Have a Safe Weekend

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

Enclosure: “Degradation” (2022)

A preamble on the enclosure backstories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plant: Pinguicula x “Titan”

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, found items.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

The Aftermath: Lunar New Year Open House 2022 – 2

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

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

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

The Aftermath: Lunar New Year Open House 2022 – 1

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

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

To be continued…

Have a Safe Weekend

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

Weather Alert: Icepocalypse 2022

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

Have a Safe Weekend

No open house this weekend due to the ongoing move, but the Lunar New Year open house on February 5 should make up for that. In the meantime, February 4 should have been the 82nd birthday of George A. Romero, and if the gallery has any specific unique holidays, Romero’s Birthday definitely qualifies.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #29

For newcomers, this is a semi-regular newsletter from the Texas Triffid Ranch, Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery. Feel free to forward early and often, and to subscribe if you haven’t already.

Installment #29:The Obligatory New Year Campaign, Complete With Chorus Line and Backup Band

(Originally published December 28, 2021)

Oh, 2021. Even after the dubious pleasures of 2020, you managed to be exciting. “Exciting” as in “your Manic Pixie Dream Girl girlfriend from 30 years ago got back in touch, asking for a place for her and her four kids to stay while she switches majors after going ABD in her degree in full-contact chess.” “Exciting” as in “finding a bobcat in your attic that refuses to come down unless carried.” “Exciting” as in “four doctors telling you that the strange pain in your upper left lung is all in your head, and discovering that the anti-inflammatories prescribed to deal with it offer a clarity of purpose you haven’t had in a quarter-century.” (That last one actually happened, by the way: much like the tinnitus I’ve had since I was an infant, it’s amazing how the human brain can block off ignore constant joint pain until that pain is suddenly gone.)

Anyway, for those who missed the news, 2022 is going to be an equally interesting year. What’s going to change with the gallery? The Heisenberg Principle applies for 2022: everything and nothing at all. The question is whether the plans made now keep holding true, or if we get a repeat of the first quarter of 2020. The way COVID-19 keeps spreading and mutating, it may be the greatest year so far for the Triffid Ranch, or I spend this time next year holed up inside it while my neighbor yells “Neville, come out!” all night long until the sun drives him and all of the other vampires to shelter.

Anyway, for those used to smartaleck commentary in this newsletter about impending new years, it’s more of the same. The plans include:

Moving. Because of the news mentioned earlier, I’m currently looking for a new domicile, preferably one with enough growing room for the ever-expanding Sarracenia out back. Moving in January or February means everything will still be in winter dormancy, making relocation much easier. Right now, everything is dependent upon the currently ridiculous Dallas residential real estate market, and if that bubble bursts early, a new growing area separate from the gallery might become an option. EDIT: That, at least, is done. Details will follow.

Open houses and gallery events. If any good news came from the constant stresses in 2021, it’s that most Triffid Ranch open houses did more to pay the rent than outside events, and themed open houses will continue all through 2022. Next year, besides the usual Manchester United Flower Show in April, it’s high time to hold shows with a specific theme, and not just “Hey, come in and check out the plants!” This may, MAY, include an after-dark showcase to demonstrate how many species of carnivore fluoresce under ultraviolet light, so keep checking the event calendar to see what’s next.

Outside events. Back at the beginning of 2020, the plan was to hold the first-ever Triffid Ranch show outside of Texas with the New Orleans Oddities & Curiosities Expo. This year, with Oddities & Curiosities starting up its new season, New Orleans is at the end of January, which simply isn’t an option. (New Orleans is fine: it’s just that having to drive for hours through subfreezing weather, cold enough to kill plants, to get there is a very valid and serious concern.) in 2022, it’s time to try again, in Chicago. Lots of dear friends that either I haven’t seen in decades or that I’ve never met in person, excellent food, a central location, and the opportunity to drive past my old house from 43 years ago…yeah, this will be worth the effort.

Gallery expansion. One of the joys of divorce when you and your spouse run separate businesses is trying to untangle the tax, rights, real estate, mailing address, insurance, and other paperwork so you can go your separate ways. The plan right now is for Caroline’s jewelry exhibition to remain in the front of the gallery until May, but eventually she’s moving out to do her own thing as she’s ready. This should be resolved about the time the lease is up on the current space, so now the question is “Another three years where it is, or is it time to move?” March marks 5 years that the gallery has been in its current locale, and continuity is important (you have no idea how many people call because they drove by the old Valley View address, saw the majority of the mall stripped to the bedrock, and got upset because “I was JUST there!”), but if a new space opens up, moving is a possibility, especially if the front door is ADA-compliant. (It’s not just for visitors, either. Moving a large enclosure to a waiting truck last night, one too big to put in several SUVs, makes me very glad that I work out, but that won’t and can’t be the case forever.)

Lectures and workshops. If omicron ever settles down and enough people get vaccinated that the current flareups burn themselves out, it’ll be time to rev up events with local museums and arboretums again, and a lot of that work has already been done. It’s just a matter of waiting until spring to bring carnivorous plants to the Heard Museum, and it’s high time to go back to the Perot Museum for its Thursdays on Tap late-night events, too. 

So that’s the plan for 2022. Let’s watch as the universe uses those plans as toilet paper.
 
Other News

There’s nothing quite like the joy of an interview that comes out at just the right time, and Danny Gallagher’s Triffid Ranch article in the Dallas Observer debuted right at the beginning of the holiday season. Go give Danny the business: he’s one of the good ones, and every article he contributes puts us further past the old Observer stigma of interview subjects referring to themselves as “getting wilonskyed.”
Shameless Plugs

It’s with a very heavy heart that I pass on the word that John Dilley, the founder of Defcon Sauces in New Jersey, died last September. His wife, though, is continuing the company and the tradition, and while the various Defcon habanero horseradish dips are unavailable until spring, the Malum Allium garlic powder is available in mass quantities. Or at least it is until I put in my next order.
Recommended Reading
 
Books from Redfern Natural History tend to be a bit massive: between their inherent thickness and the exemplary color photography, I always worry about putting them on upper bookshelves where they might fall off and kill children and small animals. The 3-volume set Nepenthes: the Tropical Pitcher Plants, still available for preorder, is a case in point: it’s a good thing I’m moving, because my To Be Read pile would probably take out several small towns if these were added to the top of the old pile.
Music

More deep dives into music I should have heard years or decades ago but had no opportunity due to gatekeeping Dallas radio stations and music shops: I only came across the Scottish New Wave band Altered Images nearly 40 years late. Perfect timing, too, as the band reunited and has a new album coming out in 2022. Let’s just say I’m particularly sympathetic about revivals of this sort, because we in the States missed out on so much with the amount of payola on US radio keeping Phil Collins in perpetual airplay.

Enclosures: “Accelerated Aggression” (2022)

A preamble on the enclosure backstories:

Our immediate galactic cluster produces a surprising number of so-called “deathworlds”: planets whose biota accept any kind of intrusion only after the application of overwhelming force. A few are hive minds who use their animal and plant analogues as surrogates for other organisms’ immune systems. Others are so nutrient-starved that to pass up relatively harmless and helpless prey as a battalion of Invec mercenaries on assault platforms is nearly impossible. A few have such a complicated interconnected life cycle between parasites and hosts that even the most horrified researcher can’t begrudge the opportunity for a parasite to slip sideways into an unfilled niche, even if that unfilled niche is the researcher. One of the most intriguing of those worlds, one used as a case study for xenobiologists as to educated assumptions, is the terrestrial world Shaw III, named after the head of its first exploration mission, Dr. Muriel Shaw. She was the head of the mission and one of only two survivors, as everyone else who touched down on its primary continent died within approximately ten minutes of opening the airlocks and taking direct samples.

Dr. Shaw not only didn’t take the threat of her named world lightly, but took it as a challenge. In the fragmentary remains of the animals killed inside her lifeboat as it ejected from its doomed parent, she discovered unique enzymes that worked on metals as well as organic compounds, practically begging for further study. Her initial papers led to the formation of a second, heavily armed research team, which lasted about as long on the surface as the first. Teams Three through Six managed to stretch out the time on the surface to an hour, leading to a plan to build a massive research station that was literally dropped from orbit and supplied in the same way. Nicknamed “The Bug” because of its plethora of sensory globes, it was truly impregnable, both to all other known organisms, but to the life of Shaw III.

For the most part, it worked. The Bug held integrity, even as wave upon wave of species, hunters and herbivores alike, rushed and flew and crawled and slithered to break in. Dr. Shaw’s team collected wonderful data, even as the noise of giant slime molds sucking on the microphone feeds and analogues to pterosaurs smashing their beaks upon the sensory globes started to wear on them individually. Finally, Dr. Shaw had as much information as she felt she needed, and launched herself back into orbit for further analysis. The rest of her team stayed behind, bracing for the next series of creatures, plants, and bacteria to try to get in through the barely-opened launch tube.

The next wave never happened. The first wave stopped moments after Dr. Shaw’s transport reached stable orbit. Every attacker broke off and went back to their apparently normal behaviors. After hours of peace, Dr. Shaw’s assistant professor risked opening the launch tube and climbing out onto the top of the Bug. The very same pterosaurs that were attempting to smash their way inside a solar day before not only didn’t attack, but actually landed, came close, and begged to be scritched on the head.

