Interlude: A Matter of Conversions

Thesis: Just over two decades after Apple changed computer design forever with the first iMac, the technology inside is best described as “quaint”. In 1998, the decision to be the first personal computer to jettison the floppy disk drive was as prophetic as adding a USB connector, but nobody expected the standard cathode-ray tube monitor to itself become completely obsolete a decade later. Downloads and streaming removing the need for CD-ROM drives, the hard drives becoming increasingly obsolete, and more actual processing power and functionality in the first generation of iPhones…22 years after that first 233mHz Bondi Blue iMac hit computer stores, there’s not a lot that the innards can do that can’t be done faster and cheaper with current tech, but that wonderful, beautiful polycarbonate shell is a different story.

Thanks to two former school computers gifted at the beginning of the last decade and a client who really wanted them as plant enclosures, it was time to go back and try making new iTerrariums from two stages of the iMac evolution: one converted from the first-generation Bondi Blue model circa 1998, and one from the much faster 400mHz Graphite model from 2001. Both had the classic handle on the back cut out and used as an access door, but the Graphite had one ring of ventilation holes around the handle that made its conversion much easier. The Graphite also had a plastic cradle that suspended the interior up against a support plate that also held the monitor and the speakers, and since the plate was polystyrene, it didn’t survive its slow journey through the Twenty-First Century in one piece. The original one disintegrated while attempting to fit glass over the monitor aperture: thankfully, I had a spare.

In both cases, quite literally, the bottom plate was relatively easy to waterproof and ready for holding soil mix, even around the ports for the power input and the peripherals. If anything, the Graphite had a smoother bottom thanks to that support cradle, but both were finished, sealed, and readied for the client.

As for lighting, previous iTerrariums used standard 17x LED bulbs because waterproof lights of that intensity didn’t exist at the time. Ah, how the world changes in less than a decade. More light, less heat, and a significantly reduced risk of electric shock, as well as a more modular system where the entire enclosure can be moved much more easily.

In any case, these won’t be the last dead tech conversions to come out of the Triffid Ranch, but these will be some of the last iMac conversions for a while. Worthy iMacs may not be as rare as Eighties-era console televisions, but they’re getting there, and when I go through the last available shells, that’ll be it. The important part is that the client will be happy, and now it’s time to move to other projects.

Have a Great Weekend

One week to the Chinese New Year gallery open house, and everything is getting in order. Before then, music.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – 13

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on December 18, 2019

Installment #13 “Ain’t No Cure For the Wintertime Blues, Part 2’

When last we saw our intrepid newsletter, we were discussing essential operations to keep one hale and hearty through the depths of winter. We now return to our diatribe, already in progress.

One of the great bits of fun about being in the carnivorous plant trade is that we’re always in the never-ending September. If you’re not familiar with the term, it comes from computer network sysadmins, most of whom had their first experiences on university networks and had to train a whole new audience on such basics as printing manuscripts, saving files, and turning it off and turning it back on again. 25 years ago, this hit everyone when the Internet became a diversion, a tool, and a secret addiction, and that first month of handholding turned into an all-year gig, with more people coming in as blank slates than were leaving as fully certified and experienced users. The difference is that those sysadmins looked at this as a chore. We carnivore people look at this as an opportunity, especially when that newbie we met a decade ago now surpasses our knowledge and has knowledge to return.

So many of us in the carnivore trade have tales of those mentors who helped us without expectation of return when we were first starting out. In my case, I owe debts to Peter D’Amato of California Carnivores, Jacob Farin and Jeff Dallas of Sarracenia Northwest, and Michael Wallitis of Black Jungle Terrarium Supply that I couldn’t repay in a billion years, Because of those kindnesses, it’s imperative to return the favor. Since the biggest issue after the holiday season is finding things to do to stay active when the worst of winter weather keeps you trapped inside, it’s time to share some trade secrets, pass on some abstract knowledge, and answer one overriding question asked about Triffid Ranch enclosures over and over: “just where the hell did you come up with that?” In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite sources for everything that goes with the plants:

