Category Archives: Gallery

State of the Gallery: April 2021

Ah, it’s not an April without drastic environmental and social change, usually with multiple situations happening at once. April 2021 keeps on keepin’ on, and it’s only halfway finished.

Before getting into details on the gallery, please note a very important caveat on any plans involving the Triffid Ranch. Caroline’s mother Nancy, an essential part of the gallery’s beginnings (some of you may have met her when she would come to early Triffid Ranch shows before the gallery, and a regular guest at open houses and events after the gallery first opened), has been in hospice for a while, and her condition continues to deteriorate. Her situation and continued comfort is paramount in our lives right now, so please understand if we don’t answer questions right away or can’t schedule appointments at this time.

On that line, because we need to be in close range if she needs additional help, any Triffid Ranch events by necessity will be close and brief. Because of news this morning, we’ve had to cancel attending the Plano Music & Arts Fest this weekend, and will make it up by rescheduling last weekend’s planned Porch Sale for Sunday, April 18. If you can’t make it this Sunday, barring further mishap, the Manchester United Flower Show runs on Sunday, April 25 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm as well.

(As for last Sunday’s last-minute Porch Sale cancellation, chalk that up to complications of being a responsible adult. As of last Saturday, I became a fully vaccinated adult human, and didn’t have any issue for the rest of the day other than a slight ache in my left shoulder. About 18 hours later, though, the oft-noted side effects for COVID-19-susceptible Moderna vaccine recipients kicked in, with severe fever, joint and muscle aches, and generally all of the non-lung side effects of a severe bout of viral pneumonia. As uncomfortable as it was, having as bad a reaction as this signified that my cells were more susceptible than most to a COVID-19 infection, and severe weakness and pain is a lot better than death. Now that those side effects finally wore off, it’s back to outdoor shows, absolutely with masks at all times to make sure.)

Through May, that’s going to be an ongoing situation: weekly events at the gallery and a relative minimum of events away. That’s not an absolute (there’s no way I’d miss the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin in June, for instance), but between weather fluctuations and some truly ridiculous booth fees for local events, staying home and setting up at the gallery makes more sense. In fact, as these take off, it may be time to invite other vendors, just to give others a chance to get back into setup and breakdown practice.

Finally, some other good news. The ongoing contest to give away one of three custom carnivorous plant enclosures to a local business continues until April 21, and participants are finally understanding that it’s not a scam nor a data mining attempt. Final voting starts week after next, where everyone’s encouraged to vote for their favorites, but feel free to let friends and cohorts know before then. Now let’s see about getting those enclosures new homes.

New Triffid Ranch Events – April 2021

Because people are already asking about upcoming events at the gallery, the Eventbrite listings for both next weekend’s Porch Sale and the Manchester United Flower Show on April 25 are now live, so feel free to share them early and often. Right now, everything is starting at 10:00 am and ending at 4:00 pm, but that will likely change after the beginning of May, weather willing. You really don’t want to be outside in Dallas on a late Sunday afternoon in July, do you?

The State of the Gallery: March 2021

Enthusiasts of old arcade games may remember the short lifespan of virtual-reality shooter games in the early 1990s. The most common was a contraption where each player stood atop a small platform, wearing a helmet and a chest rig with an attached gun and movement switch. When the game started, the idea was to shoot your opponent: the gun allowed five shots before it attracted a five-polygon “pterodactyl” that was declared to be immune to gunfire. The movement switch was a rocker switch that moved you back and forth, and you physically turned to go another direction. These never really took off due to the limitations of image rendering software and hardware at the time: even slight head movements had a delay between the movement and when the video screens in each helmet replicated it, leading to overcompensation to get a response and a horrible “here we GOOOO!” sensation that scared to death anybody ever afflicted with labyrinthitis or inner ear infections. It was possible to beat this and learn to move at a minimum, but that required both an exceptional level of patience to wait in line for another chance and an exceptional wallet, and most people tried it once, went back to Tetris, and forgot all about it.

For some reason, this sums up the month of March in most years. After all, remember the famed gallery move of 2017?

This year, March started hot and just kept going, and we’re going to keep up the momentum through the rest of the year. 2020 allowed a great opportunity to organize space and time for maximum efficiency in shows and events, so they’re going to happen a lot more often this year. In addition, as existing shows keep rescheduling and venues start to reopen, the events calendar keeps changing.

One of the things that’s changing is an emphasis on events at the actual gallery, starting in April. Between booth fees, truck rentals, and accommodations costs for out-of-Dallas shows, as well as an ever-increasing percentage of show attendees refusing to wear masks, and having more events but at the gallery makes more sense. In addition, the weather for the next two months should be so wonderful, as it usually is, that holding events outdoors makes perfect sense. Right now, the plan is to keep up the regular Sunday 10am-to-4pm schedule because that seems to work for so many folks, and when things get too hot to consider having events outdoors, we’ll just move inside. We might spice this up during holiday weekends, particularly Memorial Day and Labor Day, but expect only the occasional break in the schedule for other events. For April, though, make plans for April 11 and April 25, the latter of which should be a perfect time for the next Manchester United Flower Show.

