Black's Cliff Resort's Birch Bark Blog

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

Browsing Posts tagged maple syrup minocqua

Something happened last night and I am not talking about it.  Gonna have a talk with Mother Nature about the unfairness of 70 degree temps in March and then giving us this picture.  Once it hits 70, this picture should not happen again for a long time, it messes with our minds

It causes us to stay inside and boil down the small amount of maple sap we collected this year due to the 70 degree temps.  Last year I think we got about 20 jars of syrup, this year with 10 more taps than last year we got this small amount.  It is not going to last for pancakes until January like last years supply.  Maple syrup this year is as valuable as gold.  It also came out a very dark brown.  Usually it was a honey brown and as the season went, darkened.  Don’t ask me why, just something I noticed and intend on talking with Mother Nature if I ever track her down

Definitely dark color this year

I am happy to report that things in Colorado with Johnny Thompson are going much better than last week.  I thought Johnny might need a reason to get out of his hospital bed this week and decided to send him a little incentive.  It will definitely give him and the nurses and doctors something to talk about when they come in the room to see it.  I suggest to the Thompson family that you all gather around the room when Johnny opens it.  There is no peeking!  Johnny has to open it first.  The ladies that packed it up for me at Trig’s got a bit of a laugh as well and took this picture for me

It hit 40 degrees to day and is freezing at night.  There is a smell in the air that says spring and I had to go take a look at the maple trees.  We tapped a couple of them a couple of weeks ago when it was warm in Mid February just because I did not want to think I was missing something if the trees got going early.  Low and behold, it got cold again and I have not been out to check the trees for a couple of weeks, until today… and you guessed it a very slow drip of maple sap was going into our bag on our best maple tree in front of Muskie Inn on the hill.  It was the best producer last year and the one that started the earliest so I figured it would be a good barometer to tell us when things were starting.  Time to tap some trees!  Dug out of the basement all our maple tree paraphernalia.

Troy already had a trail started over to Eagles Nest because he has been knocking a lot of snow off the satellite dishes the last week or so hoping to get better reception (Sunday night not getting Full Metal Jousting on History channel broke someone’s 12 year old heart in our house..  hopefully with the melting Top Shot comes in tonight or someone may go into withdrawal)  Ohh back to the story of maple syrup and not side tracked on the odyssey of TV reception in the Northwoods..  Mack was blazing the partially cut trail to Eagle’s Nest our honey hole of best producing trees on the resort so far

Troy with the drill, hammer and tap.  Closer picture was not taken due to the fact that the snow was knee deep and maneuvering around in it was like walking in quick sand and I was getting wetter and wetter..

Snow was deep and Troy had the camera to show me slogging through the deep snow.  I think this was his way of getting me to tap the farthest tree and he would not have to walk out that far in the wet heavy snow

After the kids came home from school and we were soaking wet, we decided to let them hang the last 8 taps, but first the holes had to be drilled in the cranberry juice containers we had been saving since Christmas.  Someone could take out his frustration over Full Metal Jousting with a power tool

Setting the taps by Birchwood.

Grant:  Hey mom think this will help me train for Top Shot?  You know next week is the cross bow week with flaming arrows and a moving target, I could do it!

ME:  Grant would you please keep your mind on what you are doing and drill that hole before dinner burns.  I think you had better keep practicing on the red squirrels for awhile

In other news with the snow slowly melting so have the reservations and the cabins are not completely full this weekend and that means on thing, the guys are eyeing up their next project..  Nathan and Jamie Ament start thinking of everything you have ever wanted in Bear Den and read below

Uhh Ohh they have already invaded the kitchen.  New counters were picked out today in a dark green.  But my favorite is below

The new wall back that will be installed in the kitchen for easy cleaning!  Yeah!!  Bear Den usually has all sorts of cooking going on with big groups and sauces flying and fish frying..  This will be my favorite new thing to wipe clean!

The downstairs bathroom ripped apart.  Missing picture because it arrived later in the day is…. Nathan and Jamie prepare yourselves….  this may cost you free tuition for Lawerence University for Jake…  Ok I will settle for a good scholarship…..