American Science & Surplus: I have friends who live within the vicinity of American Science & Surplus outlets, full of everything from low-cost lab glassware to screaming monkey puppets, who tell me all about the fun they have loading up shopping carts full of interesting overstocks, rejects, consignments, and castoffs. I spend most nights plotting terrible revenge on them, usually involving my talking them to death. Seriously, both the print catalog and the Web site are packed with thoughtful, accurate, and very funny descriptions of the latest flotsam to come across their loading docks, and I regularly go to AS&S for everything from sculpting tools to pipe cutters to soldering stations, and a lot of details in Triffid Ranch backdrops started as something completely different spotted in the latest catalog. The only regret: AS&S can’t ship overseas, and 15 years of searching for an international resource of this scale has always led to failure. As soon as they start shipping internationally, though, you’ll know. The whole planet will know. 

Micro-Mark: It may seem odd to recommend a model kit enthusiast tool source to gardeners, but Micro-Mark is different. Very different. About half of my tools for miniature bottle gardening came from the Micro-Mark catalog or were constructed using Micro-Mark tools, and the company’s heavy-duty hot foam knife (sadly discontinued) is an essential tool used at least once per week. In addition to loads and loads of adhesives, stock styrene, sculpting and scoring tools, and more small-scale power tools than you could shake a lathe at, Micro-Mark also gets odd one-offs that you didn’t realize you needed until you needed, say, tiny heat sinks that double as tiny clamps for holding small vines in place while the glue dries. And for those of us starting to familiarize ourselves with airbrushes, the Micro-Mark catalog is dangerous.

Smooth-On: I’d recommend Smooth-On just for its exemplary moldmaking and casting components, but nowhere near enough people in horticulture and garden design, as well as those working with reptiles, amphibians, and fish, know about Smooth-On’s Habitat line of aquarium-safe freeform epoxy putty and brushable and pourable resin. Over the last three years, I’ve gone through a truly remarkable amount of the Habitat epoxy putty as an adhesive and smoothing medium, and can’t recommend it highly enough for both its versatility and its resistance to both moisture and acid soils. And the look on amphibian-addicted friends’ faces when they discover aquatic amphibian-safe aquarium media options…

Obviously, this is just a start: too many options can be dangerous. However, there’s nothing that says that further collections of dangerous visions won’t be available in the future. Keep watching the skies.

Other News
For as long as I’ve been alive, the final year of a given decade was one of transitions, usually exceedingly painful. 2019 was my very own Angry Candy year, with a lot of friends dying, including my father-in-law, and all sorts of tribulations at the end. That’s why we’re having a big open house on January 25 for Chinese New Year: one celebration to the end of a kidney stone of a year just isn’t enough.

Recommended Reading

Far be it for me to add another review of Jeff VanderMeer’s new novel Dead Astronauts to the pile, but here’s another reason to pick up a copy, help turn it into a bestseller, and facilitate the upcoming television project based both on it and its predecessor Borne. Jeff and I have been friends since my writing days in the early Nineties, and if not for his inadvertent advice to move to Tallahassee for a job in 2002 and my first encounter with Sarracenia pitcher plants on my first day there, my life would have been drastically different. Because of that, after Dead Astronauts melts your brain and causes it to dribble out your nose at the most inopportune time, you can come up to him at a signing or a Nobel Prize acceptance ceremony, throw a Triffid Ranch T-shirt at him, and yell “This is YOUR fault!” And the best part? It is.

Music

It’s been a rough few months for everyone, so I leave you with an introduction, if you’re not familiar already, with Angel Metro. Just trust me on this. Go download the latest album by whatever service you prefer, but give it a good stout listen before the next newsletter comes out.

Have a Great Weekend

Because as bad as January can get, we’re still a ways off from purple mohawks and bondage pants…so far.

