As mentioned with the nominations for the Dallas Morning News Best of DFW Awards last week, it’s awards season in the Dallas area. The big surprise this week is that the Texas Triffid Ranch was just nominated for the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Awards 2022, under “Best Garden Center” in the Shopping & Services section. (The Triffid Ranch is much more of an art gallery than a garden center, much to the consternation of boomers who leave upset that it isn’t an actual ranch, but I’m not complaining.) Not that this is a complete first (the Triffid Ranch won “Best Little Shop of Horrors” in 2017), but it’s a new decade, a newly updated gallery, and a host who has a new hair color, and this is the first time the gallery has been nominated for open voting by the strange and terrible mutants of the Dallas area. Voting is open every day until September, just in time to come around for the big seventh anniversary open house on August 27, so do what thou wilt, and here’s hoping for a plaque at the annual Best of Dallas Awards ceremony. Not bad for Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, eh?
Tag Archives: 2022
No open house this weekend: with the promise of much-needed rain in the Dallas area (and I’m getting really sick and tired of being called “Muad’Dib,” especially since I’m more of an Edric), it’s time both for continued renovation of the gallery and getting things ready for Aquashella Dallas next weekend. With luck, this next week will not only be perfect for painting new enclosures, but for helping the Sarracenia recover from last week’s brutal heat. We’ll see.
Well, the gallery renovation continues, and last weekend’s open house gave a wonderful opportunity for both regular visitors and new patrons to view the progress. The next few weeks continue the progress, with hope that everything will be in a decent place by the time of the seventh anniversary open house on August 27
The heat continues, but should you be looking for an air-conditioned hidey hole, the gallery is open on July 23 from noon until 5:00 pm. If you need to get out, this may be the last time for a while: the gallery will be closed on July 30 in order to prepare for the Aquashella Dallas show on August 6 and 7. The open houses start back up again on August 13, so this will be your last chance for a while. If you can’t make it on Saturday, stay cool, and we’ll see you in August.
Because August is the only month of the year without an official federal holiday, the Triffid Ranch has to take up the slack, and that means open houses after the Aquashella Dallas show on August 6 and 7. The usual noon-to-5:00 open houses resume on August 13, and things switch to a seventh anniversary blowout on August 27. As always, admission is free and masks are recommended, and if you’re averse to going through the whole Eventbrite dance of Europe to get tickets, rest assured that you don’t need tickets to attend. (The Eventbrite listings are mostly for local news venues to include open houses in their event calendars.) At bare minimum, look at it as an opportunity to get out of the heat, get into air conditioning, and view the renovated front space now that the entourage has vacated the premises. The plan includes debuting a whole new series of enclosures by August 27, so if you don’t view them earlier, you can view them then. And so it goes. (And no, the dinosaurs shown here are not located at the gallery. Yet.)
It finally happened. Not only did the summer heat ride in like a Komodo dragon with a mouth full of pinworms and candiru, but we’re looking at the worst heat the state of Texas has seen since the last drought in 2012. We’re not talking about “oh, this is a minor inconvenience” heat: we’re talking about “this could KILL you” heat. Minus-40 may be a gosh number, in that it has the same value in Fahrenheit and Celsius, but that’s not true of positive-40. For Americans, we’re now hitting 107F, and for everyone else, we’re hitting 40C. Either way, it’s completely understandable that nobody wants to get out in this, especially with the repeated warnings about rolling blackouts through Texas if our antiquated and mismaintained electrical grid should conk out due to record use.
This is why I have to thank everyone who chose to come out to the last two open houses, because you didn’t have to. You could have been at a water park, or in a mall, or safely in a bottle of liquid nitrogen, or any place where the temperatures don’t turn unprotected victims into Near Dark cosplayers. instead, you came out to view carnivorous plant enclosures and check out the ongoing renovations to the gallery, and for that, I can’t thank you enough. It gives extra incentive to keep going, and going I shall.
For those who missed out on previous attempts, the gallery is open for one more open house on July 23, and then it’s going quiet for two weeks to get prepared for Aquashella Dallas on August 6 and 7. As always, admission is free and masks are recommended. After that, keep checking back, because the open houses return in August, with a very special evening open house on August 27. See you then.
July continues like passing a softball-sized kidney stone, and we’re still at least two to three weeks before the first Halloween decorations start showing up in stores. In the interim, the Triffid Ranch can fill in for that lapse, complete with an indoor open house on July 16. Let’s just make it to August, okay?
So…what about this weather, huh?
The first half of 2022 was more than a bit of a tribulation: even with everything happening this year, the end of that first half still counted as the best year the Triffid Ranch had ever seen. The first stages of the gallery renovation were complete and accessible to clients and visitors, shows and events were even more successful than in previous years, and people loved the new changes. The plan for the second half of 2022 was more of the same: build upon everything done so far, go wild with new enclosures, and end 2022 with the biggest party possible. I mean, New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday this year, so why not hold one last big showing and party to celebrate everything that had come before, right?