With the reopening of businesses and venues throughout the greater Dallas area, it’s also time to shake things up and clear out some room needed for new enclosures. For those business owners and office managers wanting a really good excuse to get a Triffid Ranch enclosure but not ready to rent, keep an eye open for an upcoming contest to win a free Triffid Ranch enclosure for your venue, no strings attached. (Well, some strings: people would probably love to see it in its new location.) 2020 was an especially busy year for new enclosures, so it’s definitely time to find new homes: if you’ve had a crush on a specific enclosure but haven’t quite planned to make a commitment, make plans now.

In the meantime, the spring shows continue. March 27 is the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park, running from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; the next weekend, April 3, it’s time to head out to Justin for the Frightmare Collectibles Spring Slasher Camp outdoor event, running from 11am to 9pm. Naturally, this means lots and lots of time in the gallery in the interim, and for these two, it’ll always be worth it.

And one last thing. For the last several years, the technology side of the Triffid Ranch has been a little, erm, lacking, mostly due to a comparable lack of resources. The Twitch streams particularly suffered: contrary to the official company line, the Twitch app for iPads is great for receiving (the Friday night events by Dallas’s own Panoptikon are proof of this) but terrible for broadcast, causing things to freeze midstream and resetting only possible with a complete hard reboot. This has changed, with both the first new computer for Triffid Ranch work since 2011 (hey, it got the job done) and equipment to facilitate streaming events. Because of that, expect a lot more virtual events, all the way around. Those continue every Thursday at 8:00 pm Central Time, with the videos being available for later viewing at any time. Now time to get back to the linen mines.

The Aftermath: March 2021 Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour

If any one good thing came out of the kidney stone of a year that was 2020, it’s discovering that that increasing the number of Triffid Ranch events in a month doesn’t “dilute the brand” or similar MBAspeak. If anything, the sheer enthusiasm of new visitors to being able to come in and roll around in the plants for a while was intoxicating, and I suspect that the enthusiasm will only increase as immunization levels increase and people feel safe about attending events again. We aim to please at this: the rest of March and most of April will be packed solid.

As far as upcoming indoor shows are concerned, the regret is that they won’t be happening through the rest of March. That’s because the Texas Triffid Ranch hits the road over the next three weekends: March 20 starts off with a show at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas from 10:00 to 4:00 pm, followed by the big Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo show at Fair Park on March 27 from 10:00 to 6:00, and then by a trip out west to Justin, Texas for the Frightmare Collectibles outdoor event on April 3 from 11:00 to 9:00. After that, because of a long weekend with the Plano Music & Arts Festival on April 17 and 18, the timing for the big Manchester United Flower Show at the gallery depends upon how badly the big ice storm in February put everything into extended winter dormancy. Right now, based on what I’m seeing in the Sarracenia pools, it may have to be spread out between Sunday, April 11 and Sunday, April 25, just so everyone can see the range of blooms within plants. As always, keep checking back to verify, because as we know from last year, all sorts of things can happen.

In conclusion, many thanks to everyone who came out Sunday, especially the people with understandable anxiety about leaving their residences and risking going out. Your faith in us is incredibly appreciated, and we’ll keep working our best to make a Triffid Ranch open house as safe as possible. Heck, thanks to you, the gallery is the cleanest it’s been since it opened in its current location, and that’s something that needs to continue.

An Important Note About COVID-19 Safety

By now, most of the world knows about Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement about ending the current COVID-19 lockdown and relaxing mandates on both mask use and social distancing in indoor spaces. In response, many businesses through the state have announced that they are continuing to follow Center for Disease Control guidelines on both, and the Texas Triffid Ranch stands with them. Until the CDC recommends that enough individuals have been vaccinated that masks and social distancing are no longer necessary, both will continue at Triffid Ranch events for the foreseeable future. Both indoor and outdoor events will require mandatory masks over both nose and mouth, and anyone refusing to respect this will be asked to leave.

With care and consideration, this won’t be an issue soon, especially based on current reports of vaccine production and distribution. However, both as someone who has lost several dear friends to COVID-19, and someone whose track record of past respiratory distress makes him a prime candidate for demonstrating “anybody can cough up blood, but coughing up urine takes TALENT,” the current mask requirement for Triffid Ranch events is not negotiable, so please don’t. On the brighter side, it’s possible to be both safe and stylish, as demonstrated with the examples above, and we enthusiastically welcome mask wearers at future events. Thank you very much for your assistance and consideration in this matter, and here’s hoping that masks and disinfection won’t be necessary before the year is out.

The Aftermath: The Rescheduled February 2021 Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour

Lots of anniversaries this last Sunday. February 28 marked four years since the Texas Triffid Ranch finished pulling out the last contents out of the old Valley View Center location. It also marked two weeks since the beginning of what’s generally referred to as Ice Storm Uri, and what most of Texas can describe in about 45 minutes of profanities without repeating a single term. Best of all, it marks a solid week of power at the gallery, with the discovery that for many of the plants, a near-week of utter darkness and near-freezing cold set off a growth spurt once the light and heat returned. As such, it was a perfect time to run the rescheduled February Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour: we had lots of rain, but we can deal with rain.

If the delays had any additional benefit, it was the opportunity to finish several enclosures that had remained in various stages of the artistic equivalent of Development Hell, with their being planted this week. (Expect details and backstory this week as well.) Between this and the aforementioned explosion in new growth, the next few weeks, especially with the beginning of Triffid Ranch show season at the end of March, could be very interesting.

