Category Archives: Events

The Aftermath: The Absolutely Final, Full-Stop, Cross-My-Heart-and-Hope-to-Die Porch Sale of 2022

18 months after the first Triffid Ranch carnivorous Plant Porch Sale started out of expediency, they have to stop for a while. The biggest reason is for allowing all of the temperate carnivorous plants in the inventory to go dormant for the winter, and this coincides with a massive cold wave hitting in the second week of November that regularly pushed or exceeded freezing temperatures for most of the Dallas area. The threadleaf pitcher plants lost their famed leaves and died back to their core, the triggerplants lost their blooms, the Sarracenia pitcher plants show the first signs of windburn at the tips of their pitchers, the “Aki Ryu” Venus flytraps are all the color of fresh pomegranate juice, and all is right with the world. This means that subsequent Triffid Ranch shows won’t have any of these until at least the end of March, and that’s exactly how it should be.

That last first weekend in November, though, was absolutely perfect for the last opportunity to show off what all of the plants would look like come spring, and a great opportunity as well to show off their insect-capturing adaptations. If I had to design a final weekend for outdoor Triffid Ranch shows, I literally couldn’t have done better than that weekend, and it just means that besides subsequent open houses being indoors, I now have only four months to make plans for how to exceed this for 2023.

As mentioned earlier, while this is the end of the outdoor show season at the Triffid Ranch, it’s not the end of Triffid Ranch shows and events in general. Right now, November 19 marks the last open house of the month, but that’s only because everything is going into a truck and heading to Austin for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show at Palmer Events Center on November 26 and 27. The subsequent Monday morning, everything comes back to Dallas in preparation for the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses, where the Triffid Ranch is open every Saturday in December, including Christmas Eve. And that’s just the events at the gallery: as with the rest of the year, this December is going to be the busiest since the gallery opened, and as soon as I get confirmation on a couple of events, I’ll get the word out.

In the meantime, many thanks to everyone who came out for Porch Sales this year, both first-timers and regulars. I promised lots of surprises this time last year for 2022, and you’ll really be surprised at what’s coming for 2023.

The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – 3

The end of October is always a very bittersweet time around the Triffid Ranch, and finishing off the growing season Autumn at the Arboretum at the Dallas Arboretum was particularly so. Yes, so many of the plants on display were going into winter dormancy and wouldn’t be capturing prey until March and April. Yes, with one exception, this marked the last non-gallery show of 2022. The end of October is especially painful for personal reasons, and previous memories are now broken beyond repair. However, this was the culmination of what has been the absolute best year the Texas Triffid Ranch has ever seen, and the looks on visitors’ faces as they had the chance to see a live flytrap for the first time or watch a pitcher plant attract flies made up for any remorse or regret. If there had to be a big signoff for the 2022 growing season, the Arboretum was the place to do it

On that note, I would like to give a shoutout to the staff at the Dallas Arboretum, who did an exemplary job at helping me get set up and broken down every day, and who were just as fascinated by the plants’ antics as the attendees. I want to give equal thanks to the attendees and visitors who kept peppering me with fascinating and lively questions about carnivore physiology and distribution, and a hurrah to my fellow vendors, who also had such a great weekend that I’d watch them leave hours before official closing because they were completely sold out. Oh, and both security and maintenance at the Arboretum deserve accolades, too: all of you had a serious job from open to close, and it was an honor to be among such professionals.

Further plans with the Arboretum? Since the original lecture was rained out, the next Learn to Grow lecture is officially on the schedule for May 5, 2023. Other than that, the Arboretum crew is focused right now on holiday events, but I would be ecstatic to be able to come back and show off carnivores again. As soon as I get word, I’ll pass it on.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – 2

A little secret for those wanting to see carnivorous plants in action: whether it’s in the wild or in captivity, the absolute best time is in late autumn. Firstly, most carnivores are at their greatest size and best color in order to attract insects before they go dormant, storing the nitrogen and phosphorus gathered in those final days in preparation for reemerging in spring. (This is way beyond my abilities at the moment, but any enterprising biology and botany students looking for ideas on a paper likely to get lots of popular and professional news coverage should look at the sheer number of insects caught in Sarracenia pitchers and ascertain whether the plant absorbs nutrients during its normal dormancy or if the plant only accesses and processes the insect stew inside the old pitchers after it starts to bloom. Either would help explain why so many Sarracenia pitchers remain green throughout the winter, only dying off after new pitchers start up again during the next growing season.) Secondly, the potential insect population is at its height, and it’s hungry. The normal sources for nectar and sap for insects such as flies, wasps, bees, and moths trickle dry by the middle of autumn, and those insects are determined to stave off dying of starvation for as long as they can. With many, it’s going for unattended soda or margaritas, but a lot go for the voluminous nectar secreted by various carnivorous plants, and they get frantic for what usually becomes their last meal.

The resultant arthropod feeding frenzy made showing carnivores at the Autumn at the Arboretum exhibition at the Dallas Arboretum particularly, erm, riveting. It’s one thing to discuss dispassionately how carnivores attract and capture insect prey. It’s something different when a crowd of twenty to thirty people watch different insects at different plants to see which one falls into a pitcher first, complete with cheers and groans when a big fly or sweat bee succumbs to the promise of more nectar in a pitcher float and doesn’t reemerge.

