Monthly Archives: August 2021

The Last of the August Porch Sales – Cancelled

It’s last-minute notice, but today’s Porch Sale has to be cancelled: Caroline sustained a back injury, so it’s lots of bed rest until she recovers. She should be fine in time for the Labor Day weekend Carnivorous Plant Weekend, though: many apologies for today’s cancellation, but we hope to see you on September 4 and 5.

Have a Safe Weekend

The last August Porch Sale is this weekend, running from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, if only to avoid the afternoon heat. Don’t worry, though: we’re rapidly coming to the end of the summer heat…we hope.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #27

(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 #27: “Horticultural Thunderdome”

Living in an older neighborhood has lots of interesting challenges already, as witnessed when the water main that blew out and left the front yard a sodden marsh last summer decided to go out entirely this spring. We were reasonably lucky, as February’s Icepocalypse left neighbors up and down the street with flooded-out living rooms and garages as pipes froze and thawed, and others discovered what subfreezing temperatures tend to do to electrical insulation that’s not rated for that sort of cold. (No fires, thankfully, but we’re seeing a lot of mood and porch lighting being torn out and replaced.) For the most part, it’s been the same with animal and plant life: the cold apparently thinned out the local squirrel population, but opossums clamber onto the porch to yell at each other and the cats with no sign of being affected by the freeze, and by the way the anoles and Mediterranean geckos act on the side of the house, you’d think they were campaigning for a reboot of the Mesozoic.

Things were considerably rougher for flora, particularly that better suited for areas further south. Dallas is right on the edge of safe growing zones for palm and saw palmetto trees, and neighbors with pools all figured “Let’s put palm trees in the back yard to add to the Polynesian ambiance.” That worked well since the last big freeze in 2015, which was over before anyone really recognized that it had arrived, but a solid week of subfreezing temperatures left those neighbors trying to figure out how to remove a 15-meter dead tree without hitting the pool, hitting the house, or requiring use of a crane. At this point, they’re better off pooling funds (pun intended) and just run that crane down the alley, plucking out palm carcasses like weeds.

The real problem, though, lies with actual weeds. Invasive exotics, to be precise. Being an older neighborhood, birds look at everything as a place to eat, rest, and nest, and that means they bring in all sorts of seeds from all sorts of plants, and many get established. This gets aggravated by those invasives that someone decides are suitably pretty or potentially useful, thus exacerbating the seed problem. Every little gizzard-bearing flying dinosaur in the area, with the possible exception of the two red-shouldered hawks who land atop my garage to yell at me as I’m trying to go to work, drags in more than their fair share of seeds, all lovingly scraped and scarified and tumbled with gizzard stones and grit, and 2021 is a particularly good year for them to find new places to take over. We don’t have kudzu yet, but two of the invasives could give kudzu a serious fight.

The first, morning glory (Ipomoea spp.) is about as ubiquitous in Dallas as roses in Portland or Spanish moss in Tallahassee, but these aren’t the gigantic-bloomed cultivated and domesticated variety grown for their lovely flowers. These produce much more subtle, but still beautiful, blooms, and the energy they’d use on ostentatious petals goes instead into vines that cover EVERYTHING. Pull them off shrubs and lawn furniture and vehicles left outside, and they’re back in a day or so, and Arioch help us all if they ever get a taste for blood.  Mowing and weedeating them just encourages them, and they have a wonderful habit of binding mowers and cutting blades.

And then we have the other green menace, scarlet trumpetvine (Campsis radicans), usually spread by yuppie homeowners told by Some Guy that a great way to hide telephone poles and other utility poles is to let them be covered by trumpetvine. Not only will the local lineman for the county want to set you on fire for doing so (trumpetvine sap causes contact dermatitis in many people), but the seeds are appreciated by a wide variety of birds, which then spread said seeds all over the area. Left unchecked, the vines collapse fences and squeeze between barriers, and most efforts to thin them back that don’t involve radioisotopes merely spread them further. Worst of all, since the roots spread through the toughest clay hardpan soil, new clumps pop up and start spreading meters from the original infestation, dislodging brick pathways and drowning bird feeders and barbecue grills with runners. As with morning glories, local garden centers sell trumpetvine to unassuming novices, thereby guaranteeing that subsequent residents curse their names years and decades after they’ve moved on and left their mess.

