Tag Archives: upcoming shows

State of the Gallery: November 2019 – Special Edition

Surprisingly, not just a metaphor

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?

State of the Gallery: September 2019

95 days left until the end of calendar year 2019, and the gallery thrives. If you haven’t checked out the Triffid Ranch account on Instagram, you’re missing out on the spectacle that is “Mandatory Simon,” in which my walking brisket of a cat attempts to be as famous as Curious Zelda, but everything else over here can be explained via text. And a lot there is.

To start, October is going to be a very, VERY busy month, and not just because of the vague promise of cooler weather starting around October 5. The celebration of surviving another endless summer starts on October 12, where we offer an alternative to the standard Texas/OU weekend festivities of filling the streets with bodily fluids with the Texas Triffid Ranch Autumn Extravaganza and Open House at the gallery. Not only are the Sarracenia threatening to take over the planet this year (a change of pace, because the Nepenthes had made it THEIR year for a while), but this comes with the debut of several new never-before-seen enclosures and the official debut of others. This will be the last open house until the beginning of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas starting December 7, so it’s either here or you’re traveling.

(As an aside to those having attended previous open houses, an apology and a restitution. Discussions have been undertaken with the property management about the church at the other end of the block and its taking up all available parking on weekends for their drunken parties, er, “prayer meetings,” so we now have permission to reserve parking spaces specifically for the gallery during special events such as this. Right now, we can’t reserve more than three spaces, but at least this is a start.)

Actually, I fib, because this won’t be the first Triffid Ranch event in October. The first was just resolved today, with a guest collection of carnivores on display at the Spooky Science On Tap social event at the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History on October 11. As with the Perot Museum in Dallas, any excuse to go to the Fort Worth Museum is a good one, if only for opportunities to pose in front of the life-sized Acrocanthosaurus model in the front of the museum, so make sure to get there early before traffic gets entertaining.

Not like things slow down the next weekend, either. October 19 marks a return to Curious Garden near White Rock Lake in Dallas for an encore of last spring’s carnivorous plant workshop. The last workshop kinda grew from its expected size in a matter of days before the event, and we discovered that the most we could do was two workshops of 20 people at a time. Since reservations in the workshop have to be made with Curious Garden, with no walk-ins accepted, this means you have to get in now if you want to reserve a space. (And yes, we’re planning more workshops. Don’t panic.)

After doing two workshops, it’s time for a rest, right? Oh, that’s adorable. After getting back to the gallery on Saturday, the next Sunday goes to a booth space in the famed Texas Theater in Oak Cliff for the Oak Cliff Movie & Gardeners Party, as a complement to a screening of Little Shop of Horrors on October 20. It’ll be a short show, but a nice change of pace and a good excuse to come out to Oak Cliff. After THAT, though, it’s time for a nap.

In a perfect world, Halloween would fall on a Saturday, so we could throw another open house that day and finish off October the way it was meant to be. The good news is that this perfect world starts next year thanks to our impending February 29 (the day before my birthday on February 30), but we’ll have to make do in 2019. The good side to that the Massacre on Division Street Dark Art Festival in Arlington fills the gap October 26 quite nicely, and the Triffid Ranch will be just one of a plethora of artists for this show. This works out well: we have to do SOMEthing with six months until the next Texas Frightmare Weekend. This is also on the recommendation of a local arts critic whose opinion I take seriously: after the holidays, the number of art shows in Dallas containing a custom enclosure is going to go through the roof.

Finally, I can’t talk about particulars until the official announcement, but if you haven’t been to the Shows, Lectures, and Other Events page in a while, you’ll probably be surprised at the number of outside-of-Dallas shows scheduled for 2020. Going with Nosferatu Festival in Austin and the Houston Horror Film Festival, get ready for several new shows to be revealed on October 31, including the Triffid Ranch’s first show outside of Texas. 2020 will also be the year for a return to the NARBC reptile show in Arlington: that show runs twice a year, so expect a Triffid Ranch booth in September and hope for one in February. Suffice to say, 2020 is also the year to expect an official Triffid Ranch van, because after a decade, it’s finally more practical to buy a van than to keep renting them. And so it begins.

The Aftermath: DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention -1

I won’t lie: every vendor at any show, despite the evidence, has a little voice running in the background whispering “You KNOW, you could just go back, put everything up, and go back to bed.” That voice picks up on every minor aggravation and misgiving, from the torrential rain and literally flooded-out streets on the way to a venue to the one fellow vendor who blocks off the only ramp from the parking lit to the venue sidewalk with his car and refuses to move, and pushes that one last nerve. One of the biggest secrets to selling at shows, conventions, and events is to grab that voice by the throat, shove it head-first into a 55-gallon drum, pour concrete into the drum, and then shove that drum into the nearest lake. That won’t kill it, but it’ll slow it down for a while.


For instance, the morning of the DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention, sponsored and run by Thrifty Pirate Vintage Retro, the whole of the Dallas area was inundated by a seemingly never-ending wave of thunderstorms. With most shows, morning thunderstorms, especially in summer, are a moodkiller, and combining that with it being a first-time show, the odds weren’t good. Some people, vendors and customers both, would turn around and go back home, grumbling all the way. The professional response, though, is to try to make things work: the fact that almost everyone else felt the same way was why the Thrift Convention had the most enthusiastic response to a first-time one-day show that I’ve seen in years.

Among other joys: the very enthusiastic response to the Larry Carey Triffid Ranch poster almost made me regret Larry wanting to update it, but only just. (As a reminder, even though the poster and shirt design are changing, the Shirt Price discount still applies to the old shirts, for as long as they’re wearable. In fact, if you have designs on making old shirts into more fashion-forward attire, run with it. The discount still applies.)

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: August 2019

Seven months of 2019 down and dead, and five to go. We just might get to the end of the Twenty-Teens in one piece after all. Of course, I also said that at the beginning of August 1989, and we saw how THAT turned out. (Don’t even bring up August 2009: there’s nothing quite like having to go in for a CT scan of a lung “anomaly” on your birthday, that turned out $900 after deductible later to be pneumonia scarring that had been on record since 1982.)  As is our wont, it’s time to discuss the gallery and how things are progressing, and pass on interesting news that might come in handy to others.

To begin, those who haven’t been by to visit the Event Calendar in a while are going to be extremely surprised, as 2019 is the Triffid Ranch’s busiest year yet. This includes signing up for a lot of new shows, such as the Massacre on Division Street Dark Art Festival in Arlington on Halloween weekend and the Deep Ellum Creative Market at the beginning of November. (Yet another reason for staying in Texas: the first real cold day usually hits by the end of November: the beginning of November might be exceedingly windy, but it’s usually really nice, especially for those cooped up inside all summer long.) The big news, though, is that the promised expansion of Triffid Ranch shows outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton triangle worked out better than expected, with multiple shows in Austin and now the Houston Horror Film Festival next June. I’m not quite ready for Brownsville or Corpus Christi because of the drive (Brownsville is nearly eight hours away from Dallas on a good day), and the Texas Panhandle is still terra incognita, but it’s a start. This is in addition to showings in other galleries throughout the state, but that’s also something that’s on the agenda.

August is another reason for celebration other than the Halloween decorations and displays in the local Michael’s stores: it’s hard to believe that we’re coming up on the second anniversary of the soft opening of the current gallery and the fourth anniversary of the original opening at Valley View Center. Naturally, that means having another open house on August 24, right after coming back from the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin on August 17. The plan is to debut several new enclosures on the 24th, which is a bit necessary: between purchases of existing enclosures and commissions, it’s getting a touch bare out here. We should all have such issues.

Anyway, it’s back to the linen mines: tomorrow’s DFW First Thrift Convention in North Richland Hills starts off the month, and there’s still a lot to do before the doors open at 10:00. See you then.

State of the Gallery: July 2019

 39 years ago this month, what was later known as the Heat Wave of 1980 kicked into overdrive across Texas, and kept going until the end of September. Considering that was my first summer significantly below the 45th Parallel (and having just survived the Chicago Blizzard of 1979 18 months earlier), that was the first and last year I could complain about not knowing about the heat. Longtime residents have three ways to deal with July and August in Dallas. The sanest is to find a very deep and thick-walled shelter and sleep in the dark until the rains return. If you don’t feel like impersonating a Gila monster, you have two choices: gather with others who are shocked at torrid Texas summers and whine “It’s HOT” over and over, or make plans to be productive while the Gila monsters are sleeping. The first just means that every public venue sounds like a pterosaur rookery after a while, with people who would complain even more if we got a meter of snow. The latter isn’t always easy, as I learned 39 years ago when delivering copies of the long-dead and much-missed Dallas Times Herald right at the peak of the heat, but it offers at least the promise of fun.

First, though, the preamble. Things got very interesting at the beginning of July, thanks to both a listing for the Triffid Ranch in Atlas Obscura and a slideshow from Samantha Lopez at the Houston Chronicle. The last time this much news coverage hit was at the beginning of the decade, five years before the gallery was even an option, so expect a lot of late nights getting new enclosures ready for the next open house.

Oh, yeah: about that. Because of a surplus of shows and events in August, the next Triffid Ranch open house, celebrating the gallery’s fourth anniversary, is scheduled for Saturday, August 24, from 6:00 pm until whenever everyone goes home. This not only gives time for multiple shows, but maybe enough time for a stem-to-stern revamp and reorg of the gallery space, as it’s about time.

And on the subject of outside shows, We’ve got quite a few lined up over the next few months. The first and most obvious is this weekend’s carnivorous plant workshop at Curious Garden in Dallas on July 20. The response to last year’s open house was so overwhelming that it had to be expanded this year to two classes: the noon to 2:00 class is now full, so everyone agreed that we needed a second one from 2:00 to 4:00 that afternoon. Check with Curious Garden about availability: due to space constraints, we’re limited to 20 participants, so don’t come in without setting up reservations in the hopes of getting a seat.

After that, it’s a weekend off to focus on commissions and renovations, and then we’re heading to the wilds of Hurst for the DFWS FIRST Thrift Convention on August 3. This is predominately a vintage event, but with an indoor venue so people and plants don’t cook, running from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. As to what will be there…that’s a good question, as this is the first show of its sort. With luck, I’ll have an answer for everyone by August 4, so we can all make plans for the 2020 show.

As promised last year, 2019 and 2020 are years intending to move Triffid Ranch shows outside of the Dallas area, and August 17 is the date for one of the big ones. Based on last March’s response to the Dallas show, and the sheer number of friends and customers in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who don’t want to have to haul themselves up to Dallas to say hello, it’s time to hit the Travis County Expo Center for the latest Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin. It’s only a one-day show, but considering the crowds that wrapped around the building at the Dallas show, make sure to show up early and stay hydrated.

