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.


Blogger Lenise said...

I'm glad it was a well-controlled fire, even if it's not as exciting that way =]

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

12:58 PM  
Anonymous tarr said...

Can you describe your moths? I have this great moth trap you can have. Just has to be the right species.

And a bunch of us run around with water-filled 5-gallon pickle buckets and brooms every spring when we burn the lower pasture.

Sometimes it gets very scary. We always burn toward federal land and don't bother with firelines. Vehicles have been threatened. Smoke shows up on throughout the National Park. Childrens' minds are warped. Neighbors talk about it for years.

And some people burn the bottoms off their shoes and don't have anything left of their broom at the end of the day but a stob.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Chris and Mandy said...

That bathroom's looking great.

I must admit I was hoping for a little more. I had images of a flamethrower and maybe someone laughing maniacally as the flames reflected off their round wire-rimmed eyeglasses for the camera...okay I might have got a bit carried away. Your way was good too!

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Brenda from Flatbush said...

Sounds like the hot water line underwent a rare phenomenon called (by us) Spontaneous Healing. We have had occasional occurrences of it; I figure it is the house guiltily paying us back a token sum of good karma for all the disasters. Trouble is, Spouse tends to suggest waiting indefinitely for Spontaneous Healing to occur for everything.
Merry Christmas to you and the DQ crew!

11:23 AM  
Blogger derek said...

Could the water dripping off the pipe have been condesation? It sounds like it's insulated, so not likely. I can't see a leak fixing itself though.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

I bet one of those flying monkeys had crawled up underneath the house, and was relieving itself while perched on your hot water line. That must be it.

1:57 PM  
Blogger My Marrakech said...

John, I just wanted to wish you and Scarlet a really warm and happy Christmas. And many good things for the new year. You surely deserve it;-)
PS That said, I am slightly worried about your pyro tendancies. Make sure the underwear is flame retardant, okay?

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what Allison said. We had plumbing demons too. (shakes fist)

3:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Lenise, thanks!

Tarr, I have no idea what kind they are. I'll see if I can get a picture of one.

Chris and Mandy, thanks! And, it's scary how well you know me. If I could actually get a flamethrower, that is more or less how I'd use it.

Brenda, I don't know. I think that it is trying to lull us into a false sense of complacence; then the death blow!

Derek, I had the same thought but came to the same conclusion too.

Allison (and Marg), I think you're right. I don't care what people say in this age of science; most misfortune is the work of evil spirits. I mean, haven't they read the Golden Bough?

Maryam, thank you. Regarding the P.S., underwear?

10:20 AM  

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