This year, possibly because of the freeze, both morning glory and trumpetvine are determined to take over. It’s not enough to pull trumpetvine: you have to let it dry until dead if it’s to be composted or mowed, and it thrives on weeding regimens that would get poison ivy to give up and die. Morning glory at least makes a good hide for assassin bugs and anoles, and it’s kept somewhat in check by leafcutter bees that strip big chunks from their leaves. Trumpetvine, though, has no controls, and the phrase “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit” is a regular one from people fighting it for a decade or more. Then, when it’s finally held to a dull roar, that’s when an unknowing neighbor actually pays real cash money for the horrible stuff because “I hate that telephone pole out front, and I hear it attracts hummingbirds.”

That leaves the only real option: Thunderdome. Along one fence wall, I’m trying a little experiment, and letting trumpetvine and morning glory beat each other. So far, the morning glory seems to be choking out the trumpetvine, but the trumpetvine apparently discovered that hiding underneath rosebushes and behind hibiscus trees was a reasonable alternative, and it’s discovered a horrible trick of running tendrils underneath mulch and then emerging in multiple spots. Not that it’ll do any good: two weeks ago, when Dallas was getting unseasonable rains, I planted sweet potato, and so long as they don’t form an alliance to remove the animal scum keeping them from their destinies, the morning glories and trumpetvine are in TROUBLE.

Upcoming Gallery Events

Now that the heat has kicked in, the weekend Porch Sales have moved inside for the duration of the summer, but they’ll go back outside later in September. The holiday Carnivorous Plant Weekends were so popular for Memorial Day and Independence Day Weekends that we’re reprising it for Labor Day, with the next Carnivorous Plant Weekend running on Saturday, September 4 from 4:00 to 9:00 pm and then on Sunday, September 5 from 10am to 3pm. As always, admission is free and masks are mandatory.

Outside Events

In other developments, obviously the big show of the year is going to be Texas Frightmare Weekend at DFW Airport in September, and then it’s time to head back down to Austin for an extended weekend. Being invited as a vendor for Armadillocon 43 brings on all sorts of comments (mine is “I feel like Anton LaVey getting an invitation to the Pope’s bat mitzvah”), but it’s been a very long time since Austin’s premier literary science fiction convention ran in October instead of the middle of August, and Austin is lovely in October.

Other News

In yet more developments, the Dallas Morning News Best in DFW vote is now going, and keeps going until September 2, and the Triffid Ranch is on the ballot under “Best Art Gallery” and “Best Garden Center.” The gallery isn’t automatically on the ballot for the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Reader’s Poll, but it offers room for write-in votes, so do what thou wilt.

Shameless Plugs

One of the many reasons why I live in Garland, Texas, besides its obvious film reference, is that my town is just loaded with interesting food options. One of the absolute best came from discovering a regular Vietnamese food truck outlet at the Cali Saigon Mall at Jupiter Road and Beltline Road: unenlightened people may scoff or laugh at the concept of “Vietnamese tacos,” and they’re welcome to do so, because that’s just that much more for me. Anyway, should you decide to trundle out to the Dallas area for dinner, let me put a bug in your ear about Em & Bubba’s Home Cooking: As someone with 40 years’ experience in the subject, let me say that Em & Bubba’s barbecue brisket is some of the absolute best I have ever eaten, bar none. For vegetarians, they have a lot of options as well, and that’s not counting the other food trucks right alongside. This Saturday, after recovering from the Porch Sale, we’re probably heading there for dinner, and anyone caring to join us is welcome to do so.

Recommended Reading

Since we’re coming up on the fifth anniversary of the gallery’s move from Valley View Center, I’m going to have to dig out photos taken from those final days and add commentary on the ultra-slow-motion implosion of the mall. In the interim, I recommend picking up Capital by Mark Hage: for those who have never started a venue in an existing retail or gallery space, there’s an odd sense of archaeology that comes from the dribs and drabs left behind by previous tenants, sometimes ones gone for decades (mine was the surprising number of pennies dropped on the floor in the back storage area, as well as breaker box labels from the mall’s food court expansion in 1998), and Capital hits on that sense of mystery quite well.