A little aside that the Arboretum attendees didn’t get to experience: driving a van full of pitcher plants back to the gallery on a Sunday evening and listening to the angry buzzes of insects trying to escape their impending tombs. One of these days, I’ll have to record audio: the only thing creepier is when the Sarracenia leucophylla pitchers first emerge and open toward the middle of May, only to fill with click beetles. I can only imagine a field of leucos with every pitcher loaded with click beetles, all thumping the inside of the pitchers as the sun comes up and the pitchers start warming in the sun.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – Introduction

As mentioned in the past, multiple times, one of the great joys of living in the Dallas area is that once autumn finally sets in, it seems to go on forever. Once we finally get free of summer temperatures from the end of September to the middle of October, it’s not just safe to go outside, but there’s so blasted much to do outside that the challenge is not to wear yourself out. The days are just long enough, and the weather enjoyable enough, that it’s even harder to go to bed on Sunday and go back to work on Monday than at other times of the year. Spring in Dallas is beautiful, but autumn in Dallas is glorious, and half of the time, it keeps going until the middle of December. In other words, it’s a perfect time for a carnivorous plant show at the Dallas Arboretum.

For those unfamiliar with the Dallas area, the Arboretum resides on the east side of White Rock Lake, Dallas’s original drinking water reservoir and major recreational site for the surrounding area. This means that the Arboretum alternates between its own unique exhibits and gardens and spectacular views of White Rock Lake and downtown Dallas to the west. During the main growing season, the Children’s Adventure Garden and the Rose Garden are justifiably famous, but one of the biggest events of the year is Autumn at the Arboretum, with the whole of the Arboretum appropriately decorated with fall foliage and ornaments. For those of us who resist the shift over to holiday displays and continue to scream “THIS IS HALLOWEEN” until after New Year’s Eve, Autumn at the Arboretum makes the inevitable slide to Dallas winter a little more tolerable. Oh, and did I mention the pumpkins? SO MANY PUMPKINS.

It was both an honor and surprise to be invited to show off carnivorous plants at the Arboretum this year: Arboretum staff had tried to get something on the schedule for a while (I’m proud to say that many of the Sarracenia in the carnivorous plant pool in the Children’s Adventure Garden are Triffid Ranch donations), but this was the first year everything actually clicked. After the deluge on Friday, the last weekend of October was cool and friendly, not so cool that jackets were necessary but also not so warm that visitors ended their perambulations early. You couldn’t have planned a better weekend than this for one last big outdoor show before all of the temperate carnivores started going dormant for the year, and the Triffid Ranch couldn’t have had a better location than right inside the front gate.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Goth Flea Market and Cookout at Panoptikon – November 2022

After Halloween, things slow significantly as far as Triffid Ranch shows are concerned. The flytraps and North American pitcher plants need to go into winter dormancy if they’re going to stay hale and healthy, and winter shows mean a significant risk of overly cold weather on the road, which hits the tropical carnivores in all sorts of ways. In the Dallas area, November events are always a little fraught, because we can have absolutely spectacular weather for the entirety of the month, we can have a repeat of 1993 and get subfreezing temperatures for two weeks, or we can have a repeat of 2016 and get hit with unnaturally hot conditions all the way into December. It’s a pleasure to report that at least this year, the first weekend of November was one of the best your humble gallery owner has ever encountered since moving here the first time in 1979, leading to the opportunity to drag plants to not one but two events on the same weekend. The first one, on November 5, was of especial note, because it involved Dallas’s premier goth club and event center, Panoptikon in downtown Dallas.

First, a bit of backstory. Over the last 15 years, Panoptikon has migrated around the Dallas area before settling in its current location, and always with the idea of doing more than simply being a nightclub. When the original Triffid Ranch location opened, the owners announced something a bit different: a goth flea market, where regulars and occasional attendees could bring used items, new items, and handmade items and spread the wealth in various ways. If nothing else, that original flea market was a venue where I met friends who still stay in touch to this day, and the original idea was to try holding future events every year or so.

As you can tell, it didn’t happen that way, but not for lack of trying. Between other events intruding, COVID-19, and getting vendors for the market, it took a while. That isn’t a permanent state, though, and this is the start of a partnership, to go with the dear friendship of the owners, for future Triffid Ranch presence at Panoptikon events. Now that the Porch Sales are over for the year, expect guest vendor appearances in the future, including more goth flea markets and charity events (you haven’t lived until you see the outpouring of support for toy drives during the holiday season), and I want to reciprocate for Panoptikon staff and crew events at the gallery as well. The live music feeds Panoptikon ran during lockdown kept me reasonably sane all through 2020 and 2021, and it’s time to return the favor.

Event News and Other Weirdness

Several bits of ephemera before a busy week of site updates, because if you thought this was a busy year, wait until 2023. Speaking of this year, due to significant interest in upcoming gallery events thanks to Good Morning Texas, the planned last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of 2022 has been bumped forward a bit, with the absolute last one for this year running on Sunday, November 6 from 10 am to 3 pm. This will be the absolute last, final, full-stop, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die chance to view or purchase Venus flytraps or North American pitcher plants, because when they go back into dormancy starting in mid-November, that’s it until next April. Bestir thyselves on Sunday or miss out.

