The Devil Queen

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

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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!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tales from the Moth Cave, Insanity, and Other Holiday Tidings (138 days and counting)

Everyone has a hell that is uniquely their own, mine is a 32 square foot bathroom. It is my Nemesis, my doom.

Here are pictures of my adversary.

The painting is still not finished (hence the uneven coloring over the shower). I was going to wait until it was 100% completed before I posted pictures, but my wife called last night wanting to see some progress. I mean, without photographic proof to backup all of my alleged progress, I could be faking the whole damn thing. For all you know, I'm laying around drunk in a lawn chair eating cold, three day old pizza in my underwear, and tempting the Fates of wrath and doom. Maybe I am anyhow, but at least I'm painting too.

No matter how hard I push, I just can't get the bugger finished. The walls above the shower still need a coat or two more to be finished, and there are a few more areas that need some touch ups. What is taking so long? Here is a picture of the Eater of Time.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, cutting in this saw toothed edge is killing me. And, if you look closely, you can see at least one spot that needs a touch up. Grrrrrrr.

If I can finish before family starts showing up on Christmas Eve, I'll be doing good. Well, as good as running two weeks behind on my imaginary "schedule" can be. Really, I need to finish this bathroom soon. It is the bottle neck that is murdering any hopes of making significant progress on the Devil Queen. Not only is its completion essential for meeting our bank deadline, but it is essential for my mental health.

To further complicate matters, this 32 square foot piece of the Underworld has been infested by a horde of moths. No matter how many you squish (which I've stopped doing in deference to my wife's sensibilities - it's not sporting) or catch & release outside, there always seems to be at least four flapping around. Sure, it's better than an infestation of wasps, but it is still distracting to be cutting in around the trim while perched on the ladder when something flies into your ear. If you're itchy like me, it's a bit scary. But, so far, I haven't fallen off the ladder or spilled the paint. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

To change topics, I'm little surprised by the rapt interest that "landscaping with fire" has drawn from some readers. Really, I didn't think it was too big of thing, and I'm worried that the explanation will be anti-climatic.

Monday morning I was getting dressed for work in the master bedroom. Since it was early and no one was there besides me, the Queen was very quiet. I could hear the clock ticking, the last of the water from my shower trickling down the drain, and something else. It was a slow drip. At first I thought it must be coming from the shower. I walked back to the bathroom and listened, no dripping. I went back to the bedroom. Drip. Drip. Drip.

I looked out the window. No rain. I checked the hot water heater in the closet. It was dry.

So, I went outside with a flash light, opened the crawlspace door and listened. Drip. Drip. Drip. Water was dripping from the hot water line running to the bathroom sink (which is still not installed). A very small, shallow puddle had formed under the pipe.

The weird thing was the water was dripping a from a high point in the line, through foam insulation we'd wrapped it in, and off the metal strap supporting the length of pipe. Great.

It was time for me to go to work, so I didn't have time to fix it then. I go back inside, turned off the breakers to the two hot water heaters, and head out to turn the water off. I figured that it would pretty well take care of it until I got home later in the day.

The problem is that I couldn't find the shut-off valve or the water meter. Since we live in the middle of no where, we have no street lights (not all bad, we can see the stars) so it is very dark. Even with the car's headlights and my flash light, I can't find the damn thing, and the four foot deep thicket of weeds, grass, briars, and a thousand other prickly things are not helping me any either. And, since I'm on my way to work, trying to do all of this without ruining my suit (mission accomplished).

Exasperated, I give up. "Fuck it!" I throw the flash light in the car and drive off to work.

By the time I got to work and hour later, I wasn't too angry. Then, it started to bug me. By the afternoon, I couldn't stand it anymore. I left early and went home.

Since plumbing is more or less equivalent to dying of chronic hemorrhoids, I was expecting the worst. The weird part is that I couldn't find anything wrong. I cut a six inch length of foam insulation off the pipe where it was leaking. I was expecting water to go everywhere. Nothing. It was a little damp, but there was no obvious leakage. I ran my finger down the inside of the insulation in either direction from my cut. Completely dry. I followed the line back to the hot water feed from the water heater. Nothing. I went inside, turned on the shower, and lay under house watching and listening. Nothing.

I still have absolutely no idea where that water came from, and that bothers me. And, every morning since then, I have listened closely for the sound of dripping, running, rushing water. Absolutely nothing.

If any of you astute readers have an idea, please let me know.

