived so much, finally blew out along the bottom edge, both from a loss of plasticizers over the last three decades and general wear, and attempting to fix it with silicone or epoxy putty just meant that it would blow out again in another spot before too much longer. It was relegated ceremoniously to the recycling bin, with the hope that after being chopped and reconstituted, no matter the item, it is appreciated and loved as much as that can was.

Hail and farewell, watering can: I’ve searched for a month for a comparable can, and know I probably won’t find one as great as you were.

Shameless Plugs

A word out for an old friend and friendly adversary: folks in the Portland area may be familiar with tax lawyer and desperately needed blogging gadfly Jack Bogdanski, and he and I have been friends from a distance for about a decade. Although we may disagree fervently on specific issues all over the place, one of the reasons why I respect him so much is that he has the same change-it-or-lose-it love for Portland that I have for Dallas, and at the same intensity. Mr. Bogdanski famously quit blogging several years back in order to focus on serious law research, but he’s now back, he’s continuing his wild swings between Portland politics and little joys (his recent discussion of analog music was wonderfully nostalgic), and I have a desperate need to take him out for dinner and thank him for playing Harlequin to Portland’s City Hall Ticktockmen once it’s safe to do so.

Recommended Reading

The latest Spectrum fantastic art collection just arrived, and that’s all I’m going to say other than “Buy it now.” Next year, I AM entering the competition.

Music

One of the good things about having friends who are so much cooler than I’ll ever be is getting exposure to all sorts of cultural detritus that wouldn’t have floated this way otherwise. That’s why I have to thank the Canadian actress and model Tristan Risk for turning me onto the garage surf band the Neptunas, because the band’s latest album is a very welcome antidote to the usual impending winter blues. I suspect that it’s time to pay royalties to play their newest album at the next big gallery open house (either November or December), because life is too short not to.

Have a Safe Weekend

It’s going to be a long week: the Triffid Ranch Sunday Tours start on November 15, and all of this is preparation for some major news at the end of the month. Please don’t feel obligated to come out on Sunday, especially considering recent Dallas COVID-19 news, but if you do, your presence is appreciated.

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions 2020 – 1

Many moons back, back when the Triffid Ranch was purely a venue that popped up at local shows and events, this site ran a regular series of recommendations for annual gift-giving, on the idea of spreading the wealth and giving further recommendations to venues that needed wider exposure. Starting the brick-and-mortar gallery, along with day job obligations, cut into opportunities to continue, but the ongoing kidney stone and appendicitis cosplay known as 2020 gives whole new opportunities to pay back old favors, hype up respected friends and cohorts, and generally spread the wealth. It may have been a rough year, but that makes helping out your friends that much more vital.

To start off this series, which will keep going every Thursday through the end of the year, it’s time to start with the regular question brought up at Triffid Ranch shows: “Do you ship?” The reason why you don’t see a handy online store on this site is because of the size, heft, and relative delicacy of the enclosures and containers available for sale, and the inability to guarantee that any of the finished enclosures could survive a trip through any currently available delivery service. Even if any given enclosure could handle hauling, lugging, flying, and disembarking, there’s no guarantee that the plants would. (It’s enough of a white-knuckle ride to drive them around the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex to make deliveries.) I may not be able to ship, but it’s time to look at carnivorous plant dealers who do.

With that in mind, below is a basic list of excellent carnivorous plant dealers with whom I’ve had good encounters in the past, and some of whom for whom I’d take a bullet without hesitation. All are very good about the plants they offer, and for those looking for particularly exotic species should give them all a viewing. These include:

  • California Carnivores: on this side of the Atlantic, it’s hard to talk about the carnivorous plant hobby without bringing up one of the oldest and largest carnivorous plant nurseries in the United States. Owner Peter D’Amato has probably done more to promote carnivores in the US than anybody else in the last 30 years (his book The Savage Garden is still one of the essential texts on carnivorous plant care), and his crew gleefully expand what we know about carnivores as often as they can.
  • Black Jungle Terrrarium Supply: Located on the opposite side of the continent from California Carnivores, Black Jungle already has a justified reputation for its variety and quality of dart frogs, but it also carries a wide selection of carnivores, including an enthusiastic collection of low-elevation and high-elevation Nepenthes pitcher plants.
  • Sarracenia Northwest: Back to the West Coast, Sarracenia Northwest is one of the gems of the Portland area. While its regular open houses aren’t happening under current conditions, its online selection is always full of very healthy plants (one Brocchinia I purchased six years ago is so enthusiastic in producing pups that if it turns out to qualify as a unique cultivar, I’m naming it “Martian Flatcat”), and the newsletter stories of Sue the Sarracenia Pup are worth subscribing all on their own.
  • Pearl River Exotics: One of the reasons to check out Pearl River is for its regular Nepenthes presales, with a great combination of pure species and hybrids.
  • Carnivero: A relatively new carnivorous plant nursery, Carnivero is already a good reason to plan a road trip to Austin once the pandemic is over. In the interim, Carnivero’s online selection is always interesting, and I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of their unique Nepenthes hybrids before too long.
  • Jersey Devil Carnivorous Plants: Lots of people who don’t know any better make jokes about New Jersey, and folks in New Jersey make jokes about the Pine Barrens. The Pine Barrens are a place I’ve wanted to visit ever since this strange trip began, because of its variety of endemic carnivores and orchids, and Jersey Devil pays special attention to the Barrens’ most famous carnivore, the purple pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea. (Keep an eye open for next spring, because I want to be the first Texas carnivore dealer to carry Jersey Devil specials.)
  • Plano Carnivorous Plants: It’s a common misconception that the Triffid Ranch is the only carnivorous plant dealer in the greater Dallas area. Not only is this not true, but when customers ask about particular plants that I simply don’t have room to carry, I send them to talk to Dylan Sheng at Plano Carnivorous Plants. Dylan is a little more than a third of my age, and I want to be just like him when I finally grow up.

Well, this is a start: in the interim, take advantage of the relatively calm weather this week and get in your plant orders now, before it starts getting cold out. You won’t regret it.

State of the Gallery: November 2020

One of the only issues I’ve ever had with the Henry Selick film The Nightmare Before Christmas involves the ending. For all of the celebration of Santa Claus traveling the world and replacing all of Jack Skellington’s creepy toys with traditional Christmas gifts, not one kid – not one protogoth kid – was screaming and crying and begging Santa to leave a Jack gift behind. I just picture that kid watching the Russian dolls loaded with scorpions being hauled off, swearing right then and there that when s/he grows up, there’s going to be one little part of the world where Halloween never ends, and then finding that a lot of other kids feel the same way, so they start an enclave, and that starts a movement…

Anyway. Where were we? Oh, yes, Triffid Ranch plans for November. Absolutely no connection to the previous paragraph. None at all.

Well, now that Halloween is over, it’s time to switch gears slightly as far as the gallery is concerned. No more Porch Sales until at least the end of March, both because of variable weather and because all of the Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants need their winter dormancy. Right now, the emphasis is on introducing new Nepenthes, Cephalotus, and Mexican butterwort enclosures through the winter, as well as giving opportunities for everyone to see them. To that end, the first of the November indoor plant tours starts on November 15, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and those plant tours will continue on selected Sundays until spring. (By various necessities, these won’t be running every Sunday, owing to starting a new day job in December and ongoing events with Caroline Crawford Originals at the beginning of the month, but details will be posted as they become available.)

Concerning shows outside of the gallery, everything is still in the air, in some cases quite literally. The latest news concerning a potential COVID-19 vaccine has already started a race with various venues to schedule indoor shows for 2021, and it’s the view of this proprietor that it’s far too early to discuss returning to a regular event schedule when Texas just crossed, as of today, one million known cases. Unfortunately, the combination of live plants and heavy glassware means that shipping isn’t an option, which means that online events such as the Blood Over Texas Blood Bazaar also aren’t an option at this time.