Also, now that the official announcement is out, it’s time to get the word out about the 2023 Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows. The Oddities & Curiosities Expos are undergoing through a bit of a change next year, with additional shows in new cities (the only reason why I’m not schlepping plants to Houston next year is that the Houston show is literally the weekend before the Dallas one), and existing ones either getting an additional day or much larger venues. The Austin O&C show on June 17 still runs at the Palmer Event Center, but the Dallas Expo on March 25 moved from the old Fair Park location to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas. For those outside of Dallas, this means a much larger venue, considerably more parking, hotel space for out-of-towners within walking distance, and multiple Dallas Area Rapid Transit train routes passing by, or in the case of the Red Line, passing directly under the Center. Between these and Texas Frightmare Weekend, it’s going to be a lively new year.

State of the Gallery: October 2022

On final approach to the end of the year, and Busy Season at the Triffid Ranch is up and going from now until New Year’s Eve. Some of the frantic activity is due to the Halloween season, where everybody wants to get spooooooky plants. Some of the frantic activity is because of the impending general holiday season. The biggest burst of action, though, comes from the drastic changes at the gallery since the end of last year, and it’s time to ride that all the way into 2023.

(And along that line, it’s time to ask a favor of regular attendees and occasional visitors, as well as those understanding of the sad reality that currently polystyrene is a plastic nearly impossible to recycle with current technology. To wit, I’m looking for odd-looking Styrofoam packaging, such as from appliances [the inserts holding the rotating trays of microwave ovens are very desired], as well as any other chunks otherwise destined for the landfill, in order to finish up the back area of the gallery before the weather gets foul. Please feel free to give a shout if you have something you need to get rid of, and I’m very happy to pick up.)

Because this is the busy season as far as carnivorous plants are concerned, the Triffid Ranch is going to be on the road quite a bit for the next few weeks, including booths with the Crow’s Alley Flea Market on October 15 and Dallas’s best goth club Panoptikon on November 5, but the biggest event so far is the three-day lecture and show at the Dallas Arboretum on October 28 through 30. (As much as I’d love to have an event on Halloween night, various situations conspire to keep that from happening, but the last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of 2022 starts on Saturday, October 22 at 10:00 am and runs until 3:00 pm, out in front of the gallery.) For those seeking temperate carnivorous plants such as Venus flytraps or North American pitcher plants, the Panoptikon Goth Garage Sale will be the last time until next April where you can buy either, as they all really need to go dormant for the winter after that. (Tropical carnivores such as Asian pitcher plants and sundews are available all year round, so don’t let that stop you from coming to upcoming events.)

As for gallery events, the rush of events in October means that the gallery won’t have another open house until the middle of November, but that means that the place will have a new rush of enclosures debuting by November 19. I won’t say much more, other than that the last few months of work combine new enclosure concepts with new materials and new plants, meaning that new visitors to the gallery are going to be extremely surprised by the time the annual Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas weekend events start on December 3.

And on that subject, because of other developments, it’s time to announce that those wanting custom plant enclosures for the holiday season need to make an appointment by November 23, because booking spaces are going to be filled until after the beginning of January 2023. As it is, based on last year, this will be the first year where new enclosure designs are going to be stockpiled until there’s room to plant and display them, because even with the gallery expansion and renovation, it’s a matter of available room.

Finally, we’re still two months out, but now is a good time to mention plans for a New Year’s Eve event at the gallery, early enough that people can come out before going to planned NYE parties but with the opportunity to thank everyone who has stuck with this silly little endeavor for the last year. So far this year, this has been the best the Triffid Ranch has ever seen, and it’s time to return the love. Keep checking back for details, but I have Ideas.

The Aftermath: Dallas Vampire Court Angel Stakes 2022

In the last nearly 15 years of Triffid Ranch shows and events, I’ve been honored to show off plants at a lot of singularly interesting venues and locales. The Angel Stakes charity benefit held by the Vampire Court of Dallas definitely qualified: a charity casino and raffle? At the Haltom Theater in Haltom City? On a Sunday, in the middle of a Texas heat wave? Why, don’t mind if I do!

Firstly, high kudos to the Vampire Court: they managed to pull off their first non-Dallas event with no noticeable hiccups from the outside, and with a lot of very happy patrons. More kudos to the Haltom Theater: it’s a very well-done live music venue (with a bar & grille on the side) that could very easily become a regular venue for oddball events like this that don’t really fit into Fort Worth. Most of all, kudos to everyone who came out, because between meeting a slew of folks new to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and getting back in touch with some much-missed old friends, getting home at 2 am on a Sunday was completely worth the trip.

As for further adventures with the Vampire Court? That’s completely up to them: we’ve already talked about bringing plants to other events hosted by the Court, and now it’s a matter of confirming dates and times. One thing is certain, though: this is just the beginning.

State of the Gallery: August 2022

(Dedicated to the memory of Nancy Crawford, whose 90th birthday would have been today. Without her gentle encouragement for 20 years, the Triffid Ranch probably never would have happened.)

Ever been in an amusement park and got in line for a new rollercoaster, and right when you get strapped into the car and sent on your way, the earth gives way and all of you go barreling into an abyss that lay beneath the whole park? And when you gently hit bottom, you find yourself cornered in a city full of vampires that have been feeding on humans above them for centuries? And you manage to take on the vampires with a spare boba tea straw that fell from above, organize the various servant races the vampires have been breeding for menial labor and midnight snacks, relay light from the surface via spare fiber optic cables buried by the CIA, and burn the vampires to ash? And then when you get back to the surface, you discover that the vampires were the only thing keeping a species of sentient exoparasite from the rim of the galaxy and a species of hyperintelligent dinosaur from taking over Earth themselves, and your chainsaw is in the shop? And when you lock them all in stasis tombs deep below the surface of Ganymede, you find artifacts from an indescribably ancient civilization that lead you to their perfectly preserved home inside a series of nested Dyson spheres, and you get exclusive real estate rights to the equivalent living area of three billion Earths?

