Category Archives: Gallery

State of the Gallery: September 2020

Well, it’s been interesting. Six months into a pandemic, and we’re not all dead yet. Pining for the fijords, maybe, but at least we aren’t at the “have a drink and walk around, I’ve got a lot to think about” stage yet. At least we haven’t hit the “Aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy, what do you think of Dallas?” stage of denial, for which we should all be exceedingly thankful. It’s all about the little things.

To start, it’s been really rough for carnivorous plant growers and sellers over the last two years, so please offer solidarity and respect to Sarracenia Northwest, which had to evacuate the wildfires tearing up Oregon east of Portland. Both Jacob and Jeff are fine, and they’re trying to get caught up on back orders, so please feel free to show them more love. (Both of them were very patient and considerate with me when I was first getting into carnivores, so I owe them a debt I simply cannot repay. Seriously: they’re good folks.

On the gallery side, the renovation continues, if only as a demonstration that Tetris games are much more fun on the other side of the screen. For those who missed the previous update, the current final liquidation sale of the Pier 1 chain gave an opportunity to revamp and update the shelving in the gallery, as the Lundia modular shelving used by Pier 1 was both easier to modify and adjust and more tolerant of the, erm, impressive weight of some of the larger enclosures. This, of course, meant clearing off the existing shelf units, finding places for everything in the interim, sealing and finishing the new shelves, putting the shelves together (much more difficult than originally thought), and moving plant enclosures back onto the new arrangements. Even small changes led to massive cascades as far as improvements in storage and rearrangement of assets, so what was intended to be a quick one-week switchout turned into something that should be complete and ready to be viewed by the middle of October. I now have nothing but respect for museums needing to reorganize their stored collections, because it just grows.

On the subject of shows and outside events, after the weekend of September 26, we’ve got nothing. We just got word today that the aquarium trade show Aquashella cancelled all of its events for 2020 due to COVID-19 safety concerns, including the planned Halloween Weekend show in Dallas, and pretty much everything scheduled for November and December has been delayed until 2021. To date, the only remaining show for 2020 is the NARBC Arlington reptile and amphibian show on September 26 and 27, and that one is only continuing because of a recent upgrade of the Arlington Convention Center’s air filtration system, limits on the number of people in the convention center at any given time, and mandatory mask compliance. If there’s any good out of this, it’s that a lot of 2021 events are already prepaid, with the presumption that this won’t be ongoing through then, too. (And boy howdy, am I glad that the Triffid Ranch was considered too small-potatoes for the Dallas Art Fair, because to be caught in that mess…)

(As an aside, the official schedule for the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, including Dallas’s and Austin’s shows, comes out on Halloween. 2021 probably won’t be the year the Triffid Ranch appears at shows outside of Texas, but the intent is there.)

With the implosion of the local and out-of-town show community, the focus for the rest of the year will be on gallery events, both inside and outside. What makes October particularly bittersweet is that our neighbor, Visions of Venice, is moving out on Halloween weekend for a larger, more accessible locale in Dallas’s Design District, and it wouldn’t be right not to have one final sendoff before Stefano sets up in his new location. Details will follow, not just for a limited-engagement indoor event in mid-October, but for a freshly available outdoor event on Halloween Day thanks to the Aquashella cancellation. As always, the Sunday Morning Porch Sales run through the whole of October: we currently have tentative plans for similar events in November, but that also is up in the air.

Other than that, things go well, and with impending weather weather, expect a lot of new enclosures and enclosure concepts. See you around.

Sunday Morning Porch Sales, September 13, 2020. Go Big or Go Extinct.

New week, new challenges for the Sunday Porch Sales. New tent, new neighbors (in particular, the owner/proprietor of Caroline Crawford Originals), and a spectacularly beautiful day in which to throw a gathering. Combine that with returning customers, new ideas for a brand new enclosure commission, and a pair of dear friends who haven’t been out since the lockdown started, and it couldn’t have been a better day.

Not only did doubling the tent space work out, but this is going to be the ongoing trend for the rest of the season. I won’t be out for the Porch Sale on September 27 (that weekend is reserved for the NARBC Arlington reptile and amphibian show, barring a last-minute cancellation and rescheduling), but the Porch Sales will continue through October, and we’re definitely repeating the fun on September 20.

For those contemplating coming out in the near future, the next Porch Sale runs on September 20: you don’t have to sign up for tickets to attend (the Eventbrite listing is to make sure that the Porch Sales get picked up by various news venues through the greater Dallas area), and it’ll run its usual 7:00 am to noon schedule. See you then.

Sunday Morning Porch Sale: September 6, 2020. Look For The Union Label.

The Triffid Ranch Porch Sales have now run for long enough that new folks arriving ask about some of the Triffid Ranch standards, and one of those is asking about the Shirt Price specials. Since outside temperatures are dropping enough that bringing out more enclosures is a reasonable option, and because people take a look at the Larry Carey original on the banners in front and back and ask “Where can I get one of these?”, it’s time for reminder.