With the summer heat, pretty much the only way to get through August in North Texas is by dreaming of autumn. A touch of Emilie Autumn goes a long way toward that, as well as making a perfectly suitable soundtrack when the heat finally breaks.

The Aftermath: August Carnivorous Plant Porch Sales (August 21, 2021)

It’s been six years since a former clothing store opened up at Valley View Center in Dallas and presented “Dallas’s Pretty Much Only Carnivorous Plant Gallery” for the first time. For some reason, and not just because we were in the early stages of a pandemic this time in 2020, the sixth anniversary is more poignant than the fifth, if only because we’re still going after all of this. With luck, we’ll still be plugging on in another six, but right now is good enough.

With the end of August comes future plans, mostly involving being able to move back outside for at least a little while. That may be a problem because of upcoming shows and events through September and October, but we’ll still try our best to break out the tent and get out in the fresh air between now and Halloween. After that, it’s time to go back inside: the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas are now enough of a tradition that not having them in December would somehow be wrong.

And another reason to celebrate the sixth anniversary? Paul and Holly, the couple above, have been dear friends for a grand cumulative total of 73 years, and while they knew multiple mutual friends and cohorts, they’d never met directly until that original gallery soft opening in 2015. The big reason why we’re not having a Porch Sale on Halloween weekend is because we’ll be at their wedding: I’ve never been a bridesmaid before, but I can’t look much worse in a gown than anybody else.

For those missing the fun, the last August Porch Sale starts on Saturday, August 28 at 10:00 am and runs until 3:00, followed by the next Carnivorous Plant Weekend on September 4 and 5. After that, September is going to be full of shows outside the gallery, with Texas Frightmare Weekend on the weekend of September 10 being the most important. If you can make it in August, we’ll see you this next weekend.

The Aftermath: DFW Tap Talks, August 2021

As someone who can’t drink, going to bars and clubs can be problematic. Live music venues means dealing with dolts more worried about recording the whole show than the people whose views are obscured by their phones and tablets. Dance clubs always have that one jerk DJ who responds to patrons attempting to talk by cranking the music to levels that make communication other than semaphore impossible. Most other hooks to attract patrons involve copious purchase and consumption of alcohol, which gives no incentive for those of us who can’t imbibe, and Arioch help the involuntarily sober who turns down drinks from someone who insists “just have ONE.” After a certain age, it’s just easier to skip out than to deal with the aggravation, particularly in areas where blackout drunkenness was a badge of honor. (Thus, why I haven’t lived in northeast Wisconsin in 35 years and have no interest in returning.)

But what if you could mix both groups through a common goal? Like hard science, perhaps?

That’s not to say that mixing science and cocktails is anything new. Just in the Dallas area alone, the now-delayed Social Science exhibitions at the Perot Museum mixed the best of both worlds (pun intended) with open galleries and active cash bars. DFW Tap Talks goes in the opposite direction: instead of encouraging partiers to come out for science, why not encourage science to come out to the partiers?

The DFW Tap Talks formula is easy: invite a series of experts to an easily accessible alcohol establishment to expound on a specific subject for 15 to 20 minutes, followed by as many questions as the audience has, a quick intermission to allow patrons to stock up on both food and drink, This time, for the first Tap Talk since COVID-19 lockdown, the venue was Rahr and Sons in Fort Worth, where the science trivia competition started just before dusk, the conversations with and between physics majors was fast and furious, and the stage was filled with and surrounded by experts with much more robust educational credentials than I. It was the best open non-vending event to which the Triffid Ranch had been invited in YEARS.

For those unable to attend for various reasons, past Tap Talks are also available on YouTube for convenient viewing, with each new one being livestreamed in progress. As for new ones, I’ve already volunteered to put together something more Halloween-oriented in October, involving Nepenthes pitcher plants, and I’m just waiting word on particulars. Based on this one, I’d be honored to get up onstage alongside my presentation colleagues in the future and keep doing this for a while.

Have a Safe Weekend

It’s going to be a busy weekend: first, it’s a guest appearance at DFW Tap Talks on Friday, and then our sixth anniversary celebration on Saturday from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Things are getting interesting…

State of the Gallery: August 2021

Six years ago on August 20, the Texas Triffid Ranch debuted at the now-long-defunct Valley View Center as Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery. Considering the other galleries and stores that opened and closed within months (and sometimes weeks) in that dying shopping mall, it would have been reasonable to assume that it would have followed, and the first 18 months were rather rough. 72 months after that first soft opening, though, not only has the Triffid Ranch hit its stride, but the next year promises to be even more entertaining.