As for the next Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour? That’s currently up in the air, but we’re definitely making plans for a March event, and a few other options may open as shows begin considering opening in the wake of COVID-19 vaccinations. Stay tuned.

Icepocalypse 2021: The Aftermath

Back in the beginning of 1972, almost the whole of the state of Michigan was hit with subsequent ice storms that shut down significant portions of the state. What was odd was that they kept hitting hard enough to cut power and phone service, at the same time every day for most of a week. Kids were back home from school, most adults were home from work, and just as everyone made plans to sit down for dinner and listen to the wind raging on the other side of the windows, everything went dark. Again. Those with fireplaces made sure after two days of this to have the fire lit and ready to go, and those who didn’t, including my father, made plans to put one in as soon as possible. Being just short of six, my biggest concern at the time was our 9-inch black-and-white television and its ability to keep up its main job as cultural center during the blackouts, and the storms had the preternatural ability of cutting power right at the same moment that our NBC affiliate started running its regular afternoon rerun of Star Trek. In fact, that issue became so pronounced that by the end, the station manager of that TV station came on to announce that he and his crew had done everything they could to keep broadcasting but the storms had defeated them, and he was on the air just to let his viewership know that they were going to try one more time. Maybe it’s southern Michigan and maybe it’s a week of horrendous storms that left everything covered with flowing ice, but I’m pretty sure that the cheers in that little house when the end credits ran were multiplied across the greater Lansing/Jackson/Flint area.

After the last two weeks, I know exactly how that station manager felt. Come to think of it, I think I’m the same age he was at that time.

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of noting that now that the Dallas area is going back to its presumably normal weather, and we’re reasonably sure not to get another week of Last Week until the end of November, the February Multi-Holiday Carnivorous Plant Tour scheduled for February 14 is still on for February 28. Okay, so Valentine’s Day, the beginning of Chinese New Year, and Fat Tuesday are over and done, but last week hit the reset button, and my birthday is still on for February 30. Besides, it’s time to debut several new enclosures, and this will be one of the last indoor tours before we start outdoor shows in April, so we welcome you to give it another shot. The current weather forecast predicts rain for the whole weekend, but we can do rain. Let’s hope we don’t have to do this level of snow and ice for a long, long time.

State of the Gallery: February 2021

This WAS going to be a boring little missive about the state of the Texas Triffid Ranch, with maybe a few comments on getting through the past year unscathed and making plans for the rest of 2021. Sprinkle on a few snide comments about the plants and their inability to even faster, and cover with a sigh that we were probably going to see an early Sarracenia blooming season because of the quiet winter. You know, like last year. Say what you want about 2020, but last winter was as gentle as moleskin sandals and half as cold. Seriously: all through January and February, the only concern? Rain. We barely got to freezing temperatures in the Dallas area, and by the time of the NARBC spring show at the end of February, the winter coats, barely touched, went back into the closet barely used.

For those three people who were trapped in a pocket universe for the last week and were so isolated from outside information that you flipped coins as to entertaining yourselves with readings from The Wit of Gardner Dozois or just jamming burning caltrops into your eyes, last week started out about as well as you’d expect, meteorologically speaking. The upcoming forecast suggested that things could get colder over the weekend, with a chance of snow, but residents know that this could go any number of ways. Yes, we could have seen snow, but we also could have seen sunny skies and jogging shorts temperatures. Even by midweek, we had reason to worry, but this was leavened by the understanding that we were reasonably prepared for what was coming. Yes, a stockup on groceries was prudent, and so was filling up the car’s gas tank. Make sure the pets were inside. Cover the outside faucets and bring in plants that couldn’t handle two days of freezing weather. We did all that. If anything, the ongoing shift to working from home made things easier, because this way everything didn’t stop dead once the roads turned into skating rinks. Bring home the laptop, check the home wifi connection, and plan to stay inside and off the roads until the snow and ice dripped away. If you did have a control freak of a manager who insisted that you had to come into the office, the idea was to stay away from iced-over bridges and follow the lead of the sand trucks that were already making plans to hit the slickest spots in the area.

After all, we’d had major cold waves before. December 1983 was so cold that Galveston Harbor froze over, but we got through that. February 1985 was when police throughout Texas discovered that the state didn’t have a law banning the use of snowmobiles on roads and freeways, an oversight that was quickly rectified by the Texas Legislature. December 1989 had especial significance for me, as we hit our coldest temperature in recorded history on the day I transported a movie poster-sized sheet of glass on foot, sliding on ice down a hill toward my apartment, for a present for my then-girlfriend, only to have it crack inside the apartment from thermal stress. Our greatest snowfall since the Pleistocene in February 2010 was as close to a weather disaster as we’d had in Dallas since the 1909 flood, as trees never before exposed to heavy snowfall disintegrated and exploded under the weight of a foot of the best snowball snow we’d ever seen. We were ready, though, right? Trees were pruned, sand reserves were allocated, and everyone carried around little pocket computers that could give them immediate information on everything from traffic routes to where to call to report power outages. We were good to go, right?

Right?

