The intention was to take things easy with the first of the Triffid Ranch Porch Sales in 2022, but the universe had other ideas. Between horrendous windstorms in the Dallas area on the previous Friday night and record high temperatures on that Saturday, I wouldn’t have blamed anybody for clutching the air conditioner like a teddy bear and staying as far away from the yellow hurty thing in the sky as possible. The fact that so many people were willing to ignore potential cremation is greatly appreciated, and I thank you all.
As it was, as hot as it was, things should be getting interesting over the next week. The forecast is still tentative, but there’s a likelihood of storms this next Friday, leading to considerably cooler temperatures on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, many more plants are emerging from winter dormancy, so the rest of May should be much more auspicious.
For everyone who either had other commitments or couldn’t bear to let go of Coolant Mother, the Porch Sales continue through the year, at least until after Halloween, with the next two on May 21 and 28. See you then, and with luck, the weather will be much more comfortable.
Well, that was a good recovery weekend, but now it’s time to get back to work. The first of the 2022 Porch Sales starts on Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm (all the better to avoid the afternoon heat), and that’s just the stuff you’ll be able to see. Just wait until the gallery renovation is done.
And like that, it was over. Texas Frightmare Weekend has always been a blowout of a show, from the first Triffid Ranch table back in 2009 to now, but 2022 was far and ahead the most successful show to date, and now it’s time to plot and scheme to do even better. That’s as much of a tradition as bringing doughnuts for the Frightmare crew, and one I want to keep going for as long as possible.
On that note, many thanks need to go to the Frightmare crew, starting with Loyd and Sue Cryer for their leadership and going through the army of staff, security, and support that make Frightmare happen every year. It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone, and some folks weren’t here to help us celebrate the end, but in their memory we’re all going to make 2023 even bigger than ever.
So what’s the plan for the future? Well, the first is that it’s time to move to a larger table space for 2023, as can be judged by what little is left in the photos above. All of that, of course, is contingent upon making the cut in vendor selection next year (in order to give as diverse a selection of vendors as possible, vendors are carefully curated each year, and everyone has to reapply as if this was their first show), but Danielle and I discussed some possibilities in both presentation and selection that should surprise and delight. With luck, a lot of the distribution issues that brought everything down to the wire this spring will be minimized or reconciled in 2023, and certainly all of the tribulations of the first half of 2022 aren’t going to happen again any time soon. Until then, many thanks to everyone who came by the Triffid Ranch table, even the Spy Clown, and get ready for some major new changes next May.
One of the many Triffid Ranch services that’s not exclusive to Texas Frightmare Weekend, but that gets a lot of use here, is the holding service. Essentially, a lot of customers want to purchase plants early on, but need to leave them at the table for the duration of the show. Sometimes it’s because they’re staying at an overflow hotel (and this year, Frightmare had a LOT of overflow hotels) and they don’t want to risk the plant being damaged, sometimes it’s because they won’t have room in the car until the end of the convention, and sometimes it’s as simple as not wanting to lug a big contraption of glass and peat around a big crowd all weekend. To facilitate customer convenience, I’ve developed a system that works extremely well: upon purchase, the customer gets a ticket asking for name and phone number, which gets put onto the plant’s ID tag. If 4:00 on Sunday rolls around, the customer gets a friendly call to remind them that they still need to take their plant home. In the last decade since Frightmare set up at its current location, I’ve had to call maybe five people, and generally they all get their charges before we have to start breaking down at 5:00.
Eventually, this was going to have a slight hiccup, and that came with a customer with phone problems. The hotel, like so many other 1970s/1980s semi-Brutalist constructs, was built when nuclear war was a more realistic future shock than handheld universal communication devices, so calls drop and calls never get through. Eventually, though, our buyer was able to come by the gallery to get her new plant, and everyone was greatly amused by the resolution.
Here you go, Wendy. That pot belonged to my late mother-in-law, and she’d have been thrilled to have learned how happy you were with it.
One of the really nice things about being a vendor at Texas Frightmare Weekend is that there’s absolutely no telling who’s going to show up to say hello. I’ve had people I haven’t seen in thirty-odd years drop by (yet another reason why Frightmare needs a revival of the old Dallas Dawn of the Dead audience participation midnight shows), I’ve had the kids of high school classmates pass on regards, and I’ve had a lot of guests stop by to see what’s what. This usually ends very well: there was the time when I came around a corner with a cart full of plants on Sunday morning to hear “Wow! Pitcher plants!” and nearly literally ran into Mark Rolston admiring the Sarracenia. What I didn’t know was that he’s a serious plant enthusiast, and I introduced him to the sole Roridula I had at the time, and we were on such a roll that his handlers nearly literally dragged him away to get him to his first event in time. This happens a lot on both Friday (when vendors are first setting up and guests are getting an idea of where they need to be) and on Sunday (when everyone finally gets a chance to see what everyone else is doing because we’re all still in a bit of shock from Saturday), and the only issue on Friday is that you get caught in great conversations right when you also need to finish emptying the truck at the loading dock and give someone else a chance to unload.
So, the Lance Henriksen story. What most people don’t know is that in addition to his extensive and lively acting career, Mr. Henriksen also has a well-deserved reputation as a potter, and I’d always wanted to talk to him just on that. Well, I got my chance, kinda: as Danielle and i were getting set on Friday afternoon, who else should walk up and ask “Are these real plants?” but one of our guests of honor. Quick explanations, and then back to the loading dock to finish dragging plants in, with a promise to go into detail if he had the chance to come back. If he didn’t, this was understandable, because we’re all busy, this is work for guests and vendors alike, and there’s so much to see at Frightmare that it’s easy to forget the last wonder you spotted when looking at the next.
