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!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Eating Poor

No matter how much money I make, I always feel poor. And, a majority of the time, I actually am too. Sure, the bills get paid, the house gets worked on, and things inevitably get taken care of, but there is seldom much if anything left over at the end of the day.

Back in 2002, we were completely wiped out. I had to drop out of graduate school, we sold one of our cars for cash, my wife couldn't find a job, and my job wasn't paying enough to survive. It was in this time that my wife taught me the art of eating poor. She in turn learned this fine art from her mom and her family; as poor Southern sharecroppers, this art was perfected over several generations. Surprisingly enough, you can eat pretty well on $20.00 a week if you juggle things just right. Hell, I've seen my wife feed 14 people for $4.00. I have yet to top that.

Since we are struggling to remedy our chronic financial woes, I've decided to take up the fine art of eating poor. Fortunately for me, we have a small stockpile of food we've horded over the last year or so. One of the tricks of eating poor is making do with what you have on hand.

To this end, I've spent the last couple of days digging through our kitchen trying to figure out what I have to work with. In addition to my neurotic need to bake, I have a complimentary need to horde flour. I have white flour, wheat flour, stone ground flour, corn flour (for tortillas), cake flour, and corn meal. Add two packets of yeast and some time and you have all the materials for a sourdough starter and several weeks of homemade bread, biscuits, corn bread, and tortillas. That can go a long way.

Unfortunately, not everything in our kitchen is so versatile. In fact, some items are a complete mystery to me. Not only do I not remember where they came from, I don't know why we even have them. Case and point, sorghum.
In my life time, I have never tasted, eaten, or cooked with sorghum. Until yesterday, I didn't even know what it was exactly. However, at some point lost in the haze of the past, I was so impressed with this mystical elixir that I bought (???) not one, but two jars of sorghum.

So, the question I am left with is what in the hell do I do with over two pints of sorghum?

Even my ever trusty William & Sonoma Kitchen Companion (a dictionary of all things kitchen related) failed me. According to Wikipedia it is used mostly in the South for baking, barbeque sauce, baked beans, syrup, and cakes. And, it is healthier than processed sweeteners since it won't dissolve your liver like high-fructose corn syrup. More interesting perhaps is that it is used to make a beer in Africa.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast - Half a pot of coffee (free).
Lunch - Two Pop Tarts ($ 0.65).
Dinner - Homemade refried beans (black), homemade salsa verde (tomatillos, onions, Serrano peppers), and corn tortillas (roughly $2.00).

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Blogger the reluctant remodeler said...

I thought I had remembered an article on sorghum in the NY Times' food section a month or so ago. Turns out it was about cane sugar and its derivatives. I did find out that sorghum can kill, so be careful (see ) haha. OK, that's not helpful, sorry.

But in short, sorghum can be used as a weaker replacement for molasses. Do you like baked beans? Gingerbread? Those are both cheap fillers with lots of molasses.

Good luck; I feel for you and would love to see what you come up with.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Julia said...

I hope things get better for your family soon!

BTW, maybe your wife or one of her relatives brought those jars into your house?

10:52 AM  
Blogger Jeff and Barbara said...

Funny thing, a couple years ago a family member gave me a bottle of sorghum. I used it the same way I use up old bits of honey, maple syrup, molasses, or other sweets: to make granola cereal. Mix it with some water, a little oil, and nutmeg/ginger/cinnamon, whatever's on hand and pour over oats, add nuts, rasins (again whatever's around,) spread on a cookie sheet and bake around 300 until dried out and golden.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous CatM said...

Several years ago, when we needed to climb out of a hole, we took a "no holds barred" approach to saving, and it was incredible how little we could live on. I got my inspiration from Amy Dacyczyn (prounounced "decision"), author of "Tightwad Gazette." Some people find her too extreme, but I
got charged up reading her stuff--she offered hope!

In less than seven years and with an average income of less than $30,000, Amy D. saved $49,000 and made significant purchases (cars, furniture, appliances, etc) adding up to $38,000, AND they were debt-free. With six kids.

Her philosophy is to work hard at *not spending* money (while maintaining quality of life), versus work hard for *more* money. The only problem is that it really IS hard work to save, so much so that a couple who spends money on daycare might do better if one of them stayed home with the tot and "worked" at all the strategies for saving.

How desperate was I to get out of debt? Check it out: We brushed our teeth with baking soda, washed our hair with dishwashing liquid (cheap, and you can't tell the difference, PROMISE), borrowed movies from the library, shopped at Goodwill, baked all our bread at home using bulk purchased flour, cleaned with vinegar and baking soda, reduced our vehicles to one, ate a mostly vegetarian diet, reused ziploc bags, used powdered milk in baking recipes . . . and the list goes on forever. Did you know that if you have leftover brown rice from dinner, you can heat it with a little milk and brown sugar or molasses in the morning and it's a great, healthy, free breakfast?!