That’s what August 2022 has been like, but with carnivorous plants.

The best part? 2022 has been this wild, and we still have four months left.

Folks outside of the Dallas area might have heard or read about the bit of rain we got on August 22. The Tallahassee-level deluge wasn’t enough to get us out of severe drought yet, nor will the expected rains through the beginning of September, arriving about a month early compared to most years. However, every bit helps, as do the delightfully cool temperatures right now as compared to three weeks ago. The last time I experienced an August that ended like this was in 1987 (I spent my 21st birthday slogging through rainwater so high that it came up to the axles on my bicycle, and I was having the time of my life doing so), and considering how 1987 went, I’m packing a spare parachute just in case somebody else needs it.

The gallery itself continues to undergo its ongoing renovation and metamorphosis, with the front area, now mercifully entourage-free so that visitors can actually get into the place, pretty much finished and ready for new enclosures. The renovation and remodeling of the back area begins in September, although new lighting and shelves are already there. Considering how well the last open house in August went, the first open house of September attempts to continue the tradition, only moving from Saturday to Sunday, September 4 in order to allow folks who couldn’t get to the gallery on Saturdays to have a chance. Keep coming back through the year and take one picture each time, and you’ll get a view worthy of George Pal and Wah Chang.

One of the other benefits of the ongoing cool and wet outside is that the Sarracenia and flytraps, long semi-dormant in the extreme heat of July and August, are now simply exploding with new growth. as things cool off, the regular Triffid Ranch events move outside for a return of the Porch Sales. Depending upon the weather, expect Porch Sales every weekend until Halloween (in case of rain, everything moves inside) every weekend where the Triffid Ranch isn’t attending a show elsewhere. In addition, the new Porch Sales will feature also guest vendors, the number to be announced in the future.

And speaking of shows, it’s time for a range of local and out-of-town shows in the next couple of months. Unfortunately, the Triffid Ranch can’t be out for this weekend’s Plantopia in Arlington, but I’m signed up for the Crow’s Alley Flea Market in Bedford on October 15 and 29, and then there’s the long-running Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays two-day event at the Palmer Events Center in Austin on November 26 and 27. After THAT, it’s all local events at the gallery for the rest of 2022. Since the Day Job offers the whole last week of 2022 as additional vacation time, there may be one last big event before New Year’s Day 2023, but that’s still being discussed.

(On the subject of 2023, things got very interesting with Texas Frightmare Weekend, moving for next year to the Irving Convention Center for Memorial Day weekend. As brought up before, TFW moved to the Irving Convention Center next year due to massive upgrades to the whole of Terminal C at DFW Airport, and one of the upshots was the ability to upgrade to 10×10 spaces as opposed to the smaller spaces in which the Triffid Ranch had been presenting plants since 2009. This means a LOT more plants, enclosures, and other possibilities, and the next eight months are dedicated to stretching the limits of enclosure design and technology specifically to take advantage of the increased space.)

Finally, there’s still a bit over a week to vote in the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Awards, and the Triffid Ranch was nominated for “Best Garden Center,” so give love to all of the other things that make Dallas such a fun city when we put our minds to it. Me, I’m happy to be nominated, but if the Triffid Ranch should win, the afterparty open house is going to be the stuff of legends.

In the interim, it’s back to the linen mines: as mentioned, the renovations continue, and with them comes a ridiculous amount of room for new enclosures. Again, come out to the gallery on September 4 to get a view now, and be amazed at how much gets put in between then and the end of the year, especially compared to last year. You’ll boogie ’til you puke.

Upcoming August 2022 Events

Because August is the only month of the year without an official federal holiday, the Triffid Ranch has to take up the slack, and that means open houses after the Aquashella Dallas show on August 6 and 7. The usual noon-to-5:00 open houses resume on August 13, and things switch to a seventh anniversary blowout on August 27. As always, admission is free and masks are recommended, and if you’re averse to going through the whole Eventbrite dance of Europe to get tickets, rest assured that you don’t need tickets to attend. (The Eventbrite listings are mostly for local news venues to include open houses in their event calendars.) At bare minimum, look at it as an opportunity to get out of the heat, get into air conditioning, and view the renovated front space now that the entourage has vacated the premises. The plan includes debuting a whole new series of enclosures by August 27, so if you don’t view them earlier, you can view them then. And so it goes. (And no, the dinosaurs shown here are not located at the gallery. Yet.)

2022 Open Houses: July 9 and 16

It finally happened. Not only did the summer heat ride in like a Komodo dragon with a mouth full of pinworms and candiru, but we’re looking at the worst heat the state of Texas has seen since the last drought in 2012. We’re not talking about “oh, this is a minor inconvenience” heat: we’re talking about “this could KILL you” heat. Minus-40 may be a gosh number, in that it has the same value in Fahrenheit and Celsius, but that’s not true of positive-40. For Americans, we’re now hitting 107F, and for everyone else, we’re hitting 40C. Either way, it’s completely understandable that nobody wants to get out in this, especially with the repeated warnings about rolling blackouts through Texas if our antiquated and mismaintained electrical grid should conk out due to record use.