Yeah. Things may get even more interesting than before, including the possibility of moving.
The news about the fate of the gallery’s location and the surrounding industrial park hasn’t really been news for a while: according to several people working for the company, the property owner started a six-year plan to tear everything down and build a retail/apartment block, very much like the block across Spring Valley Road, about four years ago, and COVID-19 only delayed the situation. As of last March, when getting the locks changed, I first learned of both this six-year plan and the possibility that things could change sooner if another company bought the property. The first hints that something was happening when the property manager asked for verification that every tenant on the property had their certificates of occupancy in order and inspected the fire alarm systems over the July 4 weekend. I just learned yesterday that the second option happened, and that a new company just bought the whole complex. I’m fully expecting a complete announcement in the next couple of days.
And what does this mean for the gallery? Well, the current lease expires in March 2023, so there are several paths in which things could go over the next seven months. The first is that absolutely nothing changes other than where the rent payments go: the new owner may decide to just keep things going the way they are and wait until the general world financial situation stabilizes. Another possibility is a massive update and improvement: a big strip plaza just east of the gallery was purchased by new owners and massively renovated, and it’s now turning into quite the hangout for those looking for barbecue, pizza, and Middle Eastern cuisine. A third is that things will continue but without renewing leases until everyone moves out: this happened to a big medical office building due west, and it was quickly and efficiently demolished immediately after the last tenant left. The fourth, and it’s always a possibility at any time, is that the new owners decide that the land is more valuable than the rents they’re receiving, give everyone 60 days’ notice, and tear everything out by Halloween. (A medical office facility due east was stripped out that way about four years ago. In that time, the property remains stripped, as a succession of companies have bought the property, started digging trenches for storm drains and water and power inlets, shut down, and sold to someone else. At this point, having seen this happen so many times in Dallas and the surrounding suburbs in the last 40 years, eventually someone will finally build something on this spot, but it may take decades before anything other than weeks actually come up.)
The good news is that, unlike the surprise announcement of the Valley View gallery location being shut down, this has been on the horizon for a while. Right now, not only is the city of Richardson pushing to diversify tenants at a huge block of industrial park spaces just north of the gallery, but Richardson is working toward making these spaces friendlier for artists and others: while checking out the area last night, I discovered where all of the escape rooms and axe tournament spaces had gone over the last few years. Moving to a new location is on the table, and so is staying at the current location for another two years, and I’m already taking advice on good locations if the lease ends early and I have to clear out before the bulldozers start. Right now, it’s all up in the air, and if I get to stay until after the beginning of 2023, that’s longer than I expected.
In the meantime, it’s time to get back to work. If you haven’t had the chance to see the gallery under State 1 of the renovation, feel free to come out to the open houses on July 16 and July 23. (The gallery will be closed on July 30 in order to get ready for the big Aquashella Dallas show at Dallas Market Hall on August 6 and 7.) One way or another, August is going to be a blowout month, with both noon-to-5-pm open houses through the month and a big evening show on August 27. After that, who knows?
It’s the beginning of July, which means three things in Dallas: it’s painfully hot, it’s painfully sunny, and nobody will be able to shut up about it until mid-September. The next Triffid Ranch runs on July 9 from noon until 5:00 pm: the gallery has AC, cold drinks, and a whole new layout for your carnivorous plant-viewing pleasure.
As quite a few artists have impressed upon me in the past, there’s “finished” and there’s complete. In the past seven years since signing the original lease on the old space, the Triffid Ranch gallery has never been complete, as it’s always in flux and always being built upon, especially as existing enclosures move out and new ones debut. The important aspect is at least the hope for change, and the Triffid Ranch 3.0 is now live. With no need to make room for the entourage up front, the Entourage Table is gone, and with it the horrible 1980s gold wallpaper that encompassed the whole room. Weeks of painting, finishing, and assembly tied up by the beginning of July, and now the plan is to continue said revamping and updating through the whole of the gallery. It may be done about the time the building owners decide to shut everything down and demolish the whole block, but that’s how it is.
Even in the front, the renovation continues. The gallery redesign intended from the beginning for the front room to hold the larger enclosures, with significantly more room for those than in the past. Between this and moving the old workspace out of the gallery entirely, this frees up a truly impressive amount of room for smaller enclosures, and now the challenge is to fill up said space over the summer. Now that the front room is getting under control, though, that’s not as much of a problem as before.
Another aspect of the reboot: for those outside of North Texas, the Dallas area amped up the heat quite quickly this year. We’re already desperately short on rain, facilitating the purchase of a reverse osmosis filter in order to take care of water needs, and what promised storms coming through just evaporate once passing Fort Worth and Arlington. Because the whole of July and August are just going to get worse, everything is moving inside until September, so no Porch Sales until then. Sorry about that, but if you’re horrified by the idea of standing outside on a parking lot surface that’s burning the soles of your shoes, think how the plants feel.
