Black's Cliff Resort's Birch Bark Blog

The projects, chores, and life of a family-owned, Northern Wisconsin resort.


The lake is very quickly heading to ice out.  The darker it gets the closer it gets to open water


The raft is floating free today of its ice winter home


View off the hill today of the darkening lake.  The small pond by Save More Grocery store is ice free today it is always the lake that opens first


Troy blew through 4 fill ups of gas in the leaf blower today cleaning up the leaves


Looks so much better after he went through


We were also spring cleaning cabins.  This drawer of Scrabble games in Muskie makes me think of Jack and Char who would always have a game going on the table when they stayed.  I happily organized the loose Scrabble game drawer thinking of them.  Certain games in each cabin bring memories of the family that enjoys each.  The loose ping pong balls in the drawer above the Scrabble drawer I also know who left and happily left them to be found again this summer on a hot night in July with red Solo Cups


Troy and I happily ended our maple syrup season canning 6 gallons of syrup.  Unfortunately we had some bad sap at some point that effected the flavor of the sap but we canned it anyway it is better than the stuff the call syrup in the store


I also spent some time working on one of my sock machines I will be putting for sale  I oiled and cleaned this 1924 machine,  It turns like a trooper.  I will have it ready to go in a week or so.  I will be selling it with a lesson in how to make socks if interested let me know.  I will have 4 machines for sale during the year as I get them oiled and cleaned


I also had new arrivals for the Gift Shop.  These graphite fire lighters arrived.  You strike them for a spark to get the fire going


We also had these great marshmallow cookers arrive.  They spread out to cook as many marshmallows as you can get on them over the fire


These more traditional marshmallow cookers arrived as well


I also have them in the longer variety


Puggie Pie irons will also be in the shop

Stay tuned I have a few more items arriving along with new sweatshirts and T shirts.  I am picking out the new logo this week


Reggie the bunny was hoping around the resort this weekend.  He is 50 years old and follows the Jensen family where ever their Easter plans take them through the generations.  This year it brought him to Muskie

IMG_8897 (1)

Lots of Easter resort fun as well with the Martin Family who had quite the egg hunt around the resort


While on an egg hunt through you have to take time for the important things


And of course stopping to pet Mack who was enjoying the warm Easter sun


We also had some Loons up who thought they fit The Loony Bin sign well


We had a house full as well of friends up enjoying our first meal on the deck.  Everyone enjoyed the warmer temps, good food and even better friends


As we cooked off the last of our maple syrup there were many suggestions on how to make it cook faster.  You can’t have 3 guys around a fire and not have suggestions on what to do.  In the end the longer stove pipe with a damper was a good improvement and we will be ready for next sap season

The majority of sap is cooked down.  We are now finishing it off in the house the next couple of days.  I think this is going to be a banner year for syrup


Sunday afternoon the lake is getting more and more open.  We may just make that May 4th fishing opener



With warmer temps this week we have spotted our first open water.  I am sure the ducks are not far away.  Temps going to 65 on Saturday will get things really moving along melting


I caught Penny down on our side of the lake looking forlornly at her swimming hole.  It will be a few more days before we get open water on our side


At least the beach steps are clear of snow.  They need a good sweeping.  Spring clean up starts as soon as we get a little drier weather


This week has been all about spring cleaning.  The guys were supposed to be shampooing carpets, dusting and washing windows.  Instead they found a couple of projects.  The curtains in Red Pine open the correct way now and there just might be labels on the confusing switches in Red PIne stay tuned


The maple trees are finally done running.  We have a huge back log of sap waiting to be cooked squirreled away in pots in snowbanks, and fridges all over the resort keeping it cool until we can cook it down.  Right now we are cooking it as fast as we can four different ways.  From the wood stove above


Kitchen stove.  Notice the color difference between the pots.  The one on the left has thicker syrup in it more concentrated it is brown under all that foam just like the pots on the wood stove a rich brown.  The pot on the right is the clean sap that is not very concentrated.  I used fresh sap in that pot when I started it up.  People are so surprised that maple syrup comes from clear liquid that looks like water.  As you cook it down that is where the brown color comes from


Our outside cooker in the rain.  A steady rain had us scrambling to keep the fire going.  Yes I moved the cardboard box after this picture.