Dr. Shaw never returned to her namesake world, and the Bug was soon abandoned. There was no need: other researchers were able to walk across the planet’s surface without incident, taking samples and conducting tests without fear. The biota of Shaw III didn’t dislike humans, or technology, or anything else that anything Dr. Shaw brought with her. For some reason, which still eludes an answer, they just didn’t like her.

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

Plant: Nepenthes specularis x tenuis BE-3884

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: $400US

Shirt Price: $350US

State of the Gallery: January 2022

Well. As if December wasn’t exciting enough, January kept up the tradition and beat out all of 2021. At the rate things are going, either the Triffid Ranch is going to start franchises or it’ll be the last refuge of human civilization in the impending Dalek invasion by the end of the year. If the last two years are any indication of what to expect, we’ll get both.

To explain the relative quiet in January, it’s for two reasons. Firstly, about half of the carnivores available in summer are currently in winter dormancy, and we’re about halfway through. The first signs of spring activity should start up in mid-March and getting going at full speed in April. Hence, right now, everything with the temperate carnivores such as Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants is dependent upon the weather: if we have a “typical” Dallas winter, they should both be ready and available by mid-April. If we get a not-uncommon late cold wave at the end of March or into April, everything waking up might only finish up in May. Keep fingers and other appendages crossed: this time last year, everyone in Dallas thought we’d have a mild winter, and we know how THAT turned out.

The other reason involves the ongoing divorce and the gradual separation of assets and plans in the gallery. The plan is that the jewelry will be moving out by the beginning of May, in which case the front of the gallery becomes a showcase for the BIG enclosures. Likewise, the last week has been spent moving to a new domicile, still very close to the gallery, with a decidedly improved amount of room for working on new projects. If you haven’t been out to the gallery, do so soon, because by July, you won’t recognize it.

Speaking on that subject, the move affected the ability to throw open houses in January, but that ends in February. Specifically, we’re now looking at two events at the beginning of February: an open house on February 5 to celebrate Lunar New Year, and back in a week for Valentine’s Day plotting and scheming. As always, admission is free and masks are mandatory, and those who haven’t been to the gallery since 2021 may be surprised at the new enclosures finished since then.

In other developments, once the move is finished and everything unpacked, other projects start in earnest. This is in addition to the expected shows for 2022: the Oddities & Curiosities Expo (Dallas in March, Austin in June) and Texas Frightmare Weekend shows were just joined by Aquashella Dallas, meaning that the beginning of August is going to be just as busy as the rest of the year. Let’s hope the Daleks hold off until December, okay?

Have a Safe Weekend

Another week, another weekend. The gallery will be closed this weekend because of an impending move, but keep an eye out for the open house on February 5. Until then, music.

Enclosures: “Watcher and Waiter” (2022)

A preamble on the enclosure backstories:

Once, it and its people were teachers, guardians, shepherds, surrogate parents. They worked with innumerable sentiments reaching toward the stars and showed them the wonders and terrors of the universe, letting them know that they weren’t alone and that someone was protecting them. Eventually, though, the students reach the limits of learning, the weak become strong, the sheep gather their forces and destroy the wolves, and the children grow up. Its people realized that their charges were able to take care of themselves, and they left the galaxy for whatever awaits those who travel between galaxies. They had been guardians for a very long time, and were very good at their jobs, but the forces for which they had massed to fight surrendered at the same time, and they all looked around one last time and migrated away.

Except one.

Unlike its compatriots, it had no great message, no overwhelming coda, no need to impose its doctrines upon those too young to question. If anything, it was at a loss after the decision to leave was made. It didn’t want to go, but it also didn’t want to keep doing what it had before. Its people were very, very long-lived, and it had plenty of time to find a new path, so in the bustle and chaos of migration, it sneaked aboard its starship, broke away from the caravan, and went exploring.

Eventually, it found a world very much like the one its species had first grown on, millions of years before. A thin methane atmosphere, just hazy enough from naturally occurring hydrocarbons to add a champagne tint to the world’s yellow-white star when seen from the surface. The bare beginnings of multicellular life, an atmosphere with potential to nurture that life, and absolutely no spacefaring neighbors in the vicinity. Knowing that none of the current species in the galaxy had the capability of detecting its ship, much less do anything about it, the ship touched down once, let its passenger disembark with sufficient supplies to settle in, and went back into orbit to await new orders. Like its passenger, it could live a very, very long time with very little, and it now could sleep and possibly dream.

The traveler took its time, but eventually started a garden. The current analogues to plants were starting to emerge from the wide and warm oceans covering about half of the world, and the traveler started a garden. Yes, it was interfering with the development and evolution of life on this little world, but nobody was going to complain for probably a half-billion years. It slowly and carefully encouraged examples of flora and selected them for height, color, sturdiness in severe winds, ability to convert methane into oxygen, and ability to wrest nutrients from rock, mud, and sand. It left control groups of all of these spread out nearby, looking for potential diseases, and left them alone when the earliest analogues to land animals started following the plants in search of unexploited food. Growth, decay, regrowth…since the flora’s main photosynthesis molecule was purple, a tiny bruise formed near one ocean as seen from space, and spread and colored with surprising rapidity.

The traveler knew that eventually someone or something would find this little world. Eventually, someone or something would realize that the random intertwinings of genetic material couldn’t explain the sudden explosion of oxygen in the air, or the patterns of color as seen from orbit, or the seemingly instantaneous evolution of fauna to keep the flora healthy and assist in its reproduction. Eventually, someone or something would discover the traveler, in which case it was ready to offer advice or recommendations if needed or wanted, Until then, it had its garden, which was spreading across the entire world, and it was content for the first time in its life.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plant: Drosera adelae

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, glass slag, found items.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

Enclosures: “Vestibule” (2022)

A preamble on the enclosure backstories:

Xenoarchaeology is a risky endeavor under just about any circumstance. In the field, researchers face hostile wildlife, fascinating new diseases and parasites, and the ever-present danger that a billion-year-old artifact might be carrying a quantum black hole facing a critical failure on the insulation of its containment vessel. Those back in academia usually envy the field researchers, as Aurigan blood shivers is a blessed relief compared to peer review. Very rarely do both of these streams cross in such a spectacular manner, but professors trying to impress humility upon their students tell stories of the Great Vestibule on Elbein Outer as an object lesson of not getting too carried away with speculation.

For the most part, Elbein Outer was a typical rocky planet with a life-sustaining atmosphere and a water-rich surface, with its only companion around its star being Elbein Inner, a gas giant a few million years from becoming part of that star’s hydrogen reserve. Elbein Inner and its former brethren left the system remarkably cleaned before they either crashed starside or were flung into interstellar space. Very few asteroids or comets, no comparable Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud, and not so much as a moon. The planet’s surface underwent plate tectonics encouraged by solar tides and a radioactive-rich core, but compared to the cosmic sword dances faced by Earth or Gent, Elbein Outer was practically serene. Even its indigenous animal and plant life were mellow by comparison.

That’s why, ten years after its discovery, everyone was surprised to discover traces of an extensive and highly advanced civilization on Elbein Outer’s northernmost continent. The pieces and fragments had been there long enough that they had disintegrated into dust and mud, but as seemed to be the case with enigmatic artifacts, one nearly complete structure remained, still peeking out from the cover of a nearly completely eroded mountain. Not only was this structure nearly complete, but it seemed to be completely functional as well after approximately 600 million years. Whatever it was supporting was even odder: behind a gate or sphincter lay a small chamber, detectable via cosmic ray and neutrino emitters, that reflected both and more besides. As to what was inside the chamber, nobody had a clue.

Most field researchers welcome a challenge, and expeditions came and went around what writers and influencers called “The Great Vestibule.” Everybody had an idea of what might be out there, and the most speculative and the most unsupported by facts and logic got the furthest reach. The Great Vestibule stored, preserved in special stasis fields, its creators’ archives and histories. The Great Vestibule contained a direct hyperspace gate to its creators’ home world. The Great Vestibule contained a sample spacecraft of previously unknown design that could cut crossing a light-year of space from 23 hours to 23 seconds. The Great Vestibule, when shaken, would drop the universe’s most attractive, acidic, and addictive candy until shaken again. The planet was quiet and the skies clear of anything but stars at night, and a lot of chroniclers couldn’t tell the difference between tall tales and confirmed scientific knowledge.

Finally, the Vestibule released its secrets. A three-species team, led by the esteemed xenoarcheologist Gortyyn Lidefit, learned that the original control interface that opened the Vestibule had been deliberately removed before its builders left, and their genius reverse-engineered a working control substitute. Reporters and storytellers and the irredeemably curious from across four galaxies converged on Elbein Outer, all wanting to be the first in 600 million years to see the contents so carefully hidden away across time and space.

A truism in science is that one researcher’s crushing disappointment is another’s prize-winning paper, and that definitely happened multiple times after the Great Orifice finally disgorged its contents. Yes, it contained a hyperspace gate. Yes, it contained previously unknown stasis technology that kept the Orifice’s contents in perfect condition as the universe whirled around it. But as its contents flowed across the surface of Elbein Outer, drowning researcher and rubbernecker alike in a tsunami that covered the entire planet to a depth of 3000 meters, those observing the situation from orbit learned that the Lidefit team had discovered the largest portable toilet in the known universe. Worse, it wasn’t the first one one discovered, hacked, and emptied, and it definitely wasn’t the last.