Finally, it’s been a long while since the last time a Triffid Ranch show was in Fort Worth, and the good news is that the first show in September will be indoors and away from the last of the summer heat. Even better, for those of us who survive the end of August and beginning of September by viewing Halloween decorations for sale at the local Michael’s store, this is for the Spooky Spectacle horror convention at the Will Rogers Center the weekend of September 14.(Sadly, this coincides with the NARBC reptile show in Arlington, but that’s why the NARBC runs twice per year. Right now, it’s very possible that the first Triffid Ranch show of 2020 will be at the February NARBC, because it’s been entirely too long since the last time.)

Well, enough of this. Time to get back to the linen mines: the only way these shows and events are going to happen is if the hard work is complete by the time they start. See you then.

State of the Gallery: June 2019

 It’s hard to believe what’s changed with the Triffid Ranch since 2015: it was four years ago this month that wandering through an ArtWalk at Valley View Center meant coming across a freshly vacated space at the dying mall that looked like a perfect place to start a carnivorous plant gallery, and everything snowballed from there. Four years of late nights, early mornings, mad dashes to the space after the Day Job was done, road trips for plants or gear, massive remodelings and rearrangings, and it’s all been worth the effort. The gallery isn’t absolutely perfect (I certainly wouldn’t complain about another 1000 square feet for growing area and a loading dock), but compared to where it started, it’s getting there.

The irony of the situation is that getting word out about the gallery requires leaving it. For all of the noises about online promotion and publicity, people have had nearly a quarter-century to get used to ignoring online ads, and nothing beats getting out for shows and events and letting them see what makes the Triffid Ranch unique. The plan all along was for the gallery to act as a base for shows throughout the area and the state, but who had any idea that things were going to get so busy this year?

As for those shows, things go fast and furious in June. The last Garland Urban Flea in downtown Garland, Texas was flooded out, and the makeup day was held at the same time we were already scheduled for an event in Denton. (Let us not talk about the event in Denton: there’s a big difference between an actual music festival and a gaggle of hipsters who decide “Let’s put on a show!”) The Urban Flea is getting back onto its normal schedule, though, with this month’s event on June 8 from 9:00 to 4:30, right in the middle of downtown Garland. And speaking as a proud resident for the last near-decade, if your sole impressions of Garland come either from passing through in the 1980s or that quip in the movie Zombieland, I think you’ll be nicely surprised. (As always, with any outdoor show, serious weather may delay or shut down the whole thing. The good news is that as of June 4, the Dallas area gets a lot of rain before and after, but Saturday should be absolutely beautiful. As always, though, we’ll see.)

In unorthodox events, right after packing up everything at the Garland Urban Flea, it’s time to head back to old stomping grounds in Dallas’s Exposition Park. The 500x Gallery on Exposition Avenue, on the approach to the north entrance to Fair Park, just celebrated its 40th anniversary, and its Hot & Sweaty show every year is famous for its opening to anybody willing to drag art through the front door at the scheduled times. While the show runs every day from 12 noon to 5:00 until June 24, the opening on June 8 runs from 7:00 to 10:00, meaning that it’s a perfect opportunity to come by and view two sample enclosures for those who haven’t had the opportunity to come by the gallery. Besides, speaking as a resident of Exposition Park in the early 1990s, it’s always good to get back to the neighborhood.

(And the work keeps coming, by the way: after the 500x opening, it’s back to the gallery to finish up a slew of commissioned works, and to allow official Triffid Ranch photographer Allison David to get good photos of the current enclosures for a portfolio going out for the official fourth anniversary in September. To steal from the famed comics artist Matt Howarth, it may stop, but it never ends.)

The weekend after this gets even more interesting, as it’s time to go back to the Swizzle’s Tiki Lounge in Industry Alley Bar just south of downtown Dallas for the Swizzle’s Waipuna Tiki Flea on June 15. Last year’s show was unexpectedly show by comparison, as I was told by organizers and attendees alike, probably due to the cold drizzle running all day and most of the night. This year, there’s  no excuse, weather-wise.

After that, it’s time to take a break for one weekend, if only to mow the lawn and brush the cats. That breath-catching is in order to finish up everything for the next Triffid Ranch open house on June 29 from 6:00 to whenever we kick out the last people. If you’ve been out already, you already know the drill, but for those popping into Dallas for work or fun before the heat really kicks in, this is the time to see the plants in air-conditioned comfort among fellow carnivorous plant enthusiasts.

Oh, and before I forget, one extra bit of good news. One of the many pleasures of this last May’s Texas Frightmare Weekend (and we’re already gearing up for the 2020 show) was running into Bunny Voodoo of Blood Over Texas in Austin, and Bunny had the particulars on this coming November’s Horror For the Holidays show. It’s still running the weekend before Thanksgiving, but because of its increasing number of vendors and attendees, it’s moving from Come and Take It Live to the Travis County Expo Center. That means that Horror for the Holidays runs for both Saturday and Sunday, this year, meaning both that attendees have more flexibility with their schedules and we vendors don’t have to set up and tear down just in one day. This means that you can expect a lot more surprises this November, but you’ll have to wait until then to find out what they are. This also means that the Triffid Ranch is moving further out of Dallas proper: between this and the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in August, this marks two shows per year in Austin, with plans to move to Houston and San Antonio as soon as venues and opportunities allow.

And on the subject of August, the Triffid Ranch will go a little quiet in July, partly because of the heat and partly because of the need for new enclosures after this sort of June. However, it’s going to be busy from the beginning of August all the way to the end of the year, so keep checking the event calendar. It’s going to fill up: mark my words.

“Overture, Turn the Lights…”

There’s always plenty of time for preparation, until there isn’t. This weekend’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park kicks off the Texas Triffid Ranch show season, and that season will be going full-bore until November this year. Come out Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm for the Expo, or come out to the gallery for next weekend’s Manchester United Flower Show on April 6. After that, hang on, because it’s time to get busy.

State of the Gallery: January 2019

January skies: cold and dark

Coming up on the new gallery’s second anniversary, the main theme around the Triffid Ranch this month is…cleaning. Lots of cleaning, shifting, moving, sorting, cataloguing, and launching into the sun. Pots and containers that almost made sense when they were originally purchased three years ago but simply can’t cut the mustard today. Glues and other adhesives that didn’t age well.  Electrical fixtures purchased years before the gallery originally opened that are now desperately obsolete based on today’s technology. Equipment and supplies purchased for big projects that fell through, usually when the client only wanted to pay in exposure. Items that fell literally between the cracks in those frantic days during and after the move from Valley View Center. Combine this with a renovation of the actual toolspace, and the gallery is as close to ergonomic as it’s been since the beginning of 2017. You know, when the space was empty. 

(Seriously, folks, take it from a professional: DO NOT STOCKPILE GLUES. Buy what you need when you need it, or what you reasonably think you can use within a month. Most of your cyanoacrylate superglues will last longer, but there’s nothing quite like desperately needing silicone sealer for a project, slapping a presumably fresh cartridge into the caulking gun, cranking it up to put down a bead of fresh silicone, and getting instead a bead of what looks and feels like transparent cottage cheese with no adhesive properties whatsoever. Don’t even get me started on wood glues: old wood glue looks like snot, it smells like snot, and it has a third of the holding power of snot. Not only will your projects fall apart, but then everyone visiting will assume that your workspace does double duty as a preschool.)

That’s the situation at the moment: with everyone still recovering from holiday stress, the best thing to do is get everything around for the rest of the year, and that’s very nearly literally complete. I can’t say that previous visitors won’t recognize the new gallery, but it definitely has a lot less of the Doctor Who/The Red Green Show mashup feel than in previous months. Well, I SAY that, but you should see some of the odd Halloween pots picked up when a Pier One distributor shut down their local showcase office two years ago. And this applies until it’s time to restock glassware after selling everything during the spring show season.

As far as events are concerned, we had to make a tough decision earlier this week, and the Triffid Ranch won’t be at All-Con in the middle of March. This wasn’t done lightly, and it mostly involved schedule conflicts with the day job, which is why we really had no choice. The schedule is going to be filled with more one-day events through the rest of the year, but four-day events aren’t going to be an option for the foreseeable future. The Oddities and Curiosities Expo at Dallas’s Fair Park on March 30 is still on, though, as well as other events to be announced very shortly.

Likewise, we’re still on for the Perot Museum of Nature & Science’s Social Science: Wild World 21+ event on January 25: the flytraps and North American pitcher plants are dormant for the winter, but the Mexican butterwort blooms in the gallery make up for it. For those who have already picked up their tickets, the Triffid Ranch exhibit will be on the fourth floor, not far away from the Protostega skeleton. If this works well, negotiations are ongoing about returning for the Social Science: Science Fiction show on April 26: between this and Tim Curry’s guest appearance at Texas Frightmare Weekend the very next weekend, I’m honestly looking forward to fictional carnivorous plant references that don’t involve people yelling “Feed me, Seymour!” over and over and my inevitable response.

Oh, and another benefit of the final gallery cleanup: besides freeing up room for new projects, this also allows the opportunity to restart a program put on hiatus after the Valley View exodus. Some of you may remember Sid, the Nepenthes bicalcarata pet at the long-defunct and much-missed Role2Play gaming store in Coppell, and it’s time to expand the rental program that allowed Sid to make such an impression. Bookstores, dentist offices, classrooms, business lobbies: Triffid Ranch enclosure rentals offer the opportunity to show off unique carnivorous plant displays without having to deal with maintenance and upkeep. Keep checking back, because the details will be available very soon, or feel free to drop a line to become an early implementer.

The State of the Gallery: November 2018

It took long enough, but summer is dead. Deceased. It’s not pining for the fjords. Its leavetaking proves that there’s still room in Hell. It’s GONE, MacReady. The heat is gone, defunct, bereft, and on its back and kicking like a dying cockroach. We won’t have to start worrying about oppressive heat in the Dallas area for another five months, and for a couple of weeks, we might need coats after the sun goes down. We’re gonna FREEZE!

Seriously, this November is shaping up to be a typical one. No unnatural heat the way we had in 2016, but also no significant chance of snow and slop the way we had in 1993. (Subfreezing temperatures and sleet on Thanksgiving evening and nearly impassable conditions for Dallas the day after: that was a wonderful mess.) We came close to snow last week with the cold front that passed through North and Central Texas. Even that was sporadic and fleeting, and we went back to our typical windy and sunny before anyone realized the bitter cold was gone. For those of us with fashion sense that includes motorcycle jackets and heavy boots, it’s been a little touch of heaven, and we still have December and January to go.

(And on the subject of motorcycle jackets, I bought mine 21 years ago this month, and it’s a little jarring to realize that I have friends and customers whose main interests were cell division and limb gene expression when I purchased it. I had at least four people ask me what I did to get it that wonderfully broken in and character-ridden, and I had to tell them “Just get one and wear it until it’s old enough to buy booze in the US.”)

Out come the jackets, in go the temperate carnivores, unfortunately. As of now, don’t expect to see any Venus flytraps, temperate sundews, or Sarracenia pitcher plants until at least the beginning of April, and even that may be delayed with last-minute blue northers hitting in February and March. The spotty frosts we’ve received over the last week have stopped any new growth in the flytraps and pitcher plants, and they’re now taking a much-deserved rest to recharge for spring. If we get just the right combination of sun and cold for the rest of the winter, next year’s blooms, especially with the purpurea pitcher plants, will be spectacular.