Anyway, a very nice couple came by on Saturday to buy a purple pitcher plant, and then they came back a couple of hours later to get another. This happens regularly, but they had a better explanation than simply “We wanted another to keep the first one company.” They were in line for an autographing session, Mr. Henriksen saw their Sarracenia purpurea, and bought it off them since he wouldn’t have time that day to come by himself. So far as I know, it’s now in his house, enjoying the Los Angeles breezes, and if anyone involved with the Los Angeles Carnivorous Plant Society is reading this, you should be getting a very distinguished guest at your next show and sale. I made sure to pass on that information.
I’m asked on a regular basis by folks yet to experience Texas Frightmare Weekend “So what else is going on out there?” I have to be absolutely honest and admit “I have no idea, because I’m lucky to get out from behind my booth.” Considering that the booth gets mobbed during setup on Friday afternoon (I’ll tell the Lance Henriksen story with another installment) and only shuts down at 11:00 that evening, going out and exploring on Friday evening isn’t an option until someone develops an effective vaccine for sleep. (As it was, Friday was so lively that even after filling a 15-foot truck, I had to go back to the gallery and get even MORE plants on Saturday morning.) Since Saturdays are the main time for single-day pass holders, the aisles in both of the dealers’ rooms are best described as “rivers of people,” especially in between guest panels and movie screenings. On Saturday, the dealers’ rooms close at 7:00, and only the young, the determined, and the rugged go to parties or events instead of trying to recuperate for Sundays.
Mileage may vary between vendors, but Sunday is the biggest day at the Triffid Ranch booth for two reasons. Firstly, a lot of attendees come through on Friday and pick out plants to keep in reserve until Sunday so they don’t have to carry a 20-kilo plant enclosure all weekend. Secondly, with everyone else, they know what their budget is like: they’ve checked out of their rooms, they know how much money they need for gas and food to get back home, and they know how much space they have in their vehicles for further purchases. After about noon on Sunday, the crowds generally don’t let up until about 4:00 pm, giving us vendors a chance to regroup and pack up incidentals when everything starts to close at 5:00. If things work well and we don’t have any issues with finding loading dock space, the overwhelming majority of us are out and gone by 6:00, with only a few still around by 7:00. After that, it’s all about starting to get ready for the next year’s show, because it’ll be starting before we realize it.
I’m regularly asked at shows “Could I watch a plant eat something?” As a general rule, especially with Venus flytraps, the answer is going to be a hard “no.” It’s for multiple reasons: digesting insect prey usually takes from three to five days, the production of the digestive enzymes used to digest prey require a lot of light for energy, and most venues don’t have anywhere near enough light, so that prey rots before it can be digested. If you’re lucky, the rot only kills the individual trap, but sometimes you can be incredibly unlucky and have that rot spread to the plant’s crown and lose the whole plant. I’ve done a few demonstrations at museums of how flytraps capture their prey, but always with the understanding that the plant was going to be back outside and in full sun in the next twelve hours or less.
Now, if a bug gets caught on its own, though, there’s not a whole lot anybody can do. That happened at Texas Frightmare Weekend, when intrepid cohort Danielle spotted a big fly having entirely too much fun sopping up nectar on a big Sarracenia pitcher on Saturday morning. Over the next hour, when we could spare a glance, we’d look up to see the fly dallying and daring to climb inside the pitcher for more nectar, only to panic and fly off before getting too far inside. That went on for a while, and then we looked up and we had a no-fly zone. This meant one of three things: the fly found itself trapped, the fly got bored and found somewhere else to go, or one of our fellow attendees, vendors, or guests got hungry. At Frightmare, there’s no telling.
Now, one of these days, there’s going to be enough of a lull in the crowds, or I’ll have an opportunity to hang around on a Saturday evening, to demonstrate how so many carnivores fluoresce under ultraviolet light for a suitable crowd, and how that attracts insects. Next year, most likely, if we can find a room that’s completely dark. This year, we just had to watch Seth (and in “Brundle”) and experience it vicariously. I don’t know: should I set up a Triffid Ranch Cam just to let people watch the plants through the show?
While this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend was the first-ever event of its sort for a significant percentage of its attendees, the long-timers are reasons to come out to a show in their own right. By way of example, let me introduce everyone to Diane Tran, a fixture in Dallas’s cosplay community and a powerhouse within the Dallas Paleontological Society. With the exception of the year where she spent the weekend in the hospital, Diane comes out to celebrate her birthday, and it’s not a Frightmare without her (in the photo above, in her Kay Lawrence swimsuit) causing trouble. She’s always welcome at the Triffid Ranch table and everywhere else, and she’s enough of a regular at Triffid Ranch open houses that I don’t know whether to pay her or start charging her rent. Life without her is like a broken pencil.
Diane wasn’t the only regular coming by, either. For many of us, we hadn’t seen hide nor hair of each other since May of 2019, so much of the show was dedicated to catching up. A few of us didn’t make it, and those who didn’t know were soon appraised and updated by everyone else. Compared to the dealer’s rooms at other conventions, Frightmare prides itself on its dealers being not so much family but an extended class reunion, and some of us go back long before Frightmare was ever even a dream. Speaking of which, go give some love and business to Drink With the Living Dead: Robert Whitus, its proprietor, is getting ready to go in for surgery, and he’s enough of an independent cuss that he’d much prefer to pay for the surgery by everyone getting a collection of hand-etched pint and shot glasses.