Now that the front area is done, everyone is welcome to come by to view the work in progress, with Saturday open houses running from noon until 5:00 pm in July. See you then.
While it may not feel like it in Texas, today is Canada Day, and this entails the now-obligatory trip to Dallas’s best Canadian restaurant with the flower emblem of Newfoundland and Labrador. After that, it’s back to getting the gallery ready for Saturday’s reboot, and possible discussions on inspiration for an upcoming enclosure. Until then, “So remember: if the Sontarans don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”
Well. It’s not understating things to say that June was an excellent month in the best quarter in the history of the Triffid Ranch, in what’s already the Triffid Ranch’s best year since it opened. Between open houses, Porch Sales, and outside events, 2022 has been a spectacular year so far, all the personal tribulations aside, and the plan is to make it even bigger for the rest of the year. At the rate things are going, I may have to rent space at Dallas Market Hall to have enough room for plants during the holiday season.
(And speaking of Dallas Market Hall, here’s the friendly reminder that the next big Triffid Ranch show is at Aquashella Dallas at Market Hall, on August 6 and 7. If things go quiet in July, it’s only in order to get those things ready. This may be even bigger than this month’s Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo and Texas Frightmare Weekend combined, and that’s saying something. I’m definitely going to need a vaccine for sleep until mid-August.)
Aside from that, the big news involves the gallery renovation and reboot. For the moment, the back of the gallery is going to stay (mostly) unchanged, although with a lot more room as the working area gets cleared out and moved. The front, though, will be unrecognizable. The Entourage Table is gone since there’s no longer any need to seat a now-moved entourage, freeing up a truly amazing amount of room for larger enclosures. Both front and back are undergoing massive changes between now and the end of the year, but the front needed it the most, so removing the sigils and covering over the awful 1980s-era gold wallpaper that was in the place on move-in were the priority. This also gives folks who haven’t been to the gallery in a while an extra incentive to see what’s inside. (Incidentally, this gives further opportunities to expand into contemporary museum design: the Triffid Ranch obviously isn’t a typical art gallery, and moving from an art museum look toward more of a natural history museum motif makes more sense.)
Another reason for the gallery revamp has everything to do with the outdoor temperature. Based on last year, holding Porch Sales outside until Halloween made perfect sense, but this summer is already overly hot and sticky, even by Dallas standards, so moving things back inside for July and August is going to be necessary for both visitors and plants. The Porch Sales will probably make a return in September, depending upon the weather, and they’re definitely returning for October to show off Sarracenia colors, but if the rest of the summer is like June, impersonating a Gila monster and moving underground is both safe and sane. (Discovering what was going on with the new AC unit installed in 2020 made a big difference, too, and the back is now considerably more comfortable in the summer heat than it was last year. I might even try another Nepenthes edwardsiana enclosure this year, now that I know the AC can keep it sufficiently chilly.)
Otherwise, once the gallery reboot is complete, it’s time to get back to debuting new enclosures, which now can be designed and assembled without taking up valuable display space. New materials, new techniques, new references…the first half of the year was rough, but that just set up opportunities for the second half, and everything will focus on a whole extravaganza for the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas shows in December. We have four available weekends then, including Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday, and getting started early never hurt anybody. In fact, it might be necessary.
Every show away from the gallery brings up the eternal question about the volume of plants being hauled out: “Too little or too much?” Last year’s Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo pushed that to the limit, with nearly everything being hauled off, so the plan this year was to bring out as much as was humanly possible. With previous years’ interference gone, the plan was to pack the van as tightly as possible with as many plants as possible, short of strapping goldfish bowls to the roof. (Considering the heat that weekend and the perpetual traffic jam that is the city of Waco, the halfway point between Dallas and Austin, that might not have gone over well.) Seemingly impossibly, the crowds at the Expo were even larger than last year’s: most shows start to peter out about an hour before closing, but many vendors, myself included, were still making sales a half-hour after the official close of the show, and a lot of us went back home with nearly-empty cars, vans, and trucks. Many of us are loath to admit that we were almost glad that the Expos are only one-day shows: if the Austin Expo ran for two days, I’d have needed a 15-foot truck to hold everything.
And that finishes it up. Many, many thanks are extended to the crew at Oddities & Curiosities Expo for managing to pull this off at so many locations every year, more thanks are extended to neighboring vendors who had to listen to me extol the features of carnivorous plants for eight hours (all of my neighbors were an absolute hoot, by the way), and the most thanks to the people who figured that Austin summer heat was no reason to stay home that weekend. Thank you all again, and now I have to make plans to exceed everyone’s expectations for 2023.
To be continued…
For most people attending shows and events in summer, especially a Texas summer, precious few are making plans for next year. For those of us vending, though, the vast majority are watching for announcements of registration for tables and booths with the intensity of a starving python and about half the table manners. For those whose livelihood depends upon moving across the country following events, it’s all about the logistics of which show and when, particularly when three big and popular shows run on the same weekend and chopping oneself into thirds simply isn’t an option. For those of us with day jobs to augment the hustle, the priority switches to “How many vacation days do I have next year, what is the absolute furthest I can drive after a show and still go to work on Monday, and how badly will the boss freak out if I have vehicle trouble and can’t get back for two or three days?” (Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it happen.)