Firstly, as regulars have noticed, the success of the outdoor Porch Sales through 2020 led to regular events pretty much every weekend through 2021, and that’s continuing through September. September itself is going to be an interesting case: between Texas Frightmare Weekend (and if you haven’t purchased tickets for Frightmare yet, get them NOW before they’re completely sold out), assisting Caroline the subsequent weekend for FenCon, and having a Day Job-mandated trip to New Jersey the week after, the first weekend after Labor Day with a gallery event will have to be September 25. And so it goes.

Otherwise, the ongoing deliberations and debates about public events through Texas continue, with lectures and presentations taking the biggest hits so far. Even so, they’re starting up again, carefully and quietly, and the first proper plant lecture in 2021 is the first DFW Tap Talk of the year as well. The festivities start at Rahr & Sons in Fort Worth at 7:00 pm on August 20: if you can’t make it or don’t feel comfortable going out, feel free to watch in on YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, it’s time to get back to more videos, so keep an eye on new developments with triggerplants, Sarracenia pitcher plants, sundews, and getting your temperate carnivores ready to go into winter dormancy. (If the Triffid Ranch is going on the road this fall, I might as well be productive after the shows are finished for the night.)

Finally, commission season is starting, which means lots of coverage on custom carnivore enclosures between now and February of next year. Right now, the big one is a custom enclosure for the Heard Museum, which should be finished by the gallery event on August 28: it’s definitely not what you’d be expecting. Details and backstory WILL follow.

The Aftermath: August Carnivorous Plant Porch Sale (August 14, 2021)

It’s not completely unheard of, but it’s rare enough that it’s newsworthy: rain in Dallas in August. Not just a little bit of rain, but lots and lots of rain. Instead of a typical Dallas August, where “hot and sunny and dry” is the default weather forecast until Labor Day and sometimes until Halloween, today’s word is “soggy.” Don’t get me wrong: it’s a delightful change of pace, and the Sarracenia adore it. The humidity is so high that you could mistake Dallas for Houston, and going outdoors risks being asked how badly you lost the water balloon war. If you’re a carnivorous plant, it’s heaven.

It’s not just rain in August, but a torrential downpour blowing nearly parallel to the parking lot, that explains why the weekend Porch Sale on August 14 wasn’t held on the porch. Things were a little quiet because of that anticipation (to be honest, a few attendees were waiting to hear tornado sirens at one point), but the gallery was still full of enthusiastic carnivorous plant advocates, which makes it all worthwhile.

This coming weekend is special: the Porch Sale not only stays inside, but it’s moving to the evening (4:00 pm to 9:00 pm) to celebrate the Triffid Ranch’s 6th anniversary. (Technically, that sixth anniversary is on August 20, but the Triffid Ranch goes to Fort Worth on Friday for DFW Tap Talks.) We’ll see you then,

Have a Safe Weekend

On the gallery side, considering that we’re looking at a chance of thunderstorms, and I suspect that most potential attendees aren’t into being able to jumpstart cars with their bare hands, the weekend Porch Sale will once again be inside, running from 10 am to 3 pm. Even if that chance of thunderstorms evaporates as so many of them do this time of the year, inside is still a better option: as always, attendance is free and masks are mandatory.

In other developments, the Angry Candy dish keeps filling up, and it’s time to remember C. Dean Andersson, an old friend from my early writing days. Hail and farewell, Dean: I regret that we lost touch after I quit writing, but our long conversations in the Nineties still bear fruit today.

Enclosures: “Timeanchor” (2021)

Everyone entering knew they had one chance. The testing was sound: the world’s first time corridor was live, with timeanchors on either side of the chronal abyss keeping the fantastically complex mathematical construct complete and taut. The plan that day was to send the first scientific equipment through, in order to check atmosphere, photoperiod, gravity, and any other deviations from Here and Now Normal over such a tremendous timespan. That’s when the first reports came through: a previously undetected asteroid had passed through Earth’s orbital defense system and struck not far from the time laboratory. Everyone in the vicinity had about an hour to make a decision to pass through the time corridor or stay for the world-spanning shock wave and subsequent extinction event. Not surprisingly, only a few in the facility decided to stay, and approximately 500 made the jump just in time.