The Shirt Price option is really quite easy. All you have to do is wear a Triffid Ranch garment to any event (Porch Sale, outdoor event, indoor event, or open house), and you automatically qualify for a discount. Enclosures display both the standard price and Porch Sale price, and everything else gets at least $5 off the standard price. The garment doesn’t matter (T-shirt, sweat shirt, tote bag, hoodie, tank top: they all qualify), but buying it and then letting it sit at home doesn’t cut it: the Shirt Price discount only applies if you’re wearing it to an event. (Sadly, it’s also not cumulative: wearing a shirt, hoodie, and hat won’t increase the discount, although you WILL get accolades for your fashion sense and your enthusiasm.) Even better, for those who really like the pattern, the store also offers posters, stickers, stationery, and laptop sleeves: feel free to put a little Larry Carey all over the place.

As to what I get out of it: not a thing, other than satisfaction. Larry is a dear friend and former boss, and our morning work break discussion sessions were instrumental in inspiring a lot of the enclosures seen at the gallery today. He’s no longer in Dallas (he moved to Eugene, Oregon for a new job about two years ago), but since he refused to take payment for the original poster design, the Shirt Price program both guarantees that he gets payment off every purchase (any shirts I sell at shows and events are ones bought directly from his Redbubble store) and exposes others to his work. While it won’t give you a discount with the Triffid Ranch, take a look at the rest of his Redbubble shop: the odds are pretty good that you’ll find something suitable for family and school reunions, baby showers, tailgate parties, job interviews, and any other situation where, to steal from Bill Griffith, “if you can’t say something nice, say something surrealistic.”

Since the weather and the lineup keep surprising, the Triffid Ranch Porch Sales continue through September 20: the only reason one isn’t running on September 27 is because the whole kit and kaboodle will be out at the NARBC Arlington reptile and amphibian sale at the Arlington Convention Center that weekend. (If the NARBC show is cancelled between now and then, the Porch Sale is on for the 27th.) As for October, the plan now is to keep them going through the whole of the month: after that, we’ll figure out options, as it’ll just be too cold in the morning for tropical plants and too late in the season for the plants requiring a winter dormancy. It’ll all work out.

New Developments and Upcoming Events

The COVID-19 shutdown of Dallas art events continues, and with it, a lot of events throughout the rest of Texas. The complete dissolution of shows for 2020 has been rough, but it could be worse (I really feel for the art galleries stiffed by the Dallas Art Fair, even considering that the combination of “Dallas real estate developer” and “wannabe world-class art fair” always promises a world of madcap fun), and the only thing we can do is be proactive about it. Hence, while things are quiet outside, it’s time to tear things up indoors.

Firstly, while the cliche “one door closes while another opens” is especially overused in Dallas (where it’s usually applied in reference to “the real estate developer who just ripped you off has friends who’d like to take advantage of your naive faith in human nature”), sometimes it applies. The collapse of the Pier 1 retail empire hit home hard, as a very dear friend was at ground zero at its Fort Worth headquarters when the announcement went out, but it also gave an opportunity for a serious gallery renovation. Combine heavy-duty Lundia shelving (with additional support in the center of each shelf) with a massive fixture sale at a nearby Pier 1 location, and this means that a long-planned Triffid Ranch renovation happens right when traffic is slow. Everybody wins. Keep an eye open for further updates, because by the time the upgrade is done, you won’t recognize the place.

In other news, everybody who already had plans to attend the rescheduled Texas Frightmare Weekend horror convention at DFW Airport already knows: the planned September 11-13 show was bumped to next May. The news was depressing on multiple levels, mostly because of the number of us who actively look forward to Frightmare every year, as attendees and as vendors. The only good news out of that justified and justifiable cancellation is that the Frightmare crew continue to keep their virtual schedule extremely busy with the regular Frightmare HQ video streams. I bring this up because on Saturday, September 12, the Triffid Ranch goes live with what everyone would have seen had we been able to come out for the weekend. To quote a mutual inspiration and Dallas icon, you’ll boogie ’til you puke. Just pick your favorite streaming video flavor, and we and the plants will see you on September 12.

Sunday Morning Porch Sale: August 30, 2020. The Benthic Edition.

One of the first Texasisms I was taught upon first moving to the Dallas area in 1979 was “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Especially in North Texas, this understates the situation. While the summer so far has been remarkably mild, on a par with 1987, the last two weeks were as if someone decided “Wait a minute. This is TEXAS. We’ve got to get in a whole summer before Labor Day!” That’s pretty much what we got: hot and sunny every day, with a south wind that dropped relative humidity through the floor and sucked the moisture out of everything it caressed. The finale was on August 29, where the Dallas area broke a heat record last set when my in-laws were newlyweds and the famed Dallas “drought of record” was still raging. That Saturday night wasn’t much better: grass crunched under feet, opening the greenhouse door caused half the plants to wilt because of the oppressively low humidity, and the air was full of the smell of burning flint.