Even though the emphasis today is on events held at the gallery instead of traveling shows, the Triffid Ranch is already making plans, starting with the 2023 Oddities & Curiosities Expo schedule. Now, we won’t get that until Halloween, and there’s no guarantee that the Triffid Ranch can or will get into any of the planned shows: I acknowledge that I’m up against some absolutely incredible artists and dealers. One thing is for certain, though: Dallas and Austin are going remain on the event schedule because of their popularity, and 2023 just might be the year that the Triffid Ranch leaves the state. If this means Little Rock, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City, well, that depends upon the time of the year. (I would have loved to have been a vendor at the New Orleans Expo, if only because of the number of much-missed friends in Nola, but this year’s show was at the beginning of the year, and that just wouldn’t have been possible for multiple reasons.) As everyone learns more, the details will be shared. I promise.
To be continued…
It’s rather late in the day, but due to both the record heat and illness (unfortunately probably related: I overdid myself in the greenhouse while trying to get ready), the June 25 Porch Sale has been cancelled. I apologize for the inconvenience, and note that the gallery reopening is still on schedule for July 2.
One of the regular questions that comes up at Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows is “Do you have anything that’s native?” Well, that’s an interesting question, in more ways than one. Now, if the question applies to Texas in general, we have quite a few, from the famed sundews of the Bastrop pines to the Sarracenia of the Big Thicket in far east Texas. (I had been told for years that only one species, Sarracenia rubra, was native to Texas, and then Dylan Sheng of Plano Carnivorous Plants shared photos of big stands of Sarracenia alata in East Texas. Because Sarracenia habitat is notorious for poaching, and many carnivore bogs are now threatened both by poaching and habitat destruction, Dylan didn’t share the location and I’m the last person to press the issue.) As far as Dallas and Austin are concerned, though, there are no known carnivores in either area, so anyone insisting upon native plants is out of luck.
Note that I said “known carnivores,” however. The reality is that new carnivores are discovered all of the time in the most unlikely places, with about five new species described per year and a new genus every two to five. This doesn’t include previously known plants later confirmed carnivorous (Triantha occidentais in Oregon is a great example, as is the carnivorous passionflower Passiflora foetida), or known carnivores found in new places, such as the Venus flytrap colony found near Pensacola, Florida. This is why I emphasize the “known” part and encourage younger carnivore enthusiasts to keep exploring, because the odds are good of someone discovering a previously unknown carnivore hiding in plain sight.
To be continued…
This weekend, it’s back to the linen mines, with the last Porch Sale of June starting on Saturday and running from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. (Considering the weather forecast for the weekend, breaking down at 1:00 is both prudent and sane, as the weekend is going to be brutally hot.) Aside from that, the gallery reboot is progressing nicely, and the plan is still for an official unveiling on July 2. Sleep? What’s that?
One of the regular questions asked at Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows is “Where do you get all of the great pots you have?” Well, that’s a funny story. They literally come from all over: garage sales, gifts from friends and cohorts (I was given a large number of odd pots by my late mother-in-law, and I’m hanging onto one especially wonderful pot from her for a very special plant), on the side of the road after someone moved out of a house or apartment, repurposed items never really intended to be plant containers…there’s no telling. All that matters is that they’re distinctive, and that they can hold potting mix and water.
The last part is the hardest. Most houseplants prefer well-drained soil, but carnivores prefer boggy conditions, and that means that the drainage hole has to go. Most container and urban gardening books have extensive instructions on how to drill holes in the bottoms of containers so they can be reused as flower pots, but ask “But what if I want to seal up a previously established hole?”, crickets. Let’s just say that the extensively reorganized backstock of pots for upcoming shows has a shelf dedicated to upcoming carnivore conversions, and epoxy putty is an old and dear companion.
To be continued…
People previously unfamiliar with the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo tend to ask me “So what else is at the Expos besides carnivorous plants?” I can give generic assessments on the amount of interesting things, ranging from antique taxidermy to pottery to candles, available at each show, but I can’t give particulars half of the time because I’m lucky to see the outside of the booth the whole day. By way of example, I didn’t know Dead Dave Designs was at the Austin Expo until I read about it on Instagram the next day. This is in no way a complaint about the intensity of the crowds, but the advantage I had in the Triffid Ranch booth being next to the restrooms in the event center hall was that I actually saw a few fellow vendors, such as Demetria of The Curiositeer, as they were using the facilities before leaving that evening. The crowds weren’t impassable, but they were consistent, and most of us vendors were still taking care of customers a half-hour after the show was officially closed.