One of the better surprises at this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend involved something of which nobody had any control. Most years in the Dallas area, dormancy among temperate carnivorous plants is a holiday affair: no more temperate carnivore sales after Halloween, everything is well-established in the beginnings of dormancy by Thanksgiving, and everything stays quiet until the first signs of bloom spikes around St. Patrick’s Day. This means that the height of blooming is around the middle of April, and by Frightmare’s traditional opening by the first weekend of May, most of the blooms are already spent. This year, though, we had a reprise of the funky cold waves of 2015, with big multi-day subfreezing shocks at the end of February and in the middle of March, causing everything to reset. This meant that the earliest bloomers, such as Sarracenia flava and its hybrids, still had a few extant blooms by the end of April, most temperate carnivores (most Sarracenia, threadleaf sundews), were just getting going, and others such as Venus flytraps and Sarracenia leucophylla pitcher plants were just waking up. Even now, over a week later, Venus flytrap blooms are only now starting to open, the triggerplants are growing back but generally without blooms, and the leucophylla finally have their first pitchers of the season.
What it meant for Frightmare, as in 2015, was that attendees got to see not incipient Sarracenia seed capsules but flowers in their full glory, giving a view of what a particular plant looked like in bloom and with pitchers. Sarracenia blooms already look bizarre enough to be mistaken for traps themselves, so that added just a little extra spice to the proceedings. It’s always great when a touch of atmospheric serendipity improves the whole Frightmare experience, especially for kids that never had any idea that carnivorous plants bloomed at all.
Now that Texas Frightmare Weekend is over and the weather is getting stable, by North Texas standards, it’s time to start up the third year of Triffid Ranch Porch Sales while the gallery undergoes renovation and renewal. The first Porch Sale of 2022 starts on Saturday, May 14 at 10:00 am, ending at 3:00 pm, with redux on May 21 and 28 and possibly one Memorial Day Weekend encore on May 29. Feel free to spread the word.
To start off this story, let me introduce everyone to Danielle. Danielle started as a longtime Triffid Ranch customer, where we both first met at Texas Frightmare Weekend nearly a decade ago. She and her husband Sean own custom enclosures (A Canticle for Troodon and Skarif Salvage), they’ve been wonderful sounding boards for gallery plans and strategies, and I;m proud to call them dear friends. Heck, Danielle and I even worked together in 2021. When I was getting everything together for this year’s Frightmare, not only was she the logical choice for booth cohort, but she volunteered.
It’s not an exaggeration in the slightest that without Danielle’s capable and expert assistance, this show wouldn’t have turned out anywhere near as well as it did. All three days, she was seemingly in four places at once, manning operations during the one major issue the whole weekend (large trucks had to move to overflow parking in DFW Airport, and I would have been back with plenty of time if the hotel’s parking shuttle fleet had two vehicles undergoing repairs that Friday and the third nearly 90 minutes late), and even entertaining convention guest Lance Henriksen as he asked question after question about the difference between Nepenthes and Sarracenia pitcher plants. (A heads-up to the Los Angeles Carnivorous Plant Society: you may be getting a few new attendees before too long, because we bragged on you lot all weekend long.) More than a few times when I was too frazzled with multiple questions to answer others, she stepped in and took over, making sure that I remembered to drink water and wear clean underwear.
And trust Danielle to see connections that I was far too busy and harried to notice, and take advantage of them. Halfway through the show, she noticed that two Sarracenia containers had, erm, somewhat of the same theme, and insisted we put them together right in front so everyone could appreciate them. “I’m twelve,” she said, and apparently everyone else at Frightmare was twelve, because the juxtaposition was a huge hit.
It almost didn’t happen. When the new year starts with a neighbor deciding to celebrate the holiday by firing an AR-15 into the air down the street and one of the rounds hits the roof of your house, this may not be taken as an auspicious omen. A frantic move in mid-winter, repeated freezes right when all of the temperate carnivores were just starting to wake up, ending a job, having a friend accidentally faceplant while furniture-shopping in an Ikea, having the gallery nearly catch fire…oh, it’s been one whole set of tribulations in this foul Year of Our Lord 2022. Every once in a while, though, the planets and moons all aligned, the lenses clicked into place, and things not only ran as well as they did in 2019, they sometimes ran better. This pretty much summed up this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend.
To say that this was the best Frightmare the Triffid Ranch has had the pleasure of attending is a quantum jump in understatement. We’ve been hearing terms such as “revenge travel” to describe the rush of people deciding that they’d better get out and do things NOW, but that didn’t come close to summing up Frightmare this year. We vendors regularly joke that if Frightmare gets any bigger, we’ll have to bypass moving to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas and just go for a custom facility with enough room for everybody, but THAT didn’t sum up Frightmare this year. When the General Admission crowd started coming through on Saturday morning, jokes about George Romero films and Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumpers were a bit inadequate, and even THAT didn’t sum up Frightmare this year. This was a show full of longtimers who hadn’t been out in three years, and a show full of first-time Frightmare attendees, and a show full of people who had never been to any media convention, especially something as big as this one. For all of us vendors, this was a show just loaded with surprises, and when it finally ended three days later, we were all exhausted but ridiculously happy at the same time.