The Aftermath: ReptiCon Dallas January 2020 – 3

Among many other things, the ReptiCon Dallas show marks the beginning of a new decade for the Texas Triffid Ranch: we’re now a fifth of the way through the Twenty-First Century, so it’s time to act like it. For the previous decade, the Triffid Ranch got its start at science fiction and horror conventions, and a very selective spread of shows at these will continue. (Anyone who tells you that I’m phasing out Texas Frightmare Weekend shows, for instance, is trying to start something, because so many of the staff and attendees are family in all but DNA, and even then I have suspicions.) This year, though, that expands to a much more aggressive push toward art gallery shows, reptile and amphibian shows (particularly the upcoming NARBC show at the Arlington Convention Center on Valentine’s Day weekend), and museum events. Expect to see a lot more carnivorous plants all over the place, because 2020 is going to get a bit wild.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Repticon Dallas January 2020 – 2

When coming out to a new event, placement may be everything, but that depends upon what you want to accomplish. Being completely unfamiliar with the venue for ReptiCon Dallas, two adjoining tables at one end of the hall seemed like a perfect spot. These two tables were beneath an overhang and next to a big projection screen complete with a big black curtail, and fellow vendors winced “Oh, they stuck you back THERE?” For most of the reptile and reptile supply vendors out there, the location may have been the kiss of death, but for the Triffid Ranch, it was absolute perfection. The curtain meant that I could sit across the aisle from the tables, talking with customers while others filed by, without worrying about bumping into neighbors or clogging access, and the curtain helped baffle noise from the rest of the room. When I return to ReptiCon, I’m asking for these tables, because I couldn’t have found a better locale if I’d intended to do so.

To be continued…

Interlude: Chinese New Year at the Texas Triffid Ranch

And so it begins: invitations for the Chinese New Year at the Texas Triffid Ranch open house on January 25 just went out: if you happen to be a member of the arts press, Dallas or elsewhere, who needs one, or if you know of a member who should know, feel free free to pass on a mailing address. For everyone else, you’re all invited, too: in fact, it wouldn’t be any fun without you. As always, admission is free.

The Aftermath: ReptiCon January 2020

It started as a lark. For the last several years, notices for ReptiCon shows in Dallas would arrive in the mailbox, usually literally seconds after scheduling another event for that same weekend. At the end of December, another notice came for a show right after New Year’s Day, and this time, the schedule was free. Load up the van, galumph out to the town of Grapevine, unload at the Grapevine Convention Center, and spend the next two days talking about carnivorous plants with a very tight and cohesive show full of people with a mission: I’ve spent much worse New Year’s weekends doing much worse things.

To be continued…

Have a Great Weekend

New year, new decade, and now new show: this weekend, the Triffid Ranch sets up in Grapevine, Texas for the first Repticon Dallas show of the year. See you there.

And the year

On 2019

The end of any year in the Gregorian calendar that ends in a “9” always ends the same: innumerable alcoholic amateurs assuming that they’re channeling the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson, massive disappointing clearance sales with clothing stores acknowledging that styles WILL change and soon, and the continuing war between pedants on whether a particular decade ends at the end of the “9” year or the end of the “0” year. Personally, since 1970, which just never rolled over and went away until about 1987, my attitude has been that those “0” years are transition years: the decade that was dies tonight at midnight, but the beast won’t die until the signal travels all the way through its bulk and reaches its tail, and it’ll thrash around for a while in the process. We now have a year to find out what the Twenty-Twenties are going to look and sound like, and we shouldn’t worry about the exact date of death. What matters right now is that as of midnight on January 1, the Twenty-First Century is now one-fifth over, and we should start behaving like it. Want a semantic cause? Start insisting that those still using the term “turn of the century” need to emphasize which one.