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

Plant: Nepenthes maxima

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: $250US

Shirt Price: $200US

Boosting the Signal: Lunar New Year Open House

It may be a bit premature, but it’s been two years since the gallery has seen a Lunar New Year open house, predating the current nightmare by a month, and it’s time to bring it back. The next Triffid Ranch open house is scheduled for Saturday, February 5 from noon to 5:00 pm, and Arioch willing, I’ll be finished moving by then.

The Aftermath: The First Triffid Ranch Open House of 2022 – 2

I’m not much for selfies, but the first Triffid Ranch open house of 2022 was a perfect time to debut the new look: as one friend joked, “New regeneration, new rules.” The harshness of the red dye back on New Year’s Eve has mellowed, as first dye jobs always do, into a much more mellow ginger, and it’s been sorely missed. (The first time was for a very short time in 1987, probably one of the greatest years of transition in my life, and rapidly replaced with albino white for the next two years. The second time started in 1995 and ended in 1999, when shaving it off famously freaked out Harlan Ellison. At this point, it may be permanent, as it suits me a lot more than my natural blond did.)

A lot about this open house was the beginning of one of Ellison’s Hour That Stretches. Among many other things, this show debuted a record six enclosures at once (photos and backstories coming along soon enough), with a crowd to match. This, however, is just the beginning. Over the next few months, expect a lot of changes to the gallery, including a major move to give a lot more room for everybody. You’ll love it.

For those stuck due to the foul weather, or those who want another chance to visit, the next open house is a special event tied to Lunar New Year: as always, admission is free and masks are mandatory. See you then.

The Aftermath: The First Triffid Ranch Open House of 2022 – 1

January 15 started the way it usually does in Dallas: with massive gusting winds blasting out of the north, promptly dropping temperatures to within freezing. Inside the gallery, though, those who braved the winds found warmth, light, and, most importantly, green. The official start of spring may still be two months away, but the Triffid Ranch opened to general approval and a lot of good post-holiday vibes.

As has been the case for the last year, since indoor events started up again, we had a wide range of visitors from all over the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, and a few who came from much further out. In fact, the crowds kept rushing in until just before closing. The next issue isn’t with getting people to come out: the next issue is with having enough room for everybody who wants to get in.

To be continued…

Have a Safe Weekend

After a short but much-needed hiatus, the Texas Triffid Ranch open houses are starting back up again, with the first of 2022 running this Saturday from noon until 5:00 pm. Keep checking back, too, because the plan is to have a lot more events in 2022 than in 2021.

Science Experimentation at Grad School Prices: Nepenthes rajah

It’s not the greatest photo (if anything, it reveals the limitations of an iPhone camera in low-light conditions), but those familiar with the Nepenthes rajah pitcher plant in the gallery enclosure Gyre might be intrigued to discover that its pitchers fluoresce under ultraviolet light like most other Nepenthes species. Surprisingly, unlike most species that get most of their nitrogen from dung, N. rajah is an enthusiastic fluorescer, at least while the pitchers are relatively small. Considering that rajah is a notoriously slow-growing plant, it may take a while before it starts producing its famously large pitchers and those can be checked for fluorescence.

And along that line, it’s far too early to talk about confirmations, but this spring and summer may offer another massive renovation at the gallery. Everything is dependent upon the next couple of weeks, but if things work out, you won’t recognize the place by the end of summer, and that’s a very good thing. Among other things, this may allow the chance to do a darkroom gallery exhibition showing various carnivore species fluorescing in real time. Let’s see what happens.

Boosting the Signal: the First Triffid Ranch Open House of 2022

A break from combined househunting and enclosure construction: the first Texas Triffid Ranch open house of 2022 goes live at noon on Saturday, January 15 and runs until 5:00. Expect lots of weirdness, as well as king cake and an opportunity to get out of the cold. And so it goes.

Science Experimentation at Grad Student Prices: Nepenthes bicalcarata

One of the nice things about having absolutely no natural light in the back area of the gallery, and having all of the lights on timers to encourage winter growth patterns and spring blooming, is that it gets DARK back there when the lights go out. While this is horrific if you get turned around and can’t find the front hallway, it’s excellent when conducting experiments with ultraviolet light. A little messing about with the handy violet kaleidoscope laser pointer in the gallery led to some interesting observations.

To begin, the squat little pitcher up top belongs to the famous Asian pitcher plant Nepenthes bicalcarata. N. bicalcarata is one of the only Nepenthes species to have a commonly used nickname in carnivorous plant circles, “bicalc” singular or “bicalcs” plural, and it’s also one of the only Nepenthes species to have a common name in English. That name, “fanged pitcher plant,” refers to the two distinctive sharp “fangs: that run down from where the pitcher meets its lid. Those “fangs” are officially called nectaries, in that they secrete and channel nectar, which leads to the slightly disturbing view of a happy and healthy bicalc being one that’s drooling nectar off these structures like a snake’s fangs dripping venom. These nectaries are both strong and sharp, leading to all sorts of suppositions on how the “fangs” prevent monkeys and birds from removing trapped prey from the pitcher. The reality, however, is that nobody really knows what these structures are for, as well as the comparably eye-catching and risky structures on the equally famous N. inermis, N. edwardsiana, and N. hamata.

As a handy hat-tip to any grad student wanting an interesting subject for their first paper, N. bicalcarata shares with its insectivorous kin an actively ultraviolet-fluorescing band of tissue along the lip of pitchers called the peristome. This is fascinating but not necessarily news: this fluorescence has been known among many completely unrelated genera of carnivorous plant for the last decade, and Nepenthes species such as N. hemsleyana and N. ampullaria that no longer produce digestive enzymes in their pitcher fluid also no longer have UV-fluorescent peristomes. What might be news is that nobody seems to have noted that the nectaries on N. bicalcarata fluoresce as hard and as brightly as the peristome itself.

The real surprise? This is an absolutely horrible photo that will require retaking with an actual photographer, but this is the fluorescence of a juvenile N. bicalcarata pitcher. Interestingly, the pitcher itself fluoresces a bright red along the peristome, but the nectaries, only a little over a millimeter long, fluoresce the same yellow-green as the nectaries on full-sized pitchers.

As to why these nectaries fluoresce, that’s a really good question. Since I don’t have any in the gallery at the moment, I don’t know if N. edwardsiana and N. hamata peristomes fluoresce in the same way, or if they go for different patterns under UV the way Nepenthes species with particularly wide peristomes (such as N. rafflesiana) do. I also don’t know at the moment whether the fluorescence in the nectaries matches that of the peristomes as the pitcher ages and dies, because that requires repeated observations over the months the pitcher may live. However, for an enterprising botany grad student wishing to publish for the first time with a paper that might get to the top of standard newsfeeds, run with this.

Winter Carnivore Cleanups – Nepenthes hemsleyana

Since things are a bit slow at the gallery due to the end of the growing season, now is a perfect time to discuss winter carnivore cleanups. This time, the subject is one that keeps coming up concerning Nepenthes pitcher plants: “My pitcher plant stopped producing pitchers.” 90 percent of the time, the factor causing a lack of pitcher growth is a lack of humidity: studies in the last decade confirmed that once average relative humidity stays below 50 percent, Nepenthes plants stop producing pitchers. This is because on average, Nepenthes roots are to keep the plant in the ground (if you want to get a good idea of what a Nepenthes root clump looks like without digging up one yourself, just clean your shower drain one of these days), and half of the plant’s moisture requirements come from moisture (rain, fog, mist) absorbed through its leaves. Every once in a while, though, you get an exception, and we have a humdinger of one.

Regulars may recognize the enclosure Bat God from the end of 2020, containing the only Nepenthes hemsleyana I’ve ever had the privilege of viewing. N. hemsleyana is famous for being a non-carnivorous carnivore: instead of catching insects or other animal prey, this species specializes in producing traps that act as the roosting site for one of the smallest bats in Asia, Kerivoula hardwickii. In return for a safe haven, the bats provide nitrogen not just in guano, as commonly reported, but also in shed fur as the bats groom themselves and each other. (As organic gardeners will tell you, hair and fur make a great slow-release nitrogen source, and I’m currently conducting experiments with using shed cat fur as a possible alternative to guano for some Nepenthes species. Expect results later this year.) Between these two nitrogen sources, N. hemsleyana no longer produces digestive enzymes by the time it produces its distinctive upper traps, nor do the peristomes on the pitchers fluoresce under ultraviolet light as with close cousins such as N. rafflesiana.

The problem with telling people about these distinctive pitchers, though, is getting the pitchers in the first place. This original hemsleyana grew impressive pitchers in a smaller, much more compact enclosure, but upon moving it to a new location, it enthusiastically grew but didn’t produce a single pitcher. This recalcitrance isn’t due to a lack of humidity thanks to an ultrasonic fogger, and regular foliar feedings with dilute carnivore-safe fertilizer produces lots of new leaves. The problem is that while the leaves produce long ribs with the nubs of pitchers at the end, those nubs never go any further. Obviously, something is up.

