The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

My Photo
Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I'd like to thank everyone for the responses on the yesterday's post. They are greatly appreciated.

My wife was using a spray-on chemical paint stripper on the window in question. I forget what the brand is. It is great stuff for small projects. Maybe the stress of a good scraping was too much for it?

Well, it looks like some folks are getting stirred up about the Supreme Court's ruling on eminent domain. There is a story on Fox News today about some folks filing papers to have one of the Justice's homes turned into a hotel. Click here to read the story.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Damnedest Thing

My wife spent most of Saturday stripping paint from the kitchen window, the bottom window pane in particular. After hours of scrapping, she dusted it off and leaned it against a wall to evaluate her work.

Then there was a faint "tink." I stopped what I was doing and took a look around. My wife had a odd look on her face.

"What was that?"

"It broke," she said without looking at me. She stared in disbelief.

"What? The window?" I walked over.

"Yeah. I was just standing here and it broke," she said.

I squatted in front of the window to get a better look. There was a small "star" of cracks in the bottom left corner of the pane. That wasn't too bad, but the one long crack that ran up to the top corner in a wide arc was.


"What happened to it?"

"I don't know. I've never seen anything like that." I said. "That's the damnedest thing."

"Well, if we're going to have to replace it, lets get stained glass. I think your sister knows someone that does that. Email her so we can get a quote."


So, has this ever happened to anyone else?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Diagram of the New Framing

Diagram of the finished product. I would like to note that these diagrams are not to scale. Posted by Hello

Wall Diagram

Diagram of the wall dividing the kitchen and dining room.

It was interesting to see the bare bones of this wall once we'd stripped the wallboards from both sides. One 2x4 had cracked completely in half (the double-stud on the far right), and all the framing had a slight lean to the left. It was probably off by a couple of degrees, off just enough for your eyes to notice. The original doorway between the kitchen and dining room didn't have a header (typical with the house so far). The stud directly under the ridge-board of the roof (and the 2x6 that supports it) had been cut in half when they installed a wood-cookstove in the kitchen 80 some-odd years ago. Two short "floater" studs had been sandwiched into the wall so they'd have something to nail the wall boards to.

We've spent two days reframing and reinforcing the wall. I just started rehanging all the wallboards Sunday. The heat has been atrocious, hovering at just below 100 degrees in the afternoon. It makes for a short and gruelling work day. I had to quit at 1:30 PM even though I'd only been working for five hours.

I can hardly wait until August.
Posted by Hello

Our finished patching job (Wall only). Posted by Hello

Patching the hole from woodstove's chimney. Posted by Hello

The Joy of Wiring

The Joy of Wiring Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Crack Heads

I still can't believe how the Supreme Court ruled on Kello v. New London. Moreover, I can't believe how little discussion there has been about it. Most major media sources (CNN, Fox, Washington Post, et cetera) seem to have used the same AP wire source. NPR had a decent report on it, click here to listen.

Imagine spending years restoring an old home only to be told that your city decided that they'd rather have another strip mall or office complex for the "public good."

Is anyone concerned about this?

Eye in the Sky

A satillite image from Google Maps. This was the lot where the Queen resided from 1890 to 2003. The Boswells originally owned the entire city block according to the court house records. Posted by Hello

One of Four

One of the four May Houses in Clarksville, Arkansas. This one is on Hwy 64/Main Street across from Century 21 (which is in one of the other May Houses). This photo is from 2002 (?) and was taken while it was being renovated by James Wyche Construction. Posted by Hello

Mid-Week Mania

We had a very productive day Thursday.

The two diagrams below are my attempt to illustrate our project.

The original entryway from the dining room to the kitchen was a standard size doorway situated on the left side of the wall dividing the two rooms. In an attempt to increase the usable counter space in the kitchen and to improve the aesthetics, we decided to move the doorway. We wanted to place it in the middle of the wall and to upgrade the door itself. Instead of the standard, rectangular door we bought a salvaged French door (it is from a house that was demolished in Russellville. A church bought a whole city block of Bungalows and Carpenter Victorians for a new parking lot). It is arched and has two glass doors.