There’s no question that 2019 was a year of transition, of what the author Harlan Ellison referred to as “the hour that stretches.” Harlan’s 1988 collection Angry Candy started with an introduction discussing all of the friends, cohorts, heroes, and fellow travelers he’d lost by that point, and how the sudden conga line of mortality directly affected his storytelling. At the time I bought that collection when it came out in hardcover, I was nearly 22, so I had no real grasp of his pain: now, I’m the age he was when Angry Candy was published, and I understand far too well. You may not recognize the names of Jeb Bartlett or Rob Fontenot or Laura Huebner, or of my father-in-law Durwood Crawford, but they made the world just a little more fun and a little more kind, and they’ll always have a spot in the Triffid Ranch pantheon of heroes alongside Adrian Slack and old Harlan himself. (And I have to leave a little room for my late cat Leiber, as his life stretched across nearly a third of mine, and not hearing his happy chirps when I’d look at all of the cat fur in the vacuum cleaner and scream “WHY IS THIS CAT NOT BALD?” has left the house just a little darker and lonelier, no matter how much Alexandria and Simon try to fill the gap.)

As far as accomplishments are concerned, this was a good year because of their sheer number. This was the first year a Triffid Ranch enclosure was entered in a professional art exhibition, and the first year of making more than one trip outside of Dallas to show off enclosures. (Next year will be even more fun, with at least three shows in Austin, one in Houston, and the first-ever show outside of Texas in New Orleans in August.) This was a year for workshops, and a year for presentations, and a year for rapidly changing directions. This was the year, a decade after the first halting Triffid Ranch shows, where I never regretted quitting professional writing less, because those workshops and presentations did more actual good than writing about long-forgotten movies and books ever did. Expect a lot more of those in 2020, too, because the life of a carnivorous plant grower is always intense.

With that year in transition comes a few unpleasant but necessary sidebars. 2020 is going to be a year without Facebook: after a lot of thought about Facebook’s accessibility for friends and customers versus the company’s issues with security, its never-ending throttling of Page access to subscribers unless the Page owner pays for “boosts” (and the ever-decreasing reach of those boosts thanks to ad blockers and the company’s own algorithms), it’s time to leave early so as to avoid the rush. Social media access continues with both Instagram and Twitter (just search for “txtriffidranch”), but the rabbit hole opened every time someone sent a message that lowered Triffid Ranch Page posts if I didn’t respond immediately to yet another discovery of that idiotic Santa Claus Venus flytrap video just takes up too much time. Besides, if you’re wanting news on what’s happening with the gallery, that’s what the newsletter is for.

Anyway, thank you all for sticking around, for coming up and asking questions at presentations and lectures, for buying enclosures so I have room to place new ones, and for coming out to open houses. You’re appreciated, and just wait until you see what’s planned for 2020. The first open house of the year is on January 25: you won’t want to miss this one.

Enclosures: “Witchstone” (2019)

witchstone_12292019_1A pulse. A glow. A flash. A strobe. Sometimes nothing at all. Of all of the wonders of Burin IV, the most renowned is the Witchstone Array, near the outpost town of Cottingley. Many swear that the stones visible in the Array glow in sequence at night, while others relate sudden bursts, random or nonrandom patterns, color changes, and even a beam coming from the lens in the center focusing on a hilltop on the other side of the Cottingley Valley. A few, a sensitive few, swear that they can hear the stones buried at the base of the Array, mostly random noises, but occasionally a voice murmuring about past glories, and sometimes a warning about the future that slides by before the conscious mind can perceive it. Everyone sees something different, even those standing right next to each other, and the mechanism as to how or why is as lost as the Array’s creators.

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

Plants:  Unknown Nepenthes hybrid

Construction: Plastic fixtures, polystyrene foam, resin, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: $150US

Shirt Price: $125US

witchstone_12292019_2witchstone_12292019_3

Have a Great Weekend

The last weekend of the year, the last weekend of the Twenty-teens, 40 years since this song came out, and Caroline’s and my 17th wedding anniversary. Let the music commence.