Just because they’re asleep doesn’t mean that everyone can’t have fun with carnivores until spring. The tropical carnivores are still busy and a bit obnoxious, so we’re going to be focusing on them all winter long. And oh, they’re going places.

The first place they’ll be going is to the revival of the Dallas Fantasy Fair, running November 24 and 25 at the Irving Convention Center. November is already a month packed with fannish events (I haven’t seen a month like this in Texas, and my memory of related events goes back 35 years as of this weekend), but setting up a booth at the Fantasy Fair seemed both like an opportunity to run into people I haven’t seen in two decades and give them a chance to see a cross-section of what the Triffid Ranch is trying to accomplish. Either way, look for booth #406: in a room full of comics professionals, a space dedicated to carnivorous plant enclosures is going to stand out.

Next, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses at the gallery are going to be a little truncated this season due to conflicting schedules. Instead of running every Saturday in December before Christmas, we’re going to have two: December 15 and December 22, both starting at 6:00 p.m. and ending when everyone’s done. In addition, anyone purchasing an enclosure at either of the open houses gets free delivery within the Dallas/Fort Worth area if you really want to surprise someone. (Note: between prior commitments and the open houses, time for custom enclosures will be at a premium, so get requests out NOW.)

After the holidays are finally over, it’s time to go back to a venue we haven’t visited in three years. The Perot Museum in downtown Dallas still has its bimonthly Social Science 21+ late-night events, and the Wild World event on January 25 includes viewings of Nepenthes and Heliamphora pitcher plants and other carnivores. The contract is still being negotiated, but expect to see a redux, with North American pitcher plants, for the Social Science “Science Fiction” event on April 26. Apparently that’s the one where I’m going to get alternate movie quotes thrown at me about triffids.

And on a last note, the touring Oddities and Curiosities Expo runs in Austin this weekend: as tempting as it was to head back to Austin for a weekend, my loyalty lies with the Blood of Texas Crew for the Horror For the Holidays event. You can imagine my surprise at discovering that Oddities and Curiosities is hitting Dallas on March 30, and of COURSE the booth fee has already been paid for it. Look at it as a teaser for Texas Frightmare Weekend on May 3 through 5, including having special news for Frightmare attendees who are also hitting Free Comic Book Day at local comic shops that weekend. Details will follow.

And that’s about it for now. Staying warm?

Weather Cancellations of the Garland Urban Flea: the November Edition

Texas weather is a famed teacher of humility: regular readers may remember how last month’s outdoor Garland Urban Flea show was cancelled due to rain. A little rain we could have handled: the deluge with occasional hail blasted the whole area, and the Urban Flea locale would have made a great duck pond. Maybe it did. In any case, the revised plan was to move everything and everybody to the next show in November. Considering that early November in North Texas ranges from shortsleeve weather to “maybe I should get a jacket, just in case the wind picks up,” this was a very reasonable choice.

Well, that was before the weather report this week. You know that ominous music in horror films as the protagonist is trapped and unable to move, and the monster moves closer and closer in preparation to attack? The Weather Channel should license a theme and run it in the background when meteorologists discuss cold fronts. For the past week, the Weather.com prediction of an impending front dropping temperatures to or close to freezing left me checking my phone every few minutes. “It’s gonna miss us. It’s gonna miss us. I’m reasonably sure it’s going to miss us…”

It’s not going to miss us. Temperatures are going to drop to very near freezing, and that’s pretty much fatal to most of my plants. Hence, it’s a straight trip to Austin for the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show on Sunday, but the Saturday Garland Urban Flea just isn’t an option. Next year, after things warm up again, though, it goes right back on the schedule. And so it goes. Don’t let this stop you from going, though: just know that out of all the wonderful things being offered, carnivorous plants won’t be among them.

State of the Gallery: October 2018

“We are now approaching the end of 2018, and will be crashing into 2019 shortly. Please return your solar cell array to its upright position, stow all weapons and sublight propulsion devices in the bins provided below your seat, and place your order for drinks or objective reality inhibitors with the flight attendant at this time. If you are a native to a reality with more than a 45 percent difference in strong nuclear force or Hawkwind music catalog from your destination, please let the flight crew know at this time to prevent spontaneous explosion when disembarking. Your checked-in luggage has been sprayed for most animal and plant pests, parasites, and symbionts, but please check for nanometal phages in a safe location in any reality with a tech rating above 3.73.998. We thank you for flying with us today, and a special message for Lanny: stop it. Stop it NOW. The authorities already know, and they’re not giving it back.”

 

Twelve weeks to the end of the year, and this is when life starts getting lively out at the Triffid Ranch. For the temperate carnivores, we’re only about six weeks away from the beginning of the traditional winter dormancy, which means the Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, and triggerplants are about ready to sleep until April.  The tropical plants in the gallery already think it’s winter, with lights set for a December 21 photoperiod, in order to encourage them to bloom around the beginning of March.  Pretty soon, the dragonfruit cactus by the front door comes inside, the next batch of hot pepper seeds go into propagation, and this year’s collection of Sarracenia seeds go into cold storage until March. That’s not even starting with the new plants grown from cuttings for next year’s show season.

 

A lot is going on besides getting the greenhouse winterproofed and the Sarracenia pools mucked out, too. The fall show season starts on October 13, with an inaugural tent set up at the Garland Urban Flea in downtown Garland, Texas, with the usual bets as to how the weather will go.  The default assumption for autumn in North Texas is “cloudy and a little cool in the morning, with temperatures dropping significantly with any storm front.” In other words, bring a jacket just in case, and come out to see Sarracenia pitcher plants in full fall color. 

 

After coming out for Garland Urban Flea, take the next weekend off. Seriously: take it off, because the gallery will be closed that weekend. That’s because the next Triffid Ranch open house opens on Friday, October 26 at 6:00 post meridian, and a lot is happening in the intervening week. This includes the premieres of several new enclosures, including a commission for a longtime Triffid Ranch supporter, and the last big flytrap and Sarracenia display until next year. Traditionally, open houses run on Saturday evenings, but on the request of several longtime customers (including one that has been visiting the booth at various events for the last decade), we’re going to try Friday night so as to free up Saturday night for Halloween events.

After that, it’s a matter of getting ready for November and December. November is a month of shows, starting with the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show in Austin on November 11, for the third show in a row. After that, November 24 and 24 are spent closer to home, with the resurrected Dallas Fantasy Fair at the Irving Convention Center. Once we’ve swept up the broken glass and discarded pizza boxes from that one, it’s back to the gallery for the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas, with the gallery open every Saturday evening from December 1 to 22. (For those who want to purchase a particular enclosure but don’t want to ruin the surprise, we’ll deliver in person on December 23 and 24, so feel free to ask for details.)

 

On the newsletter front, the Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale continues, especially as Facebook continues its descent into emulating LiveJournal. (And lower than that I can’t get.) The big Harlan Ellison giveaway for subscribers is done, but expect a slightly more scaled-down version with every issue of the newsletter: I haven’t had this much fun putting together this big a collection of packages in years, and that’s nothing compared to the glee of those who receive them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, there’s always time, as a new installment comes out this week. It may also be time for an archive, too.

 

And that’s about it for the moment. What’s up with you?

Upcoming Events, June 2018 Edition

A month after Texas Frightmare Weekend, and things in the gallery are finally under control. New and reworked enclosures are going strong, the propagation area is full of new and exciting species, and the deep freeze in the back is full of frozen blueberries. (Take this from a longtime resident: about the only thing that makes summer in Texas livable is the explosion of East Texas blueberries in farmers’ markets and grocery stores, and the only thing that makes July and August tolerable is knowing that June was spent filling every refrigerated space in the vicinity with June’s and April’s and Melissa’s blueberries. By the time the blueberries run out, the local craft stores are full of Halloween stuff, which is usually enough to get through the last few weeks of baking heat before things start cooling off. This routine works until the day it’s possible to live like an African lungfish and aestivate in mucus and mud cocoons until the rains return.) This is the time of the year where everyone knows firsthand what a grasshopper on a griddle feels like (there’s a very good reason why sheepskin car seat covers were popular in Dallas in the days of vinyl car seats, especially for those fond of shorts), so the idea is to offer events and activities either indoors or after dark, and preferably both.

One of the advantages of emulating a Gila monster in the summer heat (living underground, emerging only to suck eggs and swallow baby bunnies whole, and dealing with interlopers with a venomous bite) is having plenty of time to organize for the days when the sun’s default setting drops below “supernova”. 2018 has been interesting in that regard: this year’s Deep Ellum Arts Fest was an anomalous combination of torrential rains and near-freezing temperatures, so registering for the 2019 Fest wasn’t even a question. This is also the year to see about admission to the famed Cottonwood Art Festival down the road from the gallery in October, as well as a lot of smaller shows and events through the area. The first showing at the Deep Ellum Art Company was a hit, and that may be a regular showing venue as well.

As far as the traditional Triffid Ranch shows are concerned, things are lively. Texas Frightmare Weekend’s open call for vendors starts soon, with notice on acceptance usually arriving in August. That’s also about the time for applications for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show in Austin in November, and two weeks after Horror for the Holidays is the two-day revived Dallas Fantasy Fair at the Irving Convention Center. That last one is going to be the most interesting, especially since I was a regular guest during my writing days through the first half of the 1990s until the original convention imploded in 1996. On one side, even the kids who were at the last few Fantasy Fairs are in their thirties and forties now, and nostalgia from the older fans might not be enough. On the other, Dallas still has precious little to do on Thanksgiving weekend that doesn’t involve movies or malls, and the Thanksgiving Fantasy Fair weekends in the Eighties and Nineties made that weekend a lot more tolerable for those of us without family plans (or those with families they had to escape for a while). Either way, let’s see what happens.

(As an aside, while it’s great to get invitations to attend other shows as a vendor, please understand that being able to attend is a combination of logistics and scheduling, and those can collide with interstate regulations, weather patterns, or the laughable concept of “personal life.” Please also understand two things, the first being that my having to reject a vendor request almost always isn’t personal, but that every show requires about a week before the show to prepare and a week after to recuperate and reorganize. Therefore, every two-day or three-day show effectively cuts out three weeks per month that could be used to create new enclosures or perform essential maintenance at the gallery, which is why we schedule the regular gallery shows for the months where we aren’t running an outside event. The second thing is that whining, guilt trips, or pushiness, especially of the “don’t you owe it to yourself to come to our show?” type, WILL guarantee a blacklist on even the remotest possibility of coming out to future events. This is a roundabout way to recommend not following the lead of Fear Con in Salt Lake City and taking a lot of care with vendor contact information. Unsolicited entry into a mailing list is bad enough, but texting when the mailing list wasn’t getting an immediate response? Oh, that’s a blocking.)