This is why I have to thank everyone who chose to come out to the last two open houses, because you didn’t have to. You could have been at a water park, or in a mall, or safely in a bottle of liquid nitrogen, or any place where the temperatures don’t turn unprotected victims into Near Dark cosplayers. instead, you came out to view carnivorous plant enclosures and check out the ongoing renovations to the gallery, and for that, I can’t thank you enough. It gives extra incentive to keep going, and going I shall.

For those who missed out on previous attempts, the gallery is open for one more open house on July 23, and then it’s going quiet for two weeks to get prepared for Aquashella Dallas on August 6 and 7. As always, admission is free and masks are recommended. After that, keep checking back, because the open houses return in August, with a very special evening open house on August 27. See you then.

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – Finale

Every show away from the gallery brings up the eternal question about the volume of plants being hauled out: “Too little or too much?” Last year’s Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo pushed that to the limit, with nearly everything being hauled off, so the plan this year was to bring out as much as was humanly possible. With previous years’ interference gone, the plan was to pack the van as tightly as possible with as many plants as possible, short of strapping goldfish bowls to the roof. (Considering the heat that weekend and the perpetual traffic jam that is the city of Waco, the halfway point between Dallas and Austin, that might not have gone over well.) Seemingly impossibly, the crowds at the Expo were even larger than last year’s: most shows start to peter out about an hour before closing, but many vendors, myself included, were still making sales a half-hour after the official close of the show, and a lot of us went back home with nearly-empty cars, vans, and trucks. Many of us are loath to admit that we were almost glad that the Expos are only one-day shows: if the Austin Expo ran for two days, I’d have needed a 15-foot truck to hold everything.

And that finishes it up. Many, many thanks are extended to the crew at Oddities & Curiosities Expo for managing to pull this off at so many locations every year, more thanks are extended to neighboring vendors who had to listen to me extol the features of carnivorous plants for eight hours (all of my neighbors were an absolute hoot, by the way), and the most thanks to the people who figured that Austin summer heat was no reason to stay home that weekend. Thank you all again, and now I have to make plans to exceed everyone’s expectations for 2023.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 7

As of the beginning of May, the Triffid Ranch has been appearing at shows and events for 14 years, starting with the much-missed CAPE events run by Zeus Comics in Dallas on Free Comic Book Day. (Technically, they started even earlier, when the famed artist Lea Seidman hired me to be her booth bimbo at CAPE shows and I’d drag along plants to show what I’d been doing since I quit writing.) In that time, EVERYTHING has changed, especially in the world of shows catering to the strange and esoteric. The focus has changed from “this is the only place you’ll find this odd stuff” to “the audience needs a good reason to come out in person instead of buying online,” and some shows get this. Others don’t, which is why so many comics and memorabilia shows are now overloaded with essential oil and other MLM dealers, and others are needing to crowdsource to get operations money because they can’t guarantee enough of a turnout to pay the bills. (Mark my words: a lot of old-school literary science fiction conventions will be dead before the middle of the decade because they’re still waiting for 1985 to roll back around and make them relevant again. As it stands, they’re doing next to nothing to attract new audiences and their existing audience is dying of old age: I’m 55, and when I’m one of the youngest people at a convention, either as an attendee or a vendor, it isn’t a good sign.)
I’m very glad to say that the Oddities & Curiosities Expo gets this, and continues to be very careful about the variety of vendors it allows every year. I’m very honored to be one of those who makes the cut every year, and I do my utmost to raise the stakes on plant selection and variety each time so as to return the sentiment. I’m also glad of the audience, because they give extra inducement to push the limits every time. Thank you all.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 6

For most people attending shows and events in summer, especially a Texas summer, precious few are making plans for next year. For those of us vending, though, the vast majority are watching for announcements of registration for tables and booths with the intensity of a starving python and about half the table manners. For those whose livelihood depends upon moving across the country following events, it’s all about the logistics of which show and when, particularly when three big and popular shows run on the same weekend and chopping oneself into thirds simply isn’t an option. For those of us with day jobs to augment the hustle, the priority switches to “How many vacation days do I have next year, what is the absolute furthest I can drive after a show and still go to work on Monday, and how badly will the boss freak out if I have vehicle trouble and can’t get back for two or three days?” (Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it happen.)

Even though the emphasis today is on events held at the gallery instead of traveling shows, the Triffid Ranch is already making plans, starting with the 2023 Oddities & Curiosities Expo schedule. Now, we won’t get that until Halloween, and there’s no guarantee that the Triffid Ranch can or will get into any of the planned shows: I acknowledge that I’m up against some absolutely incredible artists and dealers. One thing is for certain, though: Dallas and Austin are going remain on the event schedule because of their popularity, and 2023 just might be the year that the Triffid Ranch leaves the state. If this means Little Rock, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City, well, that depends upon the time of the year. (I would have loved to have been a vendor at the New Orleans Expo, if only because of the number of much-missed friends in Nola, but this year’s show was at the beginning of the year, and that just wouldn’t have been possible for multiple reasons.) As everyone learns more, the details will be shared. I promise.

To be continued…

June 25 Porch Sale – Cancelled

It’s rather late in the day, but due to both the record heat and illness (unfortunately probably related: I overdid myself in the greenhouse while trying to get ready), the June 25 Porch Sale has been cancelled. I apologize for the inconvenience, and note that the gallery reopening is still on schedule for July 2.

