Monthly Archives: February 2022

Gothic Gardening: “The Bugs You Don’t Expect”

(Background: this essay was one of several columns commissioned for the magazine Gothic Beauty between 2009 and 2011. Since the magazine hasn’t published a new issue in years, it’s time to drag up a few of these old columns so they can find a new readership.)

Dedicated to Steve Bissette, who helped me get on this odd path in the first place

Most typical garden books and sites include at least a thumbnail guide to beneficial and destructive animals that may visit, inhabit, or infest a garden area.  After describing and illustrating the usual pests (whitefly, stink bugs, grubs) and the usual overly cutesy garden helpers (honeybees, earthworms), the typical garden writer is at a bit of a loss.  This is a shame, because some of the ignored critters are the most interesting.

Let’s take a look at my new garden area, and note the animals that don’t make the usual “friends of the gardener” lists.  I have lots of visiting birds, including both red-tailed hawks and Harris’s hawks that pick off overly unobservant mourning doves and bluejays.  (I’d also like to mention that while years of Disneyfication of garden critters make hummingbirds out as “cute”, this comes from people who’ve never dealt with them.  Hummingbirds have no fear of man, beast, or god, and there’s a very good reason why the Aztecs considered them avatars of their war and sun god Huitzilopochtli.  I’ve seen hummingbirds challenge crows and hawks and win, and they’ll gleefully take on humans that get too close to their nests.)  Besides praying mantises, there’s also the wheel bug (Arilus cristatus), a determined predator so named because it appears to have a watch gear jammed into its back.  I have anoles (Anolis carolinensis) during the day that camp out on the trees in the back yard and flash their dewlaps at each other, and introduced Mediterranean geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus) that sing to each other all night.  I have spiders and beetles and glowworms, grass and garter snakes, and any variety of natural decomposers such as worms and sowbugs.  I’m not even going to start with the great horned, barn, and screech owls that buzz the house at night, or the plethora of Mexican free-tailed bats, or the great blue herons that fly over the neighborhood at dusk like misplaced pterosaurs.

The one set of regular travelers that are always welcome in my garden, though, are the ones that most gardeners try to drive off.  Even the biggest advocates of organic gardening grab a swatter or a spray can when they see one of these, and they go berserk with rolled-up papers and brooms in pointless attempts to drive them away.  Even mosquitoes only warrant repellent when their presence becomes too extreme, but any grocery store or garden shop has can after can of spray intended for my visitors, all promising to kill them dead from as much as 30 feet away.  Not only is this an irrational response to one of the best beneficial organisms you can get in your garden, but it’s almost completely without merit.  I’m talking about wasps.

Wasps are members of the insect order Hymenoptera, an order they share with their cousins (and possible descendants) the bees and ants.  Wasps range in size from microscopic to the size of sparrows.  Many species are social, such as hornets and yellowjackets, where they live in colonies of dozens or even hundreds of related individuals. Others are completely solitary.  Both males and females subsist on nectar and other sugary liquids (the reason why wasps always show up around spilled fruit juice and soda), but only the female has a modified ovipositor that it can use as a sting for defense.  Best of all, as far as the garden is concerned, most species are considered “parasitoid”, where they spend the first part of their life cycle feeding off a host.  Each species of wasp has one particular host arthropod it uses as a host, and that list includes bees, flies, cicadas, spiders, tarantulas, and even praying mantises.

Social wasps, such as hornets and various species generally lumped together as “paper wasps”, capture small prey such as caterpillars, masticate them with strong mandibles, and then feed the mush to their young.  As such, they’re very valuable predators.  Others go through a much more fascinating and disturbing process.  Many species fly to a host, lay eggs on or in the host, and then let the hatchlings feed upon the host’s body from within, ultimately killing it.  Still others capture their prey, paralyze it with carefully measured stings, and return it to a bolthole or gallery.  There, the mother lovingly places an egg in a particular location on or near the victim, seals up the space, and lets the youngster go through a complete metamorphosis from larva to pupa to adult.