So what happened? Nobody seemed to have an answer, but nobody was complaining. The halls and aisles went from “busy” to “human river” in moments, and any of the tables in the two dealer’s rooms were a perfect place for peoplewatching. It was one big wild celebration of life with a wrapper that said “premier horror convention,” and if 2023’s Frightmare reaches these heights, we won’t know what to do with ourselves. If it exceeds this year,. watch out.
We’re past Texas Frightmare Weekend, and now it’s time to focus on the new gallery renovation. In the meantime, expect a slew of Porch Sales every Saturday (and the occasional Sunday) through the rest of spring and all through summer, with lots of guest vendors to make things interesting. Keep an eye open for updates as to when the next indoor open house runs, because it’s going to be brag-worthy.
With everything that happened over the first quarter of the year, it almost didn’t happen. Having to move the entire collection to a new locale. Getting hit with not one but two severely subfreezing cold waves, one late enough in March to delay everything. Getting used to new growing conditions, particularly one of the windiest springs in North Texas history. (The scar on my forehead is a souvenir of the last record-setter back in 1982.) The flytraps were still late, as were the temperate pitcher plants, and the triggerplants might be ready by the end of May. We won’t even talk about the sheer number of competing events through the Dallas area, all of which were trying to catch the attention of quarantine-crazed Dallasites. Not that it mattered: the 2022 Manchester United Flower Show was an overwhelming success, and if the explosion of Sarracenia pitcher plants this month is any indication, the rest of the year might be even more lively.
Not only was this a beautiful time to debut new Sarracenia, but this was the first evening event of 2022,and quite a few people who couldn’t attend the usual early afternoon open houses finally had the chance to come out to view the gallery. Again, it’s shaping up to be a spectacular year for Sarracenia, and the planned Triffid Ranch Porch Sales starting in May should give the opportunity to show off so many other species of carnivorous plant, too.
With this high point, it’s time to hit the road and sustain this. This weekend, the gallery is closed in order to take everything to the Made In Texas Hall at Texas Frightmare Weekend, and then the new gallery renovation begins in earnest. Keep checking back in May, because the wait will be worth it.
The Triffid Ranch show season may have started at the end of March, but now it’s amping up, with the Manchester United Flower Show going live on Saturday at 3:00 pm and running until 9:00. After that, well, let’s just say that the Texas Frightmare Weekend booth has some additional surprises next weekend.
Well, this has been fun. Growing season starting, tornado season starting, hail already arriving, discovering that the new house faces right into the south wind onslaught that sums up daylight hours in Dallas…it’s been a little exciting around here, and we’re only two-thirds of the way through the month. I haven’t had this many starts, stops, and dramatic pauses since 1987, and that’s a year from which I’m still recovering.
This missive needs to begin with thanks to everyone who has come out so far to Triffid Ranch events in April, because it’s been intense. Longtime friends who haven’t been out in months or years, new rubberneckers who just wanted to see what’s here, travelers who now feel safe and secure enough to visit for the first time in two years: all are welcome. If anything, it just redoubles efforts to get everything under control by the end of May: the office at the new house is nearly ready for the return of the Twitch stream and more YouTube videos (the TikTok gibberish continues), including a nice greenscreen, and that’s not even touching the renovation of the front of the gallery that starts next week. All of this and a fulltime job brings up the usual question: “Sleep? What’s that?”
That’s where things are getting interesting. The last gallery event of April, the Manchester United Flower Show, goes live at 3:00 pm on Saturday, April 23, and the late subfreezing weather in March means that the gallery will be just FULL of blooms, particularly of the flower emblem of Newfoundland & Labrador. This also means that next week’s Texas Frightmare Weekend, thanks to a last-minute plot twist, has more room than usual to show off said blooms alongside emerging traps. And that’s just the floral side: the return of the Triffid Ranch Porch Sales in May also brings new vendors to show off their wares alongside the Triffid Ranch tent. Oh, it’s going to be a fun summer.
And on the subject of other vendors, there’s a big project coming down the pipe that’s still under discussion and deliberation, but involves the City of Richardson’s efforts to turn Richardson into an art destination in its own right. For those familiar with the truly insufferable traffic and parking issues in Deep Ellum and the Design District, not to mention those who already know about Richardson’s wide variety of art galleries, this gallery is firmly behind the project, and the plan from this end is to help make it more than simply a relocation of visitors and talents. Once things are in place, the phrase “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” long a motto around here, really starts applying to the gallery.
Anyway, as with Texas weather, if you don’t like the current lineup of events at the gallery, stick around, because it’ll change in five minutes. The question is how much things are going to be changed by the end of the year.
April is always an odd time at the Triffid Ranch, evocative of Harlan Ellison’s “the hour that stretches.” Everything is dependent upon the weather. Inside, all of the timers shift to the spring/summer schedule as of March 17, so it’s only in April that anyone starts seeing any significant changes to the flora. Outside, one well-placed freeze, such as the big one we had at the end of March, throws off everything for at least a month: thanks to that big freeze, the Sarracenia rhizomes I potted up at the end of February are only now starting to wake up, and only as I write this are the flytraps and non-Sarracenia flava pitcher plants starting to bloom, and the triggerplants and temperate sundews are just emerging. (Flavas always bloom first, and already have working pitchers when everything else is just waking up, so their blooms are fading: considering that the blooms smell like cat pee, this is a good thing for any indoor events, as we don’t need the place smelling like an anime convention.) Until all of the temperate carnivores can join the party, Triffid Ranch open houses are a little lacking, but we make do.