As the last stragglers ran out with whatever supplies they could bring with them, the time corridor flexed and shattered, and all that remained was the original anchor, embedded in a hillside overlooking a wide, low valley. As opposed to the humid forest surrounding the laboratory they had just left, the local flora was scrub and a strange ground cover, all completely unfamiliar. They hurriedly set up camp alongside the timeanchor before the sun set, and the animals that came sniffing around the campfires were just as alien as the plants. The good news was that the local predators were just as averse to fire as dangerous animals in their own time, but the visitors still stood guard with improvised spears and clubs in preparation for anything not dissuaded by smoke and flames.

The next morning was dedicated to a tally of existing resources and a discussion of strategies. There was no going home: the time corridor needed two ends, and the end designated as “home” was now blasted wreckage. Any attempt to build a new time corridor not only fought temporal paradoxes but also a lack of tools and equipment, and even trying to figure out what was needed would take time and effort away from more essential activities. Their available food and water was a limited resource, with the understanding of what local food sources existed taking priority over everything else. This was accentuated by several local herbivores investigating the camp’s activities and demonstrating that “herbivore” and “harmless” were not partners and probably would never be in this strange time. However, one positive to the subsequent damage: the interlopers were absolutely delicious, and their hastily-butchered carcasses gave confirmed edible meat in the camp for several days.

Even with the strangeness, the camp thrived, and started to turn itself into an actual city. The researchers from the time laboratory worked harder than everyone else to rediscover knowledge of stone and glass and metal. Others became scouts in search of ores and water sources, while still others took it upon themselves to experiment with every potential food item in the vicinity, attempting to domesticate every amenable plant and animal. Some, such as the big herbivores from the second day, simply couldn’t be domesticated, so hunters traveled outward, bringing meat back to the city after feasting by themselves. 500 years after the accident, no survivors of the original migration remained alive, but their stories were passed on through both legend and writing, and their descendants were ready to take over once again as the planet’s dominant intelligent lifeform.

What they didn’t know, what they couldn’t have known, was that as nature abhors a vacuum, time abhors an uncorrectable paradox. That paradox was the timeanchor itself: just over 500 years after its original excursion to the present time, a series of coruscating waves of pure temporal energy radiated out from the timeanchor, wiping out the city and the hillside on which it had been built in a microsecond and turning the fragments to dust. A few survivors picked themselves up after the blasts ended, but so few remained that any attempt to reestablish themselves was fated to fail, and the last descendant of the original time refugees died in the crook of a tree about 60 years later, stalked by a carnivore just small enough to climb the tree after the corpse instead of attempting to knock it over.

Eventually, traces not destroyed in the time quake would be discovered, but not by anything the survivors would have expected, fully 65 million years after they had left home. The discovery of the remnants of the city would happen about 200 years later, and wouldn’t THAT be a challenge to existing theories about the origins of intelligence on Earth.

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.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

Shameless Plugs and Equally Shameless Promotion

It’s August in North Texas, which means that everyone is making plans for what they’re planning to do when (a) the heat finally breaks in September and (b) the COVID-19 alerts signal “All Clear.” This also means lots of local awards intended to send readers, viewers, and listeners in the right direction. The Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Reader’s Choice Awards voting just opened, and as of this week, nominations are in for the Dallas Morning News Best in DFW awards and voting open to the general public. Interestingly, both allow votes every day until the ballots close, thus encouraging enthusiasts of a particular venue to keep coming back. This year, the Best in DFW nominations include the Texas Triffid Ranch for “Best Art Gallery” and “Best Garden Center,” mostly because there really wasn’t room for “Best Doctor Who/Red Green Show Cosplayer Photo Backdrop,” but you take what you get.

Anyway, for those so inclined, feel free to hype up your favorite Dallas venues (and note that the Triffid Ranch already received a Best of Dallas Award in 2017, so write-in votes are wide open), and also feel free to get the word out. We’re all in this together. And if you want to know exactly why you’d want to vote for a Dallas carnivorous plant gallery, you’re cordially invited to come out to see it in person.