Unfortunately, the doors and the jamb are in pretty rough shape. It's previous owners converted it from a exterior door to a fixed window. They encased the bottom of the doors in plywood and added a sill. They also caulked and nailed the hell out of it to keep it closed. It took us a full day to remove all the nails, paint, caulk and atrocious modifications just get the two doors out in one piece (sort of). The enclosure that converted the doors into a window also trapped moisture. Over the years, rot slowly ate away the bottom pieces of the doors. Repairing it will be a difficult and time consuming process. Fortunately, getting the doors in isn't top priority and the jamb is structurally sound. We're just going to put the jamb in and wait to install the doors later.

The first step of this project was twofold. One, we had to remove all the wallboards from the bottom nine feet of both sides of the wall. Two, we had to reinstall two ceiling boards that had fallen down when we tore out the decrepit cook-stove chimney. One was still dangling from the ceiling directly in front of out new doorway. It was a hazard and a nuisance, so they had to go.

While my sister, wife, and dad pulled down the wallboard, I set up the ladders, jacks and braces for the ceiling boards. Like the rest of the house, the ceiling boards are all tongue and groove. They also suffered the worst when we moved the Queen. The combination of rain, movement, and other stresses loosened a lot of nails holding them up. The rain caused some of them to warp too. This made fitting the tongue and groove joints together extremely challenging.

First we had to pull all the nails from the boards and the ceiling joists. Then (as crudely illustrated below) we worked the tongue and groove joint together, the two loose boards making a "V" if viewed from the end.


We pushed the boards up into position and held them in place. Working from one end, we'd jack the boards up until we flattened the "V." In doing so, we popped all the tongue and groove joints together and pressed the boards tightly against the ceiling joists. I then used finishing screws the fasten them in place. The preparation took a lot more time than the actual job of popping them into place.

Instead of using a heavy-duty jack (the one we usually use for jacking up floors), we used my father-in-law's two-ton car jack. It is light weight and much easier to use. It works great on light jobs, I highly recommend it for small projects.

Once we finished with the ceiling and pulling down the wallboards, the job was pretty straight forward. It was not pleasant or easy, but it was basic carpentry. It took us all day, but by 6:30 PM (we started at 9:30 AM and took an hour for lunch) we were finished with the new rough-in (see the photos below).

I still have to do some minor framing to close in the old doorway and then hang all the wallboards. It shouldn't be too bad provided there is enough wood to completely close up the wall. We managed to pull the nails out of most of the wallboards already, so that's a plus.

If we keep up this pace, our kitchen will be painted, wired, and have a new floor laid in three or four weeks. Then, we can install the cabinets, counter top, and sink. It'll need some finishing work after that, but it'll be basically finished and functional.

Before Diagram. This is the view of the kitchen-dinning room door before or renovation. The view is from the dinning room looking towards the kitchen. Posted by Hello

After Diagram. This is how the doorway to the kitchen will look after our project is complete. Posted by Hello

Old House Archaeology

Old House Archaeology, Digging for Wallpaper. My sister contributed some time at the Queen to some historical research. She very attentive to detail with infinite patience for meticulous projects. She helped uncover some more of the Queen's original wallpaper. Instead of removing the old layers of wallpaper before hanging a new one, they just papered over the top of them. In some places, the wallpaper is four layers and 100+ years deep. Posted by Hello

Hunting for Joists

We had to mark the location of all the ceiling joists so we could re-hang the two fallen ceiling boards. The ceiling joists are not laid a regular intervals. Some are 19 inches apart, some are 21 1/2 inches, et cetera. I had the pleasure of crawling around our attic (100+ degree sauna) measuring all the joists. Posted by Hello

The Final Product (Phase 1)

The new kitchen doorway sitting in the new rough-in. Posted by Hello

Taking measurements for the new rough-in. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What's In A Name?

The Queen sits on a relatively quite three acres atop of Crow Mountain. If you look at maps of the area, you'll notice the mountain's full name is Carrion Crow Mountain. What's a carrion crow? I didn't know so I decided to find out. Carrion Crow (or black vulture) is a folk name for Coragyps atratus, a type of vulture that is common to the Americas. For more information and some smallish pictures, click here.