And for the regular gallery showings? Scheduling conflicts kicked in for the end of June, so the next Triffid Ranch gallery opening has been moved to Saturday, July 7. It’s a touch late for Canada Day, but as a chance to see Michel Sarrazin‘s namesakes in the pulp, it’ll still be worth the trip. Expect details in the very near future, as well as a few surprises, and some might even include blueberries.

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2018 – 1

frightmare_2018_7This being the tenth Texas Frightmare Weekend show for the Triffid Ranch. the dynamic of the crowd coming by the booth is changing, and all for the good. Teenagers who came by to peruse in 2009 are now bringing their kids by, and others bring by pictures of plants purchased in previous years as if they’re showing off grandchildren. Sometimes the shock is how much the kids have grown in just a year. A lot of Frightmare regulars will relate how so many of the attendees are like family, and that’s a fair assessment: I’m just the uncle who sits near the end at Thanksgiving dinner and makes those seated at the kid’s table ask “How DOES he manage to get that soda straw that far up his nose?”

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To be continued…

 

 

State of the Gallery: May 2018

Well. With Texas Frightmare Weekend recently ended (and photos and discussions on same will be online shortly), it’s time to shift gears, relax, and take a couple of weeks off to recover. And if you believe that, I have some great converted shopping mall live/work spaces at the bottom of the Trinity River that I’ll regretfully let go to someone who will appreciate them, too. Right now, the clock starts for preparation for the next Frightmare, and the real trick is to get everything else done over the next year as well.

Because of preparation and arrangement time, May and the first part of June will be relatively quiet as far as gallery events, but that’s because the Triffid Ranch goes mobile over the next two months. The fun starts with a showing at the Deep Ellum Art Company on Sunday, May 20, focusing on larger enclosures, from 2:00 to 6:00 that afternoon. Three weeks later, the Triffid Ranch gets much more hands-on with a workshop on carnivorous plants at Curious Garden and Natural History in Lakewood, including leaving with your own hand-planted sundew or butterwort enclosure. For the latter, contact Curious Garden to reserve your space in the workshop: the fee for registration and supplies is $30 per person.

This doesn’t mean that the gallery is abandoned: the next big gallery event is scheduled for Saturday, June 30 as a very slightly early Canada Day celebration. This includes a celebration of the famed French doctor and naturalist Michel Sarrazin, for whom the genus Sarracenia is named. Yes, that means lots of North American pitcher plants, as well as some other surprises. As always, admission is free, with lots of plants available to take home.

On the convention circuit, things will be quiet for the rest of the year, with one possible exception. After founder Larry Lankford’s death in 2013, an absolute on Dallas conventions with the older crowd was reminiscing about the long-defunct Dallas Fantasy Fairs, which ran three times a year from the mid-Eighties until their demise in 1996. A few members of that old crowd would make noises about reviving the shows every once in a while, but those noises remained such until about two weeks ago. That’s when the first formal announcements of headliner guests announced the 2018 Dallas Fantasy Fair, scheduled for the weekend of November 23-25 at the Irving Convention Center. It’s still early days yet, so the convention has little more than a Facebook page for further information, but the con organizer is already taking vendor requests for more information. If nothing else, a convention the weekend after Thanksgiving is a good way to get started with regular weekend openings at the gallery all through December. Details will follow as they arrive.

And on longterm trips, it’s official: the 2018 International Carnivorous Plant Society Conference is running the weekend of August 3-5, and the Triffid Ranch is heading to California to hear what the real experts have to say. This is purely a factfinding expedition: no plants, no displays, nothing but notebooks and lots of business cards, just in case. That works out the best: I haven’t been in the Bay Area since the beginning of the dotcom boom in 1996, so it’ll be nice to see it without prior job interview commitments or any other commitments.

Finally, the just-concluded Frightmare show marked a solid decade since the first Triffid Ranch show, and the size of the crowds and their needs confirmed that it’s time for a revamp of the show table look. Among other things, it’s time to enter the Twenty-First Century as far as information and organization is concerned. As before, details will follow as they arrive, but let’s just say that attendees at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2018 will have the opportunity to get questions about plants answered so long as they have a smartphone. Considering that the crowds were four and five rows thick through most of the last show, a change is essential before the next one. This doesn’t even start with a project inspired by Demetria at The Curiositeer, which should go live soon. Oh, this one will be entirely too much fun.

The State of the Gallery: March 2018

As regular readers might note, you didn’t get a state of the gallery update for February, mostly due to gallery-related distractions. Of course, February also didn’t get a full moon falling anywhere within it, either, which just meant one more good thing about March. Considering how fast March is moving, sliding through February was probably for the best.

As far as past and future events are concerned, February’s Date Night event was a mixed bag. The event itself was very successful, but as is the normal state of affairs with local weather, Date Night coincided with a nasty ice storm spreading through the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex that kept a lot of potential participants off the roads, and encouraged a lot of those who attended to leave early before the roads were impassable. This just means having to hold more events and showings during more clement conditions. This leads to:

Numero uno, things on the site are going to be extremely quiet through the end of next week, all due to the first external Triffid Ranch show of the year: All-Con in Addison. As in previous years, All-Con is a four-day show, running from Thursday to Sunday, with Thursday offering “try before you buy a weekend pass” free admission all day Thursday. Combine this with the already huge spring break contingent, and everyone is VERY glad the convention is running at a new, larger, and much more conveniently located hotel. Easy access to the hotel via DART buses, a wide range of restaurants within walking distance, a tremendous lineup of lectures and workshops…my only regret is that All-Con has that many activities scheduled through the weekend, but getting out from behind the table is pretty much an impossibility. This, of course, is a good thing.

Numero two-o, the next big show is seven weeks later, and if Texas Frightmare Weekend didn’t already exceed everyone’s expectations every year, people might be surprised to hear about plans for the next Triffid Ranch booth in May. Let’s just say that when running a booth in a convention already so packed that the convention announced that it has no more room for further guests, and that the host hotel has been booked solid since last year and attendees spill into FOUR more overflow hotels, getting away with a merely average display is unacceptable. In addition, not only is this the tenth Frightmare Weekend with a Triffid Ranch booth, but the end of the show falls on the tenth anniversary of the first-ever Triffid Ranch show, at the late and much-missed CAPE comic event off Lemmon Avenue in 2008. This, of course, demands a suitable anniversary celebration, so let’s see if everyone can pull it off.

Numero three-o: in between these two, don’t assume that the intervening six weeks will just be full of the usual panic about potting, casting, gluing, and painting, along with the usual snot-bubble crying of “I suck! I suck! I wanna go back to the mall!” in the corner. Since last year’s move preempted plans for a 2017 event, the Triffid Ranch proudly announces a return of a wildly popular event from the old ArtWalk and presents the Second Annual Manchester United Flower Show on April 6 and 7 from 6:00 to 10:00. Yes, it coincides with all sorts of other events in the Dallas area, including the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, but that happens all through the city in the weeks before the weather really heats up. Besides, where else are you going to go in the Dallas area to view carnivorous plant blooms and bracts and the plants that produce them?

Oh, to close up, and for the barest hint of what else to expect at the Manchester United Flower Show, here’s a sample of the centerpiece to a new enclosure:

Yes, this is a Cryolophosaurus skull, so anyone familiar with previous discussions on my fascination with the flora of pre-Pliocene Antarctica has an idea of what to expect. It and other enclosures premiere in April, so make plans to see the final enclosure after it’s planted and ready. See you then.

The Hour That Stretches

Whew. October 13. Nearly four months since the soft opening of the gallery, and now it’s showtime. I could go on about experiments with new materials not working out the way they were expected, or whole enclosures being held up based on how one component finished, or the simple fact that paint takes at least six times much time to dry as expected, but you know what? The work speaks for itself, and it all goes live this weekend. Relics: A Carnivorous Plant Enclosure Exhibition starts at 6:00 CST on Friday, October 13 until midnight, and reopens on Saturday, October 14 from 5:00 CST until midnight. After that, a day or two to recuperate, and then back to the sphagnum moss and silicone molds until the end of November. 

As an additional note, many regular Triffid Ranch customers are familiar with the concept of Shirt Price on the larger enclosures: attend an event wearing a Triffid Ranch shirt, and so long as you’re wearing the shirt, the listed discount “Shirt Price” applies. Since October 13 is a Friday, and it’s a little over six months until the 2018 Texas Frightmare Weekend starts, Shirt Price discounts at the Relics show apply to anybody in a Frightmare T-shirt as well. The individual Frightmare year doesn’t matter: if it’s a Frightmare shirt, it qualifies. This isn’t authorized by or endorsed by anyone involved with Texas Frightmare Weekend: this is just a return for all of the kindnesses and considerations I’ve received from Frightmare staff, guests, and attendees over the last decade. You lot have earned it. (He said, frantically collecting caches of glassware in anticipation of next year’s Frightmare. The 2009 Frightmare was small enough that just about everything I had fit into a PT Cruiser: next year, I might have to move to a 15-foot truck to haul enough plants to the show to keep everyone happy.)

For those who can’t make it this weekend, this definitely isn’t the last gallery event of the year. It’s a little too late to get involved directly in the Ricochet 17 art event through the Arts Incubator of Richardson on October 21, but next year’s Ricochet is on the agenda. Instead, after the Blood Over Texas Horror For The Holidays show in Austin on November 19, we’ll be open all day for casual wander-arounds (and wooing dates) for Small Business Saturday on November 25. As always, the Triffid Ranch is open by appointment, and now’s the time to discuss custom enclosures in time for the holidays.

And after that? Let’s just say that everything for the first half of next year pivots on getting a special confirmation in November, but I’m not going to say anything until said confirmation comes through. When it does, though, the Triffid Ranch moves to a whole new life stage and a whole new location. Until then, you’ll just have to wait.

New Developments


Now that the gallery is open and available for commissions, it’s time to make plans for the rest of the year and the whole of 2018. Dallas has had a relatively mild summer so far as compared to the first half of the decade, but August is still the month where we all take inspiration from my animal role model, the Gila monster, and find someplace cool and dark to plot strategy. While Triffid Ranch strategy might not match Gila monster strategy, which consists of crawling to the surface to suck eggs and swallow baby bunnies whole, we’re not completely unsympathetic. Gila monster strategy pretty much summed up my entire writing career through the Eighties and Nineties.

The first part of Triffid Ranch strategy involves planning local events, both at the new gallery and throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. This starts with a lecture and presentation at Half Price Books Mesquite on July 22 from noon to 3 pm, and several new events between now and the beginning of November that aren’t nailed down yet. As always, check the Shows, Lectures, and Other Events page for schedule changes and additions, and expect some surprising venues if things work out well.