That’s not to say that it hasn’t been busy: so far, this has been the busiest April in the history of the gallery, and in fact since the first Triffid Ranch show in 2008. (Fourteen years as of the beginning of May. Whoof.) Things actually quieted down a bit in April compared to January through March, but that’s to be expected: with Dallasites wanting to get out of our houses and do things before the inevitable summer heat drives us all back inside during the day, the open houses are up against a lot of competition for the same 54 hours each weekend. (Two days plus the last six hours of Friday: don’t argue.) This means that a lot of attendees come in during the last 30 minutes or so, especially the folks who learned about the gallery thanks to Atlas Obscura and want to hit everything in Dallas in a single weekend. All are welcome, and all are appreciated.
Naturally, this is also all preamble. The current distribution and manufacturing issues facing other companies also hits the Triffid Ranch, as does the current Instagram obsession with carnivores. Even with that, expect a lot more over the rest of the year, both with new creations and the variety and range of events. There’s a lot to talk about, and we’re not quite ready yet.
To celebrate the pivot to the full growing season, feel free to come out for this weekend’s Manchester United Flower Show on April 23, running from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm for the art gallery crowd, and spread the word. After Texas Frightmare Weekend the subsequent weekend, we’re taking a short break to focus on the much-discussed gallery renovation and update, and then come back with the first of the 2022 Porch Sales while that renovation continues. It’s going to be interesting, and not just in the Chinese curse way, either.
The gallery open houses start up again this Saturday from noon until 5:00 pm, but that’s not the only reason to come out. The gallery renovation starts this month, we’re rapidly coming up on Venus flytrap and North American pitcher plant season, and you’ll want to hear about the plans for the return of the Porch Sales in May. And does anyone want to take a big wooden table home with them along with plants?
Posted onApril 4, 2022|Comments Off on Triffid Ranch Show Schedule: April 2022
With the beginning of spring, the hue and cry is particularly loud this year: “So when will the gallery be open?” Rest assured, this has been dealt with. The next run of Triffid Ranch open houses for April starts this coming Saturday, at the usual time of noon until 5:00 pm, and then the schedule shifts to evening for the return of the Manchester United Flower Show on April 23. (No open house during the last weekend of April, because that’s reserved for Texas Frightmare Weekend at DFW Airport.) May is going to be a mix of early morning and evening shows, moved between Saturdays and Sundays for those working on one or the other, and more of them outside than not. With luck, the renovation of the front area at the gallery will be done by the Manchester United Flower Show, so you’ll have an additional incentive to come look around. Now spread the word.
Comments Off on Triffid Ranch Show Schedule: April 2022
Posted onApril 4, 2022|Comments Off on The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #30
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 #30: “Gardening With the Official Dallas Season Simulator”
(Originally published February 28, 2022)
It’s the end of February/beginning of March, and we’re starting to get into the beginning of growing season. The garden porn, featuring the absolute best of seeds and bulbs, is already overloading everyone’s mailboxes, and Instagram is full of anticipatory “Yeah, my garden looks as if it was nuked from orbit now, but imagine what it’s going to look like in three months!” poses. The further away from the equator in the Northern Hemisphere, the more frantic the need for green, even in the face of a few more potential ice storms, and getting tomato and pepper seedlings going on one’s windowsill isn’t cutting it. Here in North Texas, it’s only going to get worse.
The problem isn’t that gardening in the Dallas area isn’t impossible, but it’s close. Conditions in Dallas and Fort Worth parallel those of the famed fynbos of South Africa: it’s not really desert, nor forest, nor prairie, but a combination of all three regularly blasted with extreme heat and extreme cold that test the tolerance of pretty much any plant. The popular options for trees, grasses, and bushes aren’t optimal, but that’s because the local condition kill anything that isn’t tough enough to fight back.
Ray Bradbury’s classic novella “Frost and Fire” chronicles the people of a world so violent that a typical person’s entire lifespan, from birth to senescence and death, only lasts eight days. Anyone who’s lived through the full range of seasons in Dallas can sympathize with the attitude, because it seems as if we only get eight days of good growing weather before it’s either too hot or too cold for anything other than silk ficuses. In fact, it’s actually remarkably easy to recreate a Dallas growing year in one hour, if you have the equipment and the wherewithall.
Firstly, pick a good garden area. Cover it with a good thick layer (at least one meter, but more is better) of standard modeling clay. This clay is where you’re going to be planting everything. Add a bit of grass cuttings, some leaves, and plenty of dead cockroaches, because this is going to be your fertilizer. Don’t worry about turning it into the clay, because the Dallas season simulator will take care of that shortly.
Secondly, buy a good Dallas season simulator. These are usually found in airports, abandoned airfields, and your local Boeing dealership: for instance, a typical B-52 bomber had eight of them on its wings, but you can always steal a jet nacelle from a 747 or even a DC-10 in a pinch. Set up two mounting brackets at the north and south sides of the garden, and start out with the jet engine at the south side with the exhaust facing north. If you get one that throws out lots of bad exhaust, or even one that catches fire from time to time, keep it: this helps recreate typical Dallas air quality. If the exhaust is so thick you can’t see and the stuff in your lungs is burning holes out your back, welcome to our “purple” ozone alert days.