My favorite way of cooking is on the wood stove it is just not the fastest when you have a lot of sap.  We should have a good supply once it all cooks down.  


The snow is getting thinner and thi



We are slowly melting the snow from the big storm last week.  Hopefully the resort looks less white in a few days.  We have warmer temps and rain headed our way and that should hurry up the melting.  I think Steve is taking the plow off for the last time this week.  Hopefully that is a good sign.


I was not taking the steps to the beach for lake pics this morning.  It was slippery and snow covered and I did not want to break my ankle.  So no beach pics till the steps are clearer


I shot this picture from the top of the steps.  The lake should be much darker in a few days when the rain comes in


I had the chance to purchase 5 sock machines last week.  They arrived and I am sorting them out.  That brings my total machines to 10   4 of them will be going for sale as soon as I get them oiled up and cleaned.  The one in the middle of the picture I am going to keep it is from 1893 – 1897 it will be on display in my office as my oldest sock machine.  The one in the box in the back of the picture is a treasure.  It is at Lamb flat bed machine from 1870’s I will also be keeping that one and hopefully have it knitting this summer.  


This is one of the 4 that will be going for sale.  It is a Gearhart from probably 1914 – 1920ish.  If interested in the knitting machines send me a message.  I do not know pricing on them yet until I see how many ribbers, cylinders and dials each one will have.  When I sell them I will also give a lesson in how to use one and make a sock.  They will be in the 1000 dollar range depending on how many accessories each has.  These machines were headed to a scrap heap until the owner of them saw my article in the Our Wisconsin magazine and called me with the collection his dad had in the garage in Milwaukee 


Hopefully this scene with snow is gone soon and campfires come back

I have just listed June 1 – 8th remaining cabins can be booked nightly I have Wigwam, Norway and Eagles Nest open check out for prices or call 715 356 3018 details under availability.  If you are taking the end of the week I just ask you book it through departing on the 8th not the 7th with a 3 night minimum

We do still have Blackwood 2bdr  open Jun 17 for 4 nights leaving the 21st and July 28th – August 2 for 5 nights

Bear Den 4 bdr is open July 26 – August 2nd at 2700/week up to 10 people


Snow melting slowly away.  

For the past 2 weeks I have been dealing with computer key board problems.  My computer went to visit the Apple gurus in the mail and all is well again.  I can type 9’s all day now.  Before I had keys acting up all the time.  I had tried to update the blog with my iPad but it was not sizing the pictures right as you can see in the previous blog entry


Troy and I spent last week in Cape Girardeau Missouri at the largest sock machine convention in the world.  187 crankers descended on The Cape for 5 days of meeting people and playing with our machines


Here is one of the oldest machines in the country with a wooden cylinder dating back to around the civil war.  There are only 4 of these machines known to exist in the country


Beautiful old machine from the 1900’s


The machining that went into this is amazing all gear driven from again the early 1900’s


I learned how to make Christmas balls on the machines.  Now to go home and experiment


It was great to meet some fun new people but time to get back to the woods


You know you are back in Wisconsin when there is a drive through for beer and cheese


Back at home stopped by to see how Bear Den is progressing.  It is rented on Friday….


King bedroom looking better and better.  On the ceiling is the wires for the ceiling fan that will be installed soon


The old blanket/closet area looking much better!


Downstairs with a coat of varnish on the back wall.  Waiting on the air hockey game that is going to take till next week to arrive


In the meantime Troy has Pac Man and Gallaga to put together


Stairway to the basement 


New bathroom door waiting on a door handle

Stay tuned for finished pics










IMG_8734IMG_8692Troy and I just returned from our final little spring trip before getting in to spring clean up of the resort.   We left spring like Missouri to return to snow still on the ground.  The lake is slowly turning colors   I will post tomorrow Steve’s updates on Bear Den


We went to the largest sock machine gathering in the country and maybe the world in Cape Girardeau Missouri where one of 2 sock knitting machine companies are.  My red machine was made here in 2015 and they make about 10 machines a week and have a 2 month waiting list to get a machine.  187 sock knitting people signed up and came to the event.