That was Saturday. Sunday started off with roiling thunderclouds and lots of flashing, but we get a lot of false alarms about rain in the summer. About an hour before opening the Porch Sale, though, I looked off to the west and thought “Hmmm, we have a wall of water coming right for us.” That wall of water hit, and kept coming, and kept coming, for the next three hours. The parking lot in front of the gallery became a kayak course, and it kept coming. The shrubbery and grassy medians in the industrial park started turning green again, and it kept coming. Honestly, it got so bad that I expected my sister to arrive and yell “For he IS the Kwizach Haderach!” For three solid hours, the rain kept coming, and then we got what we always get when a gullywasher storm hits. That is, full sun, light breezes, and that strange hum that we get at the end of every summer, where the earth slurps up every last drop of moisture and realizes that there’s still plenty of room for more.

The better news on all of this is that we’re going to have a stranger September than previously expected. For those outside of the Dallas area, the end of summer is a matter of perspective out here, because it ends when it ends. Normally, what most people call “summer” ends in the last week of September to the first two weeks of October, when we finally get rain, and the first day that might actually justify pulling out jackets and sweaters hits in the second to third week of October. (This doesn’t always hold true: November 2017 was best remembered for temperatures more suited for June, as I discovered the hard way upon having a gallery in a dying shopping mall where the owner didn’t want to fix the air conditioning system.) This Sunday, though, even though much cooler than the last several weekends, promises to be the last day for the foreseeable future with anything approximating average temperatures, and that first jacket day is supposed to hit this coming Wednesday. Both the plants and I can’t wait.

Anyway, the Porch Sales continue through September, and because the weather promises to be so much better than the usual Labor Day weekend conditions, this means a lot of new surprises. First and foremost is that this coming weekend, the Triffid Ranch tent is joined by Caroline Crawford Originals: it’s not quite the reopening of show season that we hoped to get in September, but it’s close enough. As always, masks are mandatory for everybody’s safety, and we’ll see you on Sunday morning at 7:00.

State of the Gallery: August 2020

Welp, we’re a fair portion of the way through the kidney stone of a year known as 2020, and we haven’t even hit autumn yet. Whether you look at this year as the end of the 2010s or the beginning of the 2020s, and I’d argue that every year in the Gregorian calendar ending with “0” is one of transition and painful birthing pains, times are only going to get more interesting until New Year’s Day, and not just in the classic Chinese curse sense. Worse, if 2021 follows the same trajectory as 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011 (1971 was the year I started kindergarten, so I’m a touch biased about it), we’re going to need a week off after New Year’s Day just to get ready.

This August has particular pith and moment: five years ago last month, leases were signed, keys were exchanged, and the first piles of random supplies were left in a former men’s clothing store in the now-defunct Valley View Center in Dallas. Six weeks after that, on August 20, the soft opening of Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery coincided with the Midtown ArtWalk event held at the mall every third Saturday, and the rest was history. A half-decade later, the Texas Triffid Ranch is still going, albeit in fits and starts, and we have PLANS.

Starting off on the gallery side, the whole of Dallas has gone beyond hunkering in shelter and waiting for some suggestion of future normality, and some of us are making plans with stolen War Rigs and tankers of guzzoline. This starts with virtual and live events, made as safe as we can manage, starting this month. For those outside of the Dallas area, and those within Dallas who feel safer in a virtual environment, the Triffid Ranch goes back to Twitch for a virtual open house on Thursday, August 20. This one is open to everyone with an Internet connection, and feel free to pass on word. Likewise, we’re going to try for our first live indoor event in six months on Saturday, August 22 with a live and in-person gallery open house. Please note that with the latter, no more than five people at a time will be allowed to enter, hand sanitizer is encouraged, and masks are mandatory as per Dallas County regulations.

If evening events don’t work, the Triffid Ranch Sunday Porch Sales continue through the end of August and into September, running from 7:00 am to noon. (Right now, the schedule for September is tentative, depending upon whether or not the NARBC reptile show in Arlington on September 26 and 27 is cancelled. If it is, the Porch Sales run through the whole month.) Since recent experiments with setting up a tent and opening up considerably more space were so successful, this will probably be the standard for Porch Sales until the weather gets too cold for outdoor events. This being Texas, that might run until December, and we’ll figure it out after that.

In other news, the original plan for 2020 was to expand into more shows outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, including road trips to Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and even New Orleans. All of those shows are either defunct or rescheduled for 2021 (sadly, the New Orleans and Houston shows are now scheduled for the same weekend next June, so I had to opt out of both), and the rest of the 2021 schedule is still in limbo. However, for 2022, I may be doing a very, very, very bad thing and scheduled a longer road trip than I’ve ever done before. One word: Chicago.

And as a final interlude, a story from the depths of 1990, I’ve spent the last week trying to hunt down a link to a story from early 1990: it’s apparently unavailable online, and I can’t request a copy from the newspaper in which I first encountered it because the late great Dallas Times Herald has been dead for working on 29 years. Even many diehard fans of the writer Hunter S. Thompson don’t know about how Thompson received an invitation from an aide to then-US Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) to join Gramm at a Senate Republican prayer breakfast. The aide sent invitations through a general list of press contacts, and had no knowledge of the author of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72 until word got out. When word got out, Gramm’s office tried to repeal the invitation, and was relieved when Thompson decided not to bring his preferred breakfast menu to Washington DC. I think about that story a lot these days.