An excellent follow up question would be, why is Crow Mountain called Carrion Crow Mountain? I don't know and I haven't been able to find out. I guess the obvious explanation would be that a lot of vultures lived (and still live) on the mountain. If anyone knows or has any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Another excellent question is, why is Crow Mountain called a mountain? It looks more like a plateau. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, a mountain is any elevation 2000 feet above sea level or higher. Crow Mountain is 1080 feet above sea level (approximately 500-600 feet above Atkins) which places it way below 2000 ft. In Arkansas (and elsewhere), mountains seem to be any high, large landmass. I never really thought too much of it before, but when I was in high school we had a group of German exchange students from Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, visit. They thought our "mountains" were hilarious. Having been to Berchtesgaden, I can't say that I blame them.

When we are working on the Queen we always end up sitting on the porch for our breaks. I always find myself looking at the woods and the creek wondering what all happened here before the Queen and the other homes came.

According to my wife, twenty years ago almost no one lived on Crow Mountain. There were a few old homesteads, a peach orchard, and several farming & live stock operations (cattle and chickens). Only a couple of roads were paved. In the 1980's, "city folk" from Russellville began moving onto the mountain. They were lured there by the cheap land and the beautiful view. On a good day (low humidity), you can see over 20 miles away. Since then, more houses and subdivisions have been covering up the pastures and fields.

Before that time its hard to know what happened. There isn't much information on our local geography. There are some Native American paintings in some caves on the mountain. They are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, but there location is kept secret to protect it from vandals. In the time of Hernando de Soto, a small Native American village called Tanico, south of present day Atkins, was on the Arkansas River. In the early to mid 1800's there we a lot of Cherokee in the area. Someone once told me that Crow Mountain was the personal hunting ground for a Cherokee Chief for a while. Aside from that, there isn't much to go on before the white settlement of the area in the 1800's. After then, there isn't too much information either.

In any case, The Devil Queen of Carrion Crow Mountain has a nice, macabre poetic-ring.

A New Link and Other Bits

I've added a new link to the blog.

Utne is an interesting read, they are both an online site and a bimonthly magazine. They run some good articles on green building from time to time. I would love to make my house self-sufficient and environmentally friendly. I'd love to be able to collect rain water for irrigation & drinking water (requires a $20,000 investment in purification & storage equipment the last time I checked), install some solar panels (not on the house), and install some energy saving devices (efficient appliances, lights, et cetera) I might someday, but I don't see it happening anytime soon. Recycling lumber will have to suffice for the moment.

I'm shaking my weekly schedule up some, I'm taking Thursday off. My little sister (not so little, she 25 now) is in town for a week, and she offered to help me out with the Queen Thursday. She is also dragging my dad along too. With all that extra help, I think that I'll tear out a wall and move a doorway. Sounds like a good day's work.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Project Envy

While checking out some other house-blogs I noticed two things, both of which made me terribly envious. One, no one I saw yesterday had moved their house. Two, everyone seemed to be living in the house as they were working on it. Those two points hold the key as to why our project is eating us alive.

The problem with moving the Queen was that it forced our hand in a lot of ways. Whereas most people seem to tackle lots of small jobs, one at time, we were faced with a number a enormous jobs which needed to be finished NOW. If we had simply been able to move into the Queen and fix her up at our own pace, we could have put off a lot of things. A new roof and new central heat & air would have been musts, but everything could wait until we got to it. For instance, the wiring needed to be updated, but it worked. We could have put it off for years. The same was true of the plumbing. In preparing the Queen for the move, we had to gut the entire place.

Even if the plumbing and wiring were in dire need of replacement, at least the sewer lines, the water lines, and the electrical hook-ups would have been on site if you didn't have to move the house. We had to install all of these too. In short, what it comes down to is that we bit off way too much.

Second of all, we are paying for two houses: electricity, water, insurance, and mortgages (technically a construction loan and a mortgage). Until we can finish the Queen up enough to live in her, we will continue doing this. We are hoping to move in by this October or November, but there isn't any guarantee that the house we are in now will sell or be rented out. For all I know, I may be paying for both houses till they are paid off or I die.

I guess that is what I get for getting involved with an older, high-maintenance woman.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

One Day, One Door

Saturday was a good work day. We got a lot of paint scraped, wallboards hung, and some wiring completed. Sunday was a bit of a wash-out. Had a family lunch for Father's Day that killed most of the morning. Put in a couple of hours after lunch but spent most of the afternoon visiting with family from out of town. Put in two more hours after they left.

