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
Tag Archives: gallery
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re now at the halfway mark for March shows. The last Triffid Ranch open house for March runs this coming Saturday, March 19, from noon until 5:00, and then things start organizing for April. Feel free to spread the word: this is the last time to see the gallery before the Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in Dallas’s Fair Park on March 26. And it’s time to get back to it.
A public service announcement for upcoming open house attendees: the original plan was for Caroline Crawford Originals/Tawanda Jewelry to stay in the front of the gallery until the beginning of May 2022, but apparently the timeline was moved up. As of February 2022, Caroline’s jewelry is no longer at the gallery, her name is being removed from the lease and insurance at her request, and anyone needing information about future jewelry events and commissions should contact her directly. Obviously, I wish her nothing but the best in future endeavors, and we will have one last joint show at Texas Frightmare Weekend in April and May. After that, though, we’re going our separate ways, and the odds are really good that we’ll never see each other again. And so it goes.
For those keeping score at home, you’re not imagining things: the gallery is hosting a lot more open houses than usual. That’s for a lot of reasons. Firstly, because we’re still in the dead of winter and we still have about a month before the reasonable risk of frost is past, so many people need a touch of green right now. Secondly, this time of the year offers so many reasons to say “You know what? Let’s open up and let people get their fill of green.” And the third? These are all good excuses to get things ready for the spring Porch Sales, when things are going to get really weird in 2022.
While the day before Super Bowl Sunday would have been the kiss of death to any Dallas art event 30 years ago, the fact that it was absolutely perfect for an open house this year says so much about how much Dallas has changed in the last three decades. Not only was the crowd lively, but it was also steady, with things only starting to quiet down in the last 30 minutes or so. Big crowds spaced out so that nobody was being crowded: you can’t ask for more than that.
As for future events, the Triffid Ranch is coming up on its fifth anniversary in its current location at the end of February, and that calls for a celebration. The next open house opens on Saturday, February 26 at noon and runs, as usual, until 5:00 pm, with the usual caveats of free admission and mandatory masks. I’ll see you then.
As seems to be par for the course for the Year of the Tiger, it’s an exciting time around the Triffid Ranch. Fiona Forney at the Richland Chronicle, my alma mater’s school newspaper, added an interview in the February issue just in time for the open house, also in time to show off 15 kilos of weight loss since this time in December. (On top of everything else, I’m having to get new clothes.) The outdoor carnivores, predominately Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants, are moving to the new growing location this week, and the old residence will be stripped of any traces of me by the end of February. The new house is getting into shape, with a lot of sculpting and construction gear currently at the gallery moving there over the next few weeks, and the extensive carnivorous plant and bonsai library at the gallery is already in its new location. (The real fun comes with getting it organized so that references can be found quickly, and I now appreciate the Dewey Decimal System more than ever.) Oh, and on the Day Job front, extensive renovations on the current building mean that I’ll start working from home, with an office that overlooks the loquat tree I dug up and relocated from the old house. As Matt Howarth always used to say, it may stop, but it never ends.
As things warm up, the open houses will change as well, with a return of the outdoor Porch Sales toward the end of March. Right now, though, they’re staying indoors, considering the massive temperature shifts outdoors from “Arrakis” to “Tran-ky-ky.” However, expect some massive changes in the next few months, and expect some exciting new enclosures once the house moving is complete. Among other things, the Porch Sales will have companions through 2022, and I’m already organizing plans for bigger activities through the rest of the year. Details will definitely follow.
In any case, for those who couldn’t get out here last weekend, you’ll get another shot with the Valentine’s Day Massacree and Carnivorous Plant Open House on February 12, from noon until 5:00. Keep an eye open for further open houses and other events, because it’s going to get busy by the time the flytraps and North American pitcher plants start coming out of dormancy.
It may be a bit premature, but it’s been two years since the gallery has seen a Lunar New Year open house, predating the current nightmare by a month, and it’s time to bring it back. The next Triffid Ranch open house is scheduled for Saturday, February 5 from noon to 5:00 pm, and Arioch willing, I’ll be finished moving by then.
Since the gallery first opened in 2015, the Triffid Ranch has made at least some effort at being open on or very near to Christmas Eve for last-minute shopping opportunities. The first few times, this was in the evening: a few people make noises about needing the gallery open in the evening, but realistically everyone is home and unwilling to go out after dark. This year, it was a matter of keeping standard open house hours, noon to 5:00 pm, to make things easier for those off for Christmas Eve but not to get in the way of family obligations. Whether it was this, the recent interview in the Dallas Observer, or a general pent-up demand for carnivorous plants, the last Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas of 2021 was the best ever, and I thank everyone who showed up.
Among many other things, this show found homes for several enclosures designed and constructed during lockdown, along with others intended to be picked up after the holiday season. This, combined with a tentative rental situation throughout the Dallas area starting in 2022, means that if you haven’t been to an open house in a while, the lineup of enclosures has drastically changed. (This, incidentally, is why you won’t see another open house for a few weeks: constructing new enclosures takes time.)
Once again, many thanks to everyone who showed up, both purchasers and interested bystanders (the highest compliment anyone has paid in the last two years came from the very earnest and very considerate person who offered to make a donation for letting her come in, and I told her what I tell everyone: as much as it’s appreciated, getting the word out that the Triffid Ranch exists is a greater help), and I hope that the plants given as gifts made the recipients as happy as you were. For those who want to come back, as well as those who haven’t been here yet, the next open house is now scheduled for January 15, 2022, from noon until 5:00 pm. Feel free to spread the word.