We eliminated $20,000 in debt in one year, when previously we had lived paycheck to paycheck (and racked up debt).

Yikes, end of sermon. Sorry, I still get kind of wound up about this stuff. You can do it!!!

11:41 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I really like the thought of leftover brown rice with a little bit of milk and brown sugar. Mmmmm.

You are right, though; you can eat for a tiny amount of money, and eat well, too.

I really hope things get much better soon!

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Cynthia (King Street Farm) said...

Well, on that note...I am interested in possibly buying some of your artwork. As always I really enjoy your work in oils!!

I would be very interested in a landscape type painting of a larger size...I'd be open to discussing a commission, or else if you have anything already painted or underway, please drop me a line through my blog (or you might be able to dig up my email address from previous correspondence last year?).

1:38 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Here in Ohio we put sorghum on bread or toast like you would honey. I used it in oatmeal a couple of times.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

I spent quite a few years living paycheck to paycheck. Once I finally broke that by eliminating my debt and getting a better paying job, I swore I would not put myself in the position again by my actions. Sometimes life will cause this, but I will not!

We are pretty frugal I think with food and we make meals stretch out. Back in my single days, I ws happy eating steamed veggies and pasta with a little butter and cheese- this is a pretty cheap meal too. But nothing beats rice and beans.

I feel somewhat poor at times because we have so many things I think we need or need to do and on our income, something has to give BUT one can always find someone less well off. I try to remember that when I feel poor.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Oddly enough, a few years back when I was making the most I ever had in my life I became addicted to saving money. It’s the main reason I have The Petch House today. At the time, I heard an interview with a woman on some public radio show (Don’t think it was Fresh Air) and she described ways of saving money over very long stretches of time.

One of the big ones was that you always use a little less of what ever it is you’re using. Squeeze less shampoo and toothpaste. Make a little less pasta. Don’t fill up the glass with milk. Also reuse foil and things like that. Wear clothes a little longer than you normally would. Wait a little longer to get the oil changed on the car. What happens is you make fewer trips to the store and you buy less, and more importantly, fewer impulse items. You may think you have free-will when you shop, but you really don’t. No product is randomly placed in a store. Simply put: Go to the store less and you will spend less money. I live my life by it.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Beer. Sorghum is what the traditional beer is made back where I'm from, and it's surprisingly drinkable.

7:49 PM  
Blogger John said...

Wow. Thanks everyone. Lots of good stuff; you've got me thinking about a frugal living post, though I think some of you probably have a lot more to say on the subject than I do. I mean, at this point, I'm pretty much the poster child for poor financial skills.

Julia, I think that I am responsible for the sorghum. I don't think my in-laws eat it.

Jeff&Barbara, cool recipe, never would have thought of that one.

Catm, Cool info, thanks.

Jennifer, you might like this one too. One of my wife's recipes from college was white rice with brown sugar and butter; it's pretty good too.

Cynthia, I have your email & will be sending you one today.

Gary, I think back in the day they use to eat it that way here too.

Jocelyn, you are where I'd like to be. And, you are absolutely correct, their is always someone worse off than we are (something good to remember!).

Greg, I do a lot of what you've listed. Prior to the Devil Queen, I got a really good job, paid off $16,000 in debts in 9 months, started an IRA and turned things around. Then we got the Devil Queen and it's been a downward spiral ever since.

The biggest weakness I suffer from is for books which occasionally gets out of hand. Really, it would be a tolerable vice except that we've gotten into such a mess with the hosue that we can't afford these little indiscretions.

I hate shopping so I avoid a lot of the temptation, but the internet has made buying books (particularly ones you can't find in Arkansas) so easy.

I was really excited to hear this, but then I read your link. Unfortunately, I need sorghum grain not molasses. Hmm. I wonder if you can turn sweet sorghum into mead?

8:43 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I used to use it as a sweetener in wheat bread, and in homemade granola, and it was great for both. I also ran across a recipe for sorghum cookies as one point, though I'll be damned if I can remember where.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Ah. I would have noticed that if I'd read your post properly - apologies. It does seem you could use sorghum molasses to make a beer drunk in ancient Egypt - but the huge list of extra ingredients might not fit so well with the "frugal" point of the exercise. But hey! the end result is beer! Isn't that the most important thing? :)

5:38 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Making your own beer is actually very frugal. You can make 5 gallons (50 bottles) for about $30, which is much less than you'd pay for decent beer at the store.

Baseline equipment is about $75, so your initial investment is usually paid off by your second batch.

And, hey, don't you really need a new hobby? Well, two hobbies. Making beer is one hobby, drinking it is the second.

12:46 PM  
Blogger John said...

You seem to have quite a few beer recipes on hand. Definately my kind of man.

I'm not sure if I need another project right now, but, if I decide I do, that will be the one. Got a recipe for a good stout?

1:46 PM  

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