It took me all day to install one door. It was kind of depressing that one door was all I had to show for my entire Sunday. In my defense, it did require a bit more work than I had expected. The door jamb was freakishly large. It was exactly 2 1/4 inch wider than all of our other doors which made it 1/4 inch too wide for the rough-in. To solve this problem I took one side of the jamb off, took off the hinges, pulled all the nails, and ran it through the planer six or seven times. I then reattached it to the rest of jamb with screws instead of nails. This pulled the joints together and made a very snug fit. The jamb now fits the rough-in nicely. I squared it up and tried the door; the door needed a little planing, but it fits perfectly now. It looks nice and my wife was impressed so I feel pretty good about the whole thing.

We've got a lot of pictures from the weekend, but we are having some computer problems. Hopefully we'll get them posted soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Three Headed Beast: Home Renovation Subcultures

As we've worked on the Queen, we've come to realize that there are roughly three subcultures of old home renovators, Liberals, Hard-Core Conservatives, and Moderates.

Liberal home renovators use their historic homes as a point of departure. A lot of times the historic roots of the structure are obscured by some of their extreme "updates." They feel comfortable with jacking up the roof and building a second story, adding additions that are "inspired" by historic portions of the house but don't really resemble it much, and cladding the exterior in vinyl siding or some other modern material. Old double-hung windows are replaced by new double-pane ones, the interior floor plan is dramatically reordered, et cetera. I would lump some of This Old House's projects into this category.

Hard-Core Conservatives are the type of home renovators that will gladly spend weeks meticulously scrapping off each layer of paint to uncover the original color used so they can match it. They will spend years restoring a house to however it originally looked when it was built. If its not period, they don't want it.

I'm not sure, but I suspect some have a secret agenda of reintroducing outhouses, indoor plumbing is clearly a modern aberration (A random fact: in the 1960's my in-laws were the first family to have an indoor bathroom in their area. It was scandalous, an old man came out to lecture them on how unclean that was. Everyone else just showed up to flush it.).

Personally, I have a lot of respect for these folks, but I don't think that every home necessarily needs this kind of attention. The end product is too museum like for me to ever feel comfortable living there. However, houses like Arlington House, Monticello, The House of Seven Gables, and other historic homes should definitely get this kind of treatment.

Moderates take a path somewhere in between. They try keep the historic character of a home while making a place for modern amenities like central heat and air, washers & driers, and internet access. Based on what I've seen, I'd say that most folks fall into this catagory.

We consider ourselves moderates. Our main goal is to preserve the historic structure and character of the Queen while adding modern amenities. Maintaining the historic appearance of the house's exterior is major concern of ours. First impressions are very important. Ideally, when we finish work on the Queen's exterior, she should look like she would have in 1920's (to get it to look like she did in 1890, we’d have to tear of all of the additions made during the 1920's). We've gone to great pains to make the two modest additions (approximately 276 square feet) to the Queen look like they'd always been there. We’ve moved a couple of doors and windows, but the basic floor plan is true to the original.

A man my wife calls Evil Santa was my first introduction to the hard-core camp. He is not in fact an evil Santa, he just looks like one. He sports a huge knot on his brow line over one eye. He acquired it while trying to salvage some wood off an old (the oldest?) house in Russellville. It was built for or by Dr. Russell, the city's name sake, in the mid-1800's. As with a great many of Russellville's historic landmarks, it was slated for demolition. What else would you do with it?

He was up all night trying to get everything he could before the bulldozers started work in the morning. The base board of the wrap-around porch was made of one enormous board that had been artfully bent to make a 90 degree turn around the corner. He was pulling the nails out to free this board when it suddenly straightened itself hitting him in the head. It left him bloody and unconscious and won him a trip to the hospital. The knot formed and has been there ever since.

He applauded our saving of the Queen, but admonished us to stop reading This Old House Magazine in favor of Old House Journal. He was also in favor of having exact replicas of the Queen's original wallpaper made.

At any rate, he gave me a lot to think about.