Now, we’re going to start our hour at the equivalent of March 17. St. Patrick’s Day is a perfect day for gardening in Dallas, partly because you’re reasonably past the last frost of the season by then, and partly because you don’t want to be anywhere near a road when the Greenville Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts and every paved surface between Dallas and Kansas City is full of drunken SMU brats puking on everything. Let’s just say that you’re reasonably smart, you don’t want to wake up with a nearly-terminal hangover, eight or nine STDs previously unknown to science, and a car that’s been used as an air sickness bag and Port-o-Potty by a few hundred random strangers, and you’re staying at home to plant and till. The clock starts…now.
00:00-00:10 – Start planting your seeds and seedlings. If the seeds you put into the ground don’t start sprouting before time’s up, don’t feel badly: in real life, if they didn’t sprout within ten minutes, they aren’t going to sprout for the rest of the year, either.
00:10-00:20 – Ask a friendly fire control plane to fly over and dump a full cargo of water on your garden space all at once. Alternately, crack a water main with an explosive charge and wash out the garden. This simulates the gentle rains you’ll be getting for the entire month of May. Turn on the jet engine and set it for “11”.
00:20-00:30 – Bury a $100 bill somewhere in the garden and then tell all of the neighborhood kids about it: they’ll manage to do in five minutes what they’d do in a month when they’re home on summer vacation and you’re at work. Dump a few hundred liters of gasoline and rubbing alcohol into the engine once they’re done to simulate the effects of July and August sun and our traditional smog, and saturate the area with anti-personnel mine explosions and judicious use of fragmentation grenades in lieu of typical caterpillar and grasshopper damage.
00:30-00:40 – With a standard hand fertilizer spreader, saturate the grounds with napalm and powdered metallic sodium, then cut the engine and the flamethrowers within the last minute. At this point, you get to harvest your crops, so get a move on. Don’t bother to bring a bag, because your entire output will fit in one hand and still leave you with enough spare fingers to throw a good fastball.
00:40-00:50 – Time for a break. Grab a beer or a glass of iced tea and look upon your handiwork and despair. Isn’t your garden pretty?
00:50-1:00 – Now’s time to prep your garden for next year, so move the engine to the other end of the garden, with the exhaust facing south. Again, turn it up to “11”, and throw in random blocks of dry ice and dead birds into the nacelle. Toss as many bags of grass cuttings and dead leaves as you can into the area, noting how it all ends up in the neighbors’ yards. Finally, go out and pick the stems, stumps, and random bits of detritus left from your efforts, but not after flooding the area once again (with the engine left ON) so as to make the clay particularly sticky. When you’re not watching, have someone mix up a big batch of chopped leaves, ice water, and a cup of standard liquid dish soap and pour it down the back of your shirt or blouse, and just be thankful that you have to deal with this for ten minutes instead of for all of January and February.
There, in the space of an hour, you have a typical gardening year in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. And why would any sane person want to go through this in real time instead of this sixty-minute capsule demonstration?
Because it’s fun.
On a personal level, the move out of the old house is done, and now it’s just a matter of getting the last items unpacked, getting the workshop in full gear, and amping up enclosure construction. I owe finding a fabulous house in a great neighborhood (with great neighbors, naturally, who love the transplanted loquat tree out front) to Toni Youngblood, an absolute paragon among Dallas realtors. Whether you’re looking for a place yourself or helping someone else, give her a call, because she’s an absolute machine in finding the right houses for the right people.
As with reading this month, music diving has been at a premium, but I’d be remiss in not sending you in the direction of Dallas music weaver Mark Ridlen, now a friend for a solid 30 years since his days as a DJ at the long-defunct State Bar in Exposition Park. Go give him lots of work and even more recognition, because this man is a hoot.
Comments Off on The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #30
No events at the Triffid Ranch this weekend: this weekend is dedicated to restocking, rebuilding, and recuperating from last weekend’s show. However, things start back up on April 9, and things won’t let up until June.
Posted onMarch 31, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 6
In many ways, and I speak from experience, being a vendor at an Oddities & Curiosities Expo is like being a barista in a shopping mall Starbucks on the first shopping day of the holiday season. Namely, the crowds come pouring in right after the doors open, and you only realize that the doors are closed when the crowd lets up and you get a chance to check the time. In small retail, this isn’t a bad thing, and my only regret was not being able to get a quick shot of what little was left at the booth after the Expo closed. Suffice to say, for this coming Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo in June, the selection will be greater because of the number of plants out of winter dormancy, AND there should be room in the truck for a few surprises that nobody is going to expect. And after that, it’s only a short six weeks until Aquashella Dallas.
As always, there are a lot of people to thank for this year’s Dallas Expo running as smoothly as it did, starting with the Oddities & Curiosities Expo staff and crew. Three years after the first one rolled into town, and they still act as the gold standard for convention and exposition operation: when I compare them in professionalism and sheer hard work with the Texas Frightmare Weekend crew, this is an incredibly high compliment that I don’t give our quickly or easily, but they earn it every time. Here’s to their organization and curatorial skills (I may not have been able to leave the booth, but I saw a lot of other vendors’ works going by, and the Expo crew works incredibly hard to keep a wide and surprising variety of goods in each show), here’s to the fellow vendors who made setup and teardown as easy and friendly as it should always be, and here’s to everyone who came out to look around and left with plants. You’re the reason I do this multiple times a year.