 The biggest change in strategy, though, involves making the biggest jump in show audiences the Triffid Ranch has ever done, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit scary. Last April, an impulse trip to the Deep Ellum Arts Festival was nothing short of a mental explosion: the Festival has grown a LOT since its early days in the Twentieth Century, with a selection of artists and other vendors for whom the word “incredible” was an impotent shadow. Friday night alone was one of the most vibrant outdoor shows I’ve ever attended. no doubt accented by the best festival weather one could imagine. (Yes, summers in Dallas are harsh, but the springs and autumns out here make four months of slow simmering worthwhile.) Since then, checking on the availability of visual artist applications was a weekly event, and the applications for artists, musicians, and food vendors just opened. (And did I mention that the food at the Festival was so good that you could gain ten pounds just by standing at one of the intersections and inhaling for ten minutes?) This doesn’t just mean preparing for the huge crowds at Texas Frightmare Weekend during the first weekend of May, but having to prepare even more plants and enclosures for the Festival a month earlier. Applying is no guarantee of being accepted, and nobody will know anything until November, but considering that May 2018 marks a solid decade since the first-ever Triffid Ranch show, it’s time to make the jump. Here’s hoping I don’t faceplant any harder than usual.

And just in time for early preparation for local teachers in search of something different for their classrooms, watch this space for a big announcement next week on affordable enclosure acquisition and maintenance. This won’t be exclusively for teachers: doctors, lawyers, and dentists might have a big interest in this as well. However, teachers will appreciate the maintenance advantages. Details will follow.

The Aftermath: All-Con 2017 – 4

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Have a Great Weekend

Current gallery status: we received the official moveout form this week for the existing space, and so has everyone else. We’re two weeks away from the last-ever ARTwalk on February 18, and while a couple of the galleries will remain at least until May, the majority of us are already getting packed and moved. After that, one last weekend before the official cutoff date of February 28 to move, and that’s it for the Triffid Ranch at the Galleries at Midtown. After that, the mall comes down bit by bit, and then it’s a matter of watching the new Midtown rise. As to all of that, we know exactly as much as everyone else, which is precious little, and the energy needed to ascertain the mall’s final death date is better spent on finding a new locale.

Future gallery status: everything is still tentative, but we think we have a new gallery space, with more than suitable parking, a more accessible location off Central Expressway, and more usable gallery area than the current one. (It isn’t until you’ve done so for a year or more that you realize how much an immovable counter island gets in the way of, well, everything.) We’ve already had a discussion on how the new location, wherever it may be, won’t have regular monthly ARTwalk-type events, but that’s mitigated by trying to get more shows in other galleries in the Dallas area. As much as we’ve loved the ARTwalks, they still meant that an entire weekend per month was pretty much shot as far as work on new enclosures was concerned, so quarterly openings makes much more sense for everybody. This way, we have more surprises when we do have an opening.

Show status: outside shows are problematic, if only because many of the previous science fiction convention venues are themselves in serious trouble. That said, expect a few announcements as to other venues over the rest of the year. It’s not surprising that the con circuit is imploding: this happens about every twenty years, and they start to come back after the ground has been fallow for a decade or so. This makes setting up a more permanent gallery more important, though, as well as attending more unorthodox shows outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Again, expect a few announcements.

Music: a particularly appropriate theme for tonight.

“We have such sights to show you…”

The days are much shorter. The air no longer smells like burning flint. Sundays are the perfect days to run errands, because most people are at home watching football. It’s that most wonderful time of the year, and by being in Texas, it gets to keep going until the end of the year. Sure, it’s not cold enough to justify dragging out jackets, but that also means that moongazing isn’t painful, and it’s perfect T-shirt weather. The wonderful weather also gives less of a reason to skip out on going out, and most of us have been waiting underground like Gila monsters until the summer heat breaks. Well, it’s broken, and we’re hungry.

Because of that and the general vibe of the season, things have been exceedingly busy around the Triffid Ranch. Besides a consultation meeting with the Dallas Arboretum (expect a surprise when the Children’s Adventure Garden reopens in March after the winter hiatus), it’s been work, work, work in getting ready for both upcoming shows and the impending holiday season. Combine that with still not knowing for sure about the status of the mall and its announced demolition…if someone could develop a cure for sleep, I’d really appreciate it.

Well. To begin, October 15 is the date for the next Midtown ARTwalk, and the new organizer wants everyone to know that all attendees are encouraged to show up in costume. Not a problem here: we generally treat Halloween the way Hunter S. Thompson treated New Year’s Eve. We aren’t just encouraging attendees to come out as their true selves, but we’re rewarding it. While supplies last, those showing up in appropriate attire will receive a prize, and kids are encouraged to attend as well. ARTwalk starts at 6:00 p.m., and keeps running until it’s done.

Four weeks later, the Triffid Ranch makes its first big leap: showing plants outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I’ve heard all sorts of fascinating stories about the Blood Over Texas crew in Austin, enough to make the four-hour drive to Austin to investigate, and this year is the one to make the trip for the Horror for the Holidays bazaar and festival. It’ll be right at the end of Sarracenia and flytrap season, so this gives those wanting to work with temperate carnivores the opportunity to see what their plants will look like when they re-emerge from winter dormancy in March and April. If this works well, not only expect Triffid Ranch involvement with other Blood Over Texas events through the rest of the year, but an active push to encourage similar events and activities in the Dallas area. We have enough lovers of the macabre in this town, and it’s time to show some solidarity.

And speaking of Dallas solidarity, the word came out recently that Convergence, the first Internet-ready goth convention, runs in Dallas in 2017. As details present themselves, they’ll be mirrored here. In a way, it’s a convergence in more ways than one: the Triffid Ranch first launched the weekend of the Ybor City Convergence in 2008, so as ninth-anniversary parties are concerned, we couldn’t have picked a better one.

And further plans? Things are tentative this year, but it’s time to expand viewing hours at the main space for the holiday season. If you’re in need of gifts for friends and family that stretches the definition of “appropriate,” give a yell.

Gallery

The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend 2016 – 11

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The Triffid Ranch Opening and Upcoming Events

Triffid Ranch opening

It was an effort of Herculean (and some say Lovecraftian) proportions, but the Texas Triffid Ranch moved to its next stage on September 19. After a dress rehearsal that was really just an excuse for the Czarina to have a birthday party, the new space at the Gallery at Midtown opened on time, under budget, and with no drama whatsoever. Starting at 6, we finally shut down shortly after midnight, with a truly wondrous assemblage of friends, cohorts, and random passersby (including James and Kendra below, whom I still owe an incredible debt from when we all worked together a decade ago), asking questions and making observations. We made it, and we made it out alive.

Triffid Ranch Opening

The best part about the opening, of course, was noting how much further things intend to go. Shortly afterward, we received further word on the status of the mall in which everything is located, and we’re currently in the Hour That Stretches. We know for sure that the intended renovation and demolition of the mall is scheduled for sometime in 2016: as to when, we don’t know. All we can do is take advantage of this great opportunity and run with it for as long as we can. This means not only continuing with the regular Artwalk openings, but with hosting several special events between now and the end of the year.

Triffid Ranch Opening

As always, the plants are for sale and for rent, and this Nepenthes ventrata enclosure went home with James. May it give him as much pleasure as his friendship has given me over the years.

The Incredible James Bowen

For those who missed out on the opening, as mentioned, it gets more interesting from here. The official schedule for the ArtWalk is as follows:

  • October: October 17
  • November: November 21
  • December: December 19

In addition, the Triffid Ranch will be open special hours both after American Thanksgiving and before Christmas, with times to be announced. This is in addition to regularly scheduled touring shows and events, so keep an eye open for developments. In the meantime, we’ll see you at the ArtWalk on October 17, and be sure to come in costume.

Future events and current developments

Well. September already, and everything is starting to gel. Lots of new developments with the Triffid Ranch, and all of them good. Now if I could invent the 47-hour day or remove the need for sleep, things will be spiffy.

Firstly, some may have noticed the new logo, courtesy of Gallantry Web Design. This whole summer has been nothing but change, and the logo sums it all up. The next plan is to update the rest of this site: things have been quiet here for far too long.

Now to developments. The first of these involves the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science in downtown Dallas, and its First Thursday Late Night events on the first Thursday of every month. This month, the subject is “Botanicals,” which entails a lecture by yours truly in the lower auditorium. Any excuse to get out to the Perot after normal hours is a good one, and you can either come to listen to me yammering away, or come out for the screening of the equally grim and gritty Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Either way, admission to the special events is free with a regular museum admission, so use this as a opportunity to see the rest of the museum without worrying about fighting the traffic while heading home.

Otherwise, the real news is that, after two months, the space at Midtown (formerly Valley View Mall) is nearly ready, with an official opening on September 19 to coincide with September’s ArtWalk. After that, the new space is open every third Saturday, from 6 until 10, and otherwise open by appointment. More details will follow closer to the opening, but one of the big upshots is that this allows the opportunity to produce enclosures and containers too big and bulky to bring out to individual weekend shows, as well as carrying carnivores too esoteric or too specialized for beginning enthusiasts.

This isn’t to say that the shows are stopping, though. Plans for a return to regular show tours fell apart due to several potential shows collapsing, but the following three are absolutes:

  • Funky Finds Holiday Shopping Experience in Fort Worth: It’s been a very long time since the Triffid Ranch last traveled to Fort Worth, and it’s about time to return to the Funky Finds show the weekend of November 7. Expect a lot of new species, a lot of new enclosures, and a general experience unlike anything else you’ve ever seen at a handmade craft show. It’s good to be back.
  • All-Con in Dallas: After skipping out on the 2015 show due to scheduling issues, there’s nothing quite like coming out of winter blues in March 2016 with four days of carnivores at All-Con, now at a much superior and more central location. This show starts right about the time temperate carnivores start emerging from winter dormancy, so it’s just as much about the new blooms as it is about the rest of the plants. In addition, with the new workspace, expect to see a lot of things that simply haven’t been possible to bring out in previous years. John Belushi was right: March 2016 will come in like a lion, and go out like a salt marsh harvest mouse.
  • Texas Frightmare Weekend in Irving: Once again, this is the big one. Texas Frightmare Weekend is the show to which all others in the Dallas area should be judged, and all of the surprises from previous years will be eclipsed by the arrangements and enclosures planned for the May show. Get your tickets now, as they sell out incredibly fast these days, and keep an eye open for special Triffid Ranch promotions only seen at Frightmare.

And as one final extra, the plan is extremely tentative, but 2016 may be the year that the Triffid Ranch escapes Texas, at least for one weekend. The idea is to haul everything the weekend of August 17 to Kansas City, Missouri for MidAmeriCon II, the 74th annual WorldCon. Again, that’s the idea: while Kansas City is about an eight-hour drive from Dallas, we also have the logistics of interstate plant certifications and dealing with KC’s not inconsiderable summer heat. If it works out, though, look for the distinctive logo above in KC, and with luck, this may be the first of many traveling shows outside of Texas. We hope.

And so it begins

After nearly a year of preparation, after nearly a year of bad craziness, Friday evening is where it all comes together. May 1 marks the beginning of Texas Frightmare Weekend, the premier horror convention in the country, if not the world, and how could it be complete without a suitable selection of carnivorous plants?