Anyhow, after all of that entertainment, I was still irritated with my inability to find the shut off valve when I really needed it. So, I set the yard on fire.

That sounds a bit flippant and there is a certain element of hyperbole to it, but that is basically what I did. Now, I didn't just light the whole three acres and let it go. I started small and close to the house and worked my way out. Unfortunately, the wind was a little too strong for my comfort, so I didn't actually make out the water valve. That will have to wait until the weekend. I did, however, clear off the area around the septic pump and its wiring (another thing I had to wade through 4 foot deep weeds to get to in an emergency).

According to some statistics I recently read, 83% of all Americans live in urban areas. I think where I live would fit comfortably into that remaining 17%. And, I'm also thinking that if you are living in a urban area, setting your front yard on fire to clear a thick growth of weeds would probably be frowned on by your neighbors and local authorities. Out my way, it's not a real issue for anyone (unless you set the forest on fire, bad idea).

Of course I may be a bit of an extremist. I'm a fire bug, so setting something on fire sounds like fun to me. My wife hates fire and thinks I'm a bit crazed. She will, however, admit that I am good at it. I can light nearly anything, I can make it burn it the direction I want it to, and I'm usually pretty good at controlling it's size. As part of the festivities, I'm in no way adverse to wading into knee-deep flames to stomp out a troublesome flare-up or rake a pile of burning leaves in the direction I want it to go. My shoes rarely catch fire.

If I ever have enough time, I'd like to trim off most the tree branches up to around 6 to 8 feet and burn off all of the underbrush. If done correctly, this is a good land management strategy. It protects from forest fires, fertilizes the ground, thins the trees, and gives desirable saplings (maples, oaks, and other hardwoods) room to grow. Charles C. Mann has some interesting thoughts on the Native Americans use of these methods in his book 1491. If you're looking for an interesting read over the holidays, I’d recommend this one to you.

Anyhow, I'm not sure if my irreverent use of the forces of nature for my own amusement was everything you thought it would be, but hopefully it was.

Unless I have more free time than I'm anticipating over the next week, this will probably be my last or penultimate post for 2006. So, incase I don't make it back here before New Year's Day, merry damn Christmas to you all.

Really though, have a good time & be safe.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Painting Myself to Death

Yes, I'm still painting the damn hall bathroom. I'm holding off on posting pictures until it's finished. At this point, everything from the floor up to 8 or 9 feet up is finished. This leaves approximately 52 square feet of wall that needs to be finished. This doesn't sound like much, but, since we used exterior siding for the walls of this bath, it's taking a lot longer. First, using a roller isn't an option. Second, cutting in where the siding meets the trim is taking for fucking ever. I finished this section off last night which is very good, mainly because it kept me from gouging my eyes out.

I was hoping to at least get one coat of paint on the remaining siding, but at 11 PM I was beaten. I was so tired that I was starting to feel nauseated, so I decided it was time for bed.

Since the walls and trim are all orange, this bathroom has a nice warm glow to it when you turn on the lights. It's kind of like looking into an oven while the element is glowing, or a tiny, coffin shaped slice of hell. Your choice.

And, as a brief comment on the powers of color on moods and urges, every time I open the can of trim paint and see that nice creamy orange I want to eat it.

Unless I fall asleep while painting and fall off the ladder, I should have the paint finished by Friday. Or, at least, that is what I keep telling myself. Anyhow, unless the holidays completely over come me, I'll try to get at least one more post up this week. No shortage of topics like car seizures, mystery puddles, sanding, and landscaping with fire.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Real Importance of Family

The holidays are approaching with the inevitability of a biblical plague, and, as always, there are a thousand things to do and money is always tight. As such, I thought that I might share one of my favorite stories to remind us all what the holidays are really about, family.

This story took place at Uncle Burt's house in Little Rock around thirty-some-odd years ago. And, I'd just like to add that it actually did happen. Really.

Uncle Burt, one of my wife's great-uncles, had seven daughters. Inevitably, as girls are wont to do, they married off, one by one. One of these daughters married a real jack ass. He was an obnoxious blow hard who didn't get along too well with his in-laws or anyone else for that matter. And, since he was family, it was hard to get away from him.

Now, I should say here that Uncle Burt is a geniunely nice man; kind and funny, he is the kind of guy that just about everyone loves to be around. This makes what happened next especially entertaining.