This is now the seventh holiday season in which the Triffid Ranch has been open, and 2021 has been…interesting. Things have been remarkably quiet since before Thanksgiving, and this isn’t just about gallery traffic. Even the roads, and we’re close enough to Dallas’s notorious Central Expressway to hear the road noise, aren’t as frantic and frenetic as in previous years, and running errands on Sunday was a shock as to the small size of holiday crowds. I don’t know if it’s incipient concern about COVID-19 variants, a decided increase in online shopping, or if simply fewer people have any interest in going out this year, but for someone who grew up watching some of the best Dawn of the Dead cosplay on the planet at Dallas shopping malls through the Eighties and Nineties, this is almost surreal.
On a good side, that strange quiet meant quite a few people taking the risk of stopping by the gallery last Saturday, figuring that the relative lack of traffic meant that we and others wouldn’t be overloaded with visitors. That worked out exceptionally well, with many visitors just wanting to see particular carnivorous plants in person for the first time, and others wanting to take in the gallery’s unique ambiance.
One full weekend to go before the Christmas season ends, and we’ll be live on December 18 from noon until 5:00, and again on December 24 with the same hours. By next weekend, I should have news involving several of the enclosures, so make your plans now while they’re still available. And so it goes.
It’s December in Dallas, but you’d never know it by looking outside. Well, until today, anyway, after we flirted shamelessly with freezing temperatures last night. This is getting to be the New Normal: abnormally warm and still weather for three or four days, followed by a windstorm and then getting down to where we normally would be at the end of the year. It’s been great for those of us craving autumn colors (yes, in comparison to Vermont or northern Michigan, we’re pretty much coloring with pastels, but we also still have leaves on trees when those areas are buried in snow), but here’s hoping that the weather isn’t still playing this game in January and February. Right now, though, this weather reminds me of when I first moved to the Dallas area at the end of 1979, and it never stops being thrilling.
In the gallery, we’re much the same way. The 2021 show season is over and we still have months before the 2022 show season starts (both the Dallas and Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows and Texas Frightmare Weekend are on the schedule, and now it’s a matter of looking at other locales), so the next few months are focused on home events. Naturally, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses are in full swing, but we’re also trying to make plans for January and February events, preferably without interruption from another icepocalypse. First, though, is getting through December.
(And as an aside, because it comes up this time of the year, December also means the beginning of the necessary dormancy period for temperate carnivorous plants, including pretty much every species and hybrid native to North America above the Rio Grande. This unfortunately means that we won’t have any Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, cobra plants, or US-native sundews or butterworts until after the beginning of April. Apologies, but this is for the plants’ sake.)
For those looking for outside activities, there’s an ulterior motive for recommending the Dinosaurs Live! nature trail at the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney this month. Namely, after you come back inside the museum proper and view all of the other joys inside, head down to the lower level to see the Nepenthes ventricosa enclosure “Lagerstätte” constructed specifically for the Heard. (The last week in December is shaping up to be a week of large enclosures, but that’s still being negotiated.) It’s getting nicely stabilized and acclimated to the new conditions, and one of these days I’ll have to come down to note all of the extra details thrown in to be a wiseacre. (Among other things, the backdrop on Lagerstätte contains at least one real tektite, as a tribute to Dr. Luis Alvarez.)
Another item on the ever-expanding schedule involves those who want either an existing enclosure or a custom work as a holiday gift, but aren’t quite sure if they have the room or appropriate location. This is completely understandable, because most enclosures are going to weigh more than most people expect, and the holidays are stressful enough without coming home to a shattered bureau or table covered with the remnants of a carnivore enclosure. In addition to delivery in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area, consultation on the best place to install a new enclosure is just one of the services we offer.
Well, back to the linen mines: the next few weeks should include debuts of several new enclosures, including plans for one last big one for the Friday open house on Christmas Eve. If the weather holds this week (the last forecast was for temperatures this Thursday and Friday closer to those of early October), that just might happen.
Now that the out-of-town shows are over, it’s time to get back into the gallery and open up for the rest of the year. The first Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas for 2021 ran without a hitch (other than discovering that a previous attendee had a fetish for swiping plant identification tags) on an unusually warm and sunny December weekend, even by Dallas standards. Unfortunately, some attendees learned for the first time that Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants need a winter dormancy, and that dormancy started last week, but that gave plenty of opportunity for the Asian pitcher plants and the bladderworts to shine.
One of the best things about ongoing events such as these is having the opportunity to debut new enclosures all month long, even as existing enclosures go home with clients and visitors. This includes the last-minute commission: anyone wishing a custom enclosure by December 24 needs to get in an order by December 12 to guarantee its completion in time for the holiday. (Naturally, anyone wanting a new enclosure after the beginning of 2022 has plenty of time, especially the week before New Year’s Day.)
For those who missed out this last weekend, please note that the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses are plural: the gallery next opens from 12 noon to 5:00 pm on Saturdays December 11 and December 18, as well as on Friday, December 24. Tickets are encouraged but not necessary: they’re mostly intended to get an idea of how many people might be arriving on a particular date, so we know how much we need to bring in snacks and the like. In the interim, it’s time to get back to the linen mines, because the empty spots in the gallery shelves need filling.
As of the end of the month, it’s been two years since the Triffid Ranch moved to its next stage, and nearly two years since lockdown shut down that next stage and caused everyone to regroup. Two years later, we’re still dealing with some of the shakeout, and we’re making multiple plans to minimize the damage, to everyone, if lockdown has to happen again. It’s been two years of learning the people you can absolutely depend upon, the people who know how and when to move out of the way, and the people as dependable as a two-dollar phone. All of that is preamble, and the plan is to gather it together and really get going in 2022.
A lot has happened over the last month, and we now have a little over six weeks until everyone starts screaming “Happy New Year!” and puking on each other. Currently, the gallery is on temporary hiatus for the rest of this week and the first half of the next, just to get everything ready and get several new enclosures ready for their debut. Everything starts up with a road trip to Austin to show off new enclosures at the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show at Palmer Event Center on November 27 and 28, with this as much an opportunity to talk with people about the possibility of a touring Triffid Ranch exhibition as anything else. (When working with living organisms, the logistics of where, when, and how to move enclosures takes on a special focus.) This will be the last show outside of Dallas in 2021, as well as the last show in Austin (so far) until June 2022.