Apparently the plant felt the same way, because in addition to its main vine threatening to apply for admission to the United Nations, this Nepenthes is producing a new shoot near its base. This started about three weeks ago, and the first leaves came in nice and broad. The real joy, though, is the new lower pitcher forming off the shoot’s third leaf, and new leaves coming in that appear to be just as determined. In about three weeks, we’ll know for sure if this is going to turn into a true pitcher, but the indications are good.

“This is all fine and good,” you say, “but what does that mean?” Well, it means that Nepenthes and roses have a bit more in common than you might think. Just as how roses may need to have their canes cut back to encourage new growth likely to produce flowers, sometimes a fussy Nepenthes needs to be cut back to encourage new pitcher growth. Once the pitcher on the new offshoot is established and open,, which may happen within the next week, the rest of the vine upstem from the shoot gets cut off and then cut into segments. Those segments then get a good bath in rooting hormone and then planted in a high-humidity, high-light environment to encourage new root growth. The odds are pretty good that if the cuttings take, any new growth on them will contain full pitcher development, meaning that the gallery may be overloaded with N. hemsleyana enclosures before too long. Maybe the next one needs to take a note from the bat fossil beds at Riversleigh World Heritage Site in Queensland, Australia and be entitled “Stately Wayne Manor.”

Have a Safe Weekend

New year, new plans. Unfortunately, this means no open houses or other events this weekend, but make plans for January 15. It’ll be worth it.

“For Your Consideration”

Coming from many different directions, a short film (from Canada, of course) about carnivorous plants that’s campaigning for the Best Short Animated Film Oscar…

Have a Safe New Year

Nothing going on at the Triffid Ranch today, other than lots of long-delayed cleaning and organizing (New Year’s Weekend is traditionally a weekend for cleaning, and the end of 2021 includes a lot of packing), and nothing planned until the next open house on January 15. Go have fun, by yourself or with a tested and masked group, and we’ll all see each other in 2022.

“Change, my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon.”

Because 2021 was a major year of transition, and because it’s high time for a major change, get ready for a new look for 2022 events and open houses. I already feel 20 years younger.

Triffid Ranch Preparations For 2022

After the last two years, the traditional resolutions and promises for the new year come off more as daredevil threats: “My plans for 2022…” is right up there with “There isn’t a pepper too hot for me to eat…” The mere fact that a carnivorous plant gallery can survive the last two years, in Dallas of all places, is amazing enough. Making grandiose plans for expansion or renovation is ignoring the voice in the back room, sounding amazingly like the late Bill Paxton, yelling “I’m telling ya, there’s something moving in here and it ain’t us!”

With Bill placated, though, we can talk about potential plans. As I like to tell people, though, I had plans at the beginning of 2020, and they were all going perfectly when I rolled into Austin for the first show of the year, stopped to get something to eat, and saw the announcement on the television at the back of the bar that SXSW was being cancelled. After that, any plans became moot. “Man plans, God laughs” pretty much sums up the last two years, and we can all hope that it’s just laughter and not laughing and pointing.

Firstly, the big emphasis on 2022 is going to be staying home. That is, now that the gallery and its location are established and city leaders are noting its presence, it’s a matter of utilizing the space more and not using it merely as a headquarters for shows outside the area. This doesn’t mean that outside shows will stop: anything but. It just means that given a choice between announcing an open house and hauling everything out for a five-hour show, the open house now makes so much more sense. 2022 will also see an expansion on the outdoor Porch Sales once the weather stabilizes in spring: those are always a lot of fun, and this understandably eases the minds of those a bit leery about indoor events.

Secondly, shows outside the gallery are going to have to be a bit, erm, larger. Just as the separation of the Triffid Ranch and Caroline Crawford Originals is happening at the gallery one bit at a time, the same is happening with our joint presence at shows and events. That was already happening anyway, what with changes with existing shows and audiences, but 2022 will probably be the last year we’ll be sharing space at Texas Frightmare Weekend. After that, the plan is to move to 10×10 spaces, because the plants are outgrowing (pun intended) the standard two tables at Frightmare, to the point where well-meaning friends admitted that they didn’t stop by because “you were just so crowded.” This applies elsewhere, too: both the Oddities & Curiosities shows and the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays shows have already moved over to 10×10 spaces, and that’s about the only way to have enough plants on hand to make attendees happy. Sadly, that means that the little science fiction and fantasy conventions with which the Triffid Ranch started are no longer an option, but the way those have been changing, it’s for the best for everybody.

Thirdly, 2022 will be a year for telepresence. We just finished a major gallery renovation last year, and now it’s time for another. This time, the renovation is to make video streaming much easier, with the idea of regular events being run exclusively through Twitch and YouTube. The logistics on these are finally getting worked out, and the plan is to start toward the end of January. “I wish I could make an open house, but I live in Antarctica” is no longer an excuse.

Well, enough of that: with a promised thunderstorm followed by severe (for Dallas) cold this weekend, it’s time to batten down the hatches in preparation for the possibility of a white Dallas New Year. Go have fun, tell everyone about the next open house on January 15, and the plants and I will see you then. Go in peace.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #28

For newcomers, this is a semi-regular newsletter from the Texas Triffid Ranch, Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery. Feel free to forward early and often, and to subscribe if you haven’t already.

Installment #28: Nancy Crawford (1933-2021)

My mother-in-law Nancy died in the early morning of August 29, the day before her 88th birthday. Considering her sense of humor, that was completely in character. She was the sort who loved to celebrate others’ birthdays but didn’t want any particular fussing about hers, which is one of the many reasons why we liked each other so much.

There’s so much to be said about Nancy that it’s taken nearly four months to get it out: without her kindness and encouragement, there wouldn’t be a Triffid Ranch today. Way back in 2003, right after I married her youngest daughter, my newfound fascination with carnivorous plants had expressed itself in buying a set of assorted carnivores at the local Home Depot while buying bookshelves, and that led to a vague discussion on the merest possibility of someday starting a store dedicated to carnivores. As opposed to the rest of the family , she didn’t rush for the holy water and silver bullets just right then. Instead, she wanted to know why I wanted to do something like this, and when I explained that this was something to work toward, slowly and carefully and never without a day job as a backup, she just said “All right.” If she’d said “Bless your heart,” a phrase full of misunderstandings and regrets among those who never grew up in Texas, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have heard the round that took me out, and I spent the rest of her life making sure that I never gave her reason to say it, jokingly or otherwise.

Nancy and I came from drastically different backgrounds, but we spent so much time comparing notes. She graduated from college at a time when graduating “with honors” actually meant something, and she came about as close as anybody could to crossing herself when I related how the Harvard Class of 2004 had 91 percent of its class graduate that way because of parental pressure. She and her husband Durwood had just married when the Texas Drought of Record of 1952-56 started, and she told me how Dallas was so close to being abandoned as the wells were running dry just as the rains returned. We talked about local soils and local geology, and she showed off the spider lilies in her back yard that her mother had given her when they first moved there, and we discussed planting her beloved wood ferns in the incredibly shady front yard, and we both gazed upon her flowering quince in awe and wonder every spring. 

Nancy made a point of giving moral support when Caroline started doing solo jewelry shows shortly after we got married, and really ramped things up when the two of us started doing shows together starting in 2009. After a while, if she wasn’t manning the booth if Caroline needed a break, she was hanging out front and greeting new customers, and rapidly it wasn’t a real party if she wasn’t there. In the days when most of our shows were science fiction and horror conventions, she didn’t quite get the passion other attendees had, but she respected them and treated them with a grace and charm so rarely seen any more. It got to the point where if she wasn’t at a show, everyone would ask about her, including the convention organizers, and she always blushed when we told her about her fan club contingent checking to see how she was doing.

When the gallery finally opened, after months of preparation, the old Valley View location was just up a distance from their house, so Nancy and Durwood made a point of coming out to the grand opening, just to see what we’d done with the place. Nancy was very familiar with Valley View, having watched it go up in the early 1970s (Caroline’s older sister Shari worked in the Spencer Gifts in Valley View, and even donated her old manager badge when we opened), and was thrilled to see the completed gallery and greet people whom she’d only met at traveling shows. She was even more thrilled when we moved in 2017 to the current location, and got to see a better idea of what we wanted to accomplish when we invited the whole family for a special opening. Even when she couldn’t make it to open houses, she always wanted to hear details on who showed up and what new items we had on display.

The last few years were rough, as she became more frail in the final stages of dementia, and as anybody else with family in a similar situation will tell you, Nancy had good days and bad days. One of the surefire ways to turn a bad day into a good day was to show her plants and to tell her about the last show, and with the Porch Sale events held at the gallery all through 2020, I had plenty to tell her when we would go to see her. Considering that she was one of the most gentle people you’d ever met, she always feigned shock when I’d refer to her walker as “the War Rig” or suggested that maybe she might be a little less rough with the rest of her roller derby team, but she was laughing about it as much as I was. It always came back to the plants, though: she had never encountered Sarracenia, or at least knew what they were, before 2003, but the only thing that thrilled her more than photos of leucophyllas were photos of their brilliant scarlet blooms, and I started the whole Manchester United Flower Show theme so she could see as many blooms of as many different types of carnivore as she could. When the first Heliamphora bloom opened in the gallery a few years back, I don’t know who gasped in wonder louder.