The plan, pre-snow, was to open the gallery for a joint Valentine’s Day/Lunar New Year open house on February 14, and that plan stayed true until the first snow started on the 13th. By midday that Saturday, the temperature dropped enough that the safety of attendees coming in from Fort Worth and Denton was at risk, so the Carnivorous Plant Tour was rescheduled for February 28 and everything else would resume after the snow melted off. The gallery heaters were working and working well, the automation for plant lights and foggers went off without any issue, and everyone had been informed about the change, so the doors closed on Saturday night, with everyone reasonably sure that everything would be up and running by Tuesday at the latest. That was the idea, anyway.

Record cold, we were prepared for. Snow, we were prepared for. Nobody was prepared, though, for these combined with an electrical grid run by incompetents for greedheads, with no plans for winterizing because Texas (lack of) regulations didn’t require them. The power first went out on Monday morning at about 2:30, and at first it was the gentle hope that “okay, the power is out for a bit, but it’ll come back on.” Hours later, we were firsthand playtesters of James Burke’s technology trap warnings, where the power came on for about three hours and then cut out again. Then it stayed off, just in time for the Dallas area to come neck-and-neck with its all-time record low temperature. After that, more snow.

Compared to many in the area, we were lucky: as temperatures inside the house dipped toward freezing, friends who had just reestablished power invited us to stay there and to bring the cats. That worked until about 2:30 Wednesday morning, when the power cut out over there, combined with cell phone towers losing power because their emergency generators were running out of fuel. We all evacuated that house, we took the cats back home, and finally saw power come back late Wednesday evening.

The upshot is that the gallery and the plants are in good health, even after four days without power. Between being sandwiched between two other locales and my weatherproofing the rear exit, everything inside the gallery came through without problems by the time power was restored on Wednesday evening. (Using a generator wasn’t an option because of a lack of exhaust options, and propane heaters have a little problem with carbon monoxide buildup indoors that really isn’t good for anybody checking up on them.) The outdoor plants in winter dormancy, such as the Sarracenia pitcher plants and the Venus flytraps, are going to take a lot longer to come out of dormancy after this, but there’s hope that everything will come through without major problems.

The really funny part about all of this, in classic gallows fashion, is that from a precipitation standpoint, you’ll barely know this happened by next week. Already the people behind the outages that hit almost the entire state are either blaming wind and solar generators or screaming “But what about…”, and they have the advantage of most of the state going back to February-normal temperatures by next Monday and everyone forgetting by Wednesday. The snow has turned into slush, and the slush will eventually melt into the storm drains, and our biggest hope right now is that we get some regular rain to wash all of that road sand off the streets before it turns Dallas into another Dust Bowl. (Trust me: the road dust after our big ice storm in 1996 made people mistake Dallas for Phoenix.) As far as the gallery is concerned, we got through, but I’m definitely looking at potential battery backups to keep lights and heat going, if only for a few additional hours if this happens again. The week-long power outage after the Dallas area was hit by tornadoes in 2018 should have been a sufficient warning.

After this week, any other gallery discussion is best relegated to “Aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy, what do you think of Dallas?” Now it’s time to get back to work.

Reschedule: moving the Carnivorous Plant Tour to February 28

The closer to Sunday we get, the worse the weather promises to get, and it’s not getting better all week. Because everyones’ lives are much more important than any open house, we’re rescheduling the Carnivorous plant Tour for Sunday, February 28, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and cancelling all appointments until after things thaw. In the meantime, stay inside and stay warm, and we’ll catch you all when it’s safe to go on Dallas roads without a snowmobile.

State of the Gallery: January 2021

It’s hard not to start every State of the Gallery update with “Well,” but “Well.” January, as it has for the last decade, always has surprises. For perspective, it was four years ago that we got the notice that Valley View Center was coming down in a month and we and every other gallery owner and operator had to pack up and move. Four years later, Valley View is still standing, and so is the Texas Triffid Ranch. (Interestingly, we had tentative plans to move from Valley View to the Collin Creek Mall in Plano in 2016, and Collin Creek is in the final stages of demolition in preparation for the same live/shop open mall that Valley View was supposed to become by the beginning of 2019.) Makes you think.

For those who haven’t been indulging in the winter carnivore cleanup season, things may appear nice and quiet, but that’s because of plans for spring. Among many other developments, it’s time to spread word about the Triffid Ranch enclosure rental program, for businesses, medical and dental professionals, teachers, and anybody else wanting short-term commitments for carnivorous plant ambience. This is in addition to getting started for the new commission season, which already promises to slurp up what I laughingly call “discretionary personal time.” We should all have such problems.

As far as events are concerned, we’re going slowly and carefully, especially since efforts at COVID-19 vaccination in most of Texas are best described in British comedy metaphors. Since January’s Carnivorous Plant Tour went swimmingly in both attendance and sanitation protocols, we’re going to try again on Sunday, February 14 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm for a joint Lunar New Year/St. Valentine’s Day plant tour, with plans for showing a whole new collection of carnivore enclosures at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Fair Park on March 27. It’s also time to restart the virtual events, definitely starting in February, for those who don’t have the opportunity to come to Dallas at this time.