The Greatest Triffid Ranch Porch Sale on Earth: August 9, 2020

Okay, so it’s August. The porch was getting increasingly cramped, and with multiple people arriving at once, allowing social distancing while browsing was nearly impossible. Also, the old porch layout only allowed a small selection of plants, and part of that was blocked by the necessity of a space for the proprietor to sit or stand. Hence, the decision was final this weekend: the tent came out.

Now, there’s no promise that the tent will be out every week: if the weather is particularly bad (and this being North Texas, we could very easily see torrential rains every Sunday until after the new year), the whole shebang may have to migrate back to the porch proper in the duration. That said, considering the enthusiastic response to the whole airy setup, so long as we don’t get a repeat of last October’s school of tornadoes, expect the Porch Sales to expand, slightly, as things get cooler.

From here, we keep going. The next Porch Sale is on Sunday, August 16, again from 7:00 to noon. And yes, the tent comes out again.

Enter the Porch Sale: August 2, 2020

August started in North Texas with its usual aplomb: hot and sunny, and so much hot and sunny that the only thing that keeps most of us sane through the month is the promise of Halloween decorations at the local Michael’s stores. This also meant good weather for those wanting to get out on Sunday morning, and that meant a lot of folks who took advantage of it.

And because a customer asked, you may notice the number of photos of customers at Triffid Ranch events, both at the gallery and elsewhere, and what’s the privacy policy. The policy is simple: this is purely to give a spotlight to the neat people who come out to these events, nothing more, and they will NOT be used for any other purpose. Anybody who has any issue with their picture going online, for any reason whatsoever, will not get any coercion or argument, and anybody who needs a photo removed retroactively will get it removed without argument. Likewise, anybody who wants to share photos with friends/family/cohorts of their grand adventures? Please go wild. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.

Anyway, the next Sunday Porch Sale is August 9, and I’m hoping to have some special surprises for new and returning visitors. See you then.

The Last of the Triffid Ranch Flash Sales: July 26, 2020

(Texas Triffid Ranch Audio Promo, take Whatever)

“This is the story of the last of the Texas Triffid Ranch Flash Sales. The year is 2259. The place is…”

(Frantic whispering in background)

“What? Let me try again.”

“The end of the last great Triffid Ranch Flash Sale. Everybody lost.”

(Emphatic whispering in background)

“This isn’t the script? Then where IS the script? Oh, I’ve got it? Then why isn’t it labeled? Well, it’s not MY fault that the folder doesn’t read ‘SCRIPT’ on both sides…oh, someone just put it on there. Let’s try it again.”

“Wow! The last of the Triffid Ranch Flash Sales! A real museum piece! Be a shame to blow it up.”

(Sound of apple bouncing off announcer’s head)

“I can’t work under these conditions! You said you were okay with day drinking! Next, you’ll expect me to know how to read!”

(Sounds of announcer flouncing off, tripping on the carpet pattern, and falling down fifteen flights of stairs and down an open elevator shaft while production crew laughs)

“I can try again…”

July 26 marked a slightly sad occasion: it was, indeed, the date of the last of the Triffid Ranch Flash Sales. The original idea behind the Flash Sales was that in the early days of COVID-19, as shows and events were collapsing around us all, setting up on the gallery porch with an assemblage of carnivorous plants suitable for beginners was a reasonably safe way to show off plants and let people take a break in the green. The ancillary idea behind the Flash Sales was that they were going to be temporary: back in April, there was no reason to assume that state and federal authorities wouldn’t have a pandemic plan worked out, implemented, and organized and that COVID-19 wouldn’t burn out by the beginning of August. Instead, we ran right into Riddell’s Law: “any sufficiently developed incompetence is indistinguishable from conspiracy.”

Anyway, as we settle into the New Normal, the idea of flash sales is both quaint and a little obsolete. Back in February, the whole concept was entertaining. Now, it’s almost vital, especially for those who cannot, for various understandable reasons, engage with large crowds in indoor environments. Because the Triffid Ranch sales are now semi-permanent, they need a better name, so through August and probably the rest of the year, they’re now the Sunday Carnivorous Plant Porch Sales.

For those who are new, and for those who haven’t been here for a while, the Porch Sales continue all through August, and admission is free. (You don’t have to sign up for a ticket through EventBrite for any of them, but it’s highly encouraged, just to know how many people to expect.) Because of the Porch Sales, standard gallery appointments aren’t available on Sundays without extensive advance notice, but are available through the rest of the week. (For members of the press, I highly recommend Fridays, and yes, you can bring photographers and anyone else you need.) See you next Sunday.

August Events and Activities

We may not be 30 million years past the last live Triffid Ranch event, but it’s sure feeling that way. Between the initial Dallas County COVID-19 shutdowns and the subsequent shutdowns because certain people can’t play well with others, it’s been capital-R Rough for art venues across the DFW Metroplex. Exhibitions have gone virtual (some may recognize a few of the entries in the Texas Now Online Showcase being hosted by Artspace One Eleven in Fort Worth), galleries are on severely curtailed hours, and the days of dozens or hundreds of people jammed into gallery open houses are now about as quaint as the thought of Dallas beachside houses along the Western Interior Seaway. It’s still possible to do things outside, but it requires care, consideration, and a stout stick for those who don’t want to play by the rules.