Enclosure: “D-Ring” (2019)

The galaxy is positively littered with artifacts, structures, and detritus from any number of otherwise cryptic civilizations, but the greatest mystery documented by the existing organizations endeavoring to track those archaeological sites involves what are commonly called “dimensional rings” found on approximately 5000 worlds and counting. The worlds themselves seem to have no common factor: superVenuses, the moons of gas giants, dwarf planets in a system’s Kuiper Belt or locked in orbit around neutron and X-ray stars, and rocky Earthlike worlds with atmospheres of nitrogen, oxygen, sulfuric acid, or methane. All of them share two attributes: all of them are composed of metals that are completely nonreactive in the atmosphere of that world, if applicable, and all available analysis techniques suggest an age of the rings at approximately 25 billion years old. Since our universe is at best approximately 14 billion years old, the arguments between experts in physics, archaeology, metallurgy, and xenoengineering are spectacular just within one species, and the debate on the D-rings between any significant consortium of sentients is something to witness.

Contrary to their popular name, no evidence exists to confirm that the rings come from an alternate dimension, reality, or quantum state, other than their immense age. Further, although remains of later outposts and cities can be found in abundance, sometimes in layers, not the slightest hint of the builders remains anywhere. The metals of which the rings are composed are not found elsewhere, and of the few carefully disassembled, no unique machinery, chemical activity, or other action can be found. The most common theories are that the rings are a portal either through space or time, albeit with no evidence to back it up, and military forces have been set up in front of rings for millions of years by a succession of species in the assumption that someone or something will come through a newly active gateway. Less popular is that the rings were an escape route for the peoples of the universe before the current Big Bang and universal expansion, thus explaining their age, but with no explanation of how they have only been found on planets and moons and never floating in deep space. A very unpopular theory, because of the implications, is that the D-rings are deliberately inactive while awaiting a signal so as to stymie further analysis and possible replication, and the list of possible sources of signal bandwidth have been proposed over the last 300,000 years by some of the greatest scientists ever produced in our galaxy. The problem, of course, is whether the signal was sent before any current species could detect it, the signal has yet to be sent, or if the signal will be recognized as such before the D-rings accomplish their purpose. As of late, strange gravitational wave signals possibly suggesting an intelligent origin coming from a series of cluster galaxies near the perceived center of the universe have kept social, military, and religious leaders from either sleep or meditation, but nothing is certain until the rings activate, if they will or even can.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12″ x 18″ x 12″ (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x30.48 cm)

Plant: Heliamphora minor

Construction: Polystyrene foam, polyethylene, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: $150

Shirt Price: $125

The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2019

With everything happening in November and December, many thanks to everyone who came out for the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas, because it made all the difference. As always, we had a great crowd of interested bystanders, and plenty of folks who came out later to buy individual plants or order commissions. Best of all, everyone got to see the old gallery one last time before its reorganization, so here’s hoping that it met with your approval.

For those who had to miss out, either because of the short holiday shopping season or because of prior commitments, the next open house is January 25, and naturally you’re invited. Heck, feel free to get the word out, and turn this into the biggest gathering we’ve had yet.

Making Christmas 2019


The Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas may be over, but the Triffid Ranch never sleeps. For those getting off work early and in need of carnivorous plants, the gallery will be open on December 24 from 1:30 to 6:00 pm. Just ring the doorbell.

Have a Great Weekend

Well, the last Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house for 2019 is Saturday starting at 6:00 pm, so it’s time for that one song that best sums up the reason for the season. Sadly, we’ll never get an updated live version, mostly due to guitarist Colin Grigson’s untimely jenkem overdose, but at least we have the memories.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – 12

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on November 9, 2019.