This problem son-in-law was really starting to get to Uncle Burt. He tried to be a tolerant, forgiving Christian but it was very hard on him. In spite of himself, he started giving into his family's terrible mean streak. One Sunday, Uncle Burt decided that he simply could not tolerate the bastard anymore. Something had to be done.

The family all came over to Uncle Burt's that night to have dinner which included the jack ass son-in-law. Everyone sat down at the table to eat, and, before too long, the son-in-law was running off at the mouth in the most offensive way. He was ruining the whole evening for everyone.

Uncle Burt, who was sitting across from him, jumped up from his chair. "That is it! I have had enough of you and your mouth!" Uncle Burt then pulled a pistol out of his pant's pocket, pointed it at his son-in-law, and pulled the trigger. Everyone was parallelized with shock as the gun thundered with one deafening CRACK.

The son-in-law screamed as he and his chair rolled over backwards onto the floor. He bellowed, "Oh Sweet Jesus, you shot me! You shot me! Oh my God, I'm dying, I'm going to die!" He clutched his chest just over his heart and writhed on the floor.

Pale and wide eyed, the family struggled to get to their feet and rushed over to help the wounded man when someone noticed something of singular importance. There was no blood.

A quick examination of the son-in-law reveled that he was whole and intact. Uncle Burt, raised in the country, was a good, experienced shot. He hadn't missed, he'd deliberately fired a blank. Someone snickered. Someone else laughed, and soon the whole family was laughing so hard that they were reduced to tears. That is, except for the son-in-law. He was very quiet.

The son-in-law was mortified and Uncle Burt was warmed by an intense feeling of satisfaction.

I can't recall what ultimately happened to the son-in-law (divorced out of the family or is still around somewhere), but I suspect that he may have had better luck controlling his mouth while visiting his in-laws. I mean, screaming like a little girl in front of the whole family is not something they'd let you forget. I bet every time something crosswise came out of his mouth, they'd turn to one another and say, "Do you remember when Uncle Burt shot ol' So-and-so here? No? Let me tell you the story. . ."

Can you see why I try to stay on very good terms with my in-laws?

So, if the holidays are getting you down, remember that it's all about family. Try to relax and enjoy yourself. We don't live forever, so try to enjoy the time you have now.

And, if that doesn't work, remember blanks are cheap.

Disclaimer: I'm sure that I may have missed a few details, but this is more-or-less the story. Some of my in-laws read this from time to time; if you're out there and I've messed it up, let me know and I'll fix it.

And, a special thanks to Chris at The Emery Restoration for reminding of this story.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Damn the Long, Dark Night

Really, it is nothing unless you happen to suffer from seasonal depression disorder (which I don't but it's still irritating). It's just that I can't wait until December 22 (12:22 AM to be precise) rolls around. Why? That will be the longest night of the year. After that truly hopeless moment of eternal darkness, the sun will shine more and more. Life will return to the northern hemisphere, and I will be able to work on the outside of the Devil Queen once I get home from the day job. As it is now, I'm just lucky to find my way to the front door every night.

Also, I'd like to thank all of you who are ceaselessly toiling to despoil the environment. We're now enjoying highs in the upper 60's (even some low 70's are predicted for the end of the week) in Arkansas. Sure, fifty percent of the population will probably be devoured in the Spring by all the bugs (fire ants, tics, mosquitoes) who partying through this mild winter, but it's a price I'm willing to let them pay.

Not "If" But "When and How"

As some of you may remember, several months ago I posted about gasoline powered generators. At the time, I was primarily concerned with keeping my family warm during an ice storm. However, after the Great Poop Scare of the previous week, I'm thinking that I'm one lightning strike or rain storm away from a very shitty house.

I know that generators are in the top ten list of things that depraved assholes like to steal from construction sites and private property in general. As such, I've been wondering how feasible it would be to install one in our crawlspace, have it directly wired into the electrical system (by a professional), and vent the exhaust out through the crawlspace wall. I mean, I suppose it could be done, but what are the chances we'd die of carbon monoxide poisoning? Or, would it be easier to build a camouflaged concrete bunker behind the house to lock it up in until we need it? Then, via an ass-load of extension cords, we could power the septic pump, a space heater, and a few lights?

I'll have to figure it out pretty soon, probably by January. It's always something isn't it?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Paintings

In case you might be in the market for a painting, I have a few new ones here. See, and you just thought I was working on the Devil Queen.