After getting back and unloading, it’s a matter of getting ready for December fun. As in years past, the gallery will be open for the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses on December 4, 11, and 18, from 12 noon to 5:00 pm. In years past, we had requests to open on the evening of Christmas Eve where the requestors ghosted, but we also have plenty of potential attendees who can’t come out because they normally work weekends, so we’ll also open the gallery on December 24 from noon until 5:00 pm. (After that, it’s time to head back home and watch the best documentary about Dallas retail ever made with friends.) Expect a lot of surprises during the Nightmare Weekends, as the idea is to reveal new enclosures at each open house, and there’s a lot of enclosure ideas currently on standby.
After that, the beginning of 2022 won’t be a slack period, either. We just finished a major upgrade to wireless connectivity to allow better streaming video options, so the Twitch videos should start up again, and it’s time to start lecture events again, both at the Heard Museum and with DFW Tap Talks. This is on top of talking with other galleries through Texas about exhibitions and curated shows. Oh, it’s going to be an interesting year.
Momentary resurfacing: because of shifting schedules and upcoming developments, the next Triffid Ranch gallery open house is now scheduled for Saturday, November 6, 2021, running from noon to 5:00 pm. (Now that the risk of extreme heat is gone for maybe the next five months, there’s no especial reason to open in the early morning, and the later hours give more opportunities for people constrained by work schedules.) Admission is still free and masks are still mandatory: those factors haven’t changed.
So why the doughnuts? It’s a challenge to friend and Central Track founder Pete Freedman. Pete recently handed over daily operations of Central Track to a new crew in order to focus on a new job: I’ve been nagging him for five years to come out to an open house, and between schedules and pandemic, he’s never had the opportunity. The doughnuts are because at the roughest point in last year’s lockdown, Pete was having to lay off staff and shut down nonvital operations, and I asked if there was anything I could do to help out. “Send doughnuts,” he said, so I picked up a dozen and drove out to his apartment, donned a mask, and delivered them personally. The hope is that he’ll be tempted by the best from Donut Palace, the best doughnut shop on the east side of Dallas (and regular supplier for the crew at Texas Frightmare Weekend on Sunday mornings) and come out to say hello. Alas, it didn’t work at the last open house, so here’s hoping he’ll come out of his burrow like a bearded Gila monster and investigate further. And if any other members of the working press want to beat Pete to the doughnuts, well, that’s why I’m bringing enough for everybody.
Most of the time, July in North Texas just drags on and on. The weather report is the same every day: “Hot and sunny.” The general response to outdoor events invokes the Ray Bradbury novella “Frost and Fire,” where everyone has eight days to live on a planet where staying to watch the full sunrise is an excellent way to die. The last weekend in July is usually especially severe, and smart people emulate Gila monsters and move deep into shelter until the yellow hurty thing in the sky goes down. Most of the time.
The last day of July kept up with tradition, and the afternoon and evening were torrid in anticipation of the brutal thunderstorms that passed through the area on August 1. That’s why everything started in the morning, with laudable results.
Sadly, no Porch Sale for the weekend of August 7: that’s the day of the big Nepenthes Carnivorous Plant Workshop at Curious Garden by White Rock Lake. However, the indoor Porch Sales continue through August starting on August 14 (with a special evening event on August 21 to celebrate the gallery’s sixth anniversary), and the two-day Carnivorous Plant Weekend on September 4 and 5. August probably won’t drag, at least based on the weather forecast, and the Porch Sales will move back outside before you know it.
This time of the year, the weather in Texas can be wildly variable: it’s still possible to get rain, or we can fall right into a summer inferno that doesn’t relent until October. This time, July 4 weekend in Dallas coincided with some of the coolest and rainiest weather seen in decades, which definitely made the first July Carnivorous Plant Weekend all sorts of special. Of course, this means that we’ll be getting the same temperatures Portland and Seattle had last week, but here that’s expected.
With impending and expected heat, things may change with the Porch Sales compared to last year. All through 2020, the idea was to have SOMEthing open and outside to help relieve the monotony of quarantine: between masks and vaccines, it’s now safe enough to avoid the worst of July and August and move everything inside for the summer. We’ll probably go back to outdoor events in September and October when the air stops smelling of burning flint, but for right now, both plants and attendees probably appreciate access to air conditioning.
Another major change instigated by the Carnivorous Plant Weekend is that we’re going to try stirring up the schedule a bit. In 2020, Sunday was the default day of the week, mostly for the severe cabin fever cases, but now a lot of people can’t attend because they work Sundays. Hence, we’re still trying to nail down the whens and wherefores, but the idea is to alternate between Saturday and Sunday mornings for the rest of the year, only interrupted by outside events. (For instance, anyone coming by the gallery the weekend of September 10 is going to be horribly disappointed, because both people and plants will be set up at Texas Frightmare Weekend.) This way, since having the gallery open every day isn’t an option, most folks will have an opportunity on one day or the other.
As for next weekend, the secret words are “rest,” “recuperate,” and “restock, so look for us the weekend of July 17. Until then, keep your eye out for more enclosure debuts and backstories.
Since its start five years ago, the Manchester United Flower Show at the gallery hasn’t always been smooth. It ran well on its first year at the old Valley View space, but it was cancelled in 2017 while we tried to get the new gallery set up. There was the cancellation due to severe illness (once again, anybody can cough up blood, but coughing up urine takes talent), and then last year’s attempt at a virtual event that, well, could have gone better. Between lingering and understandable COVID-19 concerns and legitimate worries about last February’s record freeze, nobody would have said anything if it hadn’t gone through. But it did.