There is a fourth, seldom-mentioned category of old home renovators, the abominable faux renovators. They truly believe they are renovating their old home and take great pride in their work. Their efforts are, however, the systematic destruction of everything holy. Members of this category should be imprisoned for crimes against old homes and good taste.

One real estate appraiser I knew appraised a hundred-year-old farm house that a married couple was fixing up. She was horrified by their progress. Among other improvements, they had painted their solid oak staircase blue and applied stick on vinyl tiles to the stairs.

It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Remeber Weed-Hopper, Progress Comes in Baby Steps!

The Atkins Chronicle has published another one of my wife's stories (front page, below the fold) this week. If you are interested in depression in the elderly, check it out here. Also, Cat Fancy Magazine will be publishing a story of hers (with a related sidebar article on their online edition) this fall. Aside from the excitement of seeing my wife in print again, it is more money for our Dark Mistress. That'll probably be enough money to buy the tile for a shower, a counter top, and a backsplash.

We’re planning to work on the Queen this weekend as usual. We are skipping a family reunion in Kentucky (my side) and a wedding (my sister's boyfriend of 8 years brother's wedding - my side too I guess) to work on the Queen. My little sister will be in town for the wedding, so it'll be nice seeing her for the first time in over a year.

I'll probably spend the weekend hanging salvaged wallboards in our pantry and laundry room. Using salvaged wall boards has been a lot more of a challenge than the salvaged wood floors. The big nails are easy enough to get out of them, but the wallpaper tacks are a nightmare.

There are about 50-100 tacks on average in a 4-5 foot long board. We're leaving most of them in the wood for now. Unless they're where I need to cut the board or if they are trailing a huge wad of 60 year old wallpaper canvas, I leave them alone. If (or when) we have time, we'll go back and pull them all out. So far the best tool for pulling them has been a mini (6 inch long) pry-bar. I use a small hammer or something similar to tap the pry-bar under the tack's head and pull. Pulling them out is easy, its getting the pry-bar under the head without gouging the wood that is hard.

My wife will be back in the kitchen scraping paint and pulling staples. It's hard work for her. Patience is virtue she tries to practice but it doesn't come easy for her. Fortunately, she is very excited about getting to paint the kitchen. I think that will get her through it all.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Some New Links

I've added some new links this week. For those of you with a passion for reading about home building/restoration projects, I'd encourage you to check out They've got dozens of links to sites like The Devil Queen.

I've also added some sites that don't have anything to do with old homes or even homes in general. Sometimes you just need something that is completely different. Clublife (the blog of an anonymous NYC bouncer) and Waiter Rant (the blog of an anonymous NYC waiter) are both entertaining (if not hilarious) reading.

The Wetass Chronicles (a website documenting the world of extreme sports & other bizarre endeavors) actually served as a source of inspiration for The Devil Queen. After spending months reading about folks sailing solo around the world, mountain climbing, and what not I was feeling envious. I found myself thinking, "Damn I suck. I should be out doing something interesting with my life!" Then it occurred to me, maybe I was doing something of interest. And so, the beast was born.

Personally, I think that a major do-it-yourself home renovation qualifies as an extreme sport.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Weekend Update

We had a gratifying weekend at the Queen. It is always nice when there are visible signs of progress.

We borrowed a single set of scaffolding from my mother-in-law and set it up in the kitchen. My wife spent most of the weekend scraping and sanding the old paint off the kitchen walls and ceiling. The scaffolding helped a lot. It is much easier to work from a standing position than hanging like a monkey from a ladder.

The scaffolding also lets us reach all of the hundreds of staples stuck in the middle of the kitchen ceiling. In the 1950's or 1960's, someone covered the ceiling in cardboard-like ceiling tiles which were attached with a generous number of staples. The tiles came down, but the staples have not.

My father-in-law worked on our electricity too. After some major effort and frustration on his part, our breaker-box is now connected to the main power line. We still need to run four or five feet of conduit out of the top of the meter-box, attach a "rain cap" (the cap that tops off the conduit that allows the main power line in to the meter while keeping the rain out), and run two hots and the ground out of the cap and we are ready to be hooked up.