With that in consideration, it’s time to open things up a bit in August 2020. To start:

Numero Uno: what was intended to be a few quick flash sales to get through April have turned into a regular event, so it’s time to rename the Sunday Flash Sales. Starting August 2, they’re now Carnivorous Plant Porch Sales, and they run every Sunday morning in August from 7:00 to noon. Other than the name and the time, nothing changes: they’re still selections of beginner carnivorous plants available for perusal and sale on the gallery front porch, and they’re open to everyone. (The link above is mostly to get an idea of how many people are coming on a given day, as well as the opportunity for new people to discover them through the EventBrite app, but we won’t shoo you off if you don’t have a ticket.) As always, at the end of the month, we’ll reevaluate days and hours, but they’ll probably keep going through October or until cold weather make them impossible, whichever comes first.

Numero Two-o: Since the fifth anniversary of that original soft opening at Valley View Center hit this year, the plan at the beginning of the year was to host the biggest gallery open house we could possibly pull off on or around August 20, celebrating beating the odds on gallery survival and generally using it as an excuse for a big birthday party for Caroline. And so Napoleon went to Moscow. The plan is still going to happen: it’s just we’re going to do it in two stages. The first is a virtual open house via streaming on Twitch, set on a Thursday evening so it doesn’t interfere with friends’ streaming events, running from 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm Central Time. Obviously, this means that those who had to work during normal open houses, those who can’t get out of the house, and those who oh-so-conveniently live on another continent can join in, ask questions, heckle the host without mercy, and otherwise get a chance to see what’s been going on over here since the last show.

Numero Three-o: Remember my stating that the anniversary party was a two-stage plan? The third stage is an attempt to have a real-live open house on the evening of August 22. Because of Dallas County restrictions on events and crowds, no more than five attendees are allowed into the gallery at any time, and functional masks are required. That said, if you like what you see during the virtual open house on Thursday, or if you’ve had an eye on a particular enclosure since before all this came down, feel free to come out and browse, quickly, so others can peruse as well.

Other than that, it’s back to the usual: the last of the Flash Sales runs on July 26, and appointments for private viewings are available through the week. And now to get back to work to make all of this happen.

Flash Sale: July 19, 2020

The usual state of retail: some days are raging, and some days are slow. This wasn’t and is never a problem: a relatively slow Flash Sale means that other plants (in this case, a large contingent of bladderworts in apothecary jars) get another week to get up to optimal size, and the folks who come out get more time to browse without feeling as if they’re keeping others from getting in. That’s why the Flash Sales keep going: this way, everyone gets more of a chance to peruse plants than during the pre-epidemic open houses.

Anyway, the last Flash Sale of July runs on July 26, and then we go for every Sunday in August. See you soon.

State of the Gallery: July 2020

What about that June, huh? Go to bed with the place looking as if Hunter S. Thompson had been camped on your couch for the last month, and wake up to July. Most people would just look at the waves of dumpster fires rolling by and say “Well, that’s the last time I freebase Preparation H.” Around here, we say “Well, until Jimi Hendrix and Joey Ramone ride up on tyrannosaurs and ask about using the place as background for a music video, it’s time to get back to work.” Good thing, too: I don’t have time to put in a watering trough in this heat, much less make sure that the parking lot is shoveled clean after they leave.

As with everyone else, this year has had one motto: “Aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy, what do you think of Dallas?” Let’s start with the bad news, and the good news will attend to itself.

Welp, to start, those looking forward to Triffid Ranch shows and events in 2020 are going to face more disappointment. Because Texas Governor Greg Abbott continues to plagiarize state policy on COVID-19 from a 1974 teleplay, we’re looking at state cases exploding to the point where most events for 2020 are preemptively cancelled through Texas and elsewhere. The big news came last week, when both the Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in New Orleans and the Houston Horror Film Festival had to reschedule for 2021. Unfortunately, they’re running on the same exact weekend, and that’s a week after the Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in Austin, and since being in multiple places simultaneously isn’t an option at the moment, attendance at both depends upon what happens in 2022. The situation stinks (the plan was that New Orleans was going to be the first Triffid Ranch event outside of Texas, as well as being an opportunity to show off work to New Orleans friends whom I haven’t seen since 2000), but safety is utmost, and Nola and Houston folks should look to both of those shows next June as great opportunities by great people.

And other shows? Right now, the only still-scheduled 2020 shows on the itinerary are Texas Frightmare Weekend and NARBC Arlington in September and AquaShella Dallas on Halloween, and everything is contingent upon whether shows like these are safe by then. As always, keep checking back: because everyone else will know as I do.