Considering the weather concerns, things could have been much worse. The previous Friday marked a line of severe thunderstorms passing through the Dallas area that afternoon: the Sarracenia pitcher plants are adapted to hurricane-force winds and blasting rain, but they aren’t adapted to hail. Thankfully, that hail hit north of the gallery, so everything was hale, hearty, and well-watered in time for Sunday’s opening. Some plants were still delayed by the February freeze (there’s nothing quite like a greenhouse full of “Aki Ryu” flytraps about a week away from blooming) and some decided to fuss further (no Heliamphora or Cephalotus flowers this year), but otherwise the plants amazed visitors more than usual.
Obviously, global warming permitting, we’re doing this again next year, and trying this again in October to show off autumn pitchers might be educational. Many thanks to everyone who came out: if you missed the show this time, we’ll be out at Frightmare Collectibles. on May 1 for the Hearse and Shock Rod Show from 11 am until whenever everyone goes home. The Sarracenia blooms may be fading by then, but the flytraps are taking advantage of their deep dormancy last winter.
As it turns out, the 2021 season begins the way the 2020 season ended: with a LOT of activity. We’re still seeing reschedulings, rearrangements, and a lot of “do we risk waiting another week in the hopes that the show can run?”, but a combination of mask discipline and ongoing COVID-19 vaccinations gives hope that we’ll see the bare beginnings of an outdoor show season through the rest of this year. That’s about all we can do right now, but at least we can start talking about having events again.
To begin, no matter what else happens, last year’s outdoor Porch Sales were so popular that they’ll start up again in 2021, as soon as the outdoor carnivores such as the Venus flytraps start waking up from their winter dormancy. Whether they’re an every-Sunday thing honestly depends upon the show schedule, but they’ll definitely run every weekend that we’re not at a show, and as things become safer, we’ll also move them inside the gallery if there’s risk of bad weather. During the summer, we’ll probably alternate between holding them inside and outside, just because an indoor show can run much later in the afternoon without everyone bursting into flame. Either way, the outdoor shows will continue until the beginning of November, and then everything HAS to move back indoors.
To start out the season, we’re going to stick to home for the first event: the next Triffid Ranch Carnivorous Plant Show, in conjunction with Caroline Crawford Originals jewelry, greets the beginning of Daylight Savings Time by opening the doors from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on March 14. As always, admission is free, and masks are mandatory.
The first away-from-the-gallery Triffid Ranch event of 2021, though, will be with an old friend: the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo runs in Fair Park on Saturday, March 27 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is $10, and please note that tickets must be purchased in advance, as no tickets will be sold at the door. Also note that the Oddities & Curiosities crew will be VERY vigilant about mask discipline, and both vendors and attendees have to keep them up over the nose or find themselves evicted from the show with no refund.
The week after, it’s time to fire up with another old friend, this time in a new location. If you haven’t heard already, Texas Frightmare Weekend, one of the largest horror conventions on the planet and a Triffid Ranch favorite since 2009, just had to reschedule its 2021 show from the beginning of May to the beginning of September, but founders Loyd and Sue Cryer tested the possibility of outdoor shows at their Frightmare Collectibles location, and we’re on for their first outdoor show on April 3. (Purely coincidentally, that weekend coincides with the 39th anniversary both with my getting the distinctive scar on my forehead, from a sheet of plywood caught in a dust storm, and my watching my first midnight movie, so I choose to look at it as auspicious.) The Frightmare Collectibles show runs from 11:00 am to 9;00 pm: admission is free, masks are mandatory, and bring lots of cash because we’ll be just two of many vendors with items you won’t find anywhere else. (At the very least, for those who appreciate barbecue, the artist at last November’s outdoor event deserves that title, and I know exactly where all of my money is going even if nobody else is hungry.)
(Incidentally, May 5 is the first International Carnivorous Plant Day, with events and activities all over the world, and as a proud member of the International Carnivorous Plant Society, naturally the Triffid Ranch plans to join in. We’re tentatively planning another Frightmare Collectibles outdoor event on May 1, the weekend for which Texas Frightmare Weekend was originally scheduled, and we’re planning additional activities for the weekends before and after May 5. As for the 5th itself, it’s time to pivot to video, with details to follow.)
After that, the Porch Sales start back up, with one significant exception. The Plano Art & Music Festival kindly invited the Triffid Ranch as a new artist exhibitor, so the plants get a much larger audience on April 17 and 18, running from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm each day. Admission is $10, parking is free, and masks are mandatory. If this one goes well, the festival repeats in October, so it might become a regular addition to the show schedule.
Finally, various developments make running regular gallery events much easier than in the past, but mostly on Sundays. That said, we’re very tentatively going to try a Saturday event toward the end of April for those unable to attend on Sundays, specifically for a revival of the Manchester United Flower Show. Expect details in April: right now, everything depends upon the weather, whether or not we have another last-minute freeze or snowstorm, and whether the plants plan to cooperate.
Oh, and one last thing for those who can’t make it to the gallery for any number of reasons. Starting this week, the old Triffid Ranch Twitch channel was dusted off and used for live video, with plans to conduct new videos every Thursday evening (around 8:00 Central Time) and additional videos on Saturday afternoons, so feel free to join in whenever it’s live. It’s also time for more YouTube videos, with channels including debuts of new enclosures and plants, so if you can’t watch videos on one, there’s always room on the other. Yeah, it’s going to be a very busy spring.
The closer to Sunday we get, the worse the weather promises to get, and it’s not getting better all week. Because everyones’ lives are much more important than any open house, we’re rescheduling the Carnivorous plant Tour for Sunday, February 28, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and cancelling all appointments until after things thaw. In the meantime, stay inside and stay warm, and we’ll catch you all when it’s safe to go on Dallas roads without a snowmobile.