Day 147 and Counting

Julian Electric came and went yesterday. For $137.00 (parts, labor, tax), they fixed all of our out standing electrical problems: shorted outlets, missing outlets, non-functioning outlets, etc. I'm happy with it, and, aside from me locking myself out of the house (that is what you get when you leave the hired help your only key, oops), there was no drama involved.

And, even though I was sucked into the black hole of Lowe's (why would I be there?), I still made home with enough time to get locked out and to finish priming the bathroom (small print: except for a small strip around the shower which I'll need to touch up tonight). Still, I think it's close enough to count. So, the plan for tonight is putty the nail holes in the ceiling and caulking the bathroom walls (1 tube of caulk?). Gripping isn't it.

Anyhow, the struggle continues, blah, blah, blah.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rumors (and 148 days and counting)

I'd like to take a moment to reassure some of you out there that the rumors of my immanent institutionalization are entirely unfounded. Apparently some of my last few posts have been the cause of a great deal of concern in some circles. Sure, the last week or two have sucked, but we here in the Dark Dominion of the Devil Queen are okay. Really.

My big problem for the day is my new fear of rain. It started raining in the middle of the night, and the sound of running water woke me up from a sound sleep. Why? I associate the sound of running water with exploding plumbing, and I was terrified the gushing sound was being generated by a steady stream of fermented sewage. Fortunately, it was just rain water running off the roof.

I'm still running behind on the bathroom, but progress is being made. I have around 30-45 minutes of priming left. Then I can caulk the cracks and nail holes. Depending on the caulk's drying time, I may actually start painting tonight. Or, worst case, I'll have to wait until tomorrow.

And, Julian Electric should be out today to fix our septic pump's wiring a few other outstanding issues.

Aside from that, everything is relatively quiet - for now.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Filth and the Fury

Ladies and Gentlemen, just a reminder that sometime you really do need to wear a mask or respirator.

This was white before I sanded around 25 square feet of trim (1x10's around the top of the room that were salvaged from the soffits) in our hall bath. I don't know what was on this old wood, but it was absolutely filthy. I'm guessing it was a mix of dust, dirt, dead bugs (crushed), and God knows what else. It took me longer to clean the bathroom out than it did to sand the trim.

Anyhow here are two pictures of the bath post sanding. See, I really have been working on the goddamned hussy. Here is the primed end (still needs to have the seams caulked).

And here is the yet to be primed end.

There has been a lot going on this week, so I'm running behind by about two days. If I'm good, I get this room finished up over the weekend. We'll see.

The Petch House Approach to a Better Life and Other Miscellany

Okay, before we begin our day, I need you to repeat after me: "My house was NOT flooded with raw sewage this morning. Today is a WONDERFUL day!"

See, don't you feel better? (actually, I kinda do - please discard any implied, vestigial irony)

Optimism: I might as well try it, right? I mean, the worst it could do is kill me.

One good thing I can say about putting all of my worldly possessions in storage is that I've realized just how few of them I actually miss. I've been culling the herd, and I came across this last night.

What is it? It is sketch I did in one of my college notebooks (date April 1, 1997). I can't help but wonder if it was a premonition of things to come. Doom seldom comes unheralded.

And then there is this:

It really gives the term "do it yourself" a whole new meaning. I can't help but wonder how (if?) this is street legal. What disturbs me most is the exposed gas tank strapped in the trunk.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Little Earthquakes

Here is a quick rundown of our most recent mini-disasters:

Last Thursday: What started as on oil change for my wife's VW TDI Beetle spiraled into a major overhaul to the tune of $2500 in parts and labor (fuel injector or something of the sort crapped-out, the fuel lines were flushed, the serpentine and timing belts were replaced, the oil and air filters were replaced, the oil was changed, and few other small items were attended to). The VW was in the shop from Thursday morning till we picked it up on Saturday afternoon.

Most of Thursday afternoon and evening we had torrential rain which turned into snow in the middle of night. The wind howled all night and the temperature plunged from the low 70's to the low 20's in about 8 hours.

We arrived home to discover that something was very wrong with our septic system. Mainly, water/sewage was backed up from the septic tank and into all the sewer lines under the house. We are incredibly fortunate that the sewage didn't back into the house itself. However, we couldn't flush, shower, or even wash our hands.

We called the guy who installed the tank and he said that he'd be out first thing in the morning.

Since we didn't know what was wrong with the tank, our minds ran wild and we assumed the worst. You know, stuff like having to dig the entire system up to repair/reinstall the whole thing. That would cost at least as much as the car repairs. And, until it was fixed, the Devil Queen would be uninhabitable. We spent (or I did) most of the night on the cusp of a nervous breakdown.