On the subject of the Blood Bazaar, one of the only bits of good news in the last eight months is the solidarity between friends and cohorts in the online community, and it’s time to return a whole slew of favors. It’s been a very long time since the last Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions cavalcade of purchasing opportunities, and that starts up again as of Thursday. Expect lots of recommendations on everything from masks to toy dinosaurs, with a lot of tips on carnivorous plants and carnivorous plant accessories.

Finally, 2020 was intended to start with a serious expansion in both additional Triffid Ranch shows and local business opportunities, and the pandemic put paid to both before things got too involved for the year. Now that businesses are reopening, it’s time to announce the next phase of the Triffid Ranch business empire: the opportunity to rent enclosures. Keep an eye open for the details very soon, but for companies and individuals who would like the uniqueness and prestige of a carnivorous plant enclosure without the maintenance, or who want to switch things out on a regular basis, you now have an option. Again, details will follow very soon.

Other than that, back to the linen mines: new enclosures won’t build themselves. And if you think this is exciting, wait until December.

Enclosures: “Supernova Express” (2020)

Out of all of the successful and failed projects by early spacefaring civilizations that ultimately allowed their successors to become what we now call “galactically aware,” two of the most influential came from the now-sadly-extinct species Bolun. Originating on a particularly life-conducive world orbiting a remarkably stable yellow dwarf star in an arm of our own galaxy, the Bolun were culturally obsessed with spreading their knowledge and society as far as they could manage, and they were the first known civilization in our corner of the universe to utilize what humans called the remora wave, a method of piggybacking information onto gravity waves. As neutron stars and black holes collided and washed time-space with outwardly spreading gravity waves, the remora wave dragged information about the Bolun, everything from vital scientific information to attire patterns, to anybody who could pick it up. Eventually, any reasonably technological species attempting to study gravity would pick up incoming gravity waves, and little irregularities in the observed data usually led to stumbling over the remora wave packets. Before long, others were dropping their own cosmic broadcasts into the rippling fabric of space-time, giving everything from elaborate plans for faster-than-light vehicles for gaseous entities to Swedish meatball recipes (which most civilizations had already developed, but that was another mystery to be discussed at another time).

The other Bolun project with unexpected returns was the development and expansion of slimeworlds. The universe is particularly good at making small rocky planets at a suitable distance from light and heat for optimum life conditions, but without anything approximating living other than attempts at RNA replication. The Bolun thought that a shame, and as soon as they had the ability to visit those worlds directly, first by FTL craft and then by time-web and zero-point shifts, every world they found conducive to life but free from it received a large shipping platform full of specially tailored molds, algae, and other bacteria and protists intended to use the available resource bounty around them. Even after the Bolun were gone due to a zero-point detonation that took out their main sphere of influence approximately 500 million years ago, other spacefarers visiting slimeworlds used said slime as raw replication materials, as substrates for colony worlds, or just simply dropped off their own preferred biota and swore to come back and visit once the stew was finished cooking. With many worlds, this happened so many times that new visitors often left detailed information in subsequent remora waves, just so future paleontologists didn’t go insane trying to understand a particular slimeworld’s natural history millions of years later. Genetic resurrections, penal colonies, intended utopias, deliberate mashups of seemingly incompatible biomes…the slimeworlds were the universe’s sourdough starter, and the results were sometimes too strange for eating.

Such was one particular slimeworld visited by the famed musical artist Jody Clem (2386-2467, Old Calendar). This world, at that time only known by an identification number and not a name, was located in a particularly ripply part of space-time: outwardly, the tremendous gravity waves slamming its vicinity did little more than encourage a bit more solar flare activity in its star, but the remora waves chasing them were full of data packets from at least thirty extant and extinct species from across the universe. The planet itself wasn’t especially habitable: previous dumpings of life from previous visitors had left it with vast savannahs of acidic moss prowled by giant reptilian analogues comparable to the extinct rauisuchids of Earth’s past, with little reason for anyone of any known species to want to live there. For Clem, this was perfect.