A NEW FULL SIZED TUB/SHOWER!!  Bear Den will become the first of our places with 2, yes you heard it here first, 2 tub showers!  YEAH  I can hear the cheers from Appleton now.  How many kids can you bathe at one time with 2 tub showers!  I don’t know and do not intend to find out, but Nathan and Jamie will this summer

The new flooring for the bathroom.  LEts not talk about the small rip that happened in the bottom of it when it was dropped by someone..  I hear that corner is going under the nice big new tub.

Now to figure out if we do something with the flooring in the basement…  New carpeting in the bedrooms..  but what to do with the rest of it

Nathan did we hit all your wish list items?  We know Jamie likes everything as it is no change required.  How will Nathan arrange the house after all this change will be interesting to see

For those snow lovers that tune in for snow conditions, I will be posting pictures tomorrow of the Bearskin and road trail.  I think ski trails will be fine but the snowmobile trails will be the question for the weekend and we will not know til tomorrow when the little bit of rain comes through and things hopefully firm back up for the weekend


I remembered my telephoto today to take a picture of Cliff sliding into the Lake.  The day he sinks is getting closer and closer

Getting ready for summer use of the porches we had these 2 canvases redone.  They last for 30 – 40 years and it was time these 2 were replaced at Shamrock.  We have them specially made at Custom Cover’s and Awnings in Woodruff.  They do great work if anyone is looking for some for their own porches.

We boiled down our 2nd batch of syrup.   This batch turned our much darker than the first one.  No idea why.  We learned with this batch to filter it more often through the cheese cloth so the end result had much less foreign objects in it.  I say they just add to the texture and enjoyment, but Troy was more than happy to see less small floating things in the syrup.  To can them we simply put the heated syrup int he jars, boiled the lids and put them on.  They sealed themselves as they cooled off

Time to do some Maply Syrup Sap cooking.  We had never done this before and were scratchng our heads a bit this morning but got started.  Both Troy and I remember doing it a little as kids but not since.  This is sometimes known as a turkey frying pot but we have made it our big filtering pot for the purpose of Maple syrup today and if we need a 2nd boiling station when the trees really get going

All the sap we have collected so far that we have been storing in Muskie Inn the last few days as the trees have been a bit sluggish starting out

Turkey cooker all ready to go and hooked up

First step is filtering the sap through a cheese cloth into the big turkey pot.  What are we filtering out…. bark, bugs, pine needles and anything else floating around in the sap

Good job for bored kids on a Saturday morning who have been fighting, this causes them to work together instead and before you know it you have a smile or 2 on their faces

Once the pot is full, next step is to pour the filtered sap into our syrup pan.  The syrup pan was bought at Maple Hallow in Merrill about 7 miles off of Hwy 51.  They are a family business that is all about Maple Syrup and they make our little operation look puny in comparison.  If you are thinking about making syrup it is the place to start (just don’t as how much that pan cost…. I love tax returns)  They also sell wonderful maple syrup if you need any.

On to the turkey cooker the pan goes.  The reason we bought this pan is it is just the right size for our small amount of sap, it can go on this LP cooker, or over a fire on cement blocks and also on my kitchen stove if I want to finish it off inside the house.  Why you ask don’t you cook it in the house the whole time?  Do you see the steam coming off the cooker…. unless you want to remove the wallpaper in your house it is not advisable to cook the extra gallons of water off in your house

We are learning as we go.  After this picture was taken at 180 degrees for the water we raised the flame to get it up to 211 and the steam was really rolling!

After getting everything cooking we decided to head out to our newest taps and see what we have collected.  I seem to have a problem going to the hardware store and not returning home with more taps… so instead of buying the holders and bags we have resorted to other containers.  The Cranberry ones are nice because the plastic is nice and thick compared to milk jugs.  Troy found a few of our Cranberry jugs and even emptied out the one in the fridge into a pitcher to come up the remaining containers we needed.  You start tapping trees and you have a hard time stopping it becomes addictive!

even made use of a ice cream container.  Notice the duck tape holding the cracked lid together.  This bucket was over flowing this morning.  We did resort to a few milk jugs as well and they held up just fine

Collecting the remaining sap.  Stay tuned to see how our first batch turns out!