As for events at the gallery, now here’s where things get interesting. The porchside Flash Sales continue through July and probably through the end of October, or as long as weather allows, and appointments for larger enclosure viewings and commission consultations are still available. The big acid test is going to be the currently very tentative plan to open up for an open house for the gallery’s fifth anniversary on August 20: besides masks and gloves, watching as other galleries and museums are opening with individuals and small groups coming through in 15-to-30-minute blocks is probably going to be the way to go. It won’t allow people to hang out all night and talk, and food and drink definitely won’t be an option, but so long as city, county, and state regulations continue to allow operation with reasonable precautions, it’s better than nothing at all. Again, as details work themselves out, they’ll be shared. (If you can’t make it, or if you have additional reasons to self-isolate, well, that’s what video is for: aside from lots of new video on the YouTube channel, it’s time to dust off the Twitch channel and hold some more streaming events. It’s just that other things got in the way.)

And as a final note, as aggravating, irritating, and terrifying as the last four months have been, there’s one good iridium lining, other than having plenty of time to study further developments in museum and zoo design. A lot of the plans set in place at the end of 2019 were dependent upon a lot of big shows between March and July clearing out space for new projects, and those plans turning back into pumpkins and mice means that now is a perfect time to conduct a stem-to-stern renovation of the gallery space. The recent renovation and removal of the old AC unit and replacement with a vastly improved unit makes this considerably easier, as well as making a future opening considerably safer. If everything works out, expect a seriously changed look to the gallery in time for its fifth anniversary: it’s about time for a change, and it’s not as if either a day job or a failing AC are getting in the way of that happening.

Flash Sale: July 12, 2020

Personal interlude: the summer of 1980 was my first summer in the Dallas area. For those either unfamiliar with the area or who weren’t around when that summer hit us all like the fist of an angry god, June 1980 was when most of the records on summer heat were broken and reset. That was the summer that confirmed that all of the plans made for local reservoirs and other water sources after the Drought of Record in 1952-1956 were, if anything, a little conservative. It was a summer of endless “you know it’s hot when…” jokes, and calls to Hell, Michigan to confirm that Dallas was indeed hotter than Hell, and plans to fry up bacon and eggs on the hood of a ’76 Pinto. For me, personally, it was a summer of experiencing that heat on a very personal level while delivering papers for the late, much-missed Dallas Times Herald: since the Herald was an afternoon paper in my area until September 1980, the day’s papers arrived right about the time we were breaking another heat record. Although Sunday’s paper was delivered in the morning, that didn’t much help, as things were just starting to cool off just before dawn, and the rise of the yellow orb meant that we could expect more of the same in the new day. This was the summer of understanding the limits of human endurance, the necessities of proper hydration, and appreciation of the habits of Gila monsters. (Spending 90 percent of my life underground, emerging only to suck eggs and eat baby bunnies, and confront enemies with a venomous bite has served me well over the intervening four decades.)

All of this, in a roundabout way, is preamble to thanking everyone who comes out each week for the Sunday Flash Sales. I know it’s hot even at sunrise, I know the glare is oppressive, and I’d love for the current Dallas County lockdown to be lifted, knowing that everyone would be safe to wander freely, and host more gallery open houses. I’d love to be able to come out to shows and events throughout the state and let everyone peruse plants in air-conditioned splendor. I also know that the overwhelming majority of attendees, both customers and interested bystanders, understand that until things are safe or at least a lot safer, the Flash Sales are about the best way to go. Thank you all, and I’ll see you and friends at the next Flash Sale on July 19.

I’m Living In My Own Private Tanelorn: the HVAC Edition

Very much as with home ownership, commercial property leasing is one of those things where beginners often don’t know what they’re getting themselves in for. For the last three years the Triffid Ranch has been in its present location, most issues with that location were relatively easy, especially compared to its first space. (There’s nothing quite like discovering that the owner of Valley View Center was refusing to let the Dallas Fire Marshall inspect the fire suppression system, right on the heels of the air conditioning system blowing out during the hottest November in Texas recorded history and said owner refusing to repair it for a full month.) It’s the little things that surprise you, and if you’re lucky, they reveal themselves just before they become catastrophic failures. Such is the story of the Triffid Ranch air conditioning system.

With many commercial properties in the state of Texas, any improvements to the property other than common areas (driveways, parking lots, access ramps, and the like) must be paid for by the tenant. Necessities such as electricity are maintained and updated either by the property or the utility supplying it, but everything else falls to the purview of the renter. Want to replace bare concrete floors with carpet or wooden flooring? That’s on the renter. Replace fixtures such as sinks and toilets? The renter. For the most part, we cheerily go to work, installing break areas, adding lighting, and doing all sorts of other things to make the space liveable and pleasant, and the question is always “how badly do you need this?”

And this is where the air conditioner comes in. When we moved in, we knew the gallery’s existing air conditioner was a bit, say, chronologically challenged. When installed back in 1987, the individual who paid for it went with the absolute cheapest system s/he could get, which meant a system that cooled the front vestibule, where Caroline’s space is currently located, and a side room that was apparently an executive’s office. Everywhere else, you got what you got, which meant that summers required lots of fans. This also meant that between May and October, that little unit was pretty much on day and night, just to keep the inside area liveable. Things weren’t helped by what could be called “enthusiastic nonmaintenance”: when we moved in, the air filter on the AC unit apparently hadn’t been changed in years, said filter was held in place with two old AC-to-DC power adaptors originally used for a long-removed security system, and the previous tenant had managed to get a ridiculous amount of glitter and most of a blue feather boa into the vents. (That story comes later, because it’s even weirder than you’d expect.) When we had problems with the system three years ago, a thorough cleaning improved the situation somewhat, but we knew that eventually the whole unit would need replacement. In Texas, having an operational AC unit, even one as kludgy and obsolete as this on was, was a necessity for survival for three months out of the year.

