It’s inevitable after the holidays are over: holiday buyer’s remorse kicks in, and we all look back regretfully on the things we did and the things we didn’t over the past two months. Those nights of ordering pizza because the shift from Daylight Savings Time made you feel as if you were living in a cavern. Buying that supremely Ugly Christmas Sweater even though you’ve worked from home for the last nine months. Pretending to drunk-text former coworkers, just to see what they’re up to and if it’s more fun than what you’re doing. Subscribing to HBO Max. All of this is completely understandable, but eventually you’re going to climb bleary-eyed out of the clothes hamper, look at an apartment or house that looks as if Hunter S. Thompson camped in the bathtub for a month, look down at the wine stains down your front and look up at the spaghetti stalactites on the ceiling, and decide “Yeah, it’s time to clean up for the New Year.”
Now, as every year, you have all sorts of options. I’d recommend staying far away from the gym for a while, or at least until a significant proportion of fellow gymgoers look as if they’d stay home if they were sick. (I have a gym next to the Triffid Ranch mail drop, and with that crew, if they can’t end a list of symptoms with “We call it…’The Aristocrats’!”, then they don’t think they’re that bad off.) For domicile cleaning, you can go gently with Marie Kondo reruns playing in the background while you sweep and sort, or you can use demolition charges to take off an entire end of the building, shove everything into a dumpster below, and set the dumpster afire both as a symbol of 2020 and to keep from rescuing items inside because “They’re still good!” For cleaning your computer desktop, and files that really need to be backed up so they aren’t lost, nothing is as effective as the old “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit” strategy. For your carnivorous plants, though, things are going to be easy.
To be honest, this time of the year is perfect for giving all of your plants a once-over. With temperate carnivores such as Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, and temperate-climate sundews, they all should be well into winter dormancy by now, so they won’t mind a repotting and thorough cleanup. With tropical carnivores such as Asian pitcher plants, they’ll still be growing, but shorter daytime photoperiods mean that they’ll be growing much more slowly than they were six months ago. They also could stand a good tending to, but the actual process will be a bit different. Either way, it’s too late for standard gardening and too early for starting up tomatoes and peppers, so no better time than the present for essential carnivore maintenance.
Now, like working on a Volkswagen, you can put together a complete toolkit to take care of everything, or you can build multiple kits for specific functions, thereby avoiding losing essential tools when you pull out everything to work, say, alongside a pool full of Sarracenia. For the sake of this series, we’ll split everything up into separate kits of necessary tools, so if you focus on one group of plants, you don’t have to reserve tools you won’t necessarily need. (A very strong recommendation: get tools for your toolkit that will remain in that kit, and don’t swipe tools from other places in the house unless they’re no longer going to be used in those places. Spouses, parents, and roommates may not be as understanding about your using kitchen implements for repotting pitcher plants, especially if you brought them back but didn’t clean them properly before returning them.)
Essentials (in all kits):
Sharp gardening knife
Sharp kitchen scissors
Sharp trimming scissors (garden trimming scissors or ear/nose scissors)
Garden mat or towel
Isopropyl alcohol, either bottle or sanitizing wipes
Spray bottle, filled with rainwater or distilled water
Spray bottle, filled with dilute neem oil (1/2 strength recommended by manufacturer)
In addition, a standard bonsai tool set can come in very handy. You may not need all of the tools all of the time, but many, such as bonsai shears and root rakes, are worth the cost.
One valuable tool for glass enclosures is a tamper, and you’ll have to make it yourself. This is a dowel rod or other stout rod (I cut a fiberglass driveway sign rod in half) with a wine cork at one end and a rounded tip at the other end. The idea is to use the tamper to tamp down and smooth out soil, moss, and other items in glass containers that won’t give enough room at their mouths to allow fingers, hands, and most tools to reach inside. Natural cork is fine, but artificial corks have the advantage of easy disinfection, and they tend to last longer.
Anyway, this is the starting point: now it’s a matter of seeing these tools in action. That comes next.
Finishing up 2020 with double events on December 24 and December 27, while celebrating a Christmas classic from the Euclidean ideal of a heavy metal band. (Here’s also a fond memory of bassist Colin Grigson before his tragic overdose on jenkem in 2014. Rock and roll just hasn’t been the same without you, buddy.)