For those in the general Dallas-Fort Worth area, you already know the score. For everybody else, as happens to be a long-running tradition with Triffid Ranch events, Sunday’s Valentine’s Day/Lunar New Year Carnivorous Plant Tour coincides with what threatens to be not only one of the coldest temperatures in Dallas recorded history, but possibly (if predictions hold) the coldest temperature experienced in this area since the Early Pleistocene. Of COURSE it will be.
As of this moment, barring the threatened snowfall on late Sunday night and Monday morning hitting 12 hours earlier than predicted, we’re still gunning for the Plant Tour on Sunday. Yes, it’ll be cold, but we have heaters and plant lamps, and we might have hot chocolate, too. If you don’t feel safe making the trip, or if your return threatens to cross the incoming snow and ice, you’re under no obligation to attend. If you do, though, we’ll see you on Sunday. Until then, stay safe and stay warm.
After a much-needed gap to reorganize and restock, the first Carnivorous Plant Tour of 2021 ran on January 24. Of course, it’s not a Triffid Ranch event without torrential rains and thunderstorms, including what was either very early-for-the-season hail or an attempt at sleet, but that didn’t affect the enthusiasm of those daring the storms to do their worst.
In other developments, this gave a great opportunity for visitors to see the full gallery before individual enclosures go out for rental in February. With more enclosures going out, it’s time to make more, and it may be time for a sale of established enclosures in February in order to make room for new works.
For those who missed the fun, the next Carnivorous Plant Tour is a joint Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year celebration on February 14, running from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and outdoor shows should start up again at the end of March, coinciding with the return of the Dallas Oddities and Curiosities Expo on March 27. With luck, we won’t get flooded out for the next Plant Tour, the way we nearly did last year, but as usual the weather makes no promises.
And just like that, the holiday season is done. It’s been a long, unsure season within a very long, unsure year, but we’ve passed through to the other side, and now it’s time to get everything ready for the next one. And so it goes.
At this point, I would be remiss in not thanking everyone who came out to the gallery in 2020 for doing so: in a year as rough as this one, your coming by and validating the concept behind the Triffid Ranch is incredibly appreciated. Now it’s time to get back into the workshop and justify your returning.
As for new events, keep an eye open: right now, our main focus is going to be on taking care of some essential housekeeping before the end of the year, but we’ve also deliberated on what sort of events and when they’ll happen. Until then, stay well, stay safe, and we’ll see you in 2021.
Less than two weeks before the end of the most intense year in memory, and things continue to get interesting. The gallery debuted two new Nepenthes hybrids which will probably be very popular beginner plants over 2021, and it’s time to expand the diversity of bladderwort species in the gallery as well. If not for this pandemic thing, we’d probably do even more.
As a sidenote, the hope is to finish at least one more enclosure by the end of the year, thereby bringing the total constructed this year to at least 21. “20 in 2020” is just a little too weird.
And for those wanting one last dose for the year, the gallery will be open on Thursday, December 24 from 2:00 to 7:00 pm for last-minute shopping, and then again on Sunday, December 27 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm for post-holiday opportunities. Since we can’t have an anniversary party this year (and I’m pretty sure nobody bet on “18 years” in the Paul/Caroline marriage deadpool), this will have to do. See you then.
The plan was to remain open by appointment all week, and then the phone blew up this morning. To take care of last-minute shopping needs, as well as offer a quiet space for those already done with shopping, the Texas Triffid Ranch, in conjunction with Caroline Crawford Originals, is hosting the Christmas Carnivorous Plant Nightmares tour on December 24, 2020, from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Admission is free, masks are mandatory, and those who can’t make it are always welcome to come out on December 27 for the last of the 2020 Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours.
Please note: to be preemptive, while a large selection of beginner plants will be available, Venus flytraps are currently in winter dormancy and won’t be available until March. We apologize for the inconvenience.
So it’s been promised since August. A simple renovation of the gallery to increase the amount of display space and install a series of more efficient shelves. Not an issue, right? It’ll be easy, right? No need to seal the shelves with multiple layers of urethane on days so hot that the urethane dried on the brush, right? No concerns about exactly how much storage space had to be cleared, how much glassware had to be reorganized, how many rolling racks had to be dismantled, and exactly how heavy the reference library could be when moving it to the other side of the gallery, right?
The renovation isn’t finished: I suspect that gallery renovations are a classic example of Zeno’s Paradoxes of Motion, and that they only end when every human involved with that renovation either quits or dies. This isn’t a bad thing in the slightest: there are always ways to improve the viewing experience, and as anyone working in bookselling will tell you, regular reorganizations get visitors to look at assemblages in different ways. The one absolute is that everything will continue to change, if only because of the relatively small space of the gallery, and a catalyst to this process is the ongoing changes in the outside events that used to be a major part of the Triffid Ranch experience. Expect more changes soon, because to quote the comics artist Matt Howarth, it may stop, but it never ends.
With the end of the Sunday morning Porch Sales at the end of October, mostly due to the expected and typically horrific November weather in North Texas, the renovation facilitates other changes in how the Triffid Ranch does business, especially with the ongoing implosion of the outside show community. For those in the area, we have plans for further COVID-safe events between November and April. For those who aren’t, the renovation facilitates going back to the sadly neglected Triffid Ranch YouTube channel and producing a whole load of new videos starting next month. For everybody else, we could all use a little more green in our lives, especially this winter, and the Triffid Ranch plans to be a major facilitator in this. Get ready for the ride of our lives.
In the middle of a pandemic, and right in the middle of a much-needed gallery renovation, there’s still more than enough time to hang out with Loyd and Charles of Texas Frightmare Weekend and talk up carnivorous plants. Sadly, the planned Twitch Prime showing of Annihilation didn’t happen because Amazon removed it from Prime streaming just that day, but we still had a lot of fun with Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. (Right now, we’re talking about doing this again in the future, and I’m going to recommend the best documentary on maintaining and cultivating heirloom roses ever made.)