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Posted onMarch 31, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 4
For those lamenting having to miss out on the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo this year (to be fair, there was a lot of interesting things happening in Dallas this last weekend, and the beginning of spring is when we all start budgeting our weekend time because we know the heat will be upon us soon enough), take solace in two bits of knowledge. Firstly, the Oddities & Curiosities Expos are traveling shows, spread all over the United States, so odds are fairly good that they’ll show up to a major city near you eventually. For instance, your humble chronicler makes the first of two trips to Austin in 2022 on June 18, where the Triffid Ranch returns for its third appearance at the Expo at Palmer Event Center in downtown Austin. The fervent hope is to spend at least a couple of shows in 2023 outside of Texas entirely, and the Expo crew is one that is worth joining in that endeavor. Details will follow as they come along.
To be continued…
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Posted onMarch 30, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 3
If there was any downside to this first Oddities & Curiosities Expo, it was that just like everyone else, an increase in prices was inevitable this year. The last time fuel prices went this high, back when the Triffid Ranch was a tiny operation, fuel costs for shipping was enough to move so many businesses to using plastic instead of glass for storage (take a look at a typical grocery store and note that about the only things in the condiments section in glass are ones incorporating lots of vinegar if you don’t believe me). For a lot of reasons, this really isn’t an option as far as the plants are concerned (he said, once again rueful about the effects of Texas sun on most plastics), so everything had to jump in price a bit.
The upside was having a conglomerate of customers who not only understood, but still commented on how low prices were. Well, I’m trying my utmost: as I’m constantly trying to explain to MBAs who want to argue about the viability of a carnivorous plant gallery (most of whom have problems spelling “MBA” without at least a spotter and a coach), making a profit is important, but it’s not the only reason for doing this. Yeah, the look on kids’ faces when they see a carnivorous plant up close for the first time isn’t something that pays the rent, but if profit was the sole criterion for doing this, I’d start a hedge fund.
To be continued…
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Posted onMarch 30, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 2
For all of the praise you’ll see coming from this direction about the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, one thing I can’t recommend is any particular vendor to recommend. It’s not that I can’t think of any, or that each Expo hall isn’t packed solid with intriguing and fascinating vendors carrying items of all sorts. The problem is that I’m lucky to be able to get out of the Triffid Ranch booth space the whole day long, so seeing anybody else except in passing just isn’t an option. Apologies to my cohorts and colleagues in this: all I can tell everybody else is “go buy lots of great stuff from everybody else, too.”
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Posted onMarch 29, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 1
Now that things are going back to something approximating “normal” (although I wonder who decided the baseline), it’s quite nice to get back to taking the Triffid Ranch on the road. The Oddities & Curiosities Expo remains one of the best shows of its type for road trips: it runs in multiple cities through the year, each Expo has a good mix of local vendors and vendors who follow most if not all of the annual tour, and each Expo runs in a locale with excellent parking and an easy-to-access venue. In a way, it also doesn’t hurt that each Expo is only a one-day affair: with both Dallas and Austin shows, we vendors are nearly stripped clean by the close of business, and a second day might just kill us all. At the same time, the number of interesting people, both newcomers and old friends, at each show makes it that much harder to break down and go home on Saturday, because there’s a part that wishes that greeting everyone on a Sunday was an option.
To be continued…
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Posted onMarch 29, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – Introduction
It’s a little hard to believe that the first Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo was only three years ago, and not just because everything before March 2020 feels like the Ordovician. The crew, the attendees, the venue…everything and everybody was running on all cylinders in 2022, leading to one of the largest and most intense shows this humble chronicler has ever experienced. In 14 years of Triffid Ranch shows, not only is the Oddities & Curiosities Expo the Euclidean ideal of how events of this type should be run, but it’s the one traveling show that would get me to plan an out-of-state event without hesitation.
Oh, there were issues, but those were completely unavoidable. The ice storms that hit Dallas in February and early March assured that Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants were just starting to wake up from their winter dormancy, so the variety of carnivores for attendees to view was a little limited. That didn’t bother anybody at all, and the only real issue was having enough room for everyone to get a good look at the plants without having to crawl on each other. Considering the size of the crowd, the crawling part was a challenge.
To be continued…
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And so the Triffid Ranch show season starts this weekend with the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo this weekend: after this, it’s back to the gallery for a month. This weekend is going to be a weird one…
Posted onMarch 25, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: March 2022 Open House the Third
The last open house before the gallery renovation starts, and things were BUSY. Not so busy as expected in April and May, but after one last cold snap in the previous week to say goodbye to winter, surprising brisk. Why, it’s as if people are actively looking forward to regular Saturday open houses or something.
As a warning, April won’t be as consistent with open houses: toward the end of the month, the Porch Sales outdoors return, and the plan is to try evening and Sunday events for those who can’t get out on Saturday mornings. That’s part and parcel for the extensive changes to gallery operation over 2022, so just keep checking back for updates.
For those who missed out this month, this is sadly the last open house for a little while. The weekend of March 26 is dedicated to the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park, and then the weekend of April 2 goes into much-needed renovation time. After that, though…
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Another Saturday in March, another open house, open from noon until 5. (Incidentally, for those who have only come out to the gallery in winter, the next few months should be very instructive. This week is the traditional week for switching the gallery’s light timers to a 12-hour schedule from the 8-hour photoperiod that runs through winter, so if various plants are going to bloom, the next month will see them doing so. With everyone else, the additional four hours of light should stimulate a whole new run of fresh growth, so that leads to all sorts of new possibilities. Either way, the plants you may have seen in December are going to be drastically different by the beginning of April.)