And speaking of COVID-19, it’s time to crack out the bleach wipes and the extra masks, as the new day job is requiring a road trip. Specifically, I’ll be in New Jersey, right on the other side of the river from Philadelphia, for the first week in February, so appointments have to be delayed until afterwards. While the usual run of bookstore and curio shop ransacking is decidedly unsafe right now, the idea is to be able to meet folks in the area, with appropriate social distancing, and even talk to a couple of carnivore breeders in the area about new surprises for 2021. At least, that’s the idea: I haven’t been above the Mason-Dixon Line in January since 1997, and I’ve been far enough away from places where the air hurts my face in January that I might spend the whole time looking for a nice bonfire to crawl into. We’ll see what happens.

Finally, a hint on new enclosures: since nobody has said we aren’t having Texas Frightmare Weekend at the end of April/beginning of May, the plan is to have several new enclosures debut there and at the Oddities & Curiosities Expos in Dallas and Austin this year. Keep an eye out for the big one for Frightmare: let’s just say that building it around a Nepenthes diabolica will be particularly appropriate. See you soon.

The Aftermath: Carnivorous Plants In January 2021

After a much-needed gap to reorganize and restock, the first Carnivorous Plant Tour of 2021 ran on January 24. Of course, it’s not a Triffid Ranch event without torrential rains and thunderstorms, including what was either very early-for-the-season hail or an attempt at sleet, but that didn’t affect the enthusiasm of those daring the storms to do their worst.

In other developments, this gave a great opportunity for visitors to see the full gallery before individual enclosures go out for rental in February. With more enclosures going out, it’s time to make more, and it may be time for a sale of established enclosures in February in order to make room for new works.

For those who missed the fun, the next Carnivorous Plant Tour is a joint Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year celebration on February 14, running from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and outdoor shows should start up again at the end of March, coinciding with the return of the Dallas Oddities and Curiosities Expo on March 27. With luck, we won’t get flooded out for the next Plant Tour, the way we nearly did last year, but as usual the weather makes no promises.

2021: “And So It Begins…”

Okay, so you were kept up all Saturday night with a spectacular toothache, and the only option for a remedy involves visiting an emergency dentist first thing on a Sunday morning. Anaesthetics work, kindasorta, and the assessment recommends an immediate root canal if there’s any hope of saving the bicuspid. While trying to distract yourself from the sound of the drilling gear used to dig the Chunnel (and the desperate hope that, unlike the Chunnel, one drill isn’t left behind in the tooth) and the smell of burning indricothere bone, which half-heard phrase suddenly bolts you into full consciousness with a desperate search for a mirror to look for the eyebrows that buried themselves in the wall: “That’s a lot more pus than I was expecting” or “You know, we still have three days left on 2020”?

Don’t worry: I kid. Bring on the pus, now in a handy fire hose. Better that the whole office look like a set for an early Peter Jackson film than to have 2020 go on one more day than it has to.

The good news, besides 2020 going to that pit in which 2001, 1996, and 1973 belong, is that the new year is coming, complete with plans for future Triffid Ranch events. We’re currently shooting for Weekend Plant Tours on January 24 and February 14, both running from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and expect news on other events very shortly. In the meantime, it’s time to get back into the gallery and get to work.

Triffid Ranch Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours: December 27, 2020

And just like that, the holiday season is done. It’s been a long, unsure season within a very long, unsure year, but we’ve passed through to the other side, and now it’s time to get everything ready for the next one. And so it goes.

At this point, I would be remiss in not thanking everyone who came out to the gallery in 2020 for doing so: in a year as rough as this one, your coming by and validating the concept behind the Triffid Ranch is incredibly appreciated. Now it’s time to get back into the workshop and justify your returning.

As for new events, keep an eye open: right now, our main focus is going to be on taking care of some essential housekeeping before the end of the year, but we’ve also deliberated on what sort of events and when they’ll happen. Until then, stay well, stay safe, and we’ll see you in 2021.

The Aftermath: Christmas Carnivorous Plant Nightmares at the Texas Triffid Ranch 2020

After five years of trying to organize Christmas Eve events at the gallery and having everything fall through, things worked out. For a holiday eve in a pandemic, we had an enthusiastic audience, including a very dear old friend who finally got the chance to see the new gallery, and a very excited family toward the end of the night. For a town that pretty much shuts down on December 24 after 5:00 or so, it was a great way to finish off the season.

After this, it’s time to get back into the workshop for new enclosures. In particular, keep an eye open for a surprise involving a Nepenthes diabolica, a new species previously thought to be a color variation of the notorious Nepenthes hamata.

For those who missed out on this run, and for those who want a touch of post-Christmas green, the last of 2020’s Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours starts on Sunday, December 27 at 10:00 am, and shuts down at 4:00 pm. After that, we’re still trying to figure out plans for 2021, but we have ideas. Terrible, beautiful ideas.

Triffid Ranch Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours: December 20, 2020

Less than two weeks before the end of the most intense year in memory, and things continue to get interesting. The gallery debuted two new Nepenthes hybrids which will probably be very popular beginner plants over 2021, and it’s time to expand the diversity of bladderwort species in the gallery as well. If not for this pandemic thing, we’d probably do even more.

As a sidenote, the hope is to finish at least one more enclosure by the end of the year, thereby bringing the total constructed this year to at least 21. “20 in 2020” is just a little too weird.