Anyone studying wasps tends to use analogies from the Alien films to describe their reproductive behaviors: the larvae do feed on living hosts, and they emerge to metamorphose into beautiful and terrifying adults that capture new victims to continue the life cycle.  It’s just that the fictional analogy is lacking compared to reality.  For instance, picture a remake of Alien with Kane having three or four chestbursters ripping free, only to spend the next few weeks frantically guarding them as they pupated.  The wasp genus Glyptapanteles does something much like this, where as many as eighty larvae emerge from one caterpillar and spin cocoons: the caterpillar remains by the cocoons and violently repels anything attempting to disturb them. Likewise, Aliens might have been even more horrifying if Apone and Dietrich had been stung in the head and then led willingly into the alien hive.  The emerald cockroach wasp Ampulex compressa does just that to captured roaches.  You have wasps that infest aphids, ones that capture big insects like cicadas and bury them in carefully dug galleries, and even make containers of mud and pack them full of paralyzed spiders.  (For the record, the common mud dauber wasp Sceliphron caementarium is the main predator of black widow spiders.)  The tarantula hawks, genus Pepsis and Hemipepsis, paralyze and take off with big ground spiders, hence the name, and one group even uses adult praying mantises as hosts.  (In his book The Hunting Wasp, John Crompton compared this behavior to a mother deciding that the only food in the world good enough for her children was grizzly bear. Many times, the wasp loses the battle.)

The horror doesn’t stop there.  Many other wasps parasitize the eggs of other arthropods, such as the nearly microscopic wasps that carefully drill into mantis egg cases and lay their own eggs therein.  Other wasps modify the DNA of host organisms: the huge variety of plant galls are caused by wasp eggs that actually modify the surrounding tissue to form protective cases.  Every time you eat a fig, you’re eating the end result of a very complex and disturbing life cycle involving the fig flower and one particular wasp, and if the wasp becomes extinct, so will the fig.  Some wasps, such as the wingless ones known as velvet ants, live as cuckoos for other wasp species, laying their eggs on hunting wasp hosts and letting their young eat the hunting wasp eggs before they hatch. 

Even without this, wasps are fascinating and underappreciated creatures.  Fear of wasps is learned, usually due to parents who themselves were taught to fear wasps, usually way out of proportion to the actual pain of a sting.  (I’m severely sensitive to bee stings, to the point of nearly needing hospitalization after one good bout as a beekeeper, and I’m amazed at how little a typical paper wasp sting actually hurts.  For fun, look up the Justin O. Schmidt Pain Index for a useful and irreverent guide to the actual pain caused by many species.)  While most wasps can be very territorial around nest sites, the allegedly aggressive flight patterns of many big wasps is actually caused by simple curiosity, and I’ve surprised friends and family by holding still, letting a wasp big enough to fly off with small birds make two or three passes around me, and then watching it buzz off once it’s satisfied that I wasn’t a threat.  More often than not, individuals are stung in attempts to kill wasps, so the lesson is simple: DON’T TRY TO KILL THEM.

Like Gila monsters, Australian brown snakes, and snapping turtles, wasps have an insanely overwrought reputation for mayhem and menace.  Stop for a second, put down the can of Raid, and watch wasps for a little while.  I did the same a decade ago, and now anyone dumb enough to spray them in my yard is going to get more than angry wasps on their asses.


Shamefully, the literature on hunting wasps is very thin outside of scientific journals (even Carl Zimmer’s fascinating book Parasite Rex only contains a tiny bit on wasp parasitoid habits), and the two best available popular books are well over forty years old.  That said, both are still fascinating reading.

The Hunting Wasps by Jean-Henri Fabre.  1919, Dodd, Mead, 432 pp.  Although sadly neglected today, the French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre was an inspiration to entomologists throughout the early Twentieth Century for his careful observations of insect life.  The Hunting Wasps goes into detail on Fabre’s firsthand excavations and experiments with both the wasps and their hosts.  (If you read French, go for the original: the English translation is exceptional, but I understand it’s still missing much of Fabre’s passion and humor.)