For those attending, we’re still in the Made in Texas Hall in the downstairs convention area, same place we’ve been since TFW moved in 2011. However, this year, this includes both two spaces and the lovely booth assistant Nikki, as well as a lot of other surprises. The plants continue: among other joys, we’ll have multiple blooming species of triggerplant, a collection of Venus flytrap cultivars in one gigantic glass globe, and several ongoing projects that have been alluded to for the last 12 months. The extras include new promo postcards by the famed Dallas artist Larry Carey: you’ve seen the poster he designed, so for those collecting his concert posters, ask about a postcard to expand the archive.

Oh, and since Frightmare tends to attract a lot of makeup and costuming enthusiasts, here’s an additional incentive to come out and add some variety. For everyone considering a plant-related costume, come by the Triffid Ranch booth for a prize (one per attendee, while supplies last, retail value $10) specifically for celebrating floral horrors. In fact, may I make a suggestion?

Well, that sums up everything until the event starts, so I’ll see all of you at 5:00 on Friday. Take care until then.

A Summer Interlude To Break The Monotony

Yes, it’s been a long summer. Yes, it’s been a rather dull summer. Yes, it’s not going to get any better until September, but that’s to be expected. That’s how Texas summers go: we sit back and wait until things start cooling down, and that probably won’t happen until the middle of October this year. Because of this, and a lack of impending shows, one might understandably assume that it’s quiet around the Triffid Ranch. It’s not, but just pretend it is, so the surprise is greater.

Anyway, aside from the number of calls from people assuming that they can use Venus flytraps to control bedbugs (and while a longer post in further detail is necessary, let’s cut to the chase: no carnivorous plant is going to control bedbugs, even if you hold the mattress over the plant and shake it really hard), the main focus around here is on next year. Expect a lot of new plant species, including many never seen at Triffid Ranch shows before, and several interesting experiments in larger containers. Details will follow, but let’s just say that the first Triffid Ranch show of 2015 will be one you won’t want to miss.

And on that subject, that first show is Texas Frightmare Weekend, running May 1 through 3 of 2015. Six years since the first appearance at Frightmare, and this little horror convention that could is turning into quite the monster. So much so that, by way of example, I was able to buy booth space at the 2009 show about two months before the convention started. Over the last couple of years, the vendor space tended to sell out sooner and sooner. This year? Spaces were open on August 1 at 3:00 CST, and they were completely sold out five hours later. This is why I recommend buying your passes now, before they’re all gone, the fire marshal counts heads to make sure that the hotel isn’t too overloaded, and the management at DFW Airport starts kvetching about how convention attendees outnumber people actually flying in and out of Dallas. We should all have such problems, I know, but keep it in mind if you assume that tickets will be available later in the year.

In the meantime, prepare for other developments, such as a radically revamped and redesigned Web site, well in advance of TFW. The rest of 2014 is going to be extremely crazy, so hang on.

Incoming Shows and Future Press

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2013 booth
Things may have gone quiet on the blog for a while, but that isn’t for lack of trying. Between a new Day Job and lots of weather insanity, April has been one of my busiest months yet, and it’s only getting more intense. So much for taking a hiatus, much less a vacation.

New Triffid Ranch banner by Larry Carey

The fun all started back in March at All-Con 2014, when Taffeta Darling of Fangirls: Dames of the Round Table stopped by the Triffid Ranch booth to say hello, and asked “Would you be interested in an interview on Deep Ellum on Air?” I gave my usual standoffish response (“If you nail a duck’s foot down, does he waddle in circles?”), and Taffeta contacted me last weekend about this coming Sunday’s show. This may be once again breaking a promise I’ve made to myself for years about not scheduling anything the weekend before a big show, but as a fan of Taffeta’s costuming work for years, I’d be an idiot to pass it up. April 27, from 3 to 4 p.m CST, and I’ve sworn over and over that I won’t drop the F-bomb on the air more than, oh, thirty or forty times.

This, of course, is just preamble for the big show. The last Triffid Ranch show of the year, and the last show until May 2015. Texas Frightmare Weekend is less than two weeks from now as I write this, and the plan is to make that last show one that everyone will remember. Admittedly, I’ve tried doing that with every Frightmare show for the last five years, but between a whole slew of new plants and a Sarracenia pool that’s exploding with fresh blooms and fresh traps, come out to see everyone off for the hiatus.

(Incidentally, there’s a little extra involving Frightmare that, sadly, I won’t be able to attend, as much as I wish. Back in the mid-1980s, I was a regular at a local midnight showing of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead with an audience participation crowd that made a typical showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show look sick. The Dawn showings stopped in 1986, and I spent years trying to convince local theaters to give it one last revival. Finally, the Alamo Drafthouse Richardson runs a show, with George Romero in attendance, and it’s the evening before the beginning of Frightmare. Don’t let me stop you from attending, though, and if you see Kelly, the lovely and talented head of publicity at Alamo Drafthouse Richardson, please thank her for me.)

So that’s the plan. Come out to say hello at Frightmare, or just listen to me glibber and meep online. Either way, time to get back to work.

No Sleep ’til FenCon

We’re in the final hours left until September returns to hell and that most wondrous month of the year starts up. Oh, sure, there’s always that holiday at the end of the month, but right now we’re focusing on the sheer joy of stepping outside during the day and not crisping into a Free-Range Soylent Green Dorito. Air that doesn’t smell of burning flint, or even burning Manistee. Heck, by the end of this week, we might actually need jackets first thing in the morning. Summer is finally dead, and good riddance to bad rubbish.

Anyway, if things go quiet for the rest of the week, it’s because that rest of the week belongs to getting ready for the last Triffid Ranch show of the year at FenCon X this weekend. A last-minute additional table opened up today, so it’s time to go mad and bring out arrangements where I normally wouldn’t have the room. Since the Sarracenia are doing the same now that the heat broke, it’s only fair. Besides the usual plant craziness, it’s time to catch up on festivities with old friends (some of whom haven’t been out to a convention of this sort for twenty years, so this is a serious reunion for us all), as well as hanging out with friend and fellow Michiganite Tom Smith. And that’s not even mentioning everyone else in the dealer’s room.

In the meantime, back to the linen mines until Friday afternoon. The next Triffid Ranch show is next March at All-Con, so take advantage of the weather and come out for a viewing of the flora.

Upcoming Triffid Ranch shows: Anime Fest

When I first started showing plants at science fiction conventions back in 2008, I have to admit that the concept of selling carnivorous plants at FenCon was, erm, an untested quantity. In fact, as I was setting up for that first show, I had a twitch of doubt when a resident catgirl came strolling up, looked at the display, and snorted “Whoever heard of selling plants at a convention?” Thankfully, I didn’t listen to her, and I haven’t looked back since. Five years, as of this coming October, kids.

This, of course, makes a few wonder why the Triffid Ranch makes an appearance at Dallas’s Anime Fest this weekend. Well, that’s obvious. Some of my oddest and dearest friends will be out there, including a couple as fellow dealers. This year’s show is a four-day event thanks to Labor Day, so that gives the opportunity to test a few arrangements in preparation for next year’s four-day race at All-Con in March. Best of all, one of my dearest friends plans to bring his wife out there for her first-ever convention, so I get to grin “We’re your friends. We’re not like the others.” So, yeah, this should be an interesting show.

In the meantime, if you don’t hear anything for a little while, rest assured that I’m not dead. Yet. Tonight, I’m going to celebrate Shirley Manson‘s 47th birthday: if I were just three hours more premature, we’d be the same exact age.

Upcoming events: August 2013

It’s been a bit busy at the Triffid Ranch as of late, and with good reason. Typical Texas summer weather hit this week, naturally occurring the week before the biggest show of the year, meaning that experiments with water-conservation-friendly cooling systems in the greenhouse just went from “urgent” to “designing and developing solar-powered liquid nitrogen generators to keep everything from bursting into flame”. The weekend was spent working with silicone and urethane sealers, to the point where what leg hairs aren’t permanently veneered into my flesh are now the length and strength of porcupine quills, and just as dangerous to pets and furniture. I even managed to get some of the urethane into my eyebrows, and I now know the familiarity of co-workers at the Day Job to Nineties-era cult science fiction television based on the number who ask me if I’ve seen Mistah Garibaldi as I walk by. In fact, the best part of the ongoing severe drought is putting freshly painted items out into the sun and having them dry almost instantly: I’m half-tempted to try applying metal enamel to see if that would work as well.

Oh, and today is the Czarina’s birthday. Cue the musical accompaniment.

Anyway, in previous years, August was the month where the Triffid Ranch went dormant, waiting until the rains returned in September to emerge and feed once more. Our surprising cool and (relatively) wet July means that rainwater rationing in the greenhouse isn’t as extreme, and that means that a lot of plants are ready for sale and already adapted to the heat. Because of that, this August is a month of ongoing shows, all new venues, and a lot of opportunities. Who knew back in 2008, when the Triffid Ranch first started, that things would get so interesting?

With mention of shows comes the big one: the North American Reptile Breeders Conference now runs at the Arlington Convention Center twice per year, and that means that the Triffid Ranch makes an appearance this weekend, August 10 from 10:00 to 5:00 and August 11 from 11:00 to 4:00. We’re going to be in good company with lots of friends and fellows from previous NARBC shows, so be prepared to have a blast. I might even pick up a crocodile monitor while I’m there.

One weekend after, the party moves to north Carrollton. Keith Colvin of Keith’s Comics in Dallas is an old and very dear friend, and the only reason I don’t bring out plants for the kids attending his Free Comic Book Day events in May is because FCBD usually coincides with the big Texas Frightmare Weekend show. This year, Keith decided to expand his usual summertime Sidekick discount clearinghouse event into a Summercon running every weekend in August, and that includes vendors with other, related merchandise. What this means is that you can expect to see the Triffid Ranch booth at the Summercon event on August 17, for the whole day. Any excuse to stay out of the sun in August in Texas is a good one, and if you get the carnivorous plant bug, well, Dallas North Aquarium is just down Trinity Mills Road from the Sidekick store.

Finally, my own birthday comes at the end of the month: I tried to have it changed legally, but the authorities point out that “February 30” doesn’t happen anywhere near as often these days as it used to. Some people celebrate their 47th birthdays with guns, explosions, and crocodile monitors in the streets. This year, it’s time to celebrate it with a combination of all of these, by showing plants at AnimeFest in downtown Dallas on Labor Day Weekend. We’ll be out with plenty of friends and cohorts from other local shows, from noon on August 30 until 3:00 on September 2. (Yes, it’s a four-day convention, much like next year’s All-Con a little over six months from then. Don’t let it scare you.) In between those times, it’s open season.

