Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Alternative to Restoring a Historic Property

From time to time, I think of Land's End--the lovely little home (and by little, I mean HUGE) on Long Island that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.  Can you imagine standing before the enormous house, watching party-goers of the Flapper era as they sipped on champagne and danced the Charleston?  If you were fortunate enough to stand before the house and dream of days gone by, you have something money can no longer buy.  Land's End is just a memory now, after being razed last year to make room for modern homes.  (Click on the link to learn more about the destruction of the home behind The Great Gatsby.)

Sometimes I worry that Americans have lost touch with the importance of saving historic structures.  It literally breaks my heart to see the homes of our past crumble to the ground.  I guess that's why I blog about the restoration of THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK.  In my own way, I'm trying to help encourage other people to save buildings that would otherwise be destroyed.  Whether you're saving an old farmhouse or restoring a mansion that inspired one of the most popular novels to come from this country, every moment you spend doing historic preservation work is important.  If you don't believe me, take a look at the alternative.

Goodbye, Land's End.  If you had been in the rural south, and if you hadn't been so expensive, I would've done everything possible to save you from such an awful fate.  

Monday, October 22, 2012


I don't know if it's possible to explain the number of insects that come with an abandoned house.  Try to imagine what it's like to move into a home that hasn't been lived in for years, and you'll probably imagine spiders, scorpions, mosquitos, and the occasional bee.  In my mind, I thought we'd be battling tiny creatures for a few months and then everything would be okay.  And for a little while, I was right.

Summer hit with an intensity that took us by complete surprise.  We imagined the high temperatures outside and inside of the house, and we welcomed the challenges of taming a little home in the middle of the wild woods.  But good Lawdy, we couldn't have possibly imagined the number of red wasps that called THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK home.  By early May, the wasps had completely taken over the front porch.  By June, we were going through a can of wasp spray a day.  And by July, we couldn't so much as swing a hammer without irritating our unwelcomed houseguests and finding ourselves under the constant airstrike of miniature Kamikaze pilots.  I used one four-letter word at least a zillion times this summer: OUCH.  And when the wasps seemed to double, then triple and quadruple in numbers, I knew that it was time to call for professional help.

I guess this sets us up nicely to tell the story of one crazy day in July.  The birds were singing, the sky was a crisp blue, and there were approximately eight hundred and one redheads in my house.  (Me and eight hundred red wasps!)  I had spoken with VEXCON and knew that BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR was on his way to THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK, but I knew that my red wasps were going to give Billy a run for his money.  Billy's a trained professional and all that jazz, but our red wasp infestation was no joke.  We were being stung at least once a day, and I had the strange feeling that Billy wasn't going to be impressed with our wasp collection.  In all honesty, I didn't know if he could actually kill them all.  There were so many red wasps that I didn't think ANYBODY could accomplish such a feat.

The camera crew arrived first, and they were all grins right up until the moment that they stepped out of their cars.  It only took a few minutes for the wasps to make their presence known--they pegged a few members of the crew and the hollering began.  Our neighbor (JACK JACK) rushed to the aid of the surprised crew with kerosene and cotton balls, and that seemed to help.  But within a few minutes, everyone on the set looked like this:

I have to admit that I giggled when I saw Billy walking up to our little dog-trot home.  I  was impressed with our local reality show superhero, of course, but I couldn't help myself--my twisted sense of humor took over when I saw his eyes grow wide as he started counting the number of wasp nests on the front porch.  

You know it's bad when a trained professional is surprised by an infestation, and within a few minutes Billy said that we had the worst red wasp problem that he had ever seen. 

I don't know how long Billy typically stays on a set when he's filming for BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR, but I can tell you that he and the crew were here all day and late into the evening.  They arrived around 10:30 in the morning and didn't leave until the sun went down, and they were an absolute riot.  We were literally sad when they left, because we loved the entire crew!  And though I honestly didn't think it was possible before Billy arrived, by the time the crew packed up and left the wasps were dead!  Billy did every bit of the work himself, too.  The crew simply documented every step he took.  In short, Billy is the real deal.  We adored him.  He's incredibly smart and quick-witted, and he packs a mean punch when it comes to wasp infestations.  Shaun and I are definitely fans for life! 

There were so many things that didn't go into the show.  I can't imagine how much work it was to take the hours and hours and hours of video and compress it into an eight minute summary, but the crew did an amazing job.  Our episode (# 75) is titled WASP WARFARE, and the title is no joke.  We love the way it turned out, and we're so happy that we have such wonderful documentation of the unrestored sections of the home.  

Here's Billy with the great-great-grandchildren of Mintie Robinson, the last Robinson to live in our dog-trot full time.  Buzz and Kate were thrilled to meet Billy, and our kiddos are extremely jealous that they weren't here.  (Miles and Preston were visiting their grandparents in Indiana when the wasp infestation got out of hand, thankfully!)

There were a few things that you didn't get to see, of course, so I'll share them with you now.  For one, Billy is incredibly smart.  He knew things about historic architecture that I never expected him to know.  You've got to remember, y'all--I'm a history junkie.  I love it.  I live it, breath it, and write it down.  Billy is the same way, too.  He knew a lot about local historic sites and even told me a few things about THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK that he couldn't have known in advance.  He clued right in to the original builders and showed me the tell-tell signs of Masonic roots.  The Taylors were Masons, but Billy didn't have any way of knowing such a thing.  Like Billy, I was saying WHOOOOAAAA when we were talking about history.  