The Hunting Wasp by John Crompton.  Lyons Press, 255 pp., ISBN 978-0941130493 At times both irascible and awed, John Crompton’s 1955 book is still without peer on the subject of hunting wasps.  Very much written as a popular account, it may be outdated purely due to scientific advances, but it still rates as one of the best books on wasps ever written.

The Aftermath: Fifth Anniversary (At This Location) Open House

Five years ago this week, the last vestiges of the old Valley View gallery moved to the current locale, and Dallas hasn’t been the same since. The fifth anniversary celebration of that move became decidedly bittersweet with the surprise move of Caroline Crawford Originals the night before, but it was too late to cancel, and quite a few visitors came out from a very long distance to attend, so it started at noon as advertised. And whoo boy was it a celebration.

And for what’s going to happen to the front of the gallery, that’s where things get interesting. The plan was to turn it into a showcase area for larger enclosures, but now visitors get to watch it transformed in real time. It’s bad enough that the back area has changed drastically since the last pre-COVID event, but for those who haven’t been out in a while, things are going to accelerate by the end of March. By the beginning of May, you probably won’t recognize the place, and that’s a very good thing.

For those who missed out, March is where things start to ramp up for 2022. The plan is for the gallery to open for open houses every Saturday in March, from noon until 5:00 pm, with the exception of March 26. That’s reserved for the first big Triffid Ranch show of the year, with the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park. After that…the schedule keeps getting more and more filled. We should all have such problems.

Moving and moving on

A public service announcement for upcoming open house attendees: the original plan was for Caroline Crawford Originals/Tawanda Jewelry to stay in the front of the gallery until the beginning of May 2022, but apparently the timeline was moved up. As of February 2022, Caroline’s jewelry is no longer at the gallery, her name is being removed from the lease and insurance at her request, and anyone needing information about future jewelry events and commissions should contact her directly. Obviously, I wish her nothing but the best in future endeavors, and we will have one last joint show at Texas Frightmare Weekend in April and May. After that, though, we’re going our separate ways, and the odds are really good that we’ll never see each other again. And so it goes.

Have a Safe Weekend

It’s back on schedule: the Fifth Anniversary (At This Location) Open House is on for this Saturday, starting at noon and running until 5:00 pm. Over the next few weeks, the flytraps and North American pitcher plants will be waking up, so expect lots of photos to get an idea of what to expect by April.

Enclosures: “Bulwark” (2022)

A preamble on the enclosure backstories:

Not all of Earth’s monsters were myths, and not all of them remained on Earth when they had the opportunity to escape. Of all of the great menaces from humanity’s distant past, a few managed to leave the solar system and find new lairs, where they hid and dreamed of greater days. Others found welcome among similar and complementary horrors, where they were promptly consumed. A few had dedicated hunters tracking them through the universe, with the news of a Grendelius or Sonmet finally cornered and beheaded becoming a source of joy and celebration to their victims. One, though, escaped the dragnets and the snipers, and almost came out better than before.

Scylla tries Montfort was, even for an energy vampire, an impressive force for despair. Charisma and presence strong enough to get victims close enough for easy draining, cunning to find the best locales for feeding, and an entourage of sycophants willing to risk being in the monster’s gaze if it meant getting first shot at scraps of wealth or power, Scylla at one point indirectly ruled a full third of Earth’s surface by the end of the 22nd Century. As is usually the case, though, greed competed with narcissism and hubris to dull survival instincts , she set off suicidal despair in family members of people with the knowledge and means to do something about the situation, and her true nature was revealed on international newsfeeds with almost no chance of escape afterwards. In any other story, at any other time, her psychic net would have been shattered, her defenders destroyed, and her head on a very tall and very sharp pole, with her remaining conscious and aware just long enough to look upon her works, ye mighty.