Welp, we’re a fair portion of the way through the kidney stone of a year known as 2020, and we haven’t even hit autumn yet. Whether you look at this year as the end of the 2010s or the beginning of the 2020s, and I’d argue that every year in the Gregorian calendar ending with “0” is one of transition and painful birthing pains, times are only going to get more interesting until New Year’s Day, and not just in the classic Chinese curse sense. Worse, if 2021 follows the same trajectory as 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011 (1971 was the year I started kindergarten, so I’m a touch biased about it), we’re going to need a week off after New Year’s Day just to get ready.
This August has particular pith and moment: five years ago last month, leases were signed, keys were exchanged, and the first piles of random supplies were left in a former men’s clothing store in the now-defunct Valley View Center in Dallas. Six weeks after that, on August 20, the soft opening of Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery coincided with the Midtown ArtWalk event held at the mall every third Saturday, and the rest was history. A half-decade later, the Texas Triffid Ranch is still going, albeit in fits and starts, and we have PLANS.
Starting off on the gallery side, the whole of Dallas has gone beyond hunkering in shelter and waiting for some suggestion of future normality, and some of us are making plans with stolen War Rigs and tankers of guzzoline. This starts with virtual and live events, made as safe as we can manage, starting this month. For those outside of the Dallas area, and those within Dallas who feel safer in a virtual environment, the Triffid Ranch goes back to Twitch for a virtual open house on Thursday, August 20. This one is open to everyone with an Internet connection, and feel free to pass on word. Likewise, we’re going to try for our first live indoor event in six months on Saturday, August 22 with a live and in-person gallery open house. Please note that with the latter, no more than five people at a time will be allowed to enter, hand sanitizer is encouraged, and masks are mandatory as per Dallas County regulations.
If evening events don’t work, the Triffid Ranch Sunday Porch Sales continue through the end of August and into September, running from 7:00 am to noon. (Right now, the schedule for September is tentative, depending upon whether or not the NARBC reptile show in Arlington on September 26 and 27 is cancelled. If it is, the Porch Sales run through the whole month.) Since recent experiments with setting up a tent and opening up considerably more space were so successful, this will probably be the standard for Porch Sales until the weather gets too cold for outdoor events. This being Texas, that might run until December, and we’ll figure it out after that.
In other news, the original plan for 2020 was to expand into more shows outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, including road trips to Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and even New Orleans. All of those shows are either defunct or rescheduled for 2021 (sadly, the New Orleans and Houston shows are now scheduled for the same weekend next June, so I had to opt out of both), and the rest of the 2021 schedule is still in limbo. However, for 2022, I may be doing a very, very, very bad thing and scheduled a longer road trip than I’ve ever done before. One word: Chicago.
And as a final interlude, a story from the depths of 1990, I’ve spent the last week trying to hunt down a link to a story from early 1990: it’s apparently unavailable online, and I can’t request a copy from the newspaper in which I first encountered it because the late great Dallas Times Herald has been dead for working on 29 years. Even many diehard fans of the writer Hunter S. Thompson don’t know about how Thompson received an invitation from an aide to then-US Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) to join Gramm at a Senate Republican prayer breakfast. The aide sent invitations through a general list of press contacts, and had no knowledge of the author of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72 until word got out. When word got out, Gramm’s office tried to repeal the invitation, and was relieved when Thompson decided not to bring his preferred breakfast menu to Washington DC. I think about that story a lot these days.
Very much as with home ownership, commercial property leasing is one of those things where beginners often don’t know what they’re getting themselves in for. For the last three years the Triffid Ranch has been in its present location, most issues with that location were relatively easy, especially compared to its first space. (There’s nothing quite like discovering that the owner of Valley View Center was refusing to let the Dallas Fire Marshall inspect the fire suppression system, right on the heels of the air conditioning system blowing out during the hottest November in Texas recorded history and said owner refusing to repair it for a full month.) It’s the little things that surprise you, and if you’re lucky, they reveal themselves just before they become catastrophic failures. Such is the story of the Triffid Ranch air conditioning system.
With many commercial properties in the state of Texas, any improvements to the property other than common areas (driveways, parking lots, access ramps, and the like) must be paid for by the tenant. Necessities such as electricity are maintained and updated either by the property or the utility supplying it, but everything else falls to the purview of the renter. Want to replace bare concrete floors with carpet or wooden flooring? That’s on the renter. Replace fixtures such as sinks and toilets? The renter. For the most part, we cheerily go to work, installing break areas, adding lighting, and doing all sorts of other things to make the space liveable and pleasant, and the question is always “how badly do you need this?”
And this is where the air conditioner comes in. When we moved in, we knew the gallery’s existing air conditioner was a bit, say, chronologically challenged. When installed back in 1987, the individual who paid for it went with the absolute cheapest system s/he could get, which meant a system that cooled the front vestibule, where Caroline’s space is currently located, and a side room that was apparently an executive’s office. Everywhere else, you got what you got, which meant that summers required lots of fans. This also meant that between May and October, that little unit was pretty much on day and night, just to keep the inside area liveable. Things weren’t helped by what could be called “enthusiastic nonmaintenance”: when we moved in, the air filter on the AC unit apparently hadn’t been changed in years, said filter was held in place with two old AC-to-DC power adaptors originally used for a long-removed security system, and the previous tenant had managed to get a ridiculous amount of glitter and most of a blue feather boa into the vents. (That story comes later, because it’s even weirder than you’d expect.) When we had problems with the system three years ago, a thorough cleaning improved the situation somewhat, but we knew that eventually the whole unit would need replacement. In Texas, having an operational AC unit, even one as kludgy and obsolete as this on was, was a necessity for survival for three months out of the year.