Even before the days of COVID-19, the plan was to replace the AC in the gallery before the summer heat got going, as open houses during the summer were already a bit sultry when the place filled with people. However, circumstances led to an acceleration of the plan. Just before the July 4 holiday, the whole old AC unit froze up, leading to water leaking from underneath the unit, and an inspection led to the discovery that the unit coils were rusting out. It may have remained intact through the summer, and it might not have survived July. The compressor on the roof was just as old, just as rickety, and just as ready for failure, and replacing the indoor unit would likely lead to a failure compressor, again in the height of the July repair season. After consulting with our AC rep (anyone needing contact info is welcome to ask), the plan was to replace the whole mess with a new, larger indoor unit and a new compressor, offering nearly twice the cooling power with considerably lessened power consumption. More importantly, because of the surprisingly cool and rainy weather in this first week, switching it out quickly was imperative.

The upshot? The unit still needs some additional work to bring everything up to code, but the difference is amazing. Even in the worst heat, not only does the new unit do so much more to cool the main gallery area, but IT DOESN’T RUN ALL DAY AND NIGHT. Obviously, the real acid test will be to check its performance during a packed open house, which may be a while, but this takes pressure off both attendees and the plants. The plants, in particular, appreciate the sudden coolth. Now let’s wait until it’s reasonably safe to have indoor events to test the system’s limits.

Enclosures: “The Doors of Durin” (2020)

Doors of Durin carnivorous plant enclosure

The commission assignment: a birthday present that combined a recreation of the Doors of Durin from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, a Nepenthes pitcher plant enclosure, a potentially amphibian-safe herp enclosure, and a low-maintenance water feature. This required a living wall of sphagnum moss, both a waterfall and reservoir that would be resistant to clogging and safe for adding amphibians, an ultrasonic fogger for regular fogging effects, and a laser-etched acrylic backdrop that would both glow under placed LED lights and be easy to clean. Delivered on June 26, the end client was extremely surprised: further additions, once the sphagnum wall is established and live, include adding terrestrial bladderworts alongside the Nepenthes.

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

Plant: Nepenthes sanguinea

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

Price: Commission

Shirt Price: Commission

Doors of Durin carnivorous plant enclosure with fog effect
Nepenthes sanguinea

Flash Sale: June 21, 2020

After shifting the schedule from afternoon to morning, the Sunday Flash Sales have been so popular that they’re continuing through July, with no break for the July 4 weekend. Between the isolation of the gallery porch and the remarkably reasonable morning temperatures as of late, this seems to make everyone the happiest. The last Flash Sale of June is June 28: after that, expect some surprises in the months to come.

(And as a sidenote, some may have noted that running photos of happy customers has been a constant for Triffid Ranch events and shows pretty much from the beginning. It’s also time to emphasize that these photos aren’t mandatory. I’ll ask if it’s okay, but if you aren’t, that’s completely understandable. If you are, though, feel free to bring your best masks, because it’s time to pull out the fancy dress. This is a public service and online privacy announcement, made due to concerns that Flash Sale photos might be used for other purposes. Under no circumstance will unauthorized images be published on this site, nor will authorized ones be used for any sort of additional promotion or advertising without written permission of the photographed.)

Flash Sale: May 31, 2020

So the month ended the way it began: low-key but with a promise. North Texas generally has a 50/50 chance of hitting really hot temperatures by the end of May, and we missed that by about a week. The spring sale and show season thus ended on a high note, and now it’s all about making plans for summer, as best as can be managed.

As mentioned previously, the Flash Sales will start again in June, but not the weekend of June 7. Between completing commissions, hosting gallery appointments, and some essential maintenance, June 7 is a day off, with the Flash Sales starting again on June 14 from 6:00 am to noon. Keep an eye open for announcements on another virtual open house in June as well: the issues with launching video stream open houses in April are behind us, and it’s time to get busy.

Flash Sale: May 24, 2020

Some days, you get the hailstorm, and some days, the hail storm gets you. The biggest problem with trying a flash sale on Memorial Day weekend wasn’t the incipient holiday Monday or the likelihood of people sleeping in on a Sunday. The problem was with the wave of thunderstorms that hit Dallas that Sunday, complete with occasional hail. This wasn’t the best Flash Sale to date, but considering the walls of water that hit the gallery over and over that afternoon, it’s completely understandable that almost everyone stayed home and watched something that reminded them of drier conditions.

With that said, thank you to everyone who risked engine flooding to come out, and the current weather forecast for the May 31 Flash Sale is considerably better. Expect a lot of new plants that you missed from last Sunday’s dousing, and enjoy what will probably be our last relatively cool Sunday afternoon until the beginning of October. (Don’t worry: the Sunday Flash Sales will continue: they’re just moving to Sundays from 6:00 am to noon, because precious few people will want to be out after noon through July and August.)