However, a series of events conspired to remove her from her assailants’ grasp that could not have happened at any other time: one of her entourage was the spouse of a senor engineer working on experimental space-corridor technology, and she was more surprised than the security guards when her wife was leading the herd of interlopers tearing through the facility corridors toward the test device. Scylla didn’t break stride in draining the test device’s operation knowledge as the body shriveled and crumbled, and managed to get her crew and herself through the gate before the first of her pursuers appeared at the end of the corridor. A quickly dropped explosive device destroyed the controls on the corridor gate, and the rest of humanity was left wondering forever as to Scylla’s destination and her future plans.

Scylla’s victims on Earth and their relations never discovered what happened to Scylla and her herd, but they had huge plans. They discovered themselves in an unknown part of the universe: Scylla had little patience for any followers who knew more than she did unless that knowledge was advantageous, and until her escape, she had no patience for astronomers. The world was enough like Earth, though, to neutralize any homesickness, with a comparable rotation, gravity, and atmosphere, and its life was so much like Earth’s that Scylla knew her flock wouldn’t starve. Her flock looked up in the sky, looked at the mellow red star overhead and the beautiful nebulae filling the nighttime skies and found it good, so they started immediately on building a kingdom suitable for their queen, even if it killed them. If they failed, it would kill them.

Things were progressing nicely on that front, with a small town forming and lots of new babies to feed Scylla’s ever-raging hunger, when they all regretted not having an astronomer among their number. The nebulae in the night sky were ones through which their world’s star was passing, That red dwarf star produced lots of ultraviolet light as the dust and gas of the nebulae impacted the star’s photosphere, which rapidly sterilized all of the worlds in that stellar system. Scylla spent her last weeks in a cave near the corridor wreckage, slowly starving as the last of her immediate entourage died from massive melanomas, and cursing them out as they expired. Far too late, she learned a hard truth of the universe: bootlickers and livestock make really, really poor weather forecasters.

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: Drosera capensis

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, found items.

Price: $150US

Shirt Price: $125US

Enclosures: “Signal To Noise” (2022)

A preamble on the enclosure backstories:

A standard physics thought experiment: the gravity well around a black hole is so tremendous that matter or energy cannot escape, but information could possibly escape. The unspoken implication: what kind of information? Merely information about the conditions inside a black hole’s gravity well, or something else?

For most physics students and teachers, the implication is purely academic, but somebody tried to make it concrete. Approximately 2 billion years ago, thousands of specialized sensors were placed through one specific area of space to search for any information that might slip out of a collapsar’s gravity well. Gravity waves and galactic expansion led to their being spread reasonably evenly through the galaxy, with most of them nonfunctional or at least powered down and dormant. A significant number, though, recalibrated themselves and started spying on the biggest target available: the gigantic black hole at the center of our galaxy. The original target black hole still circles the galactic core, with about twenty sensors still following it through space and time, still functioning and still sending random broadcasts of standard radio through wormholes to an unknown destination. The sensors circling the core also broadcast via microsecond-generated wormholes, but whether they send their results to the same location or to a new destination is completely unknown.

What information, if any, that came out of the original target black hole is also completely unknown. Whatever happened, the sensors’ designers suddenly evacuated this galaxy and in fact this general area of the universe, cleaning up after themselves so thoroughly that the only traces left were accidents, like papers sliding under a cabinet. Only the sensors remained, suggesting that their purpose was to continue to monitor the target black hole if in case more information escaped. What they continued to detect, and if anything comparable comes from the black hole in the galactic core, remains one of the great mysteries of the known universe, and a mystery that many experts question should be solved if the sensors’ creators responded in such a fashion.

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: Drosera adelae

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, found items.

Price: $150US

Shirt Price: $125US

Have a Safe Weekend

No gallery activities this weekend due to necessary errand-running in anticipation of March renovations, but the Triffid Ranch’s fifth anniversary (at its current location) open house starts at noon on February 26, and most of March will be packed with events. Please feel free to get the word out.

State of the Gallery: February 2022

And it’s done. The move from the ex’s house is now complete, and with it the move of all of the plants, containers, and accoutrements. Leiber’s ashes now sit on the mantelpiece of my new house, the reference bookshelves were moved from the gallery and now severely impress my new landlady, and I now have a surfeit of walls on which to put up artwork locked away for the last two decades. Next up, the office and the workspace get organized and situated, and then it’s just a matter of waiting until spring.