Okay, so the last of the big winter freezes has (probably) passed by Dallas, and the Sarracenia and temperate sundews are starting to wake up from winter dormancy. The move to the new house is complete (the workroom may look as if Hunter S. Thompson camped there for a month, but this is an example of “no battle-ready unit ever passed inspection”), the gallery renovation ramps up this week, and show season starts next weekend. So what’s next? Video!
After a hiatus set off by Day Job schedule conflicts and a vastly increased show and open house schedule in 2021, it’s time to start giving interested passersby better views of the gallery and what to expect. That includes biting the bullet, swallowing my general loathing of the platform, taking advice from the Dallas Observer, and starting a TikTok account. Go give TexasTriffidRanch a view: it’ll mostly be views of new enclosures, ongoing shows, and ongoing projects, all with a minimum of mugging, synthesized voices, and filters.
(I WILL give TikTok high credit for one thing. When setting up a business account, the huge library of royalty-free music available to those accounts is exceptional. Without fail, finishing an enclosure video, entering a soundtrack reference that seems particularly appropriate, and scrolling through the options finds something even better. I’m willing to stick with TikTok just for the music library.)
This is, of course, a sideproject: the real plan is to start up new Twitch streams and YouTube videos by the end of April. Barring something critical, and 2022 has already filled itself with critical issues, this is now a viable plan. Now it’s up to the plants.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who celebrate. While the rest of Dallas focuses on excessive drinking (this incredibly NSFW piece, and I’m not kidding about it being NSFW, should be the city’s anthem today), my personal anthem is a bit more traditional. (Of course, the song needs to be flipped for me: my father was a Scot Catholic and my mother an Irish Lutheran, but you know how it goes.)
Posted onMarch 15, 2022|Comments Off on State of the Gallery: March 2022
Ah, March in Texas. As much as everyone wants to joke about Texas weather in general, the real fun is waiting for the week of St. Patrick’s Day/the vernal equinox, because just about anything can happen. Tornadoes, dust storms, snow…stick around Dallas long enough, and you’ll see almost everything. This year, the tornadoes stayed away for a bit, but we got hail across the northern half of Dallas County, thankfully not large enough to cause sustained damage or injury, but still a bit disconcerting. I suspect that March 2023 is the month for asteroid strikes, but we’re only halfway through March 2022, so it could be setting up for the end of the month. (April 2 marks the fortieth anniversary of the dust storm that gave me a particularly distinctive scar that allows me to tell if my hairline is receding, given to me in a pig pen no less, so I literally have some skin in Texas weather prognostication.)
In various developments, the gallery renovation and reorganization starts this month, with the height of the revival in April in time for the Manchester United Flower Show, tentatively scheduled for April 23. It’s already starting with moving the taller enclosures to the front, but it’s the detail that should get everyone. (The designer keeps joking that it needs to look like a Rainforest Cafe as designed by Peter Jackson, but we also agree that it might benefit from a few pylons. If you can’t have fun with the concept of a carnivorous plant gallery, then why even bother?)
On the event front, the last March open house opens the door at noon on March 19, and this is the last open house for a little while. Part of this is because of the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at Dallas’s Fair Park on March 26, and part is to take a break to finish up the renovation. When it’s ready and open houses and Porch Sales start up again, the skies will light up with the news.
Other than the weather and renovation fun, the rest of the month goes toward further surprises, particularly involving the big Texas Frightmare Weekend show at the end of April. Between new enclosures debuting at the show and new species never before encountered at a Frightmare, anyone wanting to attend should get their weekend passes before the show sells out. Yeah, go ahead and laugh, but Frightmare sold out completely in 2019, and the number of people looking forward to coming back out for the traditional April show after two years of lockdowns suggests that you should get those passes NOW.
And in final news, the Day Job that kept things going at the gallery since the end of 2020 ends as of March 18, and I’m currently cleaning up everything for the final cleanout. If you want to know details, come out to the next open house: with luck, some of my former coworkers will be there, too, so you can ask them directly if my work persona is any different from the gallery persona. And after they stop twitching on the floor because they can’t laugh any harder…
Posted onMarch 14, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: March 2022 Open House the Second
This last week, Dallas’s weather confirmed the general warning I give people about any kind of gardening, whether with carnivores or any other plant: don’t make plans to get anything in the ground until after St. Patrick’s Day, Sure, the weather can be perfect from the middle of February on, but eventually one last big winter storm comes through and turns every fresh new seedling to mush. That last storm, which may or may not be the absolute last until November, dropped temperatures well below freezing, dumped rain and sleet across North Texas, and frosted back any number of plants not adapted to that sort of rapid temperature change. By Saturday, though, the temps were pushing toward normal, and the people of the general Dallas area responded the way they always do, which is to get out and do as much outdoor stuff as they can stand before summer heat starts.
As it turned out, because of so many outdoor activities, this last weekend’s open house was relatively quiet, but it was also incredibly productive. The gallery renovations continue, with the front space beginning to shape up, and the light timers switched to a spring/summer photoperiod to encourage both new growth and blooming. Likewise, more and more of the old workspace is moving to the new house, allowing both more enclosure construction and more room for new displays. By mid-May, longtime visitors won’t recognize the place, and that’s the whole idea.
The weather may shift back and forth, but at least the Triffid Ranch has a warm and dry space indoors. The March open houses continue this Saturday, running from noon until 5:00 pm, with free admission and masks being highly recommended, and an encore on March 19. Meanwhile, back to buil