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 5

One of the regular questions that comes up at Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows is “Do you have anything that’s native?” Well, that’s an interesting question, in more ways than one. Now, if the question applies to Texas in general, we have quite a few, from the famed sundews of the Bastrop pines to the Sarracenia of the Big Thicket in far east Texas. (I had been told for years that only one species, Sarracenia rubra, was native to Texas, and then Dylan Sheng of Plano Carnivorous Plants shared photos of big stands of Sarracenia alata in East Texas. Because Sarracenia habitat is notorious for poaching, and many carnivore bogs are now threatened both by poaching and habitat destruction, Dylan didn’t share the location and I’m the last person to press the issue.) As far as Dallas and Austin are concerned, though, there are no known carnivores in either area, so anyone insisting upon native plants is out of luck.

Note that I said “known carnivores,” however. The reality is that new carnivores are discovered all of the time in the most unlikely places, with about five new species described per year and a new genus every two to five. This doesn’t include previously known plants later confirmed carnivorous (Triantha occidentais in Oregon is a great example, as is the carnivorous passionflower Passiflora foetida), or known carnivores found in new places, such as the Venus flytrap colony found near Pensacola, Florida. This is why I emphasize the “known” part and encourage younger carnivore enthusiasts to keep exploring, because the odds are good of someone discovering a previously unknown carnivore hiding in plain sight.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 4

One of the regular questions asked at Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows is “Where do you get all of the great pots you have?” Well, that’s a funny story. They literally come from all over: garage sales, gifts from friends and cohorts (I was given a large number of odd pots by my late mother-in-law, and I’m hanging onto one especially wonderful pot from her for a very special plant), on the side of the road after someone moved out of a house or apartment, repurposed items never really intended to be plant containers…there’s no telling. All that matters is that they’re distinctive, and that they can hold potting mix and water.

The last part is the hardest. Most houseplants prefer well-drained soil, but carnivores prefer boggy conditions, and that means that the drainage hole has to go. Most container and urban gardening books have extensive instructions on how to drill holes in the bottoms of containers so they can be reused as flower pots, but ask “But what if I want to seal up a previously established hole?”, crickets. Let’s just say that the extensively reorganized backstock of pots for upcoming shows has a shelf dedicated to upcoming carnivore conversions, and epoxy putty is an old and dear companion.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 3

People previously unfamiliar with the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo tend to ask me “So what else is at the Expos besides carnivorous plants?” I can give generic assessments on the amount of interesting things, ranging from antique taxidermy to pottery to candles, available at each show, but I can’t give particulars half of the time because I’m lucky to see the outside of the booth the whole day. By way of example, I didn’t know Dead Dave Designs was at the Austin Expo until I read about it on Instagram the next day. This is in no way a complaint about the intensity of the crowds, but the advantage I had in the Triffid Ranch booth being next to the restrooms in the event center hall was that I actually saw a few fellow vendors, such as Demetria of The Curiositeer, as they were using the facilities before leaving that evening. The crowds weren’t impassable, but they were consistent, and most of us vendors were still taking care of customers a half-hour after the show was officially closed.

Even better, with some shows, you see a lot of returning customers after a few years, but the Expos are always a mix of long-timers, old friends (literally, in some cases: I was able to talk with a friend from the beginning of my writing days in the late 1980s whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years), and a whole lot of new people who wanted to see what the big deal was about. I can only imagine the number of lifetime friendships started there over chance encounters over a hippopotamus skull, as well as the number of kids in a decade who learn “Your father and I met RIGHT HERE, in front of a moose head.”

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 2

One of the surprises this year has been how smoothly shows have run so far. The original Triffid Ranch business plan for 2022 was to expand both growing area and variety of plants available, only for everything to shift drastically in January. A new greenhouse, a new Sarracenia growing area, and a markedly improved container and supply storage system certainly helped, as did the surprise freezes in February and March that led to significantly larger and more energetic blooms on all of the temperate carnivores. On a personal level, losing 15 kilos and being able to start a new exercise regimen meant being able to get trucks loaded ahead of schedule. It’s to the point where, combined with the new hair style and color, returning customers asking “Where’s the other guy?” are asking this legitimately, instead of it just coming from scammers telling me “the other guy” agreed they could take a plant without paying.

Because the one factor that made being timely so difficult is now gone, it’s actually possible to make plans for 2023, especially as far as road trips are concerned. The Texas Oddities & Curiosities Expos are doing so well that the hope is to do what was originally planned for 2020 and take the Triffid Ranch outside of Texas. With luck, the scheduling for shows in New Orleans and Oklahoma City should allow the opportunity to make more epic road trips, and we should know if that’s possible when the Expo crew releases its 2023 show schedule on Halloween.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 1

It’s now been four years since the Triffid Ranch first set up at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo, and three years since the first road trip to Austin’s Expo, and I have only one concern. Right now, the Expo is becoming a gigantic show on a par with Texas Frightmare Weekend, and attracts much of the same crowd. (In fact, several attendees came by specifically because they heard about the Expos at Frightmare this year.) The only difference is that the Texas Frightmare Weekend crew spend all year preparing for each show, planning events and activities so everyone attending gets the maximum entertainment value for their admission. The Oddities & Curiosities Expo crew doesn’t have big media guests, but still pulls off a similarly massive event…and manages to do this nearly every weekend through the year, traveling all over the United States to do so.