Even before the days of COVID-19, the plan was to replace the AC in the gallery before the summer heat got going, as open houses during the summer were already a bit sultry when the place filled with people. However, circumstances led to an acceleration of the plan. Just before the July 4 holiday, the whole old AC unit froze up, leading to water leaking from underneath the unit, and an inspection led to the discovery that the unit coils were rusting out. It may have remained intact through the summer, and it might not have survived July. The compressor on the roof was just as old, just as rickety, and just as ready for failure, and replacing the indoor unit would likely lead to a failure compressor, again in the height of the July repair season. After consulting with our AC rep (anyone needing contact info is welcome to ask), the plan was to replace the whole mess with a new, larger indoor unit and a new compressor, offering nearly twice the cooling power with considerably lessened power consumption. More importantly, because of the surprisingly cool and rainy weather in this first week, switching it out quickly was imperative.
The upshot? The unit still needs some additional work to bring everything up to code, but the difference is amazing. Even in the worst heat, not only does the new unit do so much more to cool the main gallery area, but IT DOESN’T RUN ALL DAY AND NIGHT. Obviously, the real acid test will be to check its performance during a packed open house, which may be a while, but this takes pressure off both attendees and the plants. The plants, in particular, appreciate the sudden coolth. Now let’s wait until it’s reasonably safe to have indoor events to test the system’s limits.
The saga of the Harkun, one of the five earliest sentient species to evolve on Earth, has been told elsewhere. What is less well-known is that even after the rest of the species evacuated the planet after its famed and humiliating defeat by the human Charity Smith, one Harkun leader jumped the turnstile at the last second and decided to stay. Nuurakk Hez-Kokk had spent most of his life orchestrating what was to be the ultimate statement on the Harkun’s place in the universe, only to be subverted by poorly written computer code, and then spent the next 65 years in a temporal stasis bubble while 65 million years went by outside. He was angry, which was a Harkun standard. He was vindictive, which was a Harkun standard. He was also quietly patient, which would have derailed his career and sentenced him to decades of cultural reprogramming had anyone learned, as a society of terminal sociopaths would always be wondering what he planned to do next.
Nuurakk’s ultimate goal was simple. Even though the planet had a new dominant species and a whole new name, it was still his world, and “destroying the planet in order to save it” was such a Harkun attitude. He didn’t actually want to destroy it, or even strip it of its mammalian vermin. He had bigger plans. As one of the few Harkun leaders who knew the locations of various technology stashes across Earth and its moon, and knew which ones survived 65 million years of continental drift, asteroid strikes, floods, desertification, and planned obsolescence, he moved in secret to one location, on one distinctive archipelago. There, he planned to create his own new people from the wreckage of his opponents.
The idea was relatively simple. There was no chance of convincing the original Harkun to return to Earth: they’d already taken their toys and flounced off. There was no point in trying to clone a new Harkun race from DNA of the old, because inevitably humans would discover and destroy a new community the first time a Harkun decided that lobbing mortar shells into a human community was a good way to relax. Instead, understanding the concept of “nature versus nurture” better than almost anyone in that section of the galaxy, Nuurakk was going to make human culture into a replica of Harkun culture. Even simpler than the idea was the execution.
To this end, Nuurakk built in silent a series of low-harmonic sonic generators, bombarding the planet’s core with barely detectable shock waves that caused the core to slosh like a waterbed. More power, and the generators would have produced earthquakes, volcanic activity, and lots of other geoplanetary phenomena of immediate threat to humanity. What Nuurakk wanted was a lower thrum, causing a perpetual state of quiet alarm, like waking up from hearing a scream during a dream and wondering for hours “Was that a real scream, or did I just dream it?” Humans depended more upon sleep and dreaming than any other sentient on Earth to that date: make that harder, and humans would exceed anything Harkun culture had ever conceived as far as nastiness, vindictiveness, vulgarity, and violence was concerned.
It almost worked, too. Humans could be incredibly inventive in coming up with passive-aggressive ways to make their fellows suffer, as demonstrated by the concept of the open office. What Nuurakk didn’t count upon, though, was that while humans could stoop to Harkun levels of crotchetiness for a while, they weren’t wired for that sort of sustained performance. After years of reaching for Harkun perfection with the species equivalent of flaming bags of dog crap thrown through windows, the vast majority of humanity snapped, rebelled, and destroyed every last sonic generator. Nuurakk was captured and imprisoned, and the collective relief on the human psyche was so great that the backlash ultimately transformed the galaxy. Humanity rubberbanded into a species determined never to allow itself to reach that level ever again, and Nuurakk spent the rest of his long and pain-free life looking out onto a planetary garden that he could never understand.
Not that everyone switched over. Among humans, there would always be those who for whom the Harkun personality was a feature, not a bug. That’s why they’re allowed free passage to a special reservation where they can be exactly who they want to be, separate from a world that wants to be better, free to throw used sex toys on neighbors’ porches and tattle on teenagers. This, my children, is why we don’t travel through North Dallas.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)
Plant: Cephalotus follicularis
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Shirt Price: Sold
Even despite its temporal brevity, this was a long February, so holding a gallery open house on February 29, the Day That Stretches, made perfect sense. The weather was wonderful, the company the same, and the gallery was full of people being the first to view a series of new enclosures created just for the weekend. The only problem the whole night involved calendars: every one we could find was defective, and they all switched over from February 29 to March 1 without the intervening February 30. I guess my birthday will show up on next year’s calendar, then.
Because of both a series of shows and the vagaries of the weather, March won’t have an open house, but April will. Check back on April 18 for the Manchester United Flower Show, and maybe by then people and plants alike will be recovered from the switch back to Daylight Savings Time.
One poster, and everything’s melting down. To everyone who came to this site thanks to the new poster that went out two weeks ago, or who arrived via Glasstire, welcome, and feel free to dig around. If you like what you read, the Leap Day at the Texas Triffid Ranch open house is this coming Saturday, starting at 6:00 pm, and it’s open to the public, the sporting press, and any art critics looking for easy targets. (With the last, I’m dead serious: we’re very fluent in constructive criticism here. So long as the response isn’t huffy demands for freebies followed by bad reviews because the freebies were freely given, known in the Dallas music and film communities as “getting wilonskeyed,” fire away.) And so it goes.