In many ways, all of this couldn’t have happened at a better time, because all of the flytraps and Sarracenia were still well into dormancy and therefore tolerant of the necessarily rough handling of putting them in tubs and hauling them to the new growing area. As can be seen above, the crew at U-Haul either had a very much appreciated sense of humor with the 10-foot truck reserved for said move, or the inadvertent advertisement of the truck’s contents could be taken for a good sign for the rest of the year. Knowing the crew at my U-Haul, dealing with me for the last 12 years, I lean toward the former.

In any case, it’s done. The next stage involves moving a lot of supplies and accessories from the gallery to the new house, where most of the essential enclosure fabrication will happen in the future. Having room for construction, as well as not having to compete with wind and neighbors over paint drying space, means that the next generation of enclosures will have a lot more in the way of features. As it is, the workroom already has the nickname “The Greeble Room,” and it may require a sign on the door designating it as such. That additional room also allows longer construction on a new series of converted aquaria, without worrying about paint or glue curing time being affected by appointments or open houses. Oh, the crew at Reynolds Advanced Materials are going to be sick of me by the end of the year. This, along with the ex moving out of the front area of the gallery by the beginning of May, means that you can expect a lot of new enclosures and designs by summer, and it’s only going to get weirder by Halloween.

As for gallery events, everything is still dependent upon weather for outdoor events, and considering that February 2022 is determined to kill everyone it meets before it leaves, this may be a while. (As I write this, the Dallas area finally got measurable liquid precipitation yesterday and today, followed by a series of storms and cold fronts over the next week, including the possibility of ice. March couldn’t come soon enough.) Rest assured that indoor events will continue, starting with the Fifth Anniversary (At This Location) open house on February 26. This coincides with the debut of two new enclosures for sundew fans, and then things really get going for March. By June and July, you won’t recognize the place, especially with some of the plans for re-renovating the main gallery.

Well, that’s February. Expect a lot of events in March: the only reason why the gallery will be closed on February 19 is because of an essential road trip for supplies, just so things can stay open on Saturday (and the occasional Sunday) next month. In addition, Triffid Ranch show season starts with the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo at Fair Park on March 26, and then it’s off to the races.

The Aftermath: Valentine’s Day Massacree and Carnivorous Plant Open House 2022

For those keeping score at home, you’re not imagining things: the gallery is hosting a lot more open houses than usual. That’s for a lot of reasons. Firstly, because we’re still in the dead of winter and we still have about a month before the reasonable risk of frost is past, so many people need a touch of green right now. Secondly, this time of the year offers so many reasons to say “You know what? Let’s open up and let people get their fill of green.” And the third? These are all good excuses to get things ready for the spring Porch Sales, when things are going to get really weird in 2022.

While the day before Super Bowl Sunday would have been the kiss of death to any Dallas art event 30 years ago, the fact that it was absolutely perfect for an open house this year says so much about how much Dallas has changed in the last three decades. Not only was the crowd lively, but it was also steady, with things only starting to quiet down in the last 30 minutes or so. Big crowds spaced out so that nobody was being crowded: you can’t ask for more than that.

As for future events, the Triffid Ranch is coming up on its fifth anniversary in its current location at the end of February, and that calls for a celebration. The next open house opens on Saturday, February 26 at noon and runs, as usual, until 5:00 pm, with the usual caveats of free admission and mandatory masks. I’ll see you then.

Have a Safe Weekend

Bad weather is coming through the Dallas area, but it’s coming through after the weekend. In the meantime, the Texas Triffid Ranch Valentine’s Day Massacree and Carnivorous Plant Open House is still set for February 12 from noon until 5:00 pm (admission is free and masks are mandatory), and then it’s back to finishing up personal moving before the rains hit on Wednesday. The flytraps and North American pitcher plants are still in winter dormancy, but they’re going to love the downpours all the same.