And for those wanting one last dose for the year, the gallery will be open on Thursday, December 24 from 2:00 to 7:00 pm for last-minute shopping, and then again on Sunday, December 27 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm for post-holiday opportunities. Since we can’t have an anniversary party this year (and I’m pretty sure nobody bet on “18 years” in the Paul/Caroline marriage deadpool), this will have to do. See you then.

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions 2020 – 7

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

Listing holiday shopping options wouldn’t be complete without a shameless plug for the other half of the gallery, Caroline Crawford Originals. Many visitors to the gallery bypass the jewelry to get to the plants, but the wise ones take the time to stop and see what Caroline has to offer. Alternately, she has her own show and event schedule separate from Triffid Ranch events: last weekend was a little too cold for the plants at the Frightmare Collectibles Christmas Horror Market, but jewelry never sleeps.

For those wanting to see more, both the jewelry and plants will be open on December 24 from 2:00 pm to 7:00 Central time, and we’ll reopen for the post-holiday crowd for the last Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tour of 2020 on December 27 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Admission is free and masks are mandatory. And yes, there will be a LOT more jewelry on display at both.

“It’s ours this time…”

The plan was to remain open by appointment all week, and then the phone blew up this morning. To take care of last-minute shopping needs, as well as offer a quiet space for those already done with shopping, the Texas Triffid Ranch, in conjunction with Caroline Crawford Originals, is hosting the Christmas Carnivorous Plant Nightmares tour on December 24, 2020, from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Admission is free, masks are mandatory, and those who can’t make it are always welcome to come out on December 27 for the last of the 2020 Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours.

Please note: to be preemptive, while a large selection of beginner plants will be available, Venus flytraps are currently in winter dormancy and won’t be available until March. We apologize for the inconvenience.

State of the Gallery: December 2020

Well. Two weeks out before the end of 2020, a year deserving of many descriptions, and a few of those not being profanities. Depending upon who’s asking, this is either the last year of the last decade or the first year of the new; based on hard experience, years in the Gregorian calendar ending with “0” are generally ones of transition, a chronal chrysalis where the old decade is digested in order to set the form for the next. What sort of strange butterfly bursts free is a good question, because we usually don’t get an idea of what escaped until about halfway through the decade, and by then it’s too late to shove it back into the cocoon and let it cook for a while longer or set the cocoon on fire.

As to what the shiny new 2020s is going to bring the gallery, we’re in strange seas. Ten years ago, the gallery didn’t exist, and even five years ago, it was going through its own strange birth pains. Nearly four years ago, the whole shabeen moved to its present location, and it’s still undergoing reorganization and reevaluation to best utilize the space. That continues: this last summer’s massive renovation was just one stage, and those who remember the gallery back when it was still part of the Galleries at Midtown wouldn’t recognize it. This, of course, is a good thing.

One of the biggest changes in the last month, of course, is that your humble gallery operator just started a new day job. This honestly made gallery work much more productive, and the time spent every evening in the gallery gives spice to the next day’s work. As 2021 progresses, that should continue, especially as temperatures warm and the temperate carnivores start waking up.

As far as special gallery events and functions are concerned, everything right now depends both on the current onslaught of COVID-19 and the effectiveness of the currently approved vaccines intended to get it under control. Both the porch sales of last summer and autumn and the recent Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours allowed safe and secure events to be an option, and while we’re not sure exactly when events start again in January, rest assured that the break after December 27’s tour will be short and succinct.

Otherwise, this sounds like broken vinyl considering circumstances over the last few years, but it’s time to gear up for the new year. If — IF — vaccine use breaks the back of COVID-19, the show and event schedule won’t be as packed as the original plan for 2020, but it will definitely be more active than 2019. To that end, besides bringing in a whole new series of beginner Nepenthes hybrids (including the delightful hybrids “St. Gaya” and “Rebecca Soper,” the latter being the absolute purplish Nepenthes since the “Bill Bailey”), it’s time to get back to offering hot pepper bonsai again, as well as expanding gallery space to a new collection of butterwort, bladderwort, and sundew enclosures. The real vaccine we all need is one for sleep, because that’s the one thing getting in the way of new projects.

And one last note: this installment is dedicated to the memory of my uncle Charles “Corky” Graham, a huge influence on my sordid youth and a quiet reminder of humility and peace in adulthood. If you want to respect his memory, get any kid in your life a Spirograph: my memories of practicing with one, with his help, are memories I’ll cherish for the rest of my days. Hail and farewell.

Triffid Ranch Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours: December 13, 2020

We’re in the home stretch now. Nearly halfway through the month, at the end of the year, arguably at the end of an extremely tumultuous decade. Certainly, had you told 2010 Me that regular weekly carnivorous events would be both possible and popular, the look of disbelief would have been worthy of a greeting card. But there we go.

This weekend’s show was like most events in Dallas in December when torrential rains hit: rather slow at first, and then cabin fever overtakes the aggravation of driving in the rain. It ultimately led to quite a cross-section of first-time visitors, including a last-minute rush of viewers after the rain finally stopped.