Clem’s vision was to build a receiver to pick up remora wave packets, which then translated the packets into music. Based on a unique algorithm developed specifically for this project, the translator gave particular information a musical value, which then played out across the world’s largest moss savannah. Depending upon the remora waves’ content, the resultant auditory output could be anything from a light sussurus to a blast of sound that could kill at close proximity, with most end results best resembling freeform jazz.

At first, response to Clem’s giant amplifier ranged from dismissive to horrified, and discussion led to others going to listen for themselves. Some started noticing that certain musical themes self-generated from time to time, depending upon the news and trivia picked up on incoming remora waves. A few could even extrapolate further galactic events and trends based on long listens to the Clem amplifier, and a few swore that with dedicated study and interpretation, the Clem amplifier might even give clues as to the future.

Today, a small spaceport lies just over the horizon from the amplifier, and most visitors deliberately travel on foot or analogue in order to take in the daily output on their visit. This isn’t particularly safe, as some musical themes tend to attract the giant saurians, who respond with either bemused curiosity or hunger. Even with that threat, government officials, artists, essayists, historians, and wanderers collect at the base of the amplifier, listening for clues, inspirations, messages, and warnings. To an individual, they usually do not recognize the underlying message they heard until it is far too late to do anything about it.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 15 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 39.37 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plant: Cephalotus follicularis “Elizabeth

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: $150

Shirt Price: $125

Enclosures: “Huntington’s Folly” (2020)

Sometimes astroarchaeological discoveries lead to deeper mysteries, and one of the greatest in the annals of our galaxy involves massive structures known as Nogha entropy conduits. Named after the world on which the first was discovered, Nogha entropy conduits do precisely that: the current theory on their purpose and operation is that each one taps into the quantum foam, the froth of emerging and receding universes of which our universe is just one tiny bubble, and anchors on one specific universe where physical laws are drastically different from those in our own. Some draw energy from its anchored universe and either broadcasts it or stores it (the latest conference discussing that function and the implications therein didn’t lead to bloodshed, but it came close) in order to affect some unknown significant change. Others instead funnel energy, particularly in the form of entropy, into their anchored universes: without being able to observe those anchors, whether this is simply as a waste vent or intended to affect specific changes in the anchors is unknown. The creators of the Nogha entropy conduits are unknown, although they apparently spread conduits throughout at least five observable galaxies. The conduits’ operation is unknown, with all attempts to dismantle or deconstruct conduits failing, in some cases catastrophically. The reasoning behind the conduits’ placement is unknown. Most questions about Nogha entropy conduits have the same answer: “Unknown.”

The larger mystery, though, came from the seeming discovery of a Nogha entropy conduit on Earth itself, in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada. Previous discoveries of conduits tended to concentrate either on the far edges of galactic cores or on the outer rims, particularly on planets or dwarf planets in orbit around red or blue giant stars. Even more perplexing, although the conduit was in a particularly rugged and challenging area, it should have been discovered centuries before, either by First Nations hunters or European explorers, and the mystery deepened when a photo of the mountain on which the conduit had been implanted turned up: as of 1943, Old Calendar, the conduit did not exist, and all previous conduits had a provenance of between 2 and 5 million years. Even more confusion piled up when research showed that the conduit was of Earth manufacture, within the previous 100 years, and was completely nonfunctional. While it appeared at most levels to be an authentic conduit, it was nothing but a facade on a mountainside for unknown purposes.

Part of that mystery was solved with an unrelated mystery, involving the hyperspace gate developer Chase Huntington. The land on which the fake conduit was discovered belonged to Huntington before he disappeared in 2312, with his regularly doing business from a hunting lodge overlooking the rock face. The notoriously introverted Huntington never allowed visitors to this lodge, and receipts from and to various shell companies connected to Huntington show a significant outlay of funds for a large construction project of unknown specifics, with all parties involved locked into extensive non-disclosure agreements with equally extensive penalties. Even more curiously, while Huntington helped finance several astroarchaeological expeditions, he himself had a fascination with deliberate fake extraterrestrial artifacts: he bought carefully constructed forgeries and fabrications that were labeled as inauthentic, and regularly presented them to cohorts and competitors to watch their responses.