Oh, and with the mention of Texas Frightmare Weekend earlier, next May marks the fifth anniversary of the Triffid Ranch’s first show at Frightmare, and both guest announcements and advance tickets both saw release last Sunday. One of these days, I’ll explain exactly how The Creature From The Black Lagoon ties into my fascination with carnivorous plants, but both the Czarina and I have very good reason to look forward to TFW 2014. We’re definitely appearing as vendors, and it’s time for even more surprises.

After August, things go relatively quiet as far as Triffid Ranch shows are concerned, with the big highlight being the fifth anniversary show and party at FenCon in Addison in October. However, it’s time to start moving further afield through Texas, and the number of Houstonians who came by the booth at Texas Frightmare Weekend demonstrated a need for a touring plant show through the southern portion of the state. Details follow as I get them, but a trip to a Houston or Galveston show in October might be a necessity. And so it goes.

Upcoming Shows: the June 2013 edition

Five years ago, the Texas Triffid Ranch started out as little more than a hobby with delusions of grandeur, with a stock comprised of cuttings and offshoots from my own collection of carnivorous plants. This year has already seen more shows than in the Triffid Ranch’s first two years, and the fourth quarter of 2013 is going to be a blowout. In the meantime, not counting tentative shows or definite shows where entry isn’t possible right now, here’s the schedule so far:

  • The remainder of June and July are going to be show-free at the moment, partially because of the heat, but things start moving in August. That begins the weekend of August 10 and 11, when the Triffid Ranch makes its first appearance at the Arlington NARBC reptile and amphibian show in the shadow of Cowboys Stadium. Expect lots of good craziness with other vendors (several of whom are old friends), a tremendous variety of reptiles, enclosures, and supplies, and one carnivorous plant nursery trying to keep up.
  • For the last five years, I’ve received requests about two shows in the Dallas area. One is beyond impractical, for a multitude of reasons. The other, though, was an entertaining notion. Several fellow vendors at other shows kept nuhdzing me about it. “Lots of people out there. They’re fun folks. You really need to be out there!” This year, I listened to them, which is why Labor Day weekend marks the first appearance of the Triffid Ranch at Anime Fest in downtown Dallas. Among other things, this marks the first Triffid Ranch four-day event, which should act as a good gauge for next year’s four-day All-Con in March. Besides, where else should I spend a birthday weekend?
  • And then there’s the big one. The event that started it all, five years ago. Specifically, FenCon X in Addison. Not only will this be a revelation as far as plants and arrangements are concerned, but this year’s show features several arrangements normally too big to show. Specifically, one big one is going to be a charity sale for the Arlington Archosaur Site, on behalf of a friend who sadly won’t be at FenCon to give me grief.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the end of things. Obviously, there’s the big Funky Finds Experience show in Fort Worth in November, as well as the possibility of another show at the end of the month. In addition, after having long, fascinating conversations with people coming up to Dallas for particular events, it’s time to consider events in Houston and Galveston. As always, details will follow.

New Triffid Ranch show: NARBC Arlington

Ten years ago, when I picked up my first batch of carnivorous plants from a local Home Depot, I had no idea how far this was going to go. Even five years ago, when I first started doing lectures and showing plants, I had no clue. Well, it keeps getting better, as the Texas Triffid Ranch joins the list of esteemed vendors at this August’s North American Reptile Breeders Conference show in Arlington, Texas. As a longtime attendee of the NARBC Arlington shows, you can imagine the thrill of being on the other side of the register for the first time. Heck, this time, I might even work out a trade for a crocodile monitor.

No Sleep ’til All-Con

All-Con

Apologies for the radio silence, but it’s show season, and show season means skipping out on extraneous distractions such as sleep or sanity. This weekend, the event du jour is All-Con 2013, located once again in the scenic Crown Plaza Hotel in Addison, Texas. In addition to the standard scene-chewing and name-dropping at the main table, I hope everyone attending All-Con stops by to catch the carnivorous plant lecture on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m.. In the meantime, catch you on the farside.

In related news, for about fifteen minutes, it looked as if the Triffid Ranch might be a vendor at LoneStarCon 3 in San Antonio this Labor Day weekend after all, after hearing about a major change in management at the convention. The booth rates were very good for the Czarina and myself, any excuse to visit San Antonio is a good one, and it would have been a great opportunity to say hello to old friends from my writing days, including Mark Finn, Pat Cadigan, and Guest of Honor Ellen Datlow. Sadly, while the booth rates were reasonable, the additional requirement that all vendors and helpers pay for a attending membership ($200 per head, by the way) in addition to booth fees means that this immediately turned into a show that could in no way be profitable once you tacked on transportation, accomodation, and incidental costs for the trip to and from San Antonio. And so it goes: if an old friend’s idea of putting out a bid for a Dallas/Fort Worth WorldCon goes through, though, I’m there.

Upcoming Shows: ConDFW XII

ConDFW

And speaking of upcoming shows, for years, I held off on having any Triffid Ranch shows before the end of March for weather reasons. Anybody who ever spent the second half of winter in North Texas understands the situation. Last year, for instance, the beginning of February was warm, sunny, and cheery, as someone who never lived here would expect would be the default weather condition. Exactly one year before that, the whole area was locked in a week-long ice storm that shut down everything. That ice storm was so big that it nearly canceled the Super Bowl at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. The year before that? The heaviest snowfall in Dallas history, where a full foot of snow took out power over half of the city and gave the Czarina the chance to make her first snow sculptures.

With the possibility of the North Texas equivalent of being buried alive in a snowdrift, a February or March show became a risk. Most if not all of the larger temperate carnivorous plants are still locked in winter dormancy, and won’t come out until at least St. Patrick’s Day. Tropical carnivores tend to fuss and drop dead when exposed to a few hours of sub-freezing temperatures, such as encountered when Dallas’s Central Expressway becomes a luge track. Hence, waiting until the likelihood of a last-minute snowstorm recedes in the calendar makes a lot of sense.

When asking “So what changed your mind?”, it’s easy to say that last year’s experiences with ConDFW encouraged another run. I might also mention that ConDFW XII runs this year in a much superior hotel, where the dealer’s space is MUCH more accessible. That’s not the real reason. The real reason has everything to do with ConDFW’s convention chair, Amie Spengler.

See, back in early 1999, at the height of my writing days, I received an invitation to be a guest at AggieCon, the long-running science fiction convention run by and at Texas A&M University. The details of that three-day weekend are long and sordid (let’s just say that being trapped on a panel with Bruce Sterling mooing “It’s on the Viridian List! Have I mentioned the Viridian List?” over and over some 50 times in 60 minutes is something that even Dick Cheney would find offensive), but what stood out was the professionalism of the student volunteer staff. Those kids were fast, they were efficient, and most of all, they were on the ball. Having survived many a convention in those days where programming and even hotel spaces were things to be fussed about another day (my favorite was the convention in Oregon with some four different event schedules for guests and attendees, and none of them synched), you have no idea how much fun it was to watch this in action.

Back then, Amie was just a volunteer. Now, she’s the convention chair. Go buy her a drink at the show, because she and the rest of the ConDFW staff earned one. See you there?

Upcoming Triffid Ranch Shows: 2013 so far

Hm. For once, January seems to be racing to its conclusion, instead of the usual post-holiday drag. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, under most circumstances, but the first Triffid Ranch show of the new year starts exactly four weeks from today. Knowing me, I’ll be glad for any available extra time between now and then. So shall we look at what 2013 offers?

Okay, to start out, I’m not going to say anything further until it’s a sure thing, but I may –MAY– have some very good news for those who can’t get to the usual Triffid Ranch shows and want a permanent locale to visit. Again, nothing is confirmed, and the whole dream could turn back into pumpkins and mice. However, in two weeks or so, I should be able to say something. Until them, schtum.

(And while the Triffid Ranch won’t be there, I’d be an absolute monster if I didn’t mention that ZestFest 2013 runs at the Irving Convention Center on January 25 through the 27th, and I’m in desperate need of refills from the crew at Defcon Sauces. I’ll also point out that representatives from the Chile Pepper Institute should be out there as well, so look at it as a botanical expedition. That is, when you’re not trying samples of some of the best spicy food to be found in the Southwest, and that’s saying something.)

On that note, the first Triffid Ranch show is especially auspicious, because a lot has changed with ConDFW since its beginnings during my writing days. It already combined a serious crowd with a mellow style, and that improved considerably this year with its relocation to a new, more convention-convenient hotel. All of the temperate carnivores (flytraps, Sarracenia pitcher plants, and many sundews and butterworts) will still be in winter dormancy, and with good reason, considering our tendency toward week-long ice storms before things warm up in March. However, this means more opportunities with other plants, and I suspect everyone will be pleasantly surprised with the varieties offered this year.

Three weeks after that, things start getting crazy. March 8-10 is All-Con 2013, at the same hotel as ConDFW in Addison, Texas, and it’s probably going to be a madhouse. That, incidentally, is partly due to the guest list addition of Sylvester McCoy, and partly due to the secret being out on the convention in general. This show is unlike any other in the Southwest, and as such, makes it a special honor to be invited back as a vendor.

Several gaps lie in the year’s schedule which may be filled with other shows, and details will follow.The absolute, though, is that Texas Frightmare Weekend is a show that I’d attend after an appendectomy, and I can’t speak more highly of it than that. In fact, I’d probably ask the doctor to operate in the dealer’s room, just so the beginning theatrical makeup artists could take notes. 2013 marks the fifth Triffid Ranch show at Frightmare, and it just keeps getting better every year. This is partly due to the exemplary new locale at DFW Airport, with a hotel that honestly likes the crew of friendly loons that shows up every year.

Again, more gaps, but the last confirmed show for 2013 so far is our first show: FenCon. We’re back to Addison for this one, but the great news is that FenCon now opens on October 4 instead of the middle of September. And why is this great news? If you’ve ever been in Texas in October, this is about the time of year when the outside temperatures start to drop from the summer blast forge, so it’s friendlier to out-of-town visitors. It’s also friendlier to the plants, with many waking up from the seemingly never-ending summer and displaying their best colors and trap sizes. Five years ago, two dear friends inadvertently convinced me to take a risk on showing plants at a science fiction convention by getting a table at FenCon, and I’ll never be able to thank them for the initiative. This one, six weeks after the big LoneStarCon III in San Antonio? Yeah, this one will be one to remember.

Once more, gaps and more news. Keep an eye open for further developments, and I’ll see you at the next show.

Upcoming Lectures: Dallas – Fort Worth Herpetological Society

The flytraps and Sarracenia pitcher plants are all going into dormancy, and the focus for the rest of the year is on getting ready for next year’s shows. HowEVER, if you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area this weekend, I’ll be the guest speaker for the Dallas – Fort Worth Herpetological Society meeting at the University of Texas at Arlington Life Sciences building on November 17. The subject at hand is a near and dear one: “Absolute Surefire Steps To Kill Your New Venus Flytrap”.

And on a sidenote, I’d also like to make a shoutout for friends on the West Coast of the US, because Sarracenia Northwest just started a series of winter open houses in December. Any excuse to go out there is a good one, and these winter open houses are really good excuses, so go out and have fun.