The rest of the schedule for 2020 gets a bit interesting. Before the next gallery Plant Tour on December 20, it’s time for a sidetrip for the Frightmare Collectibles Christmas Horror Market in Justin on December 20, from 12 noon to 8:00 pm. (No plants because this is an outside show, and the emphasis will be on jewelry from Caroline Crawford Originals, but I will be out with Triffid Ranch posters for those asking for one, and everyone is welcome to come out to the Plant Tour on Sunday.) After that, the gallery will be open by appointment only during the week, but we’ll reopen for the last Plant Tour of the year on December 27. (Incidentally, this will also be a lowkey celebration of our 18th wedding anniversary: isn’t it amazing that I haven’t been turned into a bog mummy by now?) As for 2021, well, we’re still working on that.

The Aftermath: Triffid Ranch Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours, November 28 & 29, 2020

And now we’re in the thick of the holiday season. The good news is that the gallery is no longer in a shopping mall, and the better news is that a combination of considerate patrons and a vastly updated air circulation system means that the current gallery is much safer for indoor events than the old one was. (Well, that and the decided lack of asbestos.) The original plan was for one Plant Tour on Saturday the 28th, where upon finishing, I’d catch a plane for Philadelphia for training for a new day job, and then come back on December 11 for the next show. For obvious reasons, the flight has been delayed and I’m staying in Dallas, so we performed a rarity: being in Dallas and open on both Small Business Saturday and Artist Sunday. It worked out well.

In between Sunday plant tours, things are going to get awfully interesting this month. December will debut several new enclosures, including one that has been on the back burner for years, and expect to see Triffid Ranch enclosures in places you wouldn’t otherwise have guessed. There may even be an outside event in December: the details will be shared as they’re available. Just know that as opposed to most Dallas holiday events, this one will be free of Christmas music, aside from the obvious anthem.

Due to the gallery being reserved for a private function, the Carnivorous Plant Tours are taking a break on December 6, but will return for December 13, 20, and 27. (You need to find something to fill the gap left by the tree, right?) Now time to get back to work and make more.

New Triffid Ranch Plant Tours: The Holiday 2020 Edition

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

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

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

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

Sunday Carnivorous Plant Tour: November 15, 2020

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

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

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

State of the Gallery: November 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State of the Gallery: October 2020

We’re finally coming upon the end of the growing season here in Dallas, aggravated by the surprisingly cold temperatures of the last week in OCTOBER. One more Porch Sale on October 31, and then the tents go into storage, the Sarracenia pitcher plants and Venus flytraps go into winter dormancy, and we shift gears until next spring. (For those unfamiliar with Dallas autumns and winters, you’ll be glad we did, too.) That doesn’t mean that the Triffid Ranch shuts down with it. It just means that we’re going a drastically different route than what had been planned back in January.

To begin, it’s time for a short break, and everyone is going to be worrying about larger things around Election Day than one carnivorous plant gallery. Therefore, the first week of November is one of rest and recharging, as well as the opportunity to get the gallery into winter order. In previous years, the weeks until American Thanksgiving would go into multiple shows at the end of the month, but with half cancelled until next year at best and the other half simply not happening at all, it’s time to, as the old saying goes, put your bucket down where you are.

The first big change is that as opposed to the regular Saturday night Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas shows that have been going since 2017, the gallery will be open on Sundays in November and December, exact times to be announced soon. As always, a maximum of 10 people will be allowed inside the gallery at any time, or as at a time when Dallas County drops its current lockdown restrictions, and masks are mandatory. No messing around with this, either: anyone trying to enter without a mask will be asked to wear one or leave.

The other big change is one planned for the middle of March, but understandably curtailed due to conditions. Before the big office lockdown, we were getting ready to announce the availability of enclosure rentals, for those who wanted a carnivorous plant enclosure for offices, classrooms, bars and restaurants , or popup events, but who didn’t necessarily want to buy one. Again, details will follow very soon, but as restaurants and offices start reopening, it’s time to guarantee a little bit of green over the winter.

Finally, it’s time to expand the knowledge base a bit and get back into virtual lectures. Another aspect of the current COVID-19 collapse is that the museum, school, and arboretum lectures and presentations that used to be a staple through the year aren’t happening, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to do one anyway. This means that it’s time to get a lot more use out of the new iPad and put together more videos on plant history, behavior, and husbandry, including more than a few new tools and techniques for those working in much colder climes than these.

One last thing. This November will also see the return of the regular Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions posts that have been on hiatus since the gallery opened: I have a lot of neat friends with a lot of neat and inexpensive items that they’re offering this season, and it’s time to boost the signal as much as possible. Now let’s see how well we get through November.

Sunday Morning Porch Sale: October 25, 2020. It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for.

And so, almost exactly six months after they started, the Sunday morning Triffid Ranch carnivorous plant porch sales come to an end. What started out as an experiment to fill time newly opened due to the implosion of 2020 scheduled shows turned into a regular event, full of people both local and just passing through, but even the enthusiasm of crowds can’t fend off Dallas weather. Besides, the Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, and temperate sundews all need to go dormant for the winter, and while freezing or subfreezing temperatures in Dallas are extremely unlikely for at least the next month, the plants don’t know this, and they need their sleep.