IMG_8705I had a lot of fun meeting other sock knitters like Heidi who was having fun making her first sock on my 1924 machine.  She just got her own antique machine and was at the convention to get it tweaked by the mechanics and learn how to use the machine.  Some people have antiques some buy new machines and some like me have both

IMG_8715this is Pete Oswald working on getting an old machine going.  Pete is a wiz at the old machines and has helped me out of a few jams

IMG_8713A beautiful fingerless glove pattern I learned and want to try

IMG_8729All good things must come to an end as we drink wine and shake dice for who wins the huge bag of sock yarn.  

It was fun but time to get back to the north and a few piles of snow.  We have 9 to 15 inches of snow predicted for Thursday into Friday.  Winter is not over yet


Winter has not quite let go of the Northwoods.  We had flurries yesterday and temps not cracking 32.  Everything is slowly melting.  We have been busy fixing and cleaning things indoors and getting ready for the busy spring season.  We used to say Memorial Weekend was the beginning of the season but each year we seem to be getting busier and busier in the early part of May so April becomes our month to get things done and ready


I spent part of the week redoing the cabins books.  Taking out restaurants that are closed, adding in some fun side trips Steve has gone on and updating some fun new pictures in the books.  Pursue through them when you are at the resort you might now some of the characters in the pictures especially on the fishing page


My friend Sue and I spent a day cleaning and reorganizing the office and rec-room.  We have some fun new items in the shop like mugs, dice cups, nature books, soaps, loon tunes, loon flutes, campfire forks and hats coming.  It was fun to move things around and get the place spiffed up


More is coming and we have room for it


Empty spots will not be open for long

I forgot to take a picture of Steve and Bellas’s most awesome jump ropes.  They are making and selling in the shop the best jump ropes for kids.  


The rec room got moved around a little and it is not done yet


We made space for our new video games.  Pac Man, Centipede and Rampage will be a fun addition to the room


We have already had our first guests out enjoying the games.  These guys eyes lit up when they saw the vintage video games.   These games are going to be a fund raiser for the Northwoods Wildlife Center.  We will put a donation box in the room for guests who enjoy the games to make a donation to the Wildlife Center.  The games are not coin operated.  We thought this was a great way of supporting the efforts of the Northwoods Wildlife Center.


The guys have been busy working inside at Bear Den.  It is rented April 12th so they have til then to get the king bedroom done.  The upstairs queen room may have to wait till November.  A ceiling fan and wall lights by the bed on either side are coming this week.  Knotty pine paneling will cover two of the walls,  They other two walls will have to wait until later for new windows and more knotty pine paneling. Just happy to get the dark paneling off these walls.  It should be much lighter when they are done


New upstairs bedroom and bathroom doors

Go on Black’s Cliff Facebook page for the video of what happened to the old doors.  It is pretty funny


The old stairs got a facelift


The back was of the rec room finally got paneling.  We had boarded up an unused fireplace when we bought the house not needing a big fireplace downstairs but never finished the paneling.  Soon to come will be the Pac Man and Gallaga video games and a new air hockey table.  Ping pong is being retired


Back at the resort we are probably in the final week of the maple sap run.  Trees will probably be done by Saturday when we go to 60 degrees.  We are ready to finish cooking the final batch as soon as the trees unthaw from their latest freeze up.  Unthaw…..  I just discovered after using this word my entire life that it is a regional word.  Nobody outside of the upper mid west says “I am going to take the brats out of the freezer to unthaw them”  I had not idea until it was pointed out to me that unthaw is not a word.  Now here is the question how many reading this have suddenly realized like me they have been saying this for years…..  an equal amount if not more people reading this will say of course it is not a real word except in Wisconsin.  Then again if they life anywhere else and say “I thaw my brats” they probably are not eating good Wisconsin brats, so I will proudly unthaw my Wisconsin brats when I take them out of the freezer


Beach path “unthawing” slowly



I see lots of stressed out people arrive at the resort who just want to unplug from technology, phones and traffic.  You have so much more come at your these days.  Today I had to deal with my computer which the nine button has decided to not work.  Periodically my key board decides to throw me for a loop.  Usually I just have to bang on the key for a week or so and then it works again and another one acts up.  Apparently after being on the phone with Apple Care it is a common problem they fix for free on my computer.  So after talking with them for an hour today I then tried to send a document to the printer.  Long story short it involved 2 trips to town because I needed to convert it to a PDF…. I know this is easy peasy for most but I do not do a lot of file conversions.  After all that going back to my maple trees and collecting my maple sap was a much needed break from the day


Figuring out how to keep maple sap cool in a snowbank is so much more enjoyable than remembering what email address you used on your iCloud to back it up.  It also does not require the nine key on your computer.