Even better, with some shows, you see a lot of returning customers after a few years, but the Expos are always a mix of long-timers, old friends (literally, in some cases: I was able to talk with a friend from the beginning of my writing days in the late 1980s whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years), and a whole lot of new people who wanted to see what the big deal was about. I can only imagine the number of lifetime friendships started there over chance encounters over a hippopotamus skull, as well as the number of kids in a decade who learn “Your father and I met RIGHT HERE, in front of a moose head.”
To be continued…
One of the surprises this year has been how smoothly shows have run so far. The original Triffid Ranch business plan for 2022 was to expand both growing area and variety of plants available, only for everything to shift drastically in January. A new greenhouse, a new Sarracenia growing area, and a markedly improved container and supply storage system certainly helped, as did the surprise freezes in February and March that led to significantly larger and more energetic blooms on all of the temperate carnivores. On a personal level, losing 15 kilos and being able to start a new exercise regimen meant being able to get trucks loaded ahead of schedule. It’s to the point where, combined with the new hair style and color, returning customers asking “Where’s the other guy?” are asking this legitimately, instead of it just coming from scammers telling me “the other guy” agreed they could take a plant without paying.
Because the one factor that made being timely so difficult is now gone, it’s actually possible to make plans for 2023, especially as far as road trips are concerned. The Texas Oddities & Curiosities Expos are doing so well that the hope is to do what was originally planned for 2020 and take the Triffid Ranch outside of Texas. With luck, the scheduling for shows in New Orleans and Oklahoma City should allow the opportunity to make more epic road trips, and we should know if that’s possible when the Expo crew releases its 2023 show schedule on Halloween.
To be continued…
It’s now been four years since the Triffid Ranch first set up at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo, and three years since the first road trip to Austin’s Expo, and I have only one concern. Right now, the Expo is becoming a gigantic show on a par with Texas Frightmare Weekend, and attracts much of the same crowd. (In fact, several attendees came by specifically because they heard about the Expos at Frightmare this year.) The only difference is that the Texas Frightmare Weekend crew spend all year preparing for each show, planning events and activities so everyone attending gets the maximum entertainment value for their admission. The Oddities & Curiosities Expo crew doesn’t have big media guests, but still pulls off a similarly massive event…and manages to do this nearly every weekend through the year, traveling all over the United States to do so.
Now, looking at how the Expo crew manages a touring event like this without visible issues, some people might argue that this is the future of traveling conventions, and everyone with similar events had best get their acts together. Others might posit that the maturity of the internet makes big traveling events like this possible in the first place, and events like this wouldn’t have been possible twenty years ago. All I can say is that it behooves us all to do everything we can to keep the Expo crew hale, hearty, and happy, because we all need to know how they do it and whether it involves bathing in the cerebralspinal fluid of virgins.
To be continued…
The middle of June in Texas, anywhere in Texas, is always a pivot point for culture in the state, and it always depends upon the weather. Contrary to popular opinion, while “hot, sunny, and dry” may be the default, that doesn’t always apply. Sudden thunderstorms come out of nowhere and go to the same, turning the Texas convection oven into a steam bath. This understandably gets organizers of events in Dallas and Austin and San Antonio a little nervous, because no matter the amount of promotion and publicity, potential attendees are a bit loath to come out in the middle of a storm dropping grapefruit-sized hail.
This last weekend, though, the old rain god Tlaloc decided to give us all a break, and the weather for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Events Center in Austin was about as good as it gets in summer. In response, a lot of folks from Austin (and Houston, San Antonio, and much of the surrounding area) braved both the sun and Austin’s notorious traffic to peruse treasures from dozens of local and traveling vendors. The Triffid Ranch joined the party for the third time since 2019, and the response was nothing short of phenomenal.
The best compliments anyone can get at a show such as this comes at the beginning, when fellow vendors start buying out items as soon as they’re put on a table, and at the end, when other vendors race in and exclaim “Whew! You’re not broken down! This is the first time I’ve been able to get out of my booth all day!” before buying up what’s left. In between…well, the following posts should show off exactly how interesting it got all Saturday.
To be continued…
By the time you read this, the whole shebang will be relocated for the weekend in scenic Austin, Texas for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Event Center. If you’re in the vicinity, head by to say hello: if not, I’ll be back next week. Either way, see you soon.
Technically, summer doesn’t start until June 21. As is usually the case, North Texas didn’t get the memo. June 11 was the beginning of what promises to be a very long and very dry summer, which is part of the reason why the Triffid Ranch Porch Sale start moved from 10am to 8am, just to avoid the big yellow hurty thing in the sky that keeps rising earlier and earlier.
Not that this is a problem: expecting torrid conditions in Dallas in June is like expecting subfreezing cold in Minnesota in January, so everyone makes plans. The plants are definitely enjoying it, even if the Sarracenia threaten to spend the summer semi-dormant until the heat lets up in September and October. The Sarracenia have the right idea, and I suspect I have phyllodia growing out of my back right now.
As of this writing, the heat continues through the weekend, but don’t look for a Porch Sale this weekend: the Triffid Ranch hits the road this weekend to show off plants at the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin, but the Porch Sales return on June 25. And yes, there will be lots and lots of shade.
