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!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Decrapification Equals $73.45

That's right boys and girls! Once the cleaning starts, the money pours in by the fistful!

Last night I went to Lowe's and returned three sacks full of unused, unloved, and unwanted plumbing supplies. And, having learned from our encounter with Ms. I-flushed-my-brain, Lowe's resident demon of the return desk, I took the unusual precaution of washing all of my returns. That is right, I washed them.

Filling the kitchen sink with hot water and gently washing all the dust and dirt off thirty or forty PVC and CPVC fittings is an odd experience. You have to be extra careful to not get the stick-on price tags too wet so they don't fall off or bleed, but I did it. Then, they were all carefully dried and bagged.

I didn't have any trouble with my returns. They wouldn't take two items because they weren't from Lowe's (fair enough, right?), but I'm okay with that since they gave me $73.45 for everything else.

I can't wait to see what else I can find to return.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Decrapification Continues

I won't bore you with the details. Another night of excavating, another five bags of trash hauled to the curb. For those of you who don't live to tally the amount of trash generated by the Devil Queen and her occupants, that is nine bags of trash in two weeks.

Aside from reclaiming all of this long submerged square footage as actual living space, this has been a profitable endeavor. Literally. Last night while sorting through a stack of old papers, Christmas and birthday cards from years past, and whatever else it is crazy people collect, I found a crisp, clean fifty dollar bill. I'm guessing this was a gift that we lost track of one year. Nice.

If you calculate out how many hours it took me to find this, I'm still not making minimum wage but what the hell. It's enough to buy Christmas dinner for everyone which is good enough for me.

At some point, I just had to wonder what year it was that I went shit-bat-crazy and decided to keep this stuff. The construction material is the worst at this point: tin cans full of bent, rusty nails; broken light fixtures; four inch bits of PVC plumbing; and, my current favorite, little coils of old, filthy wires. I mean you never know when you might want to wire a whole electrical circuit with thirty or forty 12-to-18 inch bits spliced together. Bring on the roaches, the nukes, and the whole Jesus-in-sky apocalypse! We are ready! We'll save Western Civilization in all its glory with a box of old wiring and tin of rusty nails. Don't mess with us, we're obviously ready for anything. Except refinishing the floors.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dim Sum

Home improvement is a stressful hobby which requires a tool box full of coping mechanisms to help you survive. People turn to any number of things to help them cope: shopping-therapy, weekend vacations, denial, jogging, yoga, electroshock therapy or raging alcoholism. There really is something for everyone. My new favorite it Chrysanthemum tea. Here is an except from the Wikipedia article on it:

"Chrysanthemum tea is a flower-based tisane made from chrysanthemum flowers of the species Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum, which are most popular in East Asia. To prepare the tea, chrysanthemum flowers (usually dried) are steeped in hot water (usually 90 to 95 degrees Celsius after cooling from a boil) in either a teapot, cup, or glass; often rock sugar is also added, and occasionally also The resulting drink is transparent and ranges from pale to bright yellow in color, with a floral aroma. In Chinese tradition, once a pot of chrysanthemum tea has been drunk, hot water is typically added again to the flowers in the pot (producing a tea that is slightly less strong); this process is often repeated several times."

I've never had the tea with sugar or wolfberries, so I can't vouch for them. The flavor of the tea is hard to describe. It is very light and smooth with slightly sweet floral taste (no where nearly as robust as chamomile tea for instance).

At first, I thought the ritual of making and drinking the tea was why we felt so good afterwards. I did some research though and the tea has some medicinal properties too:

"Chrysanthemum is taken as a headache remedy, and for dizziness and hearing disorders. It is also used for treating high blood pressure. Chrysanthemum is used as a compress or eye wash for inflammation of the eyes and for other eye problems such as dry-eye, blurred vision, and seeing sports. It also has a calming effect and can relieve stress. Combined with honeysuckle, it can be used for treating colds, flu, fever, and infected sores. A poultice of Chrysanthemum leaves works well on acne, pimples, boils, and sores.In the 1st century AD, Chrysanthemum was categorized in the Shennong Bencao jing (Herbal Classic of Shennong) as a medicine, particularly for use as an anti-inflammatory, but it also has antiseptic and antibiotic properties."

I have also read that some scientific testing has indicated that it may also have some anti-cancer properties. Granted, all of this research of mine has been done with online sources, so you may want to take all of this with a grain of salt. However, I would say that in general it's good for you.

Scarlet and I were introduced to Chrysanthemum tea at Chi's Chinese Restaurant in Little Rock. It wasn't a menu item either. I think the wait staff (mostly Chinese college students from abroad) was impressed with our willingness to try anything on the dim sum menu. The translation of some of the dishes into English was splotchy at times, but this would include dishes of "ox-tail," and "cow stomach." At some point, they quit serving us the generic "Chinese Restaurant Tea" and slipped us the Chrysanthemum. They seemed inordinately pleased that we liked it. I guess most Arkansans are not into hot, herbal teas?

Speaking of good Chinese food, does anyone one know of a good Chinese restaurant which serve dim sum in or near Arkansas? Our old favorite, Chi's, recently was sold to new owners, and they promptly did away with the dim sum menu in their rush to join the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet bandwagon. Suggestions?

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The last few weeks we've had some troubles.

The VW broke down again which is pretty well normal at this point. According to our mechanic, the dealer screwed up the wiring when they rewired the car a year ago. He told us to "never let those people touch this car again, ever." Fine with me. Our mechanic fixed the wiring but now the timing or fuel injection is off. Whatever. If we ever get it running, we're selling it. Anyone want a 1998 TDI VW Beetle? If so, let me know so I can go and buy a 1972 VW Beetle. At least those run and the parts are cheap.