Triffid Ranch shows: the schedule so far

The day started with a reminder of an impending guest lecture for the Four Seasons Garden Club in Dallas this Thursday, and that’s when life intruded. Not a little intrusion, either: that’s also the day the Czarina’s dentist scheduled her for emergency dental surgery. Same exact time, too. Add to that the need for her to be under general anaesthesia, her general reactions to general anaesthesia, and her insistence that I didn’t have to be there to bring her home, and you might understand why one of our favorite date movies was The Whole Nine Yards.

That didn’t stop her from guilt-tripping me with exclamations of “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll just sit here in the dark, er, I mean, I’ll get someone to take me in. I don’t want to get in the way of the lecture.” I love her madly, but I knew better.

“No. And this isn’t just my fear of the Elbows of DOOOOOM talking. I am NOT going to skip out on you.”

“It’s all right. I’ll call my mother and have her drive me home.”

“Oh, and I can tell how this will work. Halfway through the lecture, I’ll get a call asking for permission to transfer you to the ICU because you had a bad reaction to the anaesthesia.”

“It won’t be that bad…would it?”

“Well, no. I’ll probably get a call asking for permission to harvest your organs. I’d definitely have to leave the garden club then. They’d probably get ticked off at me for not leaving at that point.”

Hence, because she knows how much I loathe cell phones and answering calls in the middle of lectures, she backed off, and the wonderful people at the Four Seasons Garden Club considerately rescheduled the lecture for next January. That should work pretty well: after the holiday season is over, it’s time to emphasize that you can’t feed family members overstaying their welcome to Venus flytraps. Well, unless you have lots of flytraps, and the person in question is minced, and at that point, the police are probably going to figure it out.

That doesn’t mean that other shows and events aren’t an option. October and November are booked, and let’s not get started with next year. To give an idea:

First Annual Reptile & Amphibian Day: Things snowball. With the Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas closing and transferring to the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science, the annual Discovery Days event involving reptiles and amphibians won’t be running this November. With the temporary cancellation of Discovery Days until the new museum opens, the Dallas-Fort Worth Herpetological Society needed a new venue for an outreach presentation to show that reptiles and amphibians aren’t horrible things. I may be, though, so we have to question the wisdom of inviting the Triffid Ranch to display carnivorous plants for this year’s first annual Reptile & Amphibian Day at the University of Texas at Arlington. It’s too late, though, as they’re stuck with me all day on October 13. Depending upon this year’s turnout, we’ll see if the DFWHS wants to host a second one in 2013, but I have hopes. (As an additional notice, this event will have no animals or plants available for sale. This is educational, not commercial, but this might also be a great time to join the DFWHS, as well as some of the associated clubs and organizations showing plants and animals as well.)

The Shadow Society Presents The Vampire’s Masquerade Halloween Ball: Goth fashion. Carnivorous plants. Halloween. All out at the Crown & Harp on Greenville Avenue near downtown Dallas. Toby and Tracy, Shadow Society proprietors and DJs, already lined up a plethora of music and events, and the season should do the rest.

The Funky Finds Experience – Fort Worth: Right now, my garage resembles a set from an early-1970s episode of Doctor Who, and the living room is worse. That’s because I’m frantically building and planting arrangements and enclosures for this year’s Funky Finds Experience at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth on November 10-11. Artists and crafters already fill the entire allotted space, so come out to see the carnivores and wander around to see what else you can’t live without.

After Funky Finds, things should settle down a bit. The temperate carnivores go back into winter dormancy, the tropical carnivores slow down a bit, and we silly humans wait to see if we have a winter like this last one, or a winter like 2011. I, for one, wouldn’t mind one like 1998-1999: just enough cold to kill off the bugs, but not so much that it kills off everything else. We definitely don’t need a repeat of the 2010 record snowfall, as fun as it was at the time. That’s also because things start out lively early in 2013, and the last thing we need is another massive freeze in mid-February.

ConDFW: The first Triffid Ranch show of the year follows the cycle from 2012, with a show at the literary science fiction convention ConDFW in Addison, Texas. With it being this early in the year, the focus will be mostly on tropical and other non-dormant flora, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect some surprises.

All-Con: Three weeks later, prepare to return to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Addison, because now it’s time for All-Con, a more media-related convention coming up on its eighth year. With luck, we won’t be looking at sudden last-minute freezes or snowstorms, which means that it might be time to present a display of Sarracenia blooms if they’re cooperating at the time. As usual, details will follow.

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2013: Okay, here’s the big one, as in “so big, it takes up the entire Hyatt Regency DFW Airport.” Not only is Texas Frightmare becoming the horror equivalent of the San Diego Comic-Con or Dragon*Con in Atlanta, but I’m proud and flattered to become one of the draws for attendees every year. With this being the Triffid Ranch’s fifth show at Texas Frightmare, get ready for some extra surprises, and not just my using deodorant and mouthwash.

FenCon X: And here’s the other big show, scheduled for Texas-OU Weekend in Addison. (Just talk to the folks at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and let them know you’ll be at all three big shows, and they’ll probably be glad to accommodate you.) The new Web site is now live with guests and programming, and the Triffid Ranch jumps in with plans for a much larger space than previous years. The added joy? With it starting in October, out-of-state visitors can at least prepare for the end of summer temperatures. (Judging by last weekend’s cold snap as a precedent, bring a bathing suit AND a jacket. You’ll probably need both.)

Tentative plans: Not only does this year mark the largest number of Triffid Ranch shows to date, but it’s time to expand a bit into reptile and amphibian shows. Right now, tentative plans involve registering tables at both ReptiCon in Ennis at the end of October 2013 and the North American Reptile Breeders Conference in Arlington on August 11-13. As the comics used to say, watch this space.

As a final note, I’m regularly asked at shows “Do you have a physical address?” Until now, that answer is “no”, and not just because liability issues prevent me from opening up everything so people can “see the plants”. Up until now, opening a storefront to display plant enclosures and sell individual specimens hasn’t been practical or sane. In 2013, that may change. With luck, I’ll be able to share the news in a few weeks. With luck.

Show aftermath: July with the Shadow Society

Triffid Ranch booth at the Shadow Society

Four years ago this week, the Triffid Ranch debuted at Convergence 14, a goth convention held that year in Tampa. Last weekend, the latest Triffid Ranch show ran at The Shadow Society, a monthly gathering at the Crown & Harp here in Dallas. Back then, the Czarina and I were traveling by car across the continent, so this wasn’t much of a show. Last weekend, the available space was at a premium, so the idea was to come out with a sampler. A selection of beginner carnivores, a few loss-leaders to demonstrate that carnivorous plants consist of more than Venus flytraps, one flytrap globe so nobody asks “Hey, where are the flytraps?”, and stickers and buttons. Between this and a very pared-down setup for the Czarina, we barely squeezed in everything into the car, just like four years ago.

You know what else was just like 2008? No matter how much or how well the organizers promoted the show, the opening of the Olympics kicked our butts.

Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a complaint. Yes, the show was a bit sparse on attendees, but the both of us have done shows where vendors outnumbered attendees by two to one. The July Shadow Society event still featured a lot of interesting folks, this gave a field test of a new lighting system for the new display shelves, we vendors had a great time comparing notes on upcoming events, and pretty much everyone made plans for Convergence XIX in Austin next spring. We also used this time to plot and scheme on plans for the Shadow Society event at the end of August. Between this and the North American Reptile Breeders Conference in Arlington that weekend, who says that Dallas and Fort Worth are lacking in odd attractions?

Detail: Triffid Ranch booth at the Shadow Society

And with that, here’s a gentle reminder that the next Triffid Ranch show will be at the Discovery Days: Discover Going Green family event at the Museum of Nature & Science on August 11 and 12. As I keep telling people, come for the biodiesel, and stay for the carnivorous plants.

Past shows, present events: the Shadow Society

Tawanda Jewelry at the Shadow Society

In the past few months, several interested bystanders have bemoaned a lack of Triffid Ranch shows in the summer. After all, the Triffid Ranch has several in spring and several in the autumn (including the upcoming FenCon IX in September and very likely the Funky Finds Experience in Fort Worth in November.”But what about events in the summer?”, they ask. “Why don’t you have anything going on in June, July, and August?”

These are valid questions, and one best answered by going outside in the afternoon and waiting until the yellow hurty thing in the sky blasts the skin and the first four layers of flesh and muscle off your face. Out here, one gains wisdom by impersonating the scorpion and Gila monster and remaining in shelter until the sun goes down. When it comes down to plantselling, strangely enough, this works well also: yes, you have to bring artificial light to show the merits of carnivorous flora, but the night also means that customers can put new acquisitions into cars for safekeeping without their being cooked in the sun.

The only problem with this concept is that while Dallas should be very nocturnal-friendly in the summer, most events are still planned and organized for day-dwellers. This isn’t always the case, though. Last weekend, the Czarina and I attended the latest Shadow Society event, a regular goth music and vendor event held on the last Saturday of every month at the Crown and Harp on lowest Greenville Avenue in Dallas. While advertising DJs as its major draw, the Shadow Society nights also feature a vendors’ space in the back of the ground floor, and that’s where we found ourselves last Saturday.

Vendor at Shadow Society

Now, I could go on about the general mellow attitude among attendees and passersby, or how this was the first one-night show I’ve done in years that made me wish we could have gone on for longer. The highest compliment I can pay, though, comes down to the DJing. Most vendors of smaller events dread the words “Live DJ” for one big reason: the volume. While most clubs and bars prefer to have their DJs crank music as loudly as possible to encourage customers to shut up and buy more, the volume increases the difficulty of vendors being able to talk to those customers. Worse, for every DJ whose only concern is to get attendees up to dance, you get four or five mediocre ones who are determined to bombard the captive audience with their choice of music, no matter how cliched or annoying. As they keep playing, customers and vendors get louder, and the DJ retaliates by cranking up the music further. Before you know it, the music is loud enough to cause heart palpitations, communication is only possible with semaphore flags and telepathy, and the bozo playing Beck’s “Loser” for its irony value gets people screaming at him “If that’s an offer, I can take you out right now!”

(Two years ago, I was contacted by the manager of a club who was having an event where he wanted interesting vendors. Said event was a “battle of the bands,” where the vendor’s booth fee was more for one day than at most Dallas/Fort Worth three-day shows. I was very glad to bow out by noting that most of my temperate carnivores were already dormant for the winter.)

That high compliment I wanted to pay? The DJs on the ground floor, Tammy and Toby of Azrael’s Accomplice Designs, were also the show organizers, and they Understood. The music was loud enough for dancers and low enough for vendors, and we all had a great time. I also have nothing but compliments for anybody playing David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters”, because that’s a pre-goth classic that pretty much summed up the whole night.

Because of how this show turned out, the Czarina had a blast, and we’ll be out together on July 28 for the next Shadow Society gathering. Oh, and expect some surprises in plants, just for this event.

Vendors and attendees at Shadow Society