I wish there were gigantic monuments to Nancy all over Dallas, but sadly most of what made her happiest was gone. The buyer of her house claimed that they were buying it to restore it to its original late-Sixties glory, even asking us not to dig up the spider lilies or transplant the roses I grew from cuttings in the back yard. The whole property was razed almost immediately after its purchase to make room for yet another zero-lotline McMansion, and the only thing connecting the new house to the old was the street number painted on the curb out front. In the gallery, though, we have all sorts of items she gave us over the years, all displayed proudly, and she smiled when we both told her we put them specifically where she could see them when she came in. As long as the gallery remains, there’s always going to be a big piece of her in it, but it’s not anywhere near as big as the hole she left.

Other News

The Dallas Morning News Best In DFW Awards came back in the middle of November, and the Triffid Ranch got Bronze in “Best Art Gallery.” What that entails, other than entreaties to buy advertising to promote it, we’re still figuring out. The interview in Community Impact Richardson is a better opportunity for entertainment: the interview is great, and it comes with a photo that proves that even Annie Leibowitz couldn’t get a good photo of me. And now you know why you don’t see lots of selfies, and not just because my smile really makes people regret leaving Ripley and Parker to look for the ship’s cat.

Shameless Plugs

Yes, the independent bookstore is supposed to be dead, Just try telling Mark Ziesing Booksellers that. As of next year, I’ll have known Mark for a solid third of a century, and if you’re looking for gonzo print magazines from the Eighties and Nineties, he’s the best source around.

Recommended Reading

Quite literally, nobody publishes books like Molly Williams’s Killer Plants any more. More’s the pity: while it’s not packed with full-color illustrations, it’s also loaded with excellent advice on caring for carnivorous plants from an apartment dweller’s perspective. Go order lots of copies as last-minute gifts: speaking from personal experience, it’s just the right size for a thorough reading on a work-related plane trip.

Music

Par for the course: as soon as I discover the band Santa Hates You, I discover that the band is no more. Good thing it has quite the YouTube presence, eh?

The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2021 #4

Since the gallery first opened in 2015, the Triffid Ranch has made at least some effort at being open on or very near to Christmas Eve for last-minute shopping opportunities. The first few times, this was in the evening: a few people make noises about needing the gallery open in the evening, but realistically everyone is home and unwilling to go out after dark. This year, it was a matter of keeping standard open house hours, noon to 5:00 pm, to make things easier for those off for Christmas Eve but not to get in the way of family obligations. Whether it was this, the recent interview in the Dallas Observer, or a general pent-up demand for carnivorous plants, the last Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas of 2021 was the best ever, and I thank everyone who showed up.

Among many other things, this show found homes for several enclosures designed and constructed during lockdown, along with others intended to be picked up after the holiday season. This, combined with a tentative rental situation throughout the Dallas area starting in 2022, means that if you haven’t been to an open house in a while, the lineup of enclosures has drastically changed. (This, incidentally, is why you won’t see another open house for a few weeks: constructing new enclosures takes time.)

Once again, many thanks to everyone who showed up, both purchasers and interested bystanders (the highest compliment anyone has paid in the last two years came from the very earnest and very considerate person who offered to make a donation for letting her come in, and I told her what I tell everyone: as much as it’s appreciated, getting the word out that the Triffid Ranch exists is a greater help), and I hope that the plants given as gifts made the recipients as happy as you were. For those who want to come back, as well as those who haven’t been here yet, the next open house is now scheduled for January 15, 2022, from noon until 5:00 pm. Feel free to spread the word.

Enclosures: “Professor Lindsay’s Amphibian Wedding Present” (2021)

Contrary to generally accepted wisdom, the first serious experiments in DNA manipulation and editing came not in the early part of the 21st Century, but in the latter half of the 19th. Professor Huxley Lindsay of Rice University in Texas never knew the word “deoxyribonucleic acid,” and would have taken a bullwhip to anyone trying to pass on the concepts of genes, chromosomes, or CRISPR editing, but he managed to tap all of these while experimenting with modifying “traits” in freshwater and saltwater fish. While his techniques are sadly lost with a massive house fire started by lightning, encouraged by freshly installed gas lighting, and facilitated by the entirety of his neighbors blocking fire wagons or offering to fill the wagons’ water pumps with kerosene, he succeeded in melding traits between his own children and their spouses and that of at least five species of freshwater fish and seven of saltwater. The freshwater Lindsays thrived for five years, until a heat wave demonstrated that Professor Lindsay had not included the ability to breathe air while in oxygen-deprived ponds and rivers, but the saltwater Lindsays thrived off the shores of Galveston and soon became one of the great political and social families of the greater Houston area.

Just as air-breathing Lindsays might have kept an aquarium to celebrate their aquatic relations, the water-breathing Lindsays started a trend in self-contained plant containers. Rated to depths of more than 200 feet, the first BathyBio container (registered trademark with one Cecil “Tuck” Kirby, an expert in keeping exotic animals and plants under strenuous conditions) was a wedding gift to Professor Lindsay’s granddaughter “Bubbles,” presented personally by the professor while in specially designed diving gear. Subsequent ones went to granddaughters “Angel” and “Betta,” and one especially large one was commissioned by a great-grandson, Hector “Discus” Fairfield, the first member of the Lindsays to return to land, in a reversed diving suit, in order to get his doctorate in mechanical engineering from Rice.

Sadly, while the Lindsays led massive movements in engineering, hydraulics, and social justice, nature stepped in. In the winter of 1983, a massive cold wave hit the majority of Texas, freezing Galveston Bay for the first time in recorded history. Among the millions of dead fish, all unused to such low temperatures, were all 2000 of the extended Lindsay clan, all frozen to death. To this day, questions as to whether they were delicious, and if police had apprehended one “Mrs. Paul,” are considered the height of bad taste in Galveston.

Dimensions (height/diameter): 25 1/2″ x 17″ diameter (64.77 cm x 43.18 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes spectrabilis x tenuis

Construction: Acrylic. Resin, stone, shells.

Price: Sold

Shirt Price: Sold

Have a Safe Weekend

And now the final Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house is live today: since so many people have the day off, we’re going to be live from noon until 5:00 pm. After the holidays are over, we have a major announcement, but until then…

Enclosures:”Senseweb” (2021)

At first, they were found on old, dead worlds. Massive chrysalises by the hundreds, seemingly impervious to cutting tools, waiting in alcoves and caves, surrounded by metallic fibers that slowly waved as if in a light breeze, even if in total vacuum. When disturbed, the chrysalis cracked open, with the monstrosity inside attacking immediately. Worse, its awakening set off chrysalises in the vicinity, and an unwitting exploration team was suddenly not fighting one or five horrors, but dozens, then hundreds, and then then thousands. The only thing each one had in common was that their armor was as impregnable as their shells, and the only defense was flight. Worse, the gladiators and hunters eventually died off, but new chrysalises grew from the webs left behind as the previous sleepers fell, guaranteeing that the world infested with them was perpetually dangerous.

Within five years of the first discovery on Bolander’s Bane, the assumption that the webs and their horrible fruiting bodies only existed on dead worlds had to be thrown out. Before long, the webs were found on hundreds of worlds, from ones completely covered with liquid water to ones completely covered with frozen nitrogen. An active research colony on the fecund world Kristobal Muñeca set off a colony that forced the whole installation to evacuate within 48 hours, and then then the terraforming project by the famed Fronimos team stimulated another. As the webs were found on more worlds, two things stood out. The first was that different stimuli opened the chrysalises: on one world, here proximity to a strand of webbing could cause the whole planet to explode in buried warriors. On another, they were perfectly safe until exposed to a particular chemical or wavelength of light. In all cases, any attempt to remove a chrysalis or break its connection to its web led to an inevitable conclusion, and few such bold explorers survived to share the results.

Even worse, the webs started showing up on worlds that had been thoroughly explored and surveyed, in places where absolutely nothing had been before. That was when researchers realized that the webbing, which resisted efforts to classify it as a true life form or as a particularly sophisticated nanosynth, was spreading. Microshards, often too small to be found and removed with standard decontamination techniques, were being spread throughout this galaxy and three others via pressure suits, tools, and boots, where they would root and establish when encountering the right conditions. As with the factors that stimulated their killing response, though, the “right” growth conditions ranged far, with no common pattern spotted by organic or AI researchers. The efforts to find a pattern, and possibly a way to stunt or remove their growth, became particularly vital. Last week, the first web appeared on Earth.

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

Plant: Nepenthes rafflesiana x sibuyanensis BE 3819 “Suki”

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: $250US

Shirt Price: $200US

The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2021 #3

Well, Danny Gallagher’s interview in the Dallas Observer drew some attention, and the crowd coming out for the third Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house was quite lively. It was a nice mix between old friends and new people who knew nothing about the gallery before now, encouraged by the unseasonably warm weather last week finally breaking and making the place feel like a typical Dallas Christmas for a day. (Not that it’ll last: after Tuesday, we’re going right back to temperatures more suited for April than December, but it’s not like I get a say in the matter.)

As a little aside, because of the way the gallery is arranged to maximize available space, most of the enclosures are set on shelves to allow maximum enjoyment by people of “average” height. Because there’s no such thing as “average,” because I’m abnormally tall in an extremely short family, and kids are definitely outside of an “average” height range, the gallery offers several stepstools and ladders to allow better access to enclosure details. If you don’t see one, or if they’re all being used at an open house, please don’t hesitate to ask for one. (If nothing else came from a year of lockdown, at least a deep research dive into museum display design opened up a lot of considerations. Unfortunately, the front porch isn’t ADA-compliant yet, but it’s a matter of doing what can be done in the interim.)