Enclosure: “Degradation” (2022)

A preamble on the enclosure backstories:

Do you ever really think about where your garbage goes? Of course you don’t: you went to college because your parents were on your case about “go to school so you can get a good job and not have to be a garbageman for the rest of your life.” Never you mind that somebody has to haul off all of your rubbish and all your junk and do something with it, and a city without garbagemen will die about as fast as a person without kidneys. It’ll be about as nasty, too. You don’t know what fun is until you’re in the middle of a citywide garbage worker strike in the middle of summer, and all of your neighbors keep tossing out trash as if it’ll magically go away. Yeah, they’ll go out to their bins or the big dumpster out back, and just STARE at the overflowing mess, because they worked long and hard to ignore where their garbage goes.

Do you ever really think about where the stuff in your toilet goes, too? I mean, besides the obvious stuff, you have kids toys, condoms, cotton balls, classified Presidential papers, sand, dirt, gravel, dead goldfish, and the occasional alligator. Some people know, and they’ll be glad to talk about the particulars about standard waste water treatment versus green options, on capturing outgassed methane and heavy metals, and the latest options in leachate fields. As soon as they get into it, though, everyone else’s eyes glaze over, because you’re not supposed to talk about THAT. Once it goes into the porcelain throne, it’s just supposed to magically go away, especially when the sewer line is clogged and broken and you suddenly have a geyser in your front yard.

Do you ever really think about where the Large Trash goes? You know: all of the stuff far too large to put into the trash can or the toilet, but that you can’t pile up and set on fire? Broken or worn-out furniture, tree branches, old flower pots, random chunks of plastic, the boxes in which your new flatscreen TV came, and kids’ toys that they’ve either outgrown or worn out. In a lot of neighborhoods, you have random scrap collectors who keep an eye open for metal that’s worth the effort of hauling to a scrap yard, but everything else gets hauled off, when you don’t have a neighbor that parks badly enough that the truck that comes by every Wednesday can’t get in. It could all get dumped in a landfill, or chopped into small pieces and sorted for recycleables, or it could be chopped smaller and used as fuel for incinerators. Whatever happens, you’re just glad to look out your front window in the morning and sigh contentedly that sunset won’t start at 2 in the afternoon because of the mountain of Amazon boxes and shipping pallets in your front yard that’s slowly causing the continental plate on which you reside to sink into the Earth’s mantle.

Do you ever really think about where your toxic waste goes? You may not think you make any, but what about the various dead electronic devices you pitch? Do you worry about the lithium ion batteries in that old iPod you’ve been hoarding in your junk drawer since 2009? Do you consider the cadmium and lead in that vintage CRT computer monitor that you put in the corner until you could take it out for electronics recycling, and you keep forgetting? What about the dead paint cans in the garage, or the dead cleaners under your kitchen sink, or the coolants in that dying refrigerator you use to keep beer in the garage? If you died tomorrow, would it all go to where it needs to go for efficient processing, or would it just end up in a big dumpster and hauled out to the dump, where the batteries catch fire and burn the whole place to ash?

Do you ever really think about where your dead bodies go? I’m not just talking about dead pets, although that’s a concern. Do you know exactly how much hazardous material is in Grandma’s pacemaker, especially if she’s had it since the days when pacemaker batteries used plutonium to generate electricity? What about parts? Have you made plans for that amputated arm, other than telling everyone “It’ll make great soup?” And all of the accessories: wigs and hip implants are great and all, but what are you REALLY planning to do with that colostomy bag?

See all of that above? You don’t have think about it because we do our jobs. Now consider all of the black-ops stuff: weapons systems too classified and too toxic to be recycled for components. Supplemental nuclear fusion generator parts that can’t be melted down for the metal without contaminating tons of steel or aluminum. Most extraterrestrial organisms are easy to compost, but there’s also the ones with body hair analogues with the tensile strength and dimensions of asbestos fibers, with the same end results when spread out over a typical suburb. You don’t want to know about the dimensional anchors that need to be destroyed and destroyed fast, before something manages to squeeze past the wards and sigils and digest our reality. All of this and more, and no matter how well-designed the disintegration and reintegration barrows, the walls, ceilings, and floor eventually wear out from the constant onslaught and we need to build more. We keep doing it, though, because the alternatives are so much worse.