Really, the car breaking down wasn't nearly as traumatic as the coffee pot dying. There are few things I hold utterly sacred in life. Coffee is one of them. Without it, my peace of mind is ruined. Without half a pot of it after dinner, no home improvement projects or anything else is accomplished. Sure, a strong pot of tea with cream and sugar is tasty, but it just doesn't have that spastic, eye-popping kick that coffee does. It's like comparing alcohol-free beer to scotch.

And, the cordless phone died. I may do a whole post on phone line trouble shooting, so I'll save all of my moronic antics for latter.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Underappreciated Fiscal Benefits of Cleaning House

A couple of weeks ago Scarlet and I watched the movie, Stranger Than Fiction. Most people who have seen it that I have talked to thought it was a so-so movie. Scarlet and I really enjoyed it. Maybe it something to tell us at this particular time in our lives? Who knows?

In any case, one of those background details that I noticed about most of the homes in this movie was how Spartan the furnishings were. Even the flat Emma Thompson's character lived in with its high ceilings and fancy moldings, was furnished with very little. I liked the look.

One, it makes the spaces seem bigger and more dignified. Two, your eye is really drawn to what is there. It makes it stand out. It also makes you wonder why that particular piece of furniture, book, et cetera is there. The lack of other things makes you consider what is important about that piece, why it was chosen while so many others were not.

I have since unleashed my inner-minimalist and been steadily cleaning out everything from the Devil Queen. A couple of hours of cleaning can easily produce four sacks of trash, an large box of items ready to be donated to Marva, and a small pile of items to be sold on eBay. The actual number of things which are really worth keeping is astoundingly small. To think, I've spent years hauling and storing all of this stuff just so I could dispose of it now. Genius.

Aside from the general sense of being unburdened, there have been some other underappreciated fringe benefits. The other night amid all the detritus of a thousand years, I found two un-opened cans of wood putty and a tube of tub & tile caulk for the seam around the hot tub. This find is easily worth $35-$40 which is pretty exciting since I already spent the money on it.

See, less is more.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Well-Appointed House

All of you old home owners out there might get a kick out of Emily Post's views on "The Well-Appointed House." The following is from Emily Post's original book on etiquette, circa 1922. If you want to read more of Post's work, go to

"EVERY house has an outward appearance to be made as presentable as possible, an interior continually to be set in order, and incessantly to be cleaned. And for those that dwell within it there are meals to be prepared and served; linen to be laundered and mended; personal garments to be brushed and pressed; and perhaps children to be cared for. There is also a door-bell to be answered in which manners as well as appearance come into play.

Beyond these fundamental necessities, luxuries can be added indefinitely, such as splendor of architecture, of gardening, and of furnishing, with every refinement of service that executive ability can produce. With all this genuine splendor possible only to the greatest establishments, a little house can no more compete than a diamond weighing but half a carat can compete with a stone weighing fifty times as much. And this is a good simile, because the perfect little house may be represented by a corner cut from precisely the same stone and differing therefore merely in size (and value naturally), whereas the house in bad taste and improperly run may be represented by a diamond that is off color and full of flaws; or in some instances, merely a piece of glass that to none but those as ignorant as its owner, for a moment suggests a gem of value.

A gem of a house may be no size at all, but its lines are honest, and its painting and window curtains in good taste. As for its upkeep, its path or sidewalk is beautifully neat, steps scrubbed, brasses polished, and its bell answered promptly by a trim maid with a low voice and quiet courteous manner; all of which contributes to the impression of “quality” even though it in nothing suggests the luxury of a palace whose opened bronze door reveals a row of powdered footmen.

But the “mansion” of bastard architecture and crude paint, with its brass indifferently clean, with coarse lace behind the plate glass of its golden-oak door, and the bell answered at eleven in the morning by a butler in an ill-fitting dress suit and wearing a mustache, might as well be placarded: “Here lives a vulgarian who has never had an opportunity to acquire cultivation.” As a matter of fact, the knowledge of how to make a house distinguished both in appearance and in service, is a much higher test than presenting a distinguished appearance in oneself and acquiring presentable manners. There are any number of people who dress well, and in every way appear well, but a lack of breeding is apparent as soon as you go into their houses. Their servants have not good manners, they are not properly turned out, the service is not well done, and the decorations and furnishings show lack of taste and inviting arrangement.

The personality of a house is indefinable, but there never lived a lady of great cultivation and charm whose home, whether a palace, a farm-cottage or a tiny apartment, did not reflect the charm of its owner. Every visitor feels impelled to linger, and is loath to go. Houses without personality are a series of rooms with furniture in them. Sometimes their lack of charm is baffling; every article is “correct” and beautiful, but one has the feeling that the decorator made chalk-marks indicating the exact spot on which each piece of furniture is to stand. Other houses are filled with things of little intrinsic value, often with much that is shabby, or they are perhaps empty to the point of bareness, and yet they have that “inviting” atmosphere, and air of unmistakable quality which is an unfailing indication of high-bred people."


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Strange Well Wishes

Or, a birthday greeting. You know who you are.


Pantry Stain Test

There was no planning, no fore thought. One day, I simple jumped up, cleaned out the pantry, sanded down the counter top, and stained it. The counter top was made with some of the leftover cherry wood flooring from the main hallway. The staining of this wood was an experiment of sorts. I was hoping that a year of "curing" might have conditioned the wood in such a way that I wouldn't have to use a brush-on wood conditioners when I did the hall floor.

Here is the cabinets et al after the staining. Sorry, I wasn't in my right mind, so I didn't think to take before photos.

And, here is the counter top after the staining, nice but spotchy. Actually, it looks worse in the photo than in life. While I'm okay with this for the pantry counter top, I would not be okay with it for the hall. Looks like I'll be adding an exciting extra step of prep-work when I get to the hall floor and the crown molding too.


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