May 24, 2020: Yet Another Flash Sale

The Texas Triffid Ranch Flash Sales continue: the May 17 Flash Sale coincided with a stunning day after about 24 hours of thunderstorms and torrential rains, so the porch opened up again, masks came out, and a grand time was had by all. Old friends came out, folks who came across the Triffid Ranch booth at Spooky Spectacle and Texas Frightmare Weekend last year, and new patrons looking for carnivorous plants…everyone was welcome.

With the impending change in weather, we’re looking at changes in how both the Flash Sales and the ongoing gallery visit appointments will be run for the foreseeable future. Right now, Saturdays will be an appointment open call: visits still require prior appointments, but the idea is that Saturdays are reserved exclusively for appointments, so coming out to select a new enclosure can be done throughout the day. As for the Flash Sales, these are going to continue through June and July, but they’re going to start early in the morning and end at noon: there’s not much point in being out in the heat when everyone else is avoiding the afternoon Texas blast furnace as well. As always, keep an eye on upcoming events: so long as the weather holds, the Flash Sales continue.

(One hint for the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend sale: everyone seems to be in the mood for Sarracenia pitcher plants right now, and that’s next weekend’s focus. Expect to see a lot of Sarracenia on Sunday, because most of last year was spent preparing for a record run of Triffid Ranch shows, and the pitcher plants won’t wait for show season to start back up. In particular, if you’re looking for a lot of plants for a container bog garden, that can be worked out.)

State of the Gallery: May 2020

The first third of 2020 has been quite the decade, hasn’t it? We should be thankful: it hasn’t gone full Mad Max: Fury Road (or even the Canadian version), and the current federal plan to open up everything was named “Operation Warp Speed” instead of the obvious “Operation Impending Doom 1”. Things are opening up slightly, and so many of us have gone from “hunkering down and waiting for instructions” to “taking care of each other because nobody else will.” Of course, we haven’t hit Memorial Day Weekend yet: as I learned 40 years ago this June, all bets are off when things start to get hot outside.

As for the gallery, both the need to care for plants and the need to reorganize continues, and the last two months led to a lot of cleaning and reorganizing, the likes of which haven’t happened since we first moved in three years ago. The reorganizing of supplies and accessories meant rediscovering all sorts of things buried in odd places, and their rediscovery means being able to use them all up. To that end, expect to see a lot of new enclosures, both originals and commissions (the latest commission is going to be a special surprise, so keep an eye open for updates), if and when things stabilize.

As far as activities at the gallery are concerned, for obvious reasons, the open houses aren’t going to be an option for a while, but the Flash Sales on the gallery front porch continue through the whole month of May. They may continue in the mornings through the summer: everything depends upon the weather, and trying to conduct anything in the afternoon and evening between the middle of June and the beginning of October in North Texas is just folly. In the meantime, they’ll run every Sunday in May from noon to 6:00 pm, always with a mask and a smile for car-side pickup.

Outside events continue to get interesting. As of May 15, the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo is still scheduled for the end of June, but everything depends upon both the city of Dallas and the state of Texas as to whether it gets rescheduled. That already happened with the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo: all convention events in Austin have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, so this year’s show was rescheduled for June 2021. The same applies for shows rescheduled for August and September: things may stabilize enough to allow big events to go on, and they may not, and all we can do is wait for word.

Because of that uncertainty, expect a lot of virtual events, especially now that a lot of the initial technical issues with the Twitch TV channel have been rectified. Well, kinda: Twitch still has issues with its tablet app freezing up at the end of a stream and not saving the preceding stream for later viewing, so it was time to join the early 2000s and start a YouTube channel as well. There’s not much there yet, as it just started, but expect a lot of strangeness in the very near future, especially with demonstrations of fluorescence in North American and Asian pitcher plants, as well as fluorescence in blooms you wouldn’t expect. (Most Americans have never seen an aloe bloom, so just wait to see what one looks like to a hawkmoth or hummingbird. It’s high time to crack out the fluorescent mineral lights that were just unearthed during the storeroom cleanup. (It’s also time to give the crew at Glasstire their five-minute virtual tour, so there’s that, too.)

Other than that, the main focus is getting everything ready for something resembling normal operation, and now that the shelter-in-place order over Dallas County has been lifted, the Triffid Ranch reopens by appointment. It’s time to get back to work.

(And before you ask, the cat at the top of the page is Benji, the greenhouse cat. No, I don’t know his real name. No, he isn’t mine: he has a collar and a tag, so he belongs to someone else. All I know is that most mornings, I find him camped out in the greenhouse, and he has a thing about perching on one of the benches and giving me the perfect Japanese cat print smile. I just can’t take a picture of it, because the moment he sees a camera or phone, he demands attention and ruins the shot. He and my cat Alexandria also apparently have a relationship: she has no interest in going outside, but she loves to camp out in the closed garage and talk to him through the garage door. Things could always be worse.)