So from the bottom of our hearts, we'd like to send out an enormous THANK YOU to the cast and crew of BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR.  You guys rocked it out at Sugar Creek!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


We have big news, y'all.  THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK is going to be on BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR!  Billy and his crew rescued us from a kabillion angry red wasps, and the episode will air on A&E this Saturday, October 20th.  To see a preview, visit the BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR page on A&E's website and click on Episode Guide.  Our episode is called WASP WARFARE.  We had a blast, despite the ridiculously hot temperatures and the hundreds of angry wasps--and with Billy's help, we were able to get back on schedule again.  The house already looks way different, so we're incredibly grateful to have Billy not only kill the red wasps, but also document this house in the pre-restoration state.  THANKS, BILLY!  WE LOVE YOU AND YOUR AWESOME CREW!


It's not a secret--I love historic homes.  Especially abandoned historic homes that are in danger of being lost to history.  So when I ran across yet another article about free historic abandoned houses, I immediately knew that I should share it with y'all.  Click on the link and prepare to be amazed by some of these properties in Detroit.  I wish that I could pick up a half dozen of these gorgeous homes and bring them to Sugar Creek, but I'm afraid it's not in the budget--maybe someone out in cyberspace can read this article and bring one of the jewels back to life again.


Monday, October 1, 2012

ON THE MENU for the first week of October

This month is going to be the craziest month of our restoration project, hands down.  With a chilly breeze already sending chills up and down our spines, we're battening down the hatches (quite literally!) and replacing missing window panes, missing windows (yes, I'm serious), and repairing the missing sections of siding in the back of the dog-trot.  With winter quickly approaching, we're getting serious about insulation.  So what's a busy couple to do when there's little or no time to cook, and no kitchen to make it all happen?  The answer has been the same since last spring: CROCK POTS.

Here is this week's crock pot menu.  Y'all feel free to steal our recipes and/or make your own heavenly fall foods this month... and also feel free to send me your very favorite crock pot recipes.  My email is lewisfamily1908 (at) bellsouth (dot) net.  Happy fall, y'all!

Love and hugs,



GREEN BEANS with creole-mustard infused BACON
This recipe is super simple.  Open your favorite package of bacon, cut it into one inch squares, and throw it in the bottom of a crock pot.  Turn the (large) crock pot to high.  Add four tablespoons of creole mustard (wet, straight from bottle) to the top of back and stir the mixture every hour.  Cook for four hours, then add (3) 28-ounce cans of whole green beans.  Add lid.  Cook for an additional three hours, stirring ever so often.  You won't believe the flavor that the green beans absorb... it's delicious.  I don't cook with salt, but feel free to add salt and pepper to taste.

You've heard the old nursery rhyme a million times... Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.  But have you ever wondered WHY Peter picked them?  The answer is simple: he wanted to make BBQ sandwiches!  His recipe is super simple, and the flavors are delicious--y'all are gonna love this one.  Buy your choice of beef roast and place it in the bottom of a large crock pot.  Add one half of a jar (8 ounces) of Mezzetta SWEET CHERRY PEPPERS (found beside the pickles in your grocery store) and half of the juice.  Add lid.  Cook on high for eight hours.  Remove roast and place in large dish.  Shred the tender meat with two forks, remove stems from pickled peppers and shred the cooked peppers.  I keep the seeds in the recipe to give my BBQ an unexpected punch.  ADD your favorite BBQ sauce (hickory smoked sauce works especially well) and add 1/8 cup of honey.  Stir and add BBQ sauce until you get the desired consistency.  I like really wet BBQ, so I often use to bottles for this recipe.  For the bread, I use either homemade rolls or Sister Schubert's frozen rolls from my grocery store.

 I know what you're thinking--it's impossible to make peach cobbler in a crock pot, right?  Wrong.  It's as easy as pie.  (Actually, it's a bit easier.)  Add (1) 28-ounce can of low-sugar peaches and their juice to the bottom of a small crock pot.  Add 1/2 of a butter cake mix and spread dry mix across top of peaches.  DO NOT MIX.  The dry cake mix will float on top of your peaches.  Cut one stick of IMPERIAL butter into 1/4" thick squares and spread evenly across top of dry cake mix.  Add lid.  Turn crock pot on high and cook for eight hours.  I kid you not--it's delicious.  WARNING: I make this recipe in the small crock pot because it works much better.  When I've tried to double the recipe in a large crock pot I have been sorely disappointed.

BREAKFAST casserole (good morning, noon, or night)
This recipe is so incredibly simple that it makes me feel guilty!  Open one package of frozen hash browns, dump into crock pot, and chop one white onion.  Spread onion across hash browns.  Mix nine large eggs in a bowl, adding pepper, just as if you're going to scramble them.  Pour eggs evenly over hash browns and onions.  Cover with one large ham steak and add lid.  Cook for six hours on high.  Remove lid, add cheddar cheese to top (I put 8 ounces, but you can add more), and cook for an additional half hour.  If you're southern, serve with ketchup.  (I ain't kidding.)

That's it--everything we're making this week in our crock pots.  But the microwave the toaster oven are a different story entirely.....