So now it’s down to the wire. Thanks to the previous year making every day a holiday shopping day as far as shipping volume is concerned, every online store worth its salt refuses to make any promises as to whether any purchase will arrive before December 25. Here in the States, the screaming in UPS and FedEx locations is positively deafening, because recent efforts to scuttle the US Post Office mean that both UPS and FedEx are trying to pick up the slack. If it’s not local, you’re probably not going to get it.
It’s at times like these where the default response is, indeed, “buy local.” That’s completely fair, but this also depends upon discovering what’s available. For the vast majority of the Twentieth Century, this would involve some heavily overworked Arts & Leisure section writer at the local newspaper deliberating between legitimate local treasures and what family friend of the editor or publisher needed a holiday bailout and didn’t want to have to pay for advertising. Today, the raw information is available, but the old “I didn’t know what I was looking for before I saw it” phenomenon is more pronounced than ever, and that section writer was laid off about four years ago to preserve the publisher’s holiday bonus. Thankfully, you have a terminally embittered former weekly newspaper writer turned carnivorous plant rancher more than willing to help carry some of the slack.
The only issue with “local” is “whose local?” Sadly, this means that this list is going to be horribly Dallas-centric, but this has two effects. The first is that for those already living in the vicinity of the Triffid Ranch, you have options for gift shopping that you might not have had before. The second is that for those who don’t live in the area, you now have additional pressure to do so. You’re welcome. Even if all you want to do is visit, when it’s safe to do so, now you have options on what to see besides South Fork (hopelessly dated), Jack Ruby’s nightclub (demolished decades ago), or the Texas School Book Depository (only interesting when a lone woman, answering to “Missy,” walks by once a year in November to look up wistfully at the sixth floor windows). I mean, don’t let that stop you from doing that anyway: if you go by the Book Depository, just tell Missy that her grandson says hello, okay?
Numero uno, as Dallas’s greatest superhero would put it, a little goes a long way, and Dallas’s restaurant scene is so much more vital and varied than it was, say, 20 years ago. It’s also in a particularly precarious situation because of COVID-19, and without eternal vigilance, it could be overrun with Applebee’s and Twin Peaks and the whole city becomes indistinguishable from Lewisville. Thanks to the wonders of modern point-of-sale processing, so many good restaurants offer both hard plastic and electronic gift cards, and you know at least one person who is going to NEED a dinner cooked by someone else in the next month. This means hopping on that phone and talking to the crews at Blu’s BBQ (Texas and Memphis barbecue), Flying Fish (Cajun seafood), Bistro B (Vietnamese), Tasty Tails (New Orleans seafood), Maple Leaf Diner (Canadian), Sababa (Middle Eastern), Chubby’s (classic comfort food, with the best strawberry cheesecake in the city), JC’s Burger House (burgers), or Del’s Burgers (more burgers, as well as excellent homemade root beer) about your efforts to spread the wealth.
Numero two-o, all that food means having something to read while eating, and while most people are perfectly happy to slog through Facebook, the idea is to amp up your experiences. The first, most obvious choice is Interabang Books, survivor of both bookstore wars and the tornadoes that hit North Dallas in 2019, as the best choice in the area for new books. Equally important for those looking for more graphic persuasions, I’ve been friends with Keith Colvin of Keith’s Comics for half of my life, and part of the reason why Keith’s Comics stores are going strong while other deeper-pocketed competitors blew up and scattered on the wind a decade ago is because of each store’s wide selection of graphic novels. (I highly recommend asking for a copy of Evan Dorkin’s Eltingville Club collection from Dark Horse Comics; for most, it’s a source of entertainment, but for others, it’s a source of never-ending self-aware horror.)
Numero three-o, you may or may not be surprised by the recommendation of the holistic health and wellness studio HeyyHealer, but there’s a specific reason. Namely, Triffid Ranch regulars may remember Christian “Doc” Cooper at various events, particularly the last Midtown ArtWalk at the old Valley View location before everybody in the mall got our eviction notices. Well, Doc has been busy with succulents, particularly red and yellow dragonfruit cactus, and his succulent arrangements are exclusively available through HeyyHealer. It’s all about taking care of your friends, coming and going, and if you’ve seen some of Doc’s arrangements, you’ll get that extra joy of having it all to yourself before you pass it on.
The holiday vortex is producing its own event horizon, and we’re slipping into the maelstrom. This weekend is a busy one: on Saturday, weather permitting, look for Caroline and me out at the Frightmare Collectibles Horror Christmas Market in Justin from noon to 8:00 pm: I won’t have any plants as it’s an outdoor event, but look for the Caroline Crawford Originals tent for Triffid Ranch posters while supplies last. Sunday, we’re back at the gallery for the second-to-last Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tour of 2020, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. If you can’t make it then, we’re reprising the Plant Tour on December 27, for everyone who wanted plant enclosures but couldn’t figure out where to put them before then. Friday, though, is clear for the moment.