The Aftermath: Attack of the Carnivorous Plant Workshop at Curious Garden

Back in the days before quarantine, when we still thought that 2020 was going to be a typical year, the plan was to host a series of carnivorous plant workshops at Curious Garden in Dallas. Jason Cohen, the co-owner, has had to deal with me for 30 years as of this November, when we were neighbors in Exposition Park, and most of our encounters make him regret not killing me when he had the chance, so when he suggested the first workshops two years ago, naturally I jumped at it. Previous events offered the chance for participants to go home with a complete sundew or butterwort enclosure, and it was time to move up into Nepenthes pitcher plants. 17 months after the originally planned workshop, we still made it happen.

Then as now, the concept was simple: getting a group together, lecturing about the basics on carnivorous plants, and then putting together a step-by-step enclosure. Thankfully, practice and a lot of time to rework the concept during quarantine made perfect, so all of the attendees walked in to find a box with components, a cup on top, and a tub nearby full of Nepenthes seedlings. Everything else was negotiable.

While the audience wasn’t quite as big as at previous Curious Garden events, not only was this completely understandable due to Delta variant concerns throughout Dallas, not to mention the beginnings of a typical August heat wave, but everyone who came out was extremely enthusiastic. The greatest compliment an audience can pay a lecturer is to ask really good questions, and the folks at Curious Garden asked some really, really good questions.

As for future events, we’re still deliberating on the next workshop: right now, the tentative plan is for waiting after the temperate carnivore growing season ends in November and running a set of holiday workshops. Details will follow as they come through, but rest assured that Jason isn’t rid of me yet.

Have a Safe Weekend

No Porch Sale this weekend, as the Triffid Ranch moves to Curious Garden for the Attack of the Carnivorous Plant workshop on August 7 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. (Seating is very limited, so if you haven’t snagged a space yet, do so NOW.) The Porch Sales return on August 14, though, with a celebration of the gallery’s 6th anniversary on August 21, and then show season starts in earnest in September. I hope.

“It’s got what (carnivorous) plants (don’t) crave!”

A little sidenote between shows and new enclosures: a friend and Day Job coworker took recommendations on carnivorous plant care in Dallas to heart and came across something that would have slipped between the cracks otherwise. As related elsewhere, the municipal water in the greater Dallas area is best described as “crunchy”: seeing as how we’re situated on what used to be North American Seaway ocean floor about 80 to 90 million years ago (with big areas of Arlington, Irving, and Flower Mound peeking up as barrier islands akin to today’s Padre Island), water out of the tap is full of dissolved salt and calcium carbonate. Up in Flower Mound, the water is also so full of dissolved iron that you can tell which residents have lawn sprinklers by the wide rust stains on driveways, sidewalks, and sides of houses. All of these are really bad for carnivorous plants, and a lot of people have issues with them, too, so Dallas people tend to drink a lot of bottled water. (Not me: I actually like the flavor, and the only bottled water that catches my interest is the even more mineralized Mineral Wells product, and I’m fairly sure that when I die, my bones will glow in the dark from the dissolved radium I imbibed as a kid in Saratoga Springs.)

Anyway, my friend noted the regular Triffid Ranch admonishment “Rain water or distilled water ONLY” with a recently purchased Cape sundew, and found what she thought would be a great source of distilled water with a new brand called Zen WTR. It makes a promise that it’s “100% vacuum-distilled water,” but not is all as it seems.

Let’s start by noting that for this discussion, we’ll take all of Zen WTR’s claims at full face value. No snark, no arched eyebrow, nothing. The claims of using 100 percent recycled plastics is a noble one, as well as using only ocean-salvaged plastics. (I’m currently working on a Nepenthes enclosure that asks what plastics would look like after 50 million years of burial, and the reality is that nobody’s quite sure what’s going to happen to all of the various plastics we’re turning into signature fossils for the Anthropecene.) I have no reason to doubt that the water isn’t 100 percent vacuum-distilled for maximum purity, either. But is it safe for carnivores?