Installment #12: “Ain’t No Cure For the Wintertime Blues, Part 1”

No matter how hard we worked to keep it from happening, it’s over. No matter how hard we fought, winter is on the way to the Northern Hemisphere, and with it the dreaded holiday season. It’s worse than the flu. It’s worse than dry and overcooked turkey. It’s worse than working retail for a sadistic corporation that gets off on forcing its peons to have to listen to “Santa Baby” over and over for eight to ten hours a day. Even for those blessedly spared butter cookies and animatronic reindeer and Dawn of the Dead cosplay at the local Walmart, who avoid cable just so they don’t have to hear about the latest Hallmark Channel holiday movie, there’s one thing we can’t avoid on this half of the planet, and that’s the end of the growing season. That’s it. There’s nothing to be done other than wait four to six months for the days to get longer.

I admit that I don’t mind the concept of winter, in moderation. For the last 40 years, Texas made this so much better, and surviving the blistering summers was always so much more tolerable with the promise of winter out here. Four decades ago this month, my family made the trek from the south side of Chicago to the northern suburbs of Dallas right after Thanksgiving, and the disconnect was stunning. The end of 1979 in Chicago wasn’t promising meters of snowfall the way the year had started, but the last of the household goods went into the moving truck just as a patchy snow started as the temperature dropped below freezing, and it wasn’t the good kind of snow that could be used for snowballs and snowmen, either. This was God’s dandruff, that filled hollows in the ground and not much else, and it signaled nothing other than “it only gets worse from here.” For nearly the length of Illinois, the snow followed, with overcast skies preventing it from melting or even ablating away. You can imagine how a kid raised disturbingly close to the 45th Parallel felt about getting to Dallas about three days later and stepping out of a car on a December day without needing to put on two coats and a hat. Comparatively, the grass was still green, and nights only got chilly enough to warrant a jacket, not a full parka and boots. December in Texas? Heck, this was the end of August in northern Michigan, and when snow finally arrived about a month later, it melted off within a day. It was GLORIOUS.

(This isn’t to say that Dallas doesn’t get cold, too. December 1983 brought a week-long cold wave so bad that the Gulf of Mexico around Galveston froze for the first time in recorded history and probably the first time since the last great glacial advance, and marine biologists still pore through the breakdowns of the species and numbers of fish killed that collected in huge piles once the ice melted. A week-long freeze and ice storm in 1985 helped local authorities discover that Texas didn’t have a law against driving snowmobiles on state highways because nobody thought it was necessary. Oh, and then there’s the lowest temperature ever recorded in Dallas, all of one degree F on Christmas Eve 1989, that I remember because of the sheer thrill of moving a movie poster-sized sheet of glass down an ice-covered hill on foot, all to make sure that my then-girlfriend had her birthday present that day…and then watching that sheet crack from thermal stress when I got it inside. It’s just that this doesn’t happen often, at least compared to six months of carving lawn furniture out of blocks of frozen nitrogen in Wisconsin.)

For those of us needing green, it’s rough this time of the year. The outdoor plants are dead, dying, or pining for the fijords, and any Venus flytraps and Sarracenia pitcher plants are either in dormancy or heading toward a long winter sleep. Indoors, the plants with access to sunlight are still slowing down and prepping for the long dark. (If your plants are kept purely under artificial lights, cutting back on their photoperiods over the winter and then lengthening the number of hours they get by about mid-March won’t guarantee an enthusiastic blooming period, but it can’t hurt.) The good news is that you don’t have to stop working with plants: you just have to pivot. Some of the many things you can do now while your plants are resting: Clean your tools and pots.

Remember last summer, when you were fighting off giant tomato hornworms and swearing that you were going to clean off caterpillar ichor from your prize Felco pruners when summer was done? Now’s the time to get out all of your tools used throughout the year, along with an old towel, and set them all out on the towel. You’re going to need distractions, so don’t be afraid to pull out headphones or put something on the television that you can binge while you’re scraping caterpillar guts. (For most gardening people with Netflix, I highly recommend The Great British Baking Show; for us carnivore people, I recommend Daybreak or Lucifer.) Besides a dishtub full of warm soapy water, you should also have:

A bottle of isopropyl alcohol.
A bottle of window cleaner.
A bottle of Goo-Gone or a comparable brand of sticker and label remover (as if such a thing exists).
A bottle of hand lotion.
Spare rags AND paper towels.
At least one old toothbrush.
A bottle of light machine oil and a bottle of WD-40.
Disposable gloves of your preference. (Try to go for nitrile over latex, for reasons that will soon become obvious.)
Optional: A whetstone or sharpening stone, preferably with a fine abrasive surface.