As for remaining Nightmare Weekend events, since Christmas is on a Saturday this year, a lot of people will be off on Friday, so we’ll be open from noon until 5:00 pm for the last open house of 2021. After that, expect a big announcement on New Year’s Day, because things are changing very rapidly.

Have a Safe Weekend

Some of you may be making plans to come out to the gallery for the December 18 Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas, and some of you may be holding off until the open house on December 24, both running from noon until 5:00 pm. The rest of you are probably making plans for dinner next week, with or without family. It may be the traditional sharing for this time of the year, but the holiday season just isn’t the same without cooking tips from Canada’s answer to Doctor Who:

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions 2021 – 2

Okay, let’s be honest: it’s been a rough year all around, and most of us planning any kind of giftgiving looked at calendars this week and realized “You mean it’s NOT still August?” For everyone else, we’re looking at our list and figuring that lumps of coal might be seen as “ironic,” but we’re not quite ready to dump the litter box in their beds just yet. For you lot, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with purchasing things for yourselves, if only to take some of the stress off until spring. Either way, we’ve got you covered.

To begin, I was lucky enough to meet Nicole Pangas at the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo show back last June, and we bonded on multiple levels during our short conversation. Firstly, we Michigan kids stick together, and secondly, her hand-thrown pottery has a decided charm that you aren’t going to find anywhere else. (An important consideration is that if you like something, snag it as soon as you can: she regularly announces online popup shows through her newsletter, and the items in the popups tend to disappear.)

Some of you may remember Scott Elyard from the big discussion on designer masks from last year, and his Dunkleosteus masks are still available in multiple colors. (And yes, I wear mine constantly.) The scary part is that his recent Advanced Dunkleosteus & Dragons T-shirt is such a bad pun that it inspired a new carnivore enclosure. Go buy the shirt: I’ll pay him royalties from the concept myself.

Another crew met in travels to Austin is Bloody Rose Boutique, specializing in both brick-and-mortar and online sales of goth and goth-accessible clothes and accessories. I bring them up partly because they’re good people, and partly because they’re hosting regular Black Markets for related venues, and the selection is pretty intense. It may be a little while (most of the Black Markets that aren’t sold out almost immediately are either when it’s too hot or too cold to bring out plants and enclosures), but the plan is to have yet more reasons to cause trouble in Austin.

Finally, another Oddities & Curiosities cohort deserving of wider exposure and inventory clearout is Kaijuju Designs, specializing in, well, eyes. Well, eyes and donuts. You want art that goes up behind you on Zoom calls and guarantees that nobody will expect you to come back to the office any time soon, right?

To be continued…

The Triffid Ranch in the news

Yesterday was an exceedingly exciting day (details will follow soon), to the point where an interview with Danny Gallagher in the Dallas Observer isn’t quite the biggest personal news of the day. Go read the interview anyway, and come out to this Saturday’s Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house to see what the big deal is about.

The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2021 #2

This is now the seventh holiday season in which the Triffid Ranch has been open, and 2021 has been…interesting. Things have been remarkably quiet since before Thanksgiving, and this isn’t just about gallery traffic. Even the roads, and we’re close enough to Dallas’s notorious Central Expressway to hear the road noise, aren’t as frantic and frenetic as in previous years, and running errands on Sunday was a shock as to the small size of holiday crowds. I don’t know if it’s incipient concern about COVID-19 variants, a decided increase in online shopping, or if simply fewer people have any interest in going out this year, but for someone who grew up watching some of the best Dawn of the Dead cosplay on the planet at Dallas shopping malls through the Eighties and Nineties, this is almost surreal.

On a good side, that strange quiet meant quite a few people taking the risk of stopping by the gallery last Saturday, figuring that the relative lack of traffic meant that we and others wouldn’t be overloaded with visitors. That worked out exceptionally well, with many visitors just wanting to see particular carnivorous plants in person for the first time, and others wanting to take in the gallery’s unique ambiance.

One full weekend to go before the Christmas season ends, and we’ll be live on December 18 from noon until 5:00, and again on December 24 with the same hours. By next weekend, I should have news involving several of the enclosures, so make your plans now while they’re still available. And so it goes.

Have a Safe Weekend

It’s Friday evening, which means it’s time to get ready for Saturday’s Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house, running from noon until 5:00 pm on December 11. (If you can’t make that, we’ll have one additional Saturday open house on December 18, as well as a Friday open house on December 24.) This weekend is also the absolute last chance to get in any orders for custom enclosures intended to be delivered before December 25, but feel free to pick up a previously established enclosure as well. You want to go home with a Nepenthes rajah enclosure the size of a typical flatscreen TV, don’t you?

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions 2021 – 1

It’s that time of the year, and we’re all scrambling to find that one thing for that one person whose needs or interests can’t be satisfied by Walmart, so it’s time to revive the annual Texas Triffid Ranch Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions feature. While it would be easy to give the obvious answer to queries of “So what the hell do I give that weirdo?”, and I’ll just note that giving the obvious answer is extremely easy if your Saturdays are free this month, generosity shouldn’t just apply to gift-giving. Lots of friends, cohorts, allies, and friendly rivals have great gift options this year, and it’s time to give them their time in the light as well. Keep checking back every week, because I have some beauts over the next few weeks.

To start, this year has been a surprising boom for book-buying at Triffid Ranch shows, and restocking has been a bear with distribution issues over the last few months. Aggravating the situation has been that several great books for beginner carnivorous plant enthusiasts are now out of print and otherwise unavailable, and some Amazon and eBay resellers have some rather precious ideas as to how much their used copies are worth. The good news is that you cannot go wrong with heading over to California Carnivores and ordering an autographed copy of Peter D’Amato’s incredibly influential book The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants at a very, very reasonable price. Your gift recipient will be thrilled, the California Carnivores crew will be thrilled, and any carnivores raised after perusing this vital update would be thrilled if they could express emotion.

On the subject of books, although they may take a little while to get to North America, the second edition of all four volumes of A Compendium of Miniature Orchid Species by Ron Parson and Mary E. Gerritsen came out through Redfern Natural History about a month ago, and it’s to the high quality that we’ve come to expect from Redfern, with thoughtful and accurate commentary accompanying truly breath-stopping photos. (In addition, get in your pre-order on the three-volume set of Nepenthes: The Tropical Pitcher Plants by Stewart McPherson now, before they’re all gone a week after the pre-orders go out.) I’ll warn you that you might need a handtruck and back protection when picking these up from the post office or delivery station: the only limitation to such a profusely illustrated book is that each of the color plates adds to the weight of the final book, and I won’t put Redfern books on high shelves at the gallery for fear of their falling and possibly killing someone underneath. I mean, that’s a great way to go if you have to, but why expedite the situation?

Christopher Doll has been a friend and fellow troublemaker since before the Triffid Ranch was even a concept, and Twitch enthusiasts already know about his regular space art painting events, but he also has a calendar full of art created during his Twitch livestreams currently available. Yes, a copy is up at the gallery, just waiting for January 2022 to start, and that’s why all of you have to get your own copies as well. For all of the innovations of electronic event organization, sometimes having an analog calendar is easier for organization (in my case, particularly when I’m trying to check show availability more than six months in the future), and you really don’t need to buy yet another Dilbert calendar, do you?

Finally, on the subject of books, I’d be remiss in not sending people in the direction of Mark V, Ziesing Booksellers, out of the lovely town of Shingletown, California. As of the new year, I’ll have known Mark and his family for a full third of a century, and they’ve always been the perfect place to track down obscure volumes that make the staff at Books-a-Million cry. I also bring up that Mark has a great selection of antique and vintage periodicals of all sorts, including a volume of note because of the debut of its palaeontology columnist 30 years ago. Now go ransack his archive, and gets lots of gift certificates to surprise those cohorts that you thought couldn’t be surprised.

One of a series.

I’m Living In My Own Private Tanelorn

Today marks a strange anniversary in these parts. December 9 marks a solid 30 years since I was let go from a job I hadn’t started at yet, when A.H. Belo, the parent company of the Dallas Morning News, bought up, shut down, and stripped out the competing Dallas Times Herald. At the time, my dream to work for the Times Herald (a dream held since my days as a Times Herald paperboy during the summer of 1980) finally realized itself as a mailroom position, back in the days when the mailroom was a potential gateway to a regular byline. The Sunday before I was supposed to start, I was having dinner with my then-girlfriend when the one and only Barry Kooda came by and asked “So, you getting a copy of tomorrow’s Times Herald?”

“Why? What’s up?”

“Tomorrow’s the paper’s last day. It’s shutting down.”

“Awww, no! I’m supposed to start work there tomorrow!”

“Well, I’d blow that off if I were you.”