Now, looking at how the Expo crew manages a touring event like this without visible issues, some people might argue that this is the future of traveling conventions, and everyone with similar events had best get their acts together. Others might posit that the maturity of the internet makes big traveling events like this possible in the first place, and events like this wouldn’t have been possible twenty years ago. All I can say is that it behooves us all to do everything we can to keep the Expo crew hale, hearty, and happy, because we all need to know how they do it and whether it involves bathing in the cerebralspinal fluid of virgins.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – Introduction

The middle of June in Texas, anywhere in Texas, is always a pivot point for culture in the state, and it always depends upon the weather. Contrary to popular opinion, while “hot, sunny, and dry” may be the default, that doesn’t always apply. Sudden thunderstorms come out of nowhere and go to the same, turning the Texas convection oven into a steam bath. This understandably gets organizers of events in Dallas and Austin and San Antonio a little nervous, because no matter the amount of promotion and publicity, potential attendees are a bit loath to come out in the middle of a storm dropping grapefruit-sized hail.

This last weekend, though, the old rain god Tlaloc decided to give us all a break, and the weather for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Events Center in Austin was about as good as it gets in summer. In response, a lot of folks from Austin (and Houston, San Antonio, and much of the surrounding area) braved both the sun and Austin’s notorious traffic to peruse treasures from dozens of local and traveling vendors. The Triffid Ranch joined the party for the third time since 2019, and the response was nothing short of phenomenal.

The best compliments anyone can get at a show such as this comes at the beginning, when fellow vendors start buying out items as soon as they’re put on a table, and at the end, when other vendors race in and exclaim “Whew! You’re not broken down! This is the first time I’ve been able to get out of my booth all day!” before buying up what’s left. In between…well, the following posts should show off exactly how interesting it got all Saturday.

To be continued…

2022 Porch Sales: June 11

Technically, summer doesn’t start until June 21. As is usually the case, North Texas didn’t get the memo. June 11 was the beginning of what promises to be a very long and very dry summer, which is part of the reason why the Triffid Ranch Porch Sale start moved from 10am to 8am, just to avoid the big yellow hurty thing in the sky that keeps rising earlier and earlier.

Not that this is a problem: expecting torrid conditions in Dallas in June is like expecting subfreezing cold in Minnesota in January, so everyone makes plans. The plants are definitely enjoying it, even if the Sarracenia threaten to spend the summer semi-dormant until the heat lets up in September and October. The Sarracenia have the right idea, and I suspect I have phyllodia growing out of my back right now.

As of this writing, the heat continues through the weekend, but don’t look for a Porch Sale this weekend: the Triffid Ranch hits the road this weekend to show off plants at the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin, but the Porch Sales return on June 25. And yes, there will be lots and lots of shade.

The Triffid Ranch Schedule…So Far

Three weeks until the big Triffid Ranch 3.0 gallery reboot, and time tends to get away from me, hence the relative lack of updates. As always, everything runs on Riddell’s Law of Artistic Expression (“All art forms derive from painting, because every artist has to find something else to do while waiting for the paint to dry”), but it’s all coming together, along with new enclosures to go with the new front area. It’s the getting there that’s the aggravating part, but that can’t be helped.

Both before and after the gallery reopening, the fun just keeps coming. To start off, the summer Porch Sales continue through June, but taking note of our impending record afternoon temperatures by starting at 8:00 am and ending at 1:00 pm before the day gets too bad. (After the gallery reopens, these will switch between Saturday outdoor sales and Sunday indoor events, both to give opportunities to attend from visitors with prior Saturday commitments and just to give folks a break from the constant lead-smelter heat.) Right now, the next Porch Sales are scheduled for June 11 and 25, but they’ll keep going until Halloween and move inside for rain, snow, asteroid strikes and random volcanic eruptions.

Why nothing on June 18, you ask? Well, that’s because as mentioned in the past, the Triffid Ranch hits the road to go to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Event Center that Saturday. This will be the last Oddities & Curiosities Expo show for the Triffid Ranch in 2022, as well as the last one in Texas for the year, so until the new O&C schedule comes out around Halloween, get your tickets now. If the crowds are anything like they were in 2021, the Austin show may well be sold out by midday, and you won’t want to miss this.

This won’t be the last Triffid Ranch show outside of the gallery, either: word just got back about the final Aquashella Dallas floor layout for August 6 and 7, and the Triffid Ranch is near the front door at Dallas Market Hall. In addition, the Triffid Ranch returns to the Palmer Event Center for its seventh year and sixth Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays dark bazaar on November 27 and 27: I purchased the booth as soon as the word came out, because there’s no way I’ll miss it this year.

Oh, and it isn’t on the official calendar just yet, but the Triffid Ranch finally breaks through to the Dallas Arboretum this year, for a lecture on carnivorous plants at the Arboretum on October 28 starting at 11:00 am. This should be perfect timing, as all of the Sarracenia and flytraps should be at their best autumn color before going dormant in November, and there’s no better time for outdoor events in Dallas than the end of October. As usual, details will follow as I get them.

Is this it? That’s a really good question, as a lot of other possibilities are only now coming together. A demonstration of cartoonist Sam Hurt’s adage “it’s not a small world: it’s a big world that’s folded over so many times” involves a return of Triffid Ranch carnivorous plant workshops at the newly reconstituted Curiosities near the Dallas Arboretum (the old Lakewood location is shutting down and everything moved to the space next to the current Curious Garden) is that Curiosities owner and old Exposition Park neighbor Jason Cohen went to high school and college with the Triffid Ranch 3.0 designer Susan Duval. It’s with that in mind that I note that regular carnivore workshops return to Curiosities this year after the move is complete. There’s even a discussion on the Triffid Ranch hosting a Dallas Carbaret outdoor drive-in showing this summer, running either the best documentary about life in 1980s Dallas ever made or the best documentary about Dallas goth culture ever made, complete with a barbecue truck.