We had a meeting of a group we are going to call Black’s Cliff Alumni Group.  Those that have chosen to put up their own 4 walls and swinging bed in the Northwoods and move up.  Jim and Nancy are the newest members who are enjoying their retirement in the Northwoods and Al an Roberta are trying to find that just right house for them to move up as well.  We have decided we need to have a Alumni picnic this summer and have them all get together to compare notes on enjoying retirement in the Northwoods.  Nancy would like everyone to know she has finally gotten over her fear of being out after dark when it is sooo dark in the Northwoods!  Jim and Nancy had to go out to eat early so they could be home before dark when they first moved up.

We also had our neighbor Matt Drewery stop in on skis to give us Maple Syrup advice.  He lives back in Muskie Bay where he has 200 trees tapped and has a special maple sugar woodstove with a built in sap pan.  I am in sap pan envy.

Time to head home

Matt would like to report the skiing on Lower Kaubashine some of the best of the year.  He had put all their skis away before the big storm last week but decided to get them back out and enjoy some precious last days of skiing.Thanks for stopping in Matt, next time we see you I hope it is by pontoon boat if the lake ever unthaws

The edges of the lake are not showing signs of retreating….  Maybe by July.  More snow in the forecast as far as the eye can see… grumble…. grumble.. grumble..  this will shut down our tree sap collecting

Cliff showing signs of some melting but it looks like he is still frozen in place

What to do while it there is still snow on the ground… time to clean the office..  never know what you will find.  Katie has been looking 5 years for a folder with the Black Family History written down by Martha Black, Maynard’s sister and guess what I found yesterday!  Yeah!!  Pays to clean the office once in awhile.  Also found a rent payment from someone from 2007 under my desk, I guess they got a present of a free vacation that year

The sap is running and this is one way of enjoying what they call “The Sweet Run of Spring”  Many of Grant’s friends tap trees and he is no stranger to enjoying when the sap runs.  He is happy we finally decided to join in.  We only have 15 trees tapped this spring compared with his friend down the road that has 200.

The more polite way of getting a sample of the sap

Collecting our first batch of sap.  We decided to store it for now til we get enough to boil down.  This is when it comes in handy to have a lot of vacant cabins with fridges running

I still have my #%#%# point and shoot camera and this is the best the camera would do taking a picture of the frozen sap this morning.  They call it a sapsicle  I am sure everything will be flowing again this afternoon.  We already have one bag on our best tree 1/3 full from after collecting yesterday.  The trees in the sun on the hillside are flowing best.  The ones in the woods are still a bit sluggish

Called Best Buy again about my smashed camera and told they were waiting for parts from China….  I get my hands on that camera I may never let them off it again..  although I bought a 3 year maintenance cleaning plan for once a year cleaning.  I sent the camera off January 12th for its cleaning…. before it came back smashed and sent back out February 8th…. Grumbling grumbling….

Cliff was not looking to excited when we pulled in the driveway.  If anything he looks slightly depressed at how spring is turning out so far.  Tomorrow we have 13 inches of snow in the forecast.  Will the Northern schools finally call a snow day on Wednesday or atleast cancel track practice?

The edges of the lake were showing some signs of melting but not much

As usual someone else found scratchy ice too much of a temptation to resist a good roll and back scratch.  No quavering so far on heading out on the ice

I think I am ready to see water instead of ice around the docks

There is a lot of ice out there for now.  We saw a truck still out on Lake Katherine on our way into town yesterday

Most of the snow is now gone from the ground

We found our maple sap bags fuller than when we left.  It has been a slow season so far for maple syrup.  We need temps in the 40 – 50’s and nights to go below freezing.  The forecast of the rest of the week is not going to help get it flowing.  13 inches of snow and temps with highs of 33 all week.  I think we are going back to spring break

Coming next…  What was Steve up to while we were gone… and publishing the official ice out list (as soon as I go through 6 days worth of mail)