Well, the first tipoff was noting that the contents at the bottom of the bottle read “Vapor distilled water with electrolytes for taste.” Even discounting the obvious jokes (which I imagine the crew of Zen WTR is as sick of hearing as I am of Little Shop of Horrors references), my heart sank upon reading “…with electrolytes for taste.” Flip over the bottle to read the ingredient list, and…

…and we get “Calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium bicarbonate (electrolyte sources for taste).” None of these are bad in drinking water. If you ever get the chance to drink true distilled water, such as that used for topping up car batteries or keeping steam irons clean, you’ll note that while it’ll hydrate you, it’s not necessarily going to win any taste tests, and a big tall glass of lukewarm distilled water served to friends on a hot day is a good way to guarantee they never to come to your house again for summer activities. (Since cold water holds more dissolved gases than warm water, really cold distilled water is okay, but as with vodka left in the freezer, you’re more likely mistaking the chill for any actual flavor, but that also isn’t necessarily a bad thing.) Spring waters are popular because of naturally dissolved salts and other minerals as part of their makeup, and most bottled water has a pinch of various salts per bottle to improve their flavor and make sure you buy more. Zen WTR does the same thing, and for us humans, there’s nothing wrong with this.

(A little aside, sometimes water that’s too pure can be dangerous in other ways, and not the ones you suspect. When I lived in Portland, Oregon in the late 1990s, the city made a big deal about how the Bull Run reservoir, filled from snow melt, was some of the purest municipal water in the world. What was left out was that it was so pure that it tended to leach chemicals and various metals out of plumbing, and if you lived in a house or apartment in Portland built around the turn of the last century, as my ex and I did, odds were good that Bull Run water and lead pipes put in before World War I and never replaced led to tap output with potentially dangerous levels of lead and cadmium when drunk for long periods. This wasn’t always limited to metal, either: while I haven’t found any confirmation one way or another, small amounts of salt in bottled water may possibly have an effect on the amounts of plasticizer, the chemicals added to give plastics, well, their plastic and flexible properties, from leaching into the bottle’s contents. A bonus fun fact: with most plastic packaging, such as bread bags and Fritos packages, the “Best if used by…” date isn’t the predicted date when the contents go bad, but the predicted date when levels of plasticizer and solvent are detectable within.)

Now, humans are very good at removing minerals from our ingested water: as anybody suffering from kidney or bladder stones can tell you, sometimes we’re a little too good. with most plants, a little salt is completely beneficial, and most accumulations wash out with the next rain. The problem with carnivores is that most live in areas inundated with enough regular rains to wash out most dissolvable minerals after a few thousand years, and more live in sphagnum bogs, which both exude acid and a polymer that bonds to magnesium. In a pot or container, those salts, as little as they are, tend to accumulate. It may not happen right away, and it might not even happen soon, but eventually enough salt will build up in a captive carnivore that it will start burning the roots. In a remarkably quick time, that salt content goes from “minorly irritating” to “lethal,” and with precious little warning.

A few more astute readers may note that technically rainwater can have similar problems with dissolved minerals from dust atop roofs and in containers, as well as dissolved dusts and pollutant accumulated while falling. That’s completely fair, but these are in considerably lower levels than those from Texas tap and drinking water. Please: keep drinking Zen WTR if you enjoy it, but keep in mind that it eventually won’t be safe for your Venus flytrap. And next time, we’ll discuss reverse-osmosis filters and “drenching”…

The Aftermath: July Porch Sale (July 31, 2021)

Most of the time, July in North Texas just drags on and on. The weather report is the same every day: “Hot and sunny.” The general response to outdoor events invokes the Ray Bradbury novella “Frost and Fire,” where everyone has eight days to live on a planet where staying to watch the full sunrise is an excellent way to die. The last weekend in July is usually especially severe, and smart people emulate Gila monsters and move deep into shelter until the yellow hurty thing in the sky goes down. Most of the time.

The last day of July kept up with tradition, and the afternoon and evening were torrid in anticipation of the brutal thunderstorms that passed through the area on August 1. That’s why everything started in the morning, with laudable results.

Sadly, no Porch Sale for the weekend of August 7: that’s the day of the big Nepenthes Carnivorous Plant Workshop at Curious Garden by White Rock Lake. However, the indoor Porch Sales continue through August starting on August 14 (with a special evening event on August 21 to celebrate the gallery’s sixth anniversary), and the two-day Carnivorous Plant Weekend on September 4 and 5. August probably won’t drag, at least based on the weather forecast, and the Porch Sales will move back outside before you know it.