That’s it for the moment: now it’s time to get back to plant repotting. See you soon.

2022 Porch Sales: May 21

Many people get excited on the approach of major holidays, particularly Christmas and Halloween, and others on the approach of the official date for a particular season. It’s been decades since grade and high school, but there’s also the electricity of the calendar approaching the end of the school year. Even after years of the monotony of the day job schedule, there’s still that smell in the air that sets off the anticipation: “Summer vacation is ALMOST HERE.” It’s all about the promise that things will be different, and that everything you accomplish for the rest of the year depends upon what you do in the next few weeks, that makes this time of the year my favorite.

Of course, the first big explosions of growth among the carnivores doesn’t hurt, either. By this point in North Texas, all of the temperate carnivores are awake and active, taking advantage of the corresponding insect bounty. The recent torrential rains certainly helped, so everything is awake, stretching, and wondering what summer is going to bring. Summer could go any number of directions (this IS Texas, after all), but both plants and overgrown kids are rising to the challenge.

For those who haven’t had a chance before now, the last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale for May starts at 10:00 on May 28 and runs until 3:00: if the current weather forecasts are accurate, it’ll end right about the time Dallas gets into its traditional Memorial Day heatwave. If you can’t make it Saturday, the Porch Sales are going to take a short break for June 4 for restocking and regenerating, and then they start again on June 11 and 25. (Wondering about June 18? Look to the Palmer Event Center in downtown Austin for the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo.) Either way, see you then.

The Start of the 2022 Porch Sales

The intention was to take things easy with the first of the Triffid Ranch Porch Sales in 2022, but the universe had other ideas. Between horrendous windstorms in the Dallas area on the previous Friday night and record high temperatures on that Saturday, I wouldn’t have blamed anybody for clutching the air conditioner like a teddy bear and staying as far away from the yellow hurty thing in the sky as possible. The fact that so many people were willing to ignore potential cremation is greatly appreciated, and I thank you all.

As it was, as hot as it was, things should be getting interesting over the next week. The forecast is still tentative, but there’s a likelihood of storms this next Friday, leading to considerably cooler temperatures on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, many more plants are emerging from winter dormancy, so the rest of May should be much more auspicious.

For everyone who either had other commitments or couldn’t bear to let go of Coolant Mother, the Porch Sales continue through the year, at least until after Halloween, with the next two on May 21 and 28. See you then, and with luck, the weather will be much more comfortable.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 8

And like that, it was over. Texas Frightmare Weekend has always been a blowout of a show, from the first Triffid Ranch table back in 2009 to now, but 2022 was far and ahead the most successful show to date, and now it’s time to plot and scheme to do even better. That’s as much of a tradition as bringing doughnuts for the Frightmare crew, and one I want to keep going for as long as possible.

On that note, many thanks need to go to the Frightmare crew, starting with Loyd and Sue Cryer for their leadership and going through the army of staff, security, and support that make Frightmare happen every year. It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone, and some folks weren’t here to help us celebrate the end, but in their memory we’re all going to make 2023 even bigger than ever.

So what’s the plan for the future? Well, the first is that it’s time to move to a larger table space for 2023, as can be judged by what little is left in the photos above. All of that, of course, is contingent upon making the cut in vendor selection next year (in order to give as diverse a selection of vendors as possible, vendors are carefully curated each year, and everyone has to reapply as if this was their first show), but Danielle and I discussed some possibilities in both presentation and selection that should surprise and delight. With luck, a lot of the distribution issues that brought everything down to the wire this spring will be minimized or reconciled in 2023, and certainly all of the tribulations of the first half of 2022 aren’t going to happen again any time soon. Until then, many thanks to everyone who came by the Triffid Ranch table, even the Spy Clown, and get ready for some major new changes next May.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 7

One of the many Triffid Ranch services that’s not exclusive to Texas Frightmare Weekend, but that gets a lot of use here, is the holding service. Essentially, a lot of customers want to purchase plants early on, but need to leave them at the table for the duration of the show. Sometimes it’s because they’re staying at an overflow hotel (and this year, Frightmare had a LOT of overflow hotels) and they don’t want to risk the plant being damaged, sometimes it’s because they won’t have room in the car until the end of the convention, and sometimes it’s as simple as not wanting to lug a big contraption of glass and peat around a big crowd all weekend. To facilitate customer convenience, I’ve developed a system that works extremely well: upon purchase, the customer gets a ticket asking for name and phone number, which gets put onto the plant’s ID tag. If 4:00 on Sunday rolls around, the customer gets a friendly call to remind them that they still need to take their plant home. In the last decade since Frightmare set up at its current location, I’ve had to call maybe five people, and generally they all get their charges before we have to start breaking down at 5:00.

Eventually, this was going to have a slight hiccup, and that came with a customer with phone problems. The hotel, like so many other 1970s/1980s semi-Brutalist constructs, was built when nuclear war was a more realistic future shock than handheld universal communication devices, so calls drop and calls never get through. Eventually, though, our buyer was able to come by the gallery to get her new plant, and everyone was greatly amused by the resolution.

Here you go, Wendy. That pot belonged to my late mother-in-law, and she’d have been thrilled to have learned how happy you were with it.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2022 – 6