After that much-needed hiatus last weekend, the Triffid Ranch Porch Sale returns this weekend, starting at 8:00 am and ending at 1:00 pm to avoid the worst of the weekend heat. After that, it’s back to working on the gallery reboot, so if things go quiet, that’s why.
Three weeks until the big Triffid Ranch 3.0 gallery reboot, and time tends to get away from me, hence the relative lack of updates. As always, everything runs on Riddell’s Law of Artistic Expression (“All art forms derive from painting, because every artist has to find something else to do while waiting for the paint to dry”), but it’s all coming together, along with new enclosures to go with the new front area. It’s the getting there that’s the aggravating part, but that can’t be helped.
Both before and after the gallery reopening, the fun just keeps coming. To start off, the summer Porch Sales continue through June, but taking note of our impending record afternoon temperatures by starting at 8:00 am and ending at 1:00 pm before the day gets too bad. (After the gallery reopens, these will switch between Saturday outdoor sales and Sunday indoor events, both to give opportunities to attend from visitors with prior Saturday commitments and just to give folks a break from the constant lead-smelter heat.) Right now, the next Porch Sales are scheduled for June 11 and 25, but they’ll keep going until Halloween and move inside for rain, snow, asteroid strikes and random volcanic eruptions.
Why nothing on June 18, you ask? Well, that’s because as mentioned in the past, the Triffid Ranch hits the road to go to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Event Center that Saturday. This will be the last Oddities & Curiosities Expo show for the Triffid Ranch in 2022, as well as the last one in Texas for the year, so until the new O&C schedule comes out around Halloween, get your tickets now. If the crowds are anything like they were in 2021, the Austin show may well be sold out by midday, and you won’t want to miss this.
This won’t be the last Triffid Ranch show outside of the gallery, either: word just got back about the final Aquashella Dallas floor layout for August 6 and 7, and the Triffid Ranch is near the front door at Dallas Market Hall. In addition, the Triffid Ranch returns to the Palmer Event Center for its seventh year and sixth Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays dark bazaar on November 27 and 27: I purchased the booth as soon as the word came out, because there’s no way I’ll miss it this year.
Oh, and it isn’t on the official calendar just yet, but the Triffid Ranch finally breaks through to the Dallas Arboretum this year, for a lecture on carnivorous plants at the Arboretum on October 28 starting at 11:00 am. This should be perfect timing, as all of the Sarracenia and flytraps should be at their best autumn color before going dormant in November, and there’s no better time for outdoor events in Dallas than the end of October. As usual, details will follow as I get them.
Is this it? That’s a really good question, as a lot of other possibilities are only now coming together. A demonstration of cartoonist Sam Hurt’s adage “it’s not a small world: it’s a big world that’s folded over so many times” involves a return of Triffid Ranch carnivorous plant workshops at the newly reconstituted Curiosities near the Dallas Arboretum (the old Lakewood location is shutting down and everything moved to the space next to the current Curious Garden) is that Curiosities owner and old Exposition Park neighbor Jason Cohen went to high school and college with the Triffid Ranch 3.0 designer Susan Duval. It’s with that in mind that I note that regular carnivore workshops return to Curiosities this year after the move is complete. There’s even a discussion on the Triffid Ranch hosting a Dallas Carbaret outdoor drive-in showing this summer, running either the best documentary about life in 1980s Dallas ever made or the best documentary about Dallas goth culture ever made, complete with a barbecue truck.
That’s it for the moment: now it’s time to get back to plant repotting. See you soon.
Here’s hoping everyone in the States is going to have a good post-holiday recuperation weekend. Unfortunately, that includes the Triffid Ranch (this weekend is vital for restocking and repotting, as well as getting work done on the impending Triffid Ranch 3.0 open house on July 2), so the Porch Sales return on June 11. Apologies in advance for everyone planning to come out this weekend, but the triggerplants are quite insistent.
In the meantime, particularly appropriate music for the weekend, considering the weekend and my paternal grandmother’s certainty that we were all on the line of succession for the throne. (You would NOT want to see me on the throne, even if the thought of watching me chase Boris Johnson down the street with a sword while screaming “Blood and souls for my lord Arioch!” has a certain bent appeal.
It could be the increased circulation in the gallery, especially after discovering that the break room had its air conditioning vent shut off for a very valid reason. It could be that this winter was cold but not THAT cold. Heck, it could be that the crowds coming to gallery events since the beginning of the year are considerably lacking in energy vampires. Whatever the factor, there’s an explosion in new growth among the Nepenthes enclosures, with the most spectacular showing with the Nepenthes hemsleyana in the enclosure Bat God. For the first time since the gallery moved here from Valley View Center, this beast of a pitcher plant finally started producing upper traps.