Don’t think that this is the end of Triffid Ranch events for the year: anything but. Yes, Venus flytrap season is almost over (sooner rather than later, thanks to the cold front coming through most of North America this week), but this just means that we’re moving things indoors. The current plan is to take one weekend off after Halloween (after all, this has been six months of weekly Sunday events, and it would be so nice to sleep in for one Sunday in 2020), and then move to opening the gallery, both the Triffid Ranch and Caroline Crawford Jewelry, almost every Sunday after that. Details will follow, because everything right now is dependent upon events over the next two weeks, and things might change drastically before American Thanksgiving. In the meantime, keep an eye open for announcements.

For those needing one last bit of outdoor plant therapy this season, or for those who missed out on all of the previous Porch Sales and want one last chance to come by and see what the big deal is about, The Last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of the Season comes this Saturday, October 31 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, and we might stay a little later if people keep coming, but we won’t be out all night. (That night is reserved for viewing the last Halloween full moon until 2039.) For those who can’t, thank you very much for coming out through 2020, and expect that we’ll start doing this again in 2021. This was entirely too much fun.

The Aftermath: October Triffid Ranch Open House

So it’s been promised since August. A simple renovation of the gallery to increase the amount of display space and install a series of more efficient shelves. Not an issue, right? It’ll be easy, right? No need to seal the shelves with multiple layers of urethane on days so hot that the urethane dried on the brush, right? No concerns about exactly how much storage space had to be cleared, how much glassware had to be reorganized, how many rolling racks had to be dismantled, and exactly how heavy the reference library could be when moving it to the other side of the gallery, right?

The renovation isn’t finished: I suspect that gallery renovations are a classic example of Zeno’s Paradoxes of Motion, and that they only end when every human involved with that renovation either quits or dies. This isn’t a bad thing in the slightest: there are always ways to improve the viewing experience, and as anyone working in bookselling will tell you, regular reorganizations get visitors to look at assemblages in different ways. The one absolute is that everything will continue to change, if only because of the relatively small space of the gallery, and a catalyst to this process is the ongoing changes in the outside events that used to be a major part of the Triffid Ranch experience. Expect more changes soon, because to quote the comics artist Matt Howarth, it may stop, but it never ends.

With the end of the Sunday morning Porch Sales at the end of October, mostly due to the expected and typically horrific November weather in North Texas, the renovation facilitates other changes in how the Triffid Ranch does business, especially with the ongoing implosion of the outside show community. For those in the area, we have plans for further COVID-safe events between November and April. For those who aren’t, the renovation facilitates going back to the sadly neglected Triffid Ranch YouTube channel and producing a whole load of new videos starting next month. For everybody else, we could all use a little more green in our lives, especially this winter, and the Triffid Ranch plans to be a major facilitator in this. Get ready for the ride of our lives.

Sunday Morning Porch Sale: October 18, 2020. The darkest day of horror the world has ever known.

By now, the regular updates on the Porch Sales are like Dallas weather reports in August. “Hot and sunny today, hot and sunny tomorrow, oh, and 80 percent chance of snow flurries and subzero temperatures on Friday, just to see if you were paying attention.” The weather through October has been nothing short of glorious for events of this sort, with forecasts for the next two weekends suggesting more of the same.

About the only thing changing from previous October Porch Sales has been how attendees heard about it, with a surprising number coming across Triffid Ranch information thanks to a listing in Atlas Obscura from last year. Equally interesting was the number who came out because they were seeking local haunted houses (of which we have many impressive ones), only to find that the big drive-through haunted houses generally aren’t open on Sundays. That was surprising, so please feel free to inform friends and family that future Porch Sales are a very Sunday-friendly alternative.

Well, you should know the drill by now: the last Sunday morning Porch Sale of the year runs on October 26, with one last outdoor show on Halloween Day from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. After that? Hints will appear first in the newsletter, so keep an eye open for it when you get yours.

Sunday Morning Porch Sale: October 4, 2020. Humans are such easy prey.

We’re in the home stretch now. For the last 40 years, the worst of Dallas’s summer heat was worth tolerating for an autumn that seemingly goes on forever. Some Octobers are anomalies, with surprising rains and even the subfreezing temperatures of Halloween 1993. Most, though, follow the same path of “sunny, warm but not too warm, with clear nights and just a reminder that we might actually hit jacket weather by the middle of November.” For all its faults and nightmares, 2020 is shaping up to give us one of those perfect autumns.

The lack of killing heat isn’t only good for us humans. Right now is when temperate carnivorous plants such as Sarracenia pitcher plants and Venus flytraps get their best color and growth, mostly in preparation for their eventual dormancy starting in November. All through October, in the Dallas area at least, Sarracenia of all species grow their tallest and flashiest in efforts to gather as much spare nitrogen as they can before the cold sets in and insects disappear for the season. It’s all going away, eventually, but not right now.

This week, things go into overdrive to finish up the gallery renovation in preparation for a debut on October 17 (keep an eye out for announcements on particulars) and on getting new enclosures ready for that debut. (For anyone doing any kind of painting in Dallas right now, the weather is absolutely perfect: warm but not too warm, breezy but not too windy, and a relative humidity best described, like local tap water, as “crunchy.”) This doesn’t mean that the Sunday morning Porch Sale on October 11 isn’t going to happen: if anything, it’ll be a good break. See you then.

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