Getting the electricity to the Queen has been a major ordeal which stretches back to the beginning of recorded history. The Queen's vanity is a major reason for this. What is the point of spending all of your money and time on restoring a house to its historic appearance if you're just going to bolt a meter-box its side and hang a huge, gangly wire from it. The obvious solution was burying the power line to the house.

Getting someone with a backhoe to dig out a trench for the wire wasn't too hard. The problem was that we miss calculated a few things on the front end of the project. That left us hand digging the last 60 feet of trench by hand. If we lived somewhere with dirt, this might not have been too bad.

For those of you not familiar with Arkansas, most of the state is sold rock covered with a thin veneer of clay which passes for dirt. The Delta might be an exception, but I have no desire to drive down there to find out. I'm driven wild with envy when I see some S.O.B. on This Old House or the Home and Garden channel slicing through black dirt with their shovel like it was hot butter. I want to kick them in the teeth if they have the audacity to actually complain about how hard it is.

Planting a small vegetable garden in Arkansas requires the same amount of preparation and work as open-pit mining. A pick ax, pry-bar, and, occasionally, a sledge hammer are required in addition to the usual shovel and hoe. Since the War on Terror began, the local authorities frown on the use of dynamite.

If you are looking for a cardiovascular workout, I highly recommend laying electrical cable. In our case we had to lay three 280 foot cables (approximately 1/2-3/4 thick if you count the insulation jacket around the copper) and then thread them through a single two inch conduit. It's like treading 10 foot long pearls on a 280 foot necklace.

Knock on wood and keep your fingers crossed, if we are lucky, the Queen may have electricity by July.

I made some minor repairs to a kitchen window and started hanging wallboard in the pantry. So far it is looking good. Minus baseboards and crown molding, the pantry may be finish next weekend.

We may also begin painting the kitchen in the next week or two.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to play mad scientist with the UV heater. Maybe next weekend?

My wife is tracking down a recent lead on the Queen's history. It turns out that the late Vestal Boswell's (son of the Van Boswell, builder of the Queen, by his third marriage) second wife, Lois Boswell, is still alive. She is 86 years old and living in a nursing home in Springfield, Missouri.

It turns out that she has been by the Queen since she was moved. I'm not sure when or why. We're trying to contact her to see what she knows about the Queen. Wish us luck.

Cast iron gate, Mena, Arkansas. June 2005. Posted by Hello

Checking out a Butler Panty at Ri-Jo Salvage in Mena, Arkansas. June 2005. Posted by Hello

Taking a break on the back porch. Posted by Hello

My Big Ass. My wife took this photo and made me promise to post it. What the hell, why not? Posted by Hello

New wall boards in the pantry. June 12, 2005. Posted by Hello

Me nailing the window trim back into place after my repairs. June 12, 2005. Posted by Hello

Kitchen Window with new cord. June 12, 2005. Posted by Hello

Window Weight. This is the kitchen window weight with its new cord. June 12, 2005. Posted by Hello

Scaffold in the kitchen, June 12, 2005. Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 09, 2005


I just wanted to take the time to thank the folks at houseinprogess for linking to the Devil Queen and to thank all of their readers for checking our blog out. We certainly appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

It's Over Engineered, Dumbass!

The other day I was having lunch with my dad at good Mexican restaurant.

"So, did you have a chance to look at that silent paint remover site?"

"Yeah, I did," Dad said.

"What did you think? Do you have any suggestions?" This is a good question for my dad, he has a PhD in engineering.

"Well, I think that it is over engineered."

"How so?"

"Is there any reason that you couldn't use the space heater as it is? Maybe you could mount a handle on it and get a heat-resistant glove if you needed it?"

I thought about it for a moment. "I guess not. It seems like the guy even tried his space heater out first before he dismantled it and it worked."

"You might check and see if it has a knock-over switch."

"What's that?"

"It's a built in switch that will automatically turn the heater off if it gets knocked over. If it has one, you could do some work on the wiring and disable it."

I feel like a dumbass for not having thought of it on my own. Just strap on a handle and go. It's genius in its simplicity. But, I should probably try it out before I get too carried away. Even so, I'm glad that I haven't bought all the parts for the paint remover. I nearly did this weekend.

Looks like I'll be playing the part of Dr. Frankenstein this weekend. Cool.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Driving in Circles

We spent a lot of time working on the Queen this weekend without really working on her.