For those unfamiliar with N. hemsleyana, this is an Asian pitcher plant that goes through a fascinating change once it starts producing upper pitchers. Before this point, the lower pitchers it produces are short and squat, pretty much identical to those from its cousin Nepenthes rafflesiana: in fact, until last decade, this plant was considered a rafflesiana subspecies. When the first upper traps form, though, the plant stops secreting digestive enzymes into the fluid in the bottom of each pitcher. Most species of Nepenthes also fluoresce strongly along the lip or peristome under ultraviolet light: N. hemsleyana doesn’t do a thing. This is because in lieu of attracting insects into its pitchers, hemsleyana attracts bats.
The wooly-haired bat Kerivoula hardwickii isn’t trapped by the pitchers: far from it. These tiny bats are some of the smallest in Asia, and they would regularly be bullied out of other nesting sites by larger and more aggressive bats. Instead. K. hardwickii roosts inside of the upper pitchers. The bats get roosts with a minimum of parasites and no predators, and the plant gets both a regular supply of bat guano but, thanks to bats’ fastidious cleaning habits, a supply of bat fur. Both are excellent nitrogen sources, with the fur being more of a slow-release form, which gives the plant more than enough nitrogen and phosphorus to grow.
What is equally interesting is how the bats know that N. hemsleyana pitchers are a suitable roosting site. Right where the lid of the pitcher meets the lip are two very distinctive flanges or fins, and these reflect back a very distinctive sonar signature to the bats emitting it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the knowledge of this particular sonar signature isn’t instinctive, but that mother bats teach their young the significance of that pingback.
Anyway, this is just one of many surprises turning up in the gallery, all available for viewing when the new gallery debuts. With luck, this hyperactive plant will produce more upper traps: since they don’t produce digestive enzymes, they can’t be fed with insects, but offering the opportunity for visitors to feed the hemsleyana orchid food pellets could be just as interesting. Just don’t start calling the gallery “Stately Wayne Manor.”
The first month of Triffid Ranch Porch Sales are done, two years after the whole concept started in the literal corner of the gallery porchway, and they’re now becoming a regular event in the Richardson area. This weekend was an opportunity not just for new folks to come by to view carnivorous plants (and the occasional fly or wasp getting a little too close), but for local artists to come by and discuss plans and options for the rest of the year. By the time the tent had to come down, the grand discussions and tentative strategies were still coming strong, and there may be time in the near future to discuss the ones nearing completion.
In addition to discussing other events, several local artists who came by joined in early views of the gallery renovation, which started this last week. It’s all coming together, slower than I’d have liked, but much easier than if the events of last December and January hadn’t happened.
As far as future Porch Sales are concerned, they’re taking a short hiatus for the weekend of June 4 in order to take care of essential errands and get the next stage of the renovation completed. The Porch Sales return for June 11 and 25 (with a sidetrip to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Event Center), and then again after the gallery reopening on July 2. After that, they’ll be a regular feature in front of the gallery until after Halloween, when the regular activities move back inside for the winter. As always, details will follow.
Some months seem to drag forever, where you look at a calendar and wonder if the next month was cancelled and the current month is scheduled to run over and over until someone else gets tired. Others whiz by your ear, much like a screech owl of my past acquaintance, leaving a Doppler-shifted yell as it leaves you in the last time zone. May 2022, even for May in general and for 2022 in particular, decided that it was time to pull out the hyperdrive and give everyone the Dave Bowman treatment. And much like Mr. Bowman, now that the trip is over, I’m going to just stand here and shudder for a few minutes, trying to figure out what’s next.
From over this way, everything has been a little anticlimactic since Texas Frightmare Weekend: my first solo Frightmare since 2009 wasn’t just an unqualified success: it was also a great opportunity to get back in touch with a lot of people understandably out of touch since 2019. This and subsequent developments are taking the Triffid Ranch in several new directions, with the final results crystallizing toward the end of the year.
First and foremost is that the gallery renovation and update continues, but now it comes with a deadline. Officially, the debut of Texas Triffid Ranch 3.0 (and that’s what it’s going to be called) is on Saturday, July 2, running from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Details and the Eventbrite listing should be completed by the end of Memorial Day weekend, but those familiar with the former entourage gathering in the front of the gallery won’t recognize things when the renovation is done. Famed Dallas set designer and artist Susan Duval is overseeing the whole process, so if it could be said that Dallas didn’t have an art gallery anything like the Triffid Ranch before, it definitely could be said so now.
Other developments? Well, your humble gallery owner is taking additional time out of sleep to go back to school, with the plan of graduating with a degree in Museum Studies. It’s no longer enough to flail around with gallery and enclosure design, and formal training in design of museum exhibits and displays is increasingly vital for the future, both at the gallery and elsewhere. Besides, a friend in Seattle recently taught me that while museum field work is wonderful, so is the effort to take the information gathered in the field and turn it into forms that an average person can assimilate and expand upon. Now to find someone needing an experimental subject for a new vaccine for sleep…
Otherwise, things continue. Since I no longer need the back of the gallery for enclosure construction and finishing, most of the workshop has already been moved out of the gallery, with the rest of it finishing by the end of June. This not only frees up even more room for enclosure displays, but it also makes appointments for enclosure viewings and purchases easier as well. The new greenhouse is finally completed (YOU try to put one together by yourself) thanks to a much-appreciated donation from an old friend, and setting it up for both carnivores and non-carnivores also continues. This is in addition to making the new house liveable and functional, so, again, any development of a sleep vaccine would be greatly appreciated. (And should I mention that I’m rescinding a two-decade disavowal of professional writing and working on a novel that’s been sitting in my head since 1992? Please send vaccine.)