To this date, the general consensus on Huntington’s entropy conduit was that it was the classic definition of a “folly,” the tradition of wealthy landholders to construct fake ruins intended to invoke past glories. Huntington certainly had the motive and the money, and considering that the land on which his folly resided was donated to the Canadian government upon being declared legally dead, it may have been one massive prank after another. This, though, still has to contend with Huntington’s disappearance: no sign of him ever turned up on Earth, even after an extensive search, and no record of his going offworld has ever turned up. This led to even further study of the folly by amateur archaeologists and enthusiastic laypeople, many using the term “there has to be a pony in here somewhere,” on the idea that Huntington may have reconstructed an entropy conduit that transported matter instead of energy and that worked…once.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 24″ x 18″ x 18″ (60.96 cm x 45.72 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Commission

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, polyester resin, found items.

Price: Commission

Shirt Price: Commission

Have a Safe Weekend

No shows or events for this weekend: after the Porch Sale schedule for the last six months, it’s time for a minor break before getting ready for indoor sales through November and December. Details will follow very shortly, but expect the Sunday schedule to continue for the foreseeable future.

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November…

Because (a) my current presence in North America is due partly to overly enthusiastic celebration of Gunpowder Treason on its 300th anniversary, (b) I still bow to nobody in my appreciation of Alan Moore, and (c) I am a hopeless fan of Violet Carson roses:

The Last Porch Sale of 2020: This is bat country.

At the end of December, when we all raise a virtual toast to the death of 2020, the eulogy on its gravestone will most likely be “Man plans, God laughs.” At the end of the outdoor carnivore season, six months after starting the first of what became the Sunday morning Porch Sales, this might as well have been carved into all of our foreheads, too. The original plan for this year was to take the Triffid Ranch on the road, with multiple events in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and even New Orleans: when all of that imploded as shows shut down for everyone’s safety, the Porch Sales were a last-minute hope that all of the work started in January and February wouldn’t be completely wasted. As it turned out, they went beyond everyone’s widest expectations.

Sadly, just as the Porch Sales were really taking off, it’s time to shut them down for the year. Part of this is because of the outdoor carnivores: if they haven’t already from last week’s unusually cold weather, the Sarracenia pitcher plants and Venus flytraps start going into winter dormancy soon. The other is based on long, hard-earned experience with Texas weather, where we can go from shirtsleeves and sun to sleet in a matter of minutes, and we’ve so far lucked out on having to set up tents in a torrential rainstorm. (Even if we did, there’s absolutely no guarantee that anyone would show, and can you blame them?) Based on the response this year, and the fact that COVID-19 is pretty likely to be continuing to run amok by the time the flytraps wake up, they’re going to start up again in 2021. It’s just going to be a long five months until then.

Once again, this isn’t saying that the Triffid Ranch is shutting down over the winter. Anything but. This next week is dedicated to cleanup and maintenance (in particular, putting into storage things essential for the Porch Sales that just get in the way today, such as tents and coolers), and then we restart Sunday events inside the gallery. Details will follow (in particular, a big development that came up last Friday will affect the Sunday event schedule in December, so we’re not nailing down a schedule just yet), probably around November 7, so keep checking back for confirmation. As always, the gallery is open for those wanting to discuss commissions or purchase of existing carnivore enclosures, and details on enclosure rentals will be up and available soon.

Once again, many thanks to everyone who came out to the Porch Sales, no matter what time of the year that was, and thanks to those who braved heat, thunderstorms, windstorms, and threatened tornadoes to wander among the carnivorous plants. Here’s just hoping that 2021 isn’t as interesting, in the Chinese curse sense, and that we all get through 2020 in good health. We’ll see you next spring.