Some of the items on the list have purposes that aren’t immediately obvious, so let’s go through them. The isopropyl alcohol and Goo-Gone are for labels, stickers, and other stick-ons that are peeling free, cracking, or otherwise getting in the way. (The isopropyl alcohol is specifically for labels that use adhesive resistant to water or ethyl alcohol This is also something handy to remember when cleaning liquor or wine bottles, by the way, because the label paper may come free with soaking in water but the adhesive won’t.) The bottle of window cleaner is for the occasional glue or glop that needs ammonia for removal. The gloves are because you really don’t want your hands soaking in isopropyl alcohol or window cleaner for long periods without some kind of protection, and the hand lotion is an additional level of protection inside the gloves. (It also makes your hands smell nice, which they definitely won’t if you’ve been bathing in Goo-Gone for an entire binge watch of Daybreak.) The reason why you want nitrile gloves instead of latex ones is that latex tends to be attacked by the light machine oil you’re going to use, and they tend to be more tolerant of the other chemicals you’re using. Finally, the light machine oil and the WD-40 are for lubrication: WD-40 is a penetrating solvent that’s incredibly good at loosening up seized or rusted metal parts, but it’s not an actual lubricant, so its use has to be followed up with light oil.

Two clarifications: the reason why the above list includes “spare rags AND paper towels” is that you’re going to come across substances, particularly label adhesives and oil, that you’re not going to want on rags that you plan to reuse or, worse, wash in your home washing machine. (If you’re the sort of monster who goes to a laundromat to wash items like this so you don’t mess up your own machine, several concert T-shirts, several dress shirts, and I are coming over to have a really long talk with your kneecaps.) Paper towels may be overused, but between washer and dryer abuse and the potential for spontaneous combustion, they’re a great way to collect glop that needs to leave the premises right then and there. However, there are cleaning and scrubbing activities that paper towels can’t handle without shredding and disintegrating, so take into account your needs.

And the sharpening stone? I know it’s hard to believe, but a disturbing number of people assume that the current sharpness of secateurs, scissors, grafting knives, hedge clippers, and lawn mower blades is what it is, with no option for improving the situation. Codswallop. Just as a cut from a sharp knife heals faster than one from a dull knife, cutting living plant material of all sorts heals faster with a sharp blade because the blade doesn’t crush or mangle the tissue at the cut. Unless you’ve really let your blades slide or you’re cutting up metal with your Felco pruners, a sharpening stone with a fine grit should handle all of your needs: I personally use an Arkansas whetstone that I purchased in the late 1980s, and still puts a precision edge on everything from scalpels to putty knives.

Okay, now that you have plenty to do, get to cleaning. You’ll need all of this ready to go by the time you get the next installment, available soon.

Other News
In other developments, the promise of stirring up the Triffid Ranch social media environment starts at the end of the year, with the shutdown of both personal Facebook account and the Triffid Ranch Facebook page. This wasn’t an easy decision, but recent changes in Facebook’s algorithm have made it impossible for people to get Page postings unless they’re boosted, and that is becoming increasingly more expensive with less of a return. If you know someone trying to keep up via Facebook who hasn’t read anything in a while, that’s why: the Twitter and Instagram accounts (both “txtriffidranch”) are staying up, but the first act of January 2020 is to shut down the Facebook account for good. (And feel free to forward this newsletter to anybody who might have an interest, because retro media is the new future. At this rate, it may be time to turn this newsletter into a zine.)