I admit that I was angry about this for years, and not just because of the various details leading to that buyout and shutdown. For the next six months, the bus stop in downtown Dallas where I’d depart for various job interviews was right across the street from the old Times Herald building, so I got to watch the hurried stripping of the building’s marble facade and signage, the demolition of one wall to pull out the presses and other heavy gear, the crumbling of everything else, and even the overpainting of the scar where the building shared a wall with a parking lot with a mural particularly insipid even for 1990s Dallas. By the end of 1992, the effort to sanitize Dallas of any intimation that it had anything other than one daily newspaper was so successful that any trace of the Times Herald was one discovered accidentally, like discovering the stepping stones in your garden were unused gravestones. After a while, the only mentions of the Times Herald anywhere were in obituaries, such as when star columnist Molly Ivins died in 2007, and even then.

One of the things about starting a career as a science fiction essayist is that you can’t help but be immersed in the concept of alternate realities. The real fun is noting that the real changes occur due to the little things that set off the avalanches (remind me to tell you the Dallas Blade Runner preview screening story one of these days, if you haven’t read it already). A few years of little things, and the stories between two alternate timestreams go off further than with the blockbuster event. Today is a day to celebrate this, starting with the death of the Times Herald.

A few years back, I realized that my entire professional Day Job career was one massive case of dodging bullets, to the point where friends joke about renaming me “Neo.” Positions and companies fell apart, but staying, in the long run, would have been worse. Most of the time, the transition was painful — these things usually are — but necessary. Considering the current plight of print newspapers, there’s no guarantee that the Times Herald could have survived another five years had Belo picked its teeth with the bones: even if it had lived to see the 21st Century, the thought of celebrating 30 years’ employment there is considerably less appealing today than in 1991. More importantly, if things had lasted this long, I wouldn’t have had a minor writing career ending in 2002, which wouldn’t have led to my moving to Tallahassee to get away from it, which wouldn’t have led to my first encounter with a carnivorous plant in the wild. If the Times Herald had survived, I might have a minor journalistic career, but the Triffid Ranch never would have happened, and the people and places associated with the Triffid Ranch are so much more emotionally satisfying than anything I ever could have done while still working as a pro writer. I know I’ve made more money selling and trading carnivorous plants than I would have made in writing: two shows this year alone eclipsed my total writing income over 13 years, and the friends made in the process are people I’d never give up for the dubious promise of literary or journalistic success.

In his essay “Driving In the Spikes,” the author Harlan Ellison noted that most of the time, there’s no need to get revenge on those who wronged you, because they usually do something to themselves so much worse than anything you could do, and so much more satisfying. Instead of being overly petty, my picture has appeared in the Dallas Morning News multiple times, all of which making me feel like GWAR on the front cover of Tiger Beat, and all without paying for a print copy once in the last 30 years. That’s not a bad legacy with so many other things to focus on instead, and considering the Morning News‘s current financial and circulation issues, the real irony would be if the paper finally shut down or sold for parts a year from today, after all of the reasons why anyone would worry about a daily print paper in this age finish becoming irrelevant. And so it goes.

State of the Gallery: December 2021

It’s December in Dallas, but you’d never know it by looking outside. Well, until today, anyway, after we flirted shamelessly with freezing temperatures last night. This is getting to be the New Normal: abnormally warm and still weather for three or four days, followed by a windstorm and then getting down to where we normally would be at the end of the year. It’s been great for those of us craving autumn colors (yes, in comparison to Vermont or northern Michigan, we’re pretty much coloring with pastels, but we also still have leaves on trees when those areas are buried in snow), but here’s hoping that the weather isn’t still playing this game in January and February. Right now, though, this weather reminds me of when I first moved to the Dallas area at the end of 1979, and it never stops being thrilling.

In the gallery, we’re much the same way. The 2021 show season is over and we still have months before the 2022 show season starts (both the Dallas and Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows and Texas Frightmare Weekend are on the schedule, and now it’s a matter of looking at other locales), so the next few months are focused on home events. Naturally, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses are in full swing, but we’re also trying to make plans for January and February events, preferably without interruption from another icepocalypse. First, though, is getting through December.

(And as an aside, because it comes up this time of the year, December also means the beginning of the necessary dormancy period for temperate carnivorous plants, including pretty much every species and hybrid native to North America above the Rio Grande. This unfortunately means that we won’t have any Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, cobra plants, or US-native sundews or butterworts until after the beginning of April. Apologies, but this is for the plants’ sake.)

For those looking for outside activities, there’s an ulterior motive for recommending the Dinosaurs Live! nature trail at the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney this month. Namely, after you come back inside the museum proper and view all of the other joys inside, head down to the lower level to see the Nepenthes ventricosa enclosure “Lagerstätte” constructed specifically for the Heard. (The last week in December is shaping up to be a week of large enclosures, but that’s still being negotiated.) It’s getting nicely stabilized and acclimated to the new conditions, and one of these days I’ll have to come down to note all of the extra details thrown in to be a wiseacre. (Among other things, the backdrop on Lagerstätte contains at least one real tektite, as a tribute to Dr. Luis Alvarez.)

Another item on the ever-expanding schedule involves those who want either an existing enclosure or a custom work as a holiday gift, but aren’t quite sure if they have the room or appropriate location. This is completely understandable, because most enclosures are going to weigh more than most people expect, and the holidays are stressful enough without coming home to a shattered bureau or table covered with the remnants of a carnivore enclosure. In addition to delivery in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area, consultation on the best place to install a new enclosure is just one of the services we offer.

Well, back to the linen mines: the next few weeks should include debuts of several new enclosures, including plans for one last big one for the Friday open house on Christmas Eve. If the weather holds this week (the last forecast was for temperatures this Thursday and Friday closer to those of early October), that just might happen.

The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2021 #1

Now that the out-of-town shows are over, it’s time to get back into the gallery and open up for the rest of the year. The first Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas for 2021 ran without a hitch (other than discovering that a previous attendee had a fetish for swiping plant identification tags) on an unusually warm and sunny December weekend, even by Dallas standards. Unfortunately, some attendees learned for the first time that Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants need a winter dormancy, and that dormancy started last week, but that gave plenty of opportunity for the Asian pitcher plants and the bladderworts to shine.

One of the best things about ongoing events such as these is having the opportunity to debut new enclosures all month long, even as existing enclosures go home with clients and visitors. This includes the last-minute commission: anyone wishing a custom enclosure by December 24 needs to get in an order by December 12 to guarantee its completion in time for the holiday. (Naturally, anyone wanting a new enclosure after the beginning of 2022 has plenty of time, especially the week before New Year’s Day.)

For those who missed out this last weekend, please note that the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses are plural: the gallery next opens from 12 noon to 5:00 pm on Saturdays December 11 and December 18, as well as on Friday, December 24. Tickets are encouraged but not necessary: they’re mostly intended to get an idea of how many people might be arriving on a particular date, so we know how much we need to bring in snacks and the like. In the interim, it’s time to get back to the linen mines, because the empty spots in the gallery shelves need filling.

Have a Safe Weekend

Now that the last road trip of 2021 is done, it’s back to the gallery for the rest of the year. The Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses start this Saturday, December 4, running from 12 noon to 5:00 pm: admission and parking are free, masks are mandatory, and there’s still time to get in a commission on a custom enclosure in time for Christmas Eve.

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays 7 – 4

Finally, it should be noted that I’m always fascinated with fictional milieus based on real places, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the filmmaker Mike Judge lives in Austin. The Palmer Events Center definitely inspired one of his greatest films: between event security being absolutely absent other than at closing and a concession stand where payments for $4 cokes had to be made by credit card because employees couldn’t be trusted with money (and where the credit card reader didn’t work), I had to compliment some of the best cosplay at Horror for the Holidays that I’d seen in decades. To be honest, I was surprised that Center management didn’t get involved: it’s always good to see UT-Austin law grads and business majors doing what they do best. (It could be worse. For the first time in over 35 years, I had to sign a form confirming that I knew that smoking wasn’t allowed in my hotel room, because of the number of college football goofballs in town over the last two months who claimed they couldn’t read the “No Smoking Within 100 Feet of All Doors and Windows” signs on nearly every surface.)

That said, Blood Over Texas knows how to run a show, and there’s a reason why the Horror for the Holidays autumn spectacular has been doubling in size every year. Many thanks to the Blood Over Texas crew, fellow vendors, associated events (particularly the Bat City Scaregrounds crew, who regularly came by to keep people laughing), and all of the attendees who braved torrential rains and UT helicopter parents to make Horror for the Holidays what it is. Now to get ready for next year: I have a lot of peppers to get potted up to keep up with demand.

The next Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of November 19, 2022. Details will be shared as they become available.

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays 7 – 3

Most of Texas is still coming to terms with longterm damage from the statewide freeze last February, and that includes the Triffid Ranch. A lot of plants that gave every indication of surviving when things warmed up in June finally gave up in October and November, and we’re all a bit shell-shocked over what the upcoming winter might entail. We might get an abnormally warm winter, based on every indication, but those same indications gave no warning of the freeze, either. Based on previous experience, we probably have about another three years before we get anything approximating significant snow or ice, but with changes in weather patterns over the last 20 years, anything is possible.

One of the big near-misses involved hot peppers: the original plan when the February freeze hit was to get pepper seeds started, and this came very close to happening the Sunday the first storm hit. Because of other commitments, that didn’t happen, which meant that attendees at the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show last week got something other than carnivorous plants for their troubles, Both the Black Pearl and Numex Halloween peppers were extremely popular, and the current plan is to have a few more varieties from the Chile Pepper Institute available in 2022. This year’s peppers are going to get special consideration: after the holidays, any remaining peppers are going to become bonsai.