This is a message from the staff of St. Remedius Medical School, renowned across the globe for its handling of unorthodox threats to Earth and elsewhere. “We clean up the mess, so your brains don’t snap while dealing with it yourself.” Please give us a call about your specific needs and deadlines: no job is too small or too large, and you should be thankful for that.

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: Pinguicula x “Titan”

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, found items.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

The Aftermath: Lunar New Year Open House 2022 – 2

As seems to be par for the course for the Year of the Tiger, it’s an exciting time around the Triffid Ranch. Fiona Forney at the Richland Chronicle, my alma mater’s school newspaper, added an interview in the February issue just in time for the open house, also in time to show off 15 kilos of weight loss since this time in December. (On top of everything else, I’m having to get new clothes.) The outdoor carnivores, predominately Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants, are moving to the new growing location this week, and the old residence will be stripped of any traces of me by the end of February. The new house is getting into shape, with a lot of sculpting and construction gear currently at the gallery moving there over the next few weeks, and the extensive carnivorous plant and bonsai library at the gallery is already in its new location. (The real fun comes with getting it organized so that references can be found quickly, and I now appreciate the Dewey Decimal System more than ever.) Oh, and on the Day Job front, extensive renovations on the current building mean that I’ll start working from home, with an office that overlooks the loquat tree I dug up and relocated from the old house. As Matt Howarth always used to say, it may stop, but it never ends.

As things warm up, the open houses will change as well, with a return of the outdoor Porch Sales toward the end of March. Right now, though, they’re staying indoors, considering the massive temperature shifts outdoors from “Arrakis” to “Tran-ky-ky.” However, expect some massive changes in the next few months, and expect some exciting new enclosures once the house moving is complete. Among other things, the Porch Sales will have companions through 2022, and I’m already organizing plans for bigger activities through the rest of the year. Details will definitely follow.

In any case, for those who couldn’t get out here last weekend, you’ll get another shot with the Valentine’s Day Massacree and Carnivorous Plant Open House on February 12, from noon until 5:00. Keep an eye open for further open houses and other events, because it’s going to get busy by the time the flytraps and North American pitcher plants start coming out of dormancy.

The Aftermath: Lunar New Year Open House 2022 – 1

It happens so often that it’s a Dallas punchline: make any plans on the first weekend of February, expect an ice storm to hit right when the event starts. And so it was with this Lunar New Year, with massive ice and snow storms (at least, by Dallas levels) stopping everything in the area all day Thursday and Friday, with things finally starting to melt off on Saturday. Although a last-minute cancellation was a valid concern for everyone’s safety, temperatures rose just enough on Saturday morning that with the help of plenty of rock salt on the steps, the latest Triffid Ranch open house went through without issue. Good thing, too: a lot of people really wanted to get out of the house on Saturday.

Of particular note is that the big Nepenthes rajah enclosure Gyre, originally constructed for the Half Price Books flagship store just before COVID lockdown, has a new and happy home, meaning that it’s time to build new ones to fill the gap. The next few weeks are going to be busy, but that pretty much summed up last year, too.

To be continued…

Have a Safe Weekend

Icepocalypse or no, this Saturday is the big Texas Triffid Ranch Lunar New Year open house, running from noon until 5:00 pm. It’ll be cold (it seems as if this weekend is always the one with the massive Dallas snow and ice storm), but not cold enough to keep it from going. See you then.

Weather Alert: Icepocalypse 2022

Things have been a bit busy around the Triffid Ranch this week, what with Ice Storm Landru (hat tip to a dear friend for that crack) smacking the whole of Texas and all, but things are supposed to clear up by Friday. So far, this weekend’s Lunar New Year open house is still on: if you’re worried about getting out, that’s why you have the option of the open house on February 12. In the meantime, stay warm and safe, and make plans for Saturday.