February and March are already going to be packed with events, but for those wanting to come out to the gallery, please take note that we’re hosting a special Leap Day open house on February 29. Art, jewelry, carnivorous plants, and the opportunity to get in an early celebration of my birthday on February 30. Get your tickets now.
With everything happening in November and December, many thanks to everyone who came out for the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas, because it made all the difference. As always, we had a great crowd of interested bystanders, and plenty of folks who came out later to buy individual plants or order commissions. Best of all, everyone got to see the old gallery one last time before its reorganization, so here’s hoping that it met with your approval.
For those who had to miss out, either because of the short holiday shopping season or because of prior commitments, the next open house is January 25, and naturally you’re invited. Heck, feel free to get the word out, and turn this into the biggest gathering we’ve had yet.
Things are coming back together, so it’s time for the reminder that the latest Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas gallery open house starts December 7 at 6:00 pm. See you here.
A lot has happened in November so far, and more is gearing up for the rest of the month, in what the author Harlan Ellison called “the hour that stretches.” November has always been an, er, interesting month in my life, what with layoffs, moves, new jobs, and more than a few deaths. November 2019 follows in that tradition, and the plan is that the window that opens when the door closes is a greenhouse vent and not an airlock. Yeah, it’s been one of THOSE Novembers.
Anyway, the practical upshot is that appointment availability for Triffid Ranch consultations just became a lot more open. The Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas Saturday night open houses starting on November 30 remain unaffected, but now the gallery will be open a lot more often during the week, too. Just excuse the mess: the events over the last two months (of which no more will be said) interfered with new projects, so the idea now is to rectify that situation. Among other things, this frees up storage space, it gives new homes for older plants to stretch out, and it gives more reasons for all of you lot to come out to multiple Nightmare Weekends to see what’s new THIS time. If you’ve had an eye on a particular enclosure but haven’t made the move to take it home just yet, this may be the perfect opportunity.
And the rest of the year? That’s dedicated both to a wedding anniversary blowout (17 years as of December 28, and people still assume that we’ve been married for weeks) and to getting ready for 2020. This includes a stem-to-stern renovation of the gallery, other essential updates (after all, we’ve been in the space for three years as of February, so we have plans), and scheduling for the largest list of outside events yet. Among other things, a quick perusal of the calendar revealed that next Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday, and between this and Leap Day on a Saturday, it’s time to call some people and plan a multi-venue event. As always, details will follow as they happen: if it doesn’t happen, you’ll never know about it.
Speaking of venues, if you’ve attended an open house and never stepped across the doorway to our neighbor Visions of Venice, consider yourself encouraged to investigate. Besides being the absolute best business neighbor a boy could ever want, the amount of crossover interest between carnivorous plants and Italian glasswork continues to surprise me. Even better, the storefront is open during the week, so don’t be afraid to head out during a lunch break with a whole group of coworkers and peruse the stock of masks and chandeliers. (Yes, they actually go together. Don’t argue with me on this.)
Finally, before loading up the van and heading out to Austin for this weekend’s Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show at the Travis County Exposition Center, a little note: some of you may have noticed that the new URL for this Web site changed to http://www.texastriffidranch.com within the last week. It’s a funny story as the old URL still works, and you’ll have to come out to one of the Triffid Ranch events for an explanation. In the meantime, if you haven’t been exploring through the archives in a while, please indulge your curiosity, as WordPress and Google are fighting over whether or not this is new content. Besides, you don’t have anything better to do the week before American Thanksgiving when you’re trapped at work and everyone else is taking off on early vacations, right?
Four years since the original gallery opened at Valley View Center and two years since the current gallery opened for business, and we’ve reached a wonderful equilibrium between shows, lectures, and open houses. Four years ago, the thought of holding an open house the day after a big out-of-town presentation would have started a few hours of panic screaming. Now, it’s just a matter of sweeping up, putting the construction materials and the airbrush away and unlocking the door. Holding October’s open house during Texas/OU Weekend worked out perfectly: not only did it give an opportunity for those who wanted to avoid the drunken nightmare of downtown Dallas, but between cooler temperatures and the full moon, the timing was exquisite. As always, thanks to everyone who came out: at the rate things are going, this will become a fulltime venture before you know it.
Because of next month’s show schedule, the next open house is tentatively scheduled for November 30. The good news is that November 30 marks the beginning of the annual Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas, where the Triffid Ranch is open every Saturday after American Thanksgiving until December 21. See you then.
A little side-project tied to the October gallery open house this weekend: with the exceptions of side-trips to Tallahassee, Portland, and northeast Wisconsin, next December marks 40 years in North Texas. In that time, I haven’t done a lot of things either expected of me or intimated that it might be in my best interest. I’ve never been to South Fork or the 6th Floor Museum, I haven’t been to Six Flags Over Texas since 1982, I haven’t gone to a high school football game, and I have yet to come across a rattlesnake in the wild. (I had to go to Tallahassee for that.) One of the things I’ve wanted to do besides come across a seven-foot Western diamondback, though, was to eat prickly pear cactus fruit until I fell over, and that’s now checked off the bucket list.
The prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) is a regular component of the Texas experience. Technically, the Dallas area isn’t the eastern edge of its range (Opuntia is found growing along the Gulf Coast into the western coast of Florida, often growing in the crooks of mangrove trees), but Dallas marks where the pine trees of East Texas are supplanted by cactus. In our area, they tend to show up in poor, well-drained areas such as along culverts and bridges, and they’re just cold-tolerant enough to survive most Dallas winters. The cactus has not only been a food source for humans for centuries (the pads and fruit are referred to in Spanish as nopales and tuna respectively), b