Recommended Reading

One of these days, the To Be Read pile beside my bed is going to collapse and kill me in my sleep, but that’s only because of so many choices. However, two particulars stand out: the latest Spectrum Awards collection of fantastic art (because after a quarter-century, it just keeps getting better and better), and the new book The Making of Alien, which goes into detail on the making of the classic film, including a lot of the conflicts and command decisions that almost imploded the production over and over. Both are available in oversized hardcovers, so if you don’t feel like Netflix binging, these are great distractions while cleaning your gardening tools.

Music

It’s been a rough few months for everyone, so I leave you with an introduction, if you’re not familiar already, with Angel Metro. Just trust me on this. Go download the latest album by whatever service you prefer, but give it a good stout listen before the next newsletter comes out.

Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2019: The Final Episode

And it’s all come down to this: the final Triffid Ranch of 2019. The fourth and final Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas gallery open house for 2019 starts at 6:00 pm on Saturday, December 21, and ends when everyone goes home. For those who have been out here before, expect a whole slew of new enclosures. For those who haven’t, come out to peruse Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery. And for those who can’t make it on Saturday, the gallery is still open and available for appointments until the evening of December 24 and the whole week after Christmas. Either way, feel free to come by.

Have a Great Weekend

While the third Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas gallery open house runs this Saturday, take into account that one of the best themes for Dallas in August came out 35 years ago:

State of the Gallery: December 2019

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And so we come to the end of yet another year and another decade. (And please don’t start with how officially the Twenty-Teens end on December 31, 2020. You’re probably the sort who begged teachers for homework over holiday break, too.)  It’s been a very interesting time, and as Harlan Ellison put it, this is the hour that stretches. Now we make plans for the next decade.

Hovering over all of this is that November was a particularly cruel month, particularly with the death of my father-in-law. I’m still composing a proper memorial for him, but without his business advice, the Triffid Ranch would be nowhere near where it is today. Considering how thrilled he was to come out to open houses and shows, I’m already missing sharing new projects and ideas, and while he thought he was being rough, I’ll never forget how he picked apart business proposals, scattered the pieces on the floor, and watched intently to see what I’d pick up off the floor and what I’d do with it. He often bragged about me to his friends with “He isn’t much, but he’s better than the last one,” and I always grinned and responded “Yeah, but I could be eating raw human flesh and still be better than the last one.”

Another factor in November is discovering that after 4 1/2 years, the day job that supported the gallery in its early days ended with little warning. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t go running through the halls shrieking “Dobby is FREE!”, nor did I go on a madcap firefight while the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” played in the background. (I’m not saying the place was run by explorers in the further regions of solipsism: it was just less an organization and more of a bet as to how toxic a workplace could get before the Environmental Protection Agency had to get involved.) What happened, though, is that now there’s a LOT more time to focus on Triffid Ranch activities and projects that had to be put by the wayside. You should be seeing a lot more in the next few months, and never mind the Ron Grainer soundtrack.

And now a word about shows. If you’re late to the conversation, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas continue through 2019, with the next one on December 14 and the final one on December 21, both at the gallery starting at 6:00. This, of course, is in addition to remaining open by appointment until the evening of December 24. After that, the Triffid Ranch show season starts very early, beginning with Repticon Dallas in Grapevine on the weekend of January 4, and a joyous return to the North American Reptile Breeders Conference in Arlington the weekend of February 15. As for other events, that’s pretty much on a case-by-case basis, so keep checking back.

In other news, it’s taken a while, but Facebook has finally become intolerable as a platform for small businesses, so expect the Triffid Ranch Facebook page to shut down as of January 1. (Essentially, it’s a combination of increased pressure to boost postings in order for Page followers to get notices, combined with new FB algorithms intended to crowd out posts from companies in favor of “family and friends.” no matter how many times users chose otherwise.) That doesn’t mean I want people to lose touch: that’s what the newsletter is for, and expect a new one very soon.

Anyway, it’s time to get back to the linen mines, so stay in touch, and have a great set of holidays of whatever holiday you celebrate. Me, I’m going to be ten years old all over again.