To Be Continued…

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays 7 – 2

It’s all fun and games until someone gets a hernia. One of the many additional activities at the latest Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show was a silent auction to benefit the SAFE Alliance, and the silent auction included the Nepenthes spectrabilis enclosure Weintraub Gate. Next time, Horror for the Holidays gets a custom enclosure exclusive to the show, as Weintraub Gate was exceedingly popular, and helped Blood Over Texas gather a record amount for the SAFE Alliance. Next time, though, I’m going to promote that enclosure with the proviso “Be sure to bring your own cart and transportation,” as the last thing you want to consider after winning a huge carnivorous plant enclosure is “how the hell do I get this home?” More things for which to prepare in 2022…

To Be Continued…

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays 7 – 1

If nothing else came from five years of trips to Austin for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays events, it’s an appreciation for packing. Every out-of-town Triffid Ranch show is a wrangle with making sure that everything that might be needed is there, because going back to get that one forgotten or misplaced item just isn’t going to happen. A cart with pneumatic tires usually needs an air pump at the worst possible moment, and being halfway through a show load-in is the absolute worst possible time to have to break to find a store with said air pump that’s open. Name tags get misplaced, shipping tubs break while handling, tables get left at the gallery, packing materials shift and allow fragile glass items to bump into each other for the next four hours…you name it, it’s been an issue.

(Many, many moons back, I came across a book on camping that instilled the most valuable lesson possible about long vendor trips. This book made a recommendation about backpack camping that started with doing lots of little campouts in the back yard or around the corner, and then pulling out everything and placing it into three piles. The first pile consisted of items used multiple times per day, the second pile of items used once or twice, and the third pile of items that weren’t used at all. The book continued, “If you’re smart, you’ll leave the contents of Pile 2 and 3 at home.” The obverse is also true: only with a lot of small trips can you recognize the items that you may only need once or twice a year, but that will completely mess up the entire show if they get left behind. That’s why the air pump always goes in the truck.)

That, incidentally, explains why the gallery exists. Above a certain size, not only do larger enclosures risk damage from road vibrations, potholes, and the Austin driver habit of rushing in front of eight vehicles to stop dead to make a right-hand turn, but that damage could turn deadly. A large enclosure full of live plants and wet sphagnum moss is ungainly under the best of circumstances, but if it fell apart during a move due to transport damage, that usually means irregularly sized sheets of broken glass. If that just happened in the truck, that’s an annoying and expensive cleanup. If that happens while actually moving the enclosure from the truck to a waiting stand or cart…well, the phrase “bled out before the ambulance arrived” runs through my head often enough that the enclosures brought to outside-of-Dallas shows tend to be smaller ones.

To Be Continued…

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 7 – Introduction

Five years ago, after years of sticking to events in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area, the Triffid Ranch took a big leap. After being introduced to one Bunny Voodoo of a new Austin horror-related gift market called “Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays,” it made sense to start taking the gallery, or a portion of it, on the road. Specifically, the first test involved getting a rental van and trekking the 220 miles (354 km) between the gallery and Austin, the Texas state capitol. The bright side: Dallas and Austin are connected by Interstate Highway I-35, requiring no major digressions to the destination. The bad side: I-35 is famous and more than a bit notorious for being in a perpetual state of repair, upgrading, and necessary maintenance, meaning that a “typical” trip to Austin uses a lot more white knuckles, gritted teeth, excessive stomach acid, and expanded vocabularies of appropriate profanities than someone outside of Texas would expect.

Mind you, all of this is worth it. The first Horror for the Holidays show with a Triffid Ranch booth (the second so far) was held in a local club with a reputation for hardcore shows, and It worked beautifully for several years. Problem was, it became far too small for the audience, so in 2019 it moved to a new venue on the edge of Austin. After that, COVID-19 hit, necessitating a virtual show in 2020, and then the new venue was claimed by the city for emergency equipment storage, requiring yet another move. This time, it really moved up, relocating to the Palmer Events Center in downtown Austin, the same location used by the Oddities & Curiosities Expo crew. In a half-decade, the show had gone from a one-day gig with maybe a dozen vendors to a major event.

This time around, the venue wasn’t the only change. In the beginning, Horror for the Holidays ran shortly after Halloween before settling in the weekend before American Thanksgiving. This time, because of venue availability, it ran the weekend after American Thanksgiving, a weekend not normally known for horror events. It’s a true testament to the Blood Over Texas crew that not only did they make it work, but they made it work even with a torrential downpour the morning of the first day, and thunderstorms in Austin tend to be as wildly overacting as Dallas ones.

To Be Continued…

Have a Safe Weekend

Unfortunately, the Triffid Ranch Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas don’t start this weekend, nor is the gallery participating in Small Business Saturday. There’s a good reason for it, though. The Triffid Ranch goes abroad this weekend, setting up on Friday for the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays showcase at Palmer Event Center in Austin on Saturday and Sunday, November 27 and 28. In the meantime, solidarity with friends and cohorts in retail, and the usual suggestion on an addition to the incessant Christmas music playlists:

Flytraps in Autumn – 4

One issue with raising carnivores that doesn’t get as much coverage is the issue with weeds. Since almost all carnivores need moist and acidic conditions, that means that the overwhelming choice for potting mixes involves peat. Whether it’s long-fiber sphagnum for top dressing or milled spaghnum for large pots, even ostensibly sterilized sphagnum has unavoidable seeds and spores, sometimes ones preserved within the peat for decades or even centuries. Give them the right conditions and they’ll come right up, and if not kept under control, they’ll take over and choke out the carnivores with whom they share space.

Exactly what comes up depends upon the source and the general conditions. For instance, most sphagnum has plenty of sphagnum spores, and if cared for, this can be a dependable source for live sphagnum moss. Likewise, in indoor enclosures, the main invasives are ferns, which are either cosmopolitan species whose spores moved on the wind or ones endemic to the area in which the sphagnum was collected. (Because of years of use of New Zealand long-fiber sphagnum, Triffid Ranch enclosures tend to get a wide range of native New Zealand ferns sprouting at odd times.) Outdoors, the main pests are marsh grasses, which attempt to produce large root mats on the bottom of pools and pots. Some of the invasives can even be other carnivores: sundews are famed for spreading seeds far and wide, and some people complain about the number of bladderworts that take over carnivore collections. (SOME people. Others look at it as getting two carnivores for the price of one, especially when the bladderworts bloom in spring.) Most aren’t a particular problem, but many varieties of invasive marsh grass need to be cut back before they’re impossible to remove.

As mentioned before, the biggest problem with grasses and ferns is the root system. Especially when they circle the interior of a pot, they form impenetrable webs that can’t be unraveled easily, and they flow out the bottom of the container if given the opportunity and spread. They’re also extremely tough, and attempting to tear off root balls like the one above is more likely to damage the plant you want to save. Worse, simply pulling the top growth on the plant just encourages new growth from the roots, so the roots need to go.

This sort of work requires a knife or other cutting device, and preferably one with serrated edges to rasp through especially tough roots. In this case, my best friend gave me a very nice Hokuru hori hori knife as a best man present at his wedding, and this beast is even better than the hori hori knife I’ve sworn by for nearly two decades. This one has a stainless steel blade that dulls much more slowly than the carbon-steel blade of my old knife, and it comes with both straight and serrated cutting edges. Suffice to say, the neighbors started to worry about the screams of “Sap and rhizomes for my lord Arioch!” coming from the greenhouse, and Mournblade here was a big factor. (If you don’t want a big knife like this, can’t grip a big knife like this, or want something that fits into smaller spaces, pretty much any serrated knife will get the job done. Spare steak knives at thrift stores are a great option, just so long as you aren’t expecting to use them for steak in the future.)

I imagine that this blade cuts through Pan Tang hunting tigers and Elenoin as well as it does through grass root balls, but that’s not something that’s going to be tested soon. Alas.

With a combination of slicing and pulling, the interior of the root ball is now exposed, and once the roots have been peeled from about half of the root ball, the flytrap inside is easily liberated and repotted. The rest can go into the compost pile or just on the lawn to be chopped up with the next mowing. Just beware if the removed plant has flowers or seed pods, and make sure to dump them well away from your carnivores unless you want to risk it happening again. Oh, it’ll probably happen again, at the worst possible time, but the idea here is to keep things to a dull roar so greenhouse collection cleanup is measured in minutes instead of days. As for sterilizing the sphagnum so it doesn’t happen again at all…well, do you have a spare thermonuclear device that isn’t working hard?

Flytraps in Autumn – 3

One of the best things about cleaning up the greenhouse in November is the color. Dallas isn’t known for brilliant fall foliage colors: with the exception of the occasional crape myrtle going red or purple, most of our tree colors range toward pastels. Carnivores, not being from the area, aren’t subject to the pastel rule, and occasionally go wild with late autumn color, as these Venus flytrap “Aki Ryu” cultivars demonstrate.

It’s not only flytraps going for brilliant color, either. The Sarracenia outside are also going into winter dormancy, and the S. leucophylla and its hybrids aren’t shy about brilliant patches of color as they’re shutting down. It certainly makes up for the temperate carnivores whose dormancy habits consist of going brown and shriveled in a week.