Just because the gallery is officially closed doesn’t mean that events aren’t happening. They’ve just moved outside. The Triffid Ranch Porch Sales started up again in May to fantastic success: the last one for May starts on May 28 and runs from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, with the usual free admission. After a short break on June 4 for recuperation and renovation (including moving the rest of the workshop out), the Porch Sales return, with an earlier schedule in order to beat the heat somewhat, on June 11 and 25. The Porch Sales go to their now-expected summer times of 8:00 am to 1 pm to avoid said heat, and will keep running regularly until Halloween. (If you’re wondering why June 18 won’t have a Porch Sale, that’s because the Triffid Ranch is moving to the big Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo show at Palmer Event Center on June 18.) Come on out to look and ask questions: sharing is half of the fun.
Long-term, things keep getting odder and odder, in a good way. Several impending projects can’t be detailed just yet, but one that can be brought up is that the Triffid Ranch site will soon have a dedicated space for local journalists and writers to access more information and photos of Triffid Ranch enclosures and events. Right now, the final details are being put in place for a lecture at the Dallas Arboretum at the end of October, but the oddest was the invitation to speak at a high school career fair in September. The nearly universal response to this news is either “That’s like inviting Anton LaVey to the Pope’s bat mitzvah” or “Talk about hiring Jeffrey Dahmer to manage a vegan restaurant,” but one thing I can promise is that I’m going to be incredibly respectful, both of students and the teachers inviting me. After all, if some redhaired maniac had extolled the merits of a carnivorous plant gallery in 1983, I know my life would have been a lot more exciting.
Anyway, it’s time to get back to the linen mines: Porch Sales don’t run themselves. As a major influence on the gallery used to say, “Stay scared,” and I’ll see you at events in June.
One more Porch Sale to go for the month of May: Saturday, May 28, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and I know a fair number of you have a three-day weekend that’s been burning a hole in your pocket. For everyone else, the planned official reopening of the gallery is July 2, so get ready. I have a lot of new enclosures to make in the next month. In the meantime, a little bit of advice from a much-missed friend, who would have turned 88 today.
Many people get excited on the approach of major holidays, particularly Christmas and Halloween, and others on the approach of the official date for a particular season. It’s been decades since grade and high school, but there’s also the electricity of the calendar approaching the end of the school year. Even after years of the monotony of the day job schedule, there’s still that smell in the air that sets off the anticipation: “Summer vacation is ALMOST HERE.” It’s all about the promise that things will be different, and that everything you accomplish for the rest of the year depends upon what you do in the next few weeks, that makes this time of the year my favorite.
Of course, the first big explosions of growth among the carnivores doesn’t hurt, either. By this point in North Texas, all of the temperate carnivores are awake and active, taking advantage of the corresponding insect bounty. The recent torrential rains certainly helped, so everything is awake, stretching, and wondering what summer is going to bring. Summer could go any number of directions (this IS Texas, after all), but both plants and overgrown kids are rising to the challenge.
For those who haven’t had a chance before now, the last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale for May starts at 10:00 on May 28 and runs until 3:00: if the current weather forecasts are accurate, it’ll end right about the time Dallas gets into its traditional Memorial Day heatwave. If you can’t make it Saturday, the Porch Sales are going to take a short break for June 4 for restocking and regenerating, and then they start again on June 11 and 25. (Wondering about June 18? Look to the Palmer Event Center in downtown Austin for the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo.) Either way, see you then.
Things got very interesting over the last week: new greenhouse, torrential rainstorms, a possible book deal, setting up an online press resource, the possibility of getting a degree in Museum Studies…I really, really need to discover a vaccine for sleep, because those three hours I’m getting just get in the way. In the meantime, it’s time to put up a regular marquee of Triffid Ranch events, just to stop the number of calls where the caller refuses to leave a message. And so it goes.
The Triffid Ranch Porch Sale fun in May continues this Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm, and the predicted cool temperatures should make things much nicer than last weekend, not that I’m complaining about last weekend. This weekend also marks 20 years since I gave up a professional writing career, such as it was, so we have multiple reasons to celebrate.
It’s started considerably later than in most years, mostly because of the late-season freezes North Texas saw in February and March, but the Venus flytraps are finally blooming. They’re also catching considerably more prey than in past years, too: I’d almost be worried if house flies were rare.
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.
To be continued…
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.
To be continued…
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.