I did have to figure out how to get in Eagles Nest’s front door today which is still snowed in.  We shoveled off the roof a month ago and it needs a lot more melting 

If you are interested in staying in Eagles Nest we had a cancelation June 1 – 8th at nine20/week.  See there are ways around using the nine button


Steve and Troy were plugging away at projects at Bear Den.  The King room was getting a partial make over.  Knotty pine paneling is coming in and a ceiling fan.  Steve had a nine day like me in dealing with the electric plug ins in Bear Den.   Thankfully everyone should enjoy the plug ins working better but Steve did have a few choice words to say about them


New flooring coming in


The basement is looking good with its floor done.  The air hockey game is coming by May 1 and I just picked up a Galaga game 


So if you too need a break from nine’s, converting files and traffic you know where to come.  The lake is slowly melting away


We are starting to see signs of melting.  The lake is slowly changing color around the edges and the beach has been spotted under all the snow.  July still seems a long way off


With all the melting it is uncovering all the branches that came down in the ice storms this winter.  We are going to have quite the spring clean up when everything melts.  Snow is still about a foot deep through the resort


The maple trees have really got going.  The clear sap boils down to the brown syrup over time.  We have just started cooking it down and the smell of maple is through our house.  Hopefully we get a week of good say runs


My gnome creator stopped in and was quite creative.  These will be headed out to the gift shop.  


The guys have been busy over at Bear Den.  The basement is moving along.  Air Hockey should be delivered in a couple of weeks.  The rec room is coming together


They continued the flooring upstairs in the bathroom and entrance way


Next week Steve will be taking on the king room.  He is putting knotty pine over the dark paneled walls and closet.  The painted walls are staying for now…  If he has time the queen room might get something or it might have to wait.  They have until April 12th and then they have to be done.  Nice to see another part of the 70’s leave Bear Den


They keep filling the truck with new stuff and garbage


We returned home to some definitely warmer temps.  This squirrel was soaking up the warmer rays in the trees.  There is still a lot of snow and ice to melt but it is slowly going away


While we were gone Steve and Chris Moran put in 14 new counters around the resort along with sinks and faucets.  I have found some of them but still being surprised walking in cabins to the new changes.  This new counter was for Bear Den’s bathroom.  We also had Red Pine zoned for heating while we were gone.  The basement did not have heat control before just had heat when the upstairs was turned on.  Now it has a 2nd zone in the basement and we hope folks enjoy that.  Red Pine also got some fireplace work which I did not get a picture of.  We took off the glass doors.  I can’t wait to see it


Steve was also in the door buying mode.  The upstairs bedrooms in Bear Den are all getting new doors.  The thin 70’s doors are on the way out

He has til April 12th to have Bear Den and Red Pine changes done as they are rented that weekend.  I am at work on Rec Room games for Bear Den making it a true place for families to have fun.  Pac Man anyone?


Back to the melting.  We do still have snow but significantly less


You know the lake is safe due to Mack going out on it without hesitation


Raft and boats are slowly appearing from under all the snow


Still a lot of ice out there.  Warm temps this week should do a lot to start the lake turning darker colors.  The maple trees have just started flowing and we have sap cooking on the wood stove.  Hopefully we get a good season for sap and it does not warm up too fast


Back to melting

I am continuing through April to offer lower rates on our larger cabins at 165/night for up to 4 on all of the 3bdrs.  The regular 2 bdrs are at 135/night and Birchwood at 155.  Come on up and watch the lake melt with us.  

After being in all the hassle and bustle of traffic and freeways to the south and crowds it makes you appreciate the quiet and uncrowded Northwoods in March and April.  We may not have warm beaches in Spring but we have a lot of everything else to relax and unwind with