We’re now nearly halfway through December, 10 days away from the winter solstice, and 20 days away from the end of the Gregorian calendar year. We’re also two days away from the next Triffid Ranch Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tour, starting at 10:00 am and ending at 4:00 pm. Either way, it may stop, but it never ends.
Just a friendly reminder: the Triffid Ranch is closed on Black Friday, but we’ll be open both Saturday and Sunday (November 28 and 29) from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. In the interim, stay warm and stay safe (a call in particular for friends and cohorts working retail), and in the age of COVID-19, be REALLY glad that the gallery isn’t still in a 1970s-era shopping mall. (The movie may be quaint by today’s standards, but it’s still the best documentary about 1980s-era Dallas ever made.)
Okay, lots of interesting news this weekend, starting with the fact that since last Sunday’s gallery tour turned out so well, we’re doing it again on November 22, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, 57 years to the day my hometown got its unofficial motto “Well, aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy…” As always, we’ll be disinfecting regularly and mask use over the nose and above the chin is mandatory. Because of sudden developments involving a new day job, we’re still deliberating on opening for Small Business Saturday on November 29, the subsequent Sunday, or both. Stay posted.
And as a shoutout to good friends who made the mistake of inviting the triffids across the threshold, two additional developments. For obvious reasons, the Blood Over Texas Horror For The Holidays show in Austin can’t run this year (and I had such plans for a “Back and to the left” gag on Sunday that would fit right in), so they’re hosting a Blood Bazaar virtual event from November 21 until the end of the year. In the same vein (see what I did there?), Loyd and Sue Cryer of Texas Frightmare Weekend stayed very busy over the ongoing shutdown with their new store Frightmare Collectibles, which officially opens on November 21. Go give them both lots of love, and expect some Triffid Ranch surprises from both in subsequent weeks.
It’s going to be a long week: the Triffid Ranch Sunday Tours start on November 15, and all of this is preparation for some major news at the end of the month. Please don’t feel obligated to come out on Sunday, especially considering recent Dallas COVID-19 news, but if you do, your presence is appreciated.
No shows or events for this weekend: after the Porch Sale schedule for the last six months, it’s time for a minor break before getting ready for indoor sales through November and December. Details will follow very shortly, but expect the Sunday schedule to continue for the foreseeable future.
Okay, lots going down over the next week, including Saturday’s Halloween Day Porch Sale, what would have been my grandmother’s 95th and my father-in-law’s 89th birthdays respectively, that much-promised Halloween full moon (which should be visible in the Dallas area shortly after dark), and hopefully a lot of good news next week. In the meantime, I plan to join a slew of friends in celebrating the end of the Halloween season with various movies, and I dare anybody coming of age in the 1980s in the UK (or anybody in the US with access to MTV) to hear this song and not think about the greatest vampire ever.
We’re down to the line now, folks: one last Sunday morning Porch Sale for the year on October 25, with one last outdoor show on Halloween Day, and then the Venus flytraps, temperate sundews, and North American pitcher plants all get a much-earned rest over the winter. The Triffid Ranch won’t shut down over the winter, though: we have plans within plans, mostly involving Asian pitcher plants and some new surprises. However, if you’re in the mood to see flytraps and Sarracenia, make plans to come out this weekend or next, and remember that masks are mandatory.
Two more Sunday Morning Porch Sales and Saturday’s open house to go, and then it’s over for the season. Don’t worry, though. In the best tradition of Jack Skellington, the creepy stuff doesn’t have to stop just because Halloween is done.
Based on the weather forecast, Sunday is going to be spectacular, so the Sunday morning Porch Sale is still on. In the meanwhile, there are covers of classic songs, and then there are Kimberly Freeman covers of classic songs, on the birthday of the original songwriter. Enjoy.
Just a friendly reminder: things are going to get wild this month, starting with the last of the Sunday morning Porch Sales for 2020 running from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm until October 25. We also have plans for Halloween Day itself, so keep tuned in. Until then, music.
One more time: no Sunday morning Porch Sale this weekend, because the Triffid Ranch will be out at the NARBC Arlington reptile and amphibian show, so look for the new banners. Bring your masks and hand sanitizer, because it promises to be a hoot.