Friday: Our septic guy came out early that morning (I'd taken the day off of work, go figure), and he told me that the GFI outlet the septic pump (yes, we have to make our shit run up hill for a short stretch before it can run downhill to the field lines) somehow shorted out. As a make shift solution, we ran on extension cord out under the front door and plugged up the pump. It kicked in immediately. Within 30 minutes, we were back in business.

Things were starting to look better until Saturday morning.

Saturday: My wife, Gideon, and I all piled into my POS Saturn and drove over to my in-law's. The plan was to drop Gideon off and then to drive down to North Little Rock to pickup the VW. We dropped Giddy off and got ready to leave. My car wouldn't start. No lights, the engine wouldn't turn over, nothing. We borrowed my mother-in-law's brand new car (way too nice for us, it cost more than our 1st house), and picked up the VW (that hurt). My wife wanted to do a little Christmas shopping while we were in town, and every store we want to go to was out of business except for the one that had absolutely no parking. So, we called it quits and went home.

Sunday was a messy blur as my wife prepared to depart for her first week away at her new job.

Sure the whole weekend wasn't a complete and total loss; some of it was actually good (Dim Sum, jumping in mud puddles, and Christmas trees). But, in keeping with my bleak, pessimist personality, I spend a lot more time looking at the black clouds than the silver lining.

Parenting Advice

I thought I'd offer you all a little piece of parenting advice since there have been a lot of little ones brought into the world by housebloggers lately. I guess this proves that we're willing to do nearly anything to get out of working on our homes all the time; "Honey, you want to fool around or mud drywall?" Or, working on our houses leads to borderline alcoholism, which leads to fooling around. In either case, it's the house's fault as far as I'm concerned.

If you beloved child comes to you in around 18-20 years and says, "Mom/Dad, I found this great old historic house and they only want $1.00 for it. We might have to move it a little, but I really want to do this," shoot them.

Start with a small caliber (.22) and aim for the extremities. If they are skittish by nature, a near miss might be enough to persuade them to find something better to do with their time. If they persist, you might have to work your way up to something bigger or hollow-point. I know this sounds harsh and they might be upset at first, but they'll thank you later. Believe me. Really, I know.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ride The Snake

There haven't been any posts for the last few days because we've been beset by a series of unfortunate events. This is my nice way of saying that still can't walk without assistance since I spent most of the weekend getting my ass reamed with a drain snake. In short, the last 4 or 5 days were horrible. I have new appreciation for the real meaning of the biblical "gnashing of teeth." Since I like savoring my suffering and woe in excruciating detail (why work on your house when you can whine about how bad your little roach of a life is?), you'll have to wait for all tears and entrails.

To date I've sold my soul to the Devil Queen, my asshole to the bank, my wife to a media conglomerate, so why not sell my standards too? On the upside, it may get the bank's enormous, barbed verge out of my arse so why not? More on that later, probably much later for reasons that will be come clear in due time.

As for all this bullshit winter weather we've been having, where the fuck is all the global warming everyone has been whining about? Currently, if you spend more than a minute or two in our main hall (with an un-insulated door at either end and, yes, I do know how to fix that) in less than a sweat-suit or coat, your nipples will be hard enough to cut glass. Clearly we haven't all been doing our part to enjoy summer (or at least spring) year round. You know who you are.

I don't want to hear about saving the goddamn polar bears - sure they're cute but they'd fucking eat you and your family in a heart beat, just ask the good folks in Churchill, Canada - when my physical and emotional comfort are on the line. I mean the extinction of two or three irreplaceable species in some distant ecosystem is worth it, right?

Sure, it would be easy to dismiss this as the rantings of one egotist asshole, but, as someone who has spent some serious time in rural Wisconsin and Chicago in the middle of winter, believe me when I say that this will benefit a lot more people besides me. And what about all those poor Canadians? I think it is long overdue for us, as Americans, to really pay attention to the well being of others in the global community; I mean, they speak something like English for the most part and they have oil too, don't they?

So, I want you all to go out and buy filthiest, gas guzzling truck you can find, smoke a few packs of cigarettes, and turn your thermostat up to 90 and run it day and night with the windows open so the poor bastards at Emery House can wear shorts in January. Believe me, they and my nipples will thank you.

And, in spite of what all of this might lead you to believe, I have actually been working on the Devil Queen. Go figure, shit happens.

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