Saturday I spent two hours up at the Queen pulling nails out of the salvaged wallboards we are using to finish out the pantry and laundry room. Then we drove down to a salvage yard in Mena. That pretty much took care of the rest of the day. From Atkins it is five hours round trip, and we spent and hour and a half there. I think that we made it home by about 8 PM.

We sold/traded a fireplace mantel, a cast iron kitchen sink, and some other items for cash and an antique 1893 door-ringer for the Queen's front door. It needs some work, but it is working condition. We need to strip the paint off the solid brass bell (why would anyone PAINT solid brass!?) and tinker with the turn-key and it'll be as good as new. I wouldn't say that the ringer is a direly needed home component, but it is a lot nicer looking than the hole in the middle of the front door. The Queen's original ringer was either removed or stolen a some point.

We were supposed to meet a contractor up a the Queen Saturday morning but he was a no-show. My wife called him up and he is supposed to meet her up there again Monday. To be honest, I'll be surprised if he shows. My wife and I are beginning to grapple with the idea that we'll be doing all the siding ourselves.

Sunday we got a late start. We intended to actually work on the house, but instead we hauled building materials up to the Queen, met a contractor, and spent a lot of time at Lowe's (electrical conduit, paint, insulation, parts for the UV paint stripper, and what not).

Steve, the contractor we spoke with, brought his wife with him. She paid us one of the greatest compliments that we've received so far. She thought that the house was on its original sight; she couldn't tell that it had been moved. When we told her, she was shocked. It was nice to know that we must have done a few things right. Steve is semi-retired due to a medical condition, but he is going to do some interior remodeling in the kitchen for us. Once he is done with it, our kitchen will be ready for new floors and a paint job.

We have photos from all our running around. I'll be posting those later.

Friday, June 03, 2005

One of my co-workers emailed me this story from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Apparently we are not the only ones crazy enough to move a house. An interesting article, check it out.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Night of Ill Omen

We had some bad news tonight.

Saturday we had Tony Anderson up to look at the Queen. As our last contractor has gone AWOL, we need another quote for the siding and other exterior work. As of today, we still hadn't heard from him, so my wife gave him a call.

In short, he said that if the stars were right he might work on our house. There were a lot of "ifs" and none of them were encouraging. We are thinking that we might be on our own for this one, and it scares the hell out of us. If some of the best local contractors won't take the job because they think it is too unpleasant and difficult, what hope does it leave an amateur?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Moloch's Whore

Restoring an old house is like worshipping a pagan god in that both require sacrifice. Moloch demanded your first born child, old houses require much more.

Old homes require cash. Huge, filthy, fist-loads of cash.

At first you don't mind so much. You think that a little sacrifice is necessary. You are still excited by the project, you are lulled by dream-visions of what the end product will be. You can see the fresh paint, the shining, refinished floors, and all that beautiful wood work.

Once you start feeding it money, it becomes easier and easier. It becomes part of your routine. Nails, saw blades, paint, and lumber become part of your normal monthly expenses. But, as the months and years drag by you start to feel the pinch. You put off your dry-cleaning as long as you can; you find yourself eating more pinto beans and peanut butter sandwiches; and, if you find a book or CD that you want, you put it on your wish list instead of buying it. Then a day comes when you notice that all your sport coats have shiny, thread-bare elbows, your shoes have cracked soles, and that you haven't had a haircut in months because you thought it a waste of money.

Things that other people consider major problems become interesting challenges for you. Instead of taking your car to the shop when your car's second-gear quits working, you master the art of driving without it. Five months later when first-gear also quits, you find yourself taking pride in the fact that you can start from a complete stop on an incline in third-gear.

Late at night as you lay in bed, you can hear this relentless sucking sound. It is a persistent whistling of the atmosphere around you vanishing into a void. You are anxious. You know that your savings are gone, your budget is maxed, and it is only a mater of time before everything around you falls to pieces. When you do sleep it is fitful and tense. You dream of a vast weight bearing down on you, pinning you to the ground. You awake tired and thinking, "Should I work on the bathroom ceiling or back hall this weekend?"

The Devil Queen, the old whore upon the hill, beckons. After so much, who are you to deign her?

Free Web Site Counter
Website Counter