Black's Cliff Resort's Birch Bark Blog

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


We have been very thankful for a little bubble in the northwoods the last few weeks.  We have kept busy with projects and getting going on spring maintenance.  We do not know what the future holds but we will be ready for it.  We are waiting for direction from the state to know how to operate as summer gets closer.  Stay tuned we have been discussing it and have some ideas to get through this but we are waiting to see how things play out more.  Folks booked into May we will deal with first as the state and health department give us rules and guidelines to go by

We actually are open.  Hotels are an essential business.  We have had a couple of folks each week who are essential travelers who have no choice for their job but have to travel.  One was a gas person who has to test gasoline at gas stations for quality control.  We have been happy to provide them a safe place to stay with complete social distancing and cabins that had not been touched in days for them to feel safe to stay in while they have to work to keep our country rolling.

I also have some friends in the health care field who if they need to shelter away from their families will be coming over by us for a cabin.  No need for that so far thankfully

We will get through this together we just don’t know what the other side will look like so bare with us as we wait to see what to do


In the meantime our little bubble of a family works together to get the resort cleaned up, cause when this is over everyone is going to need some time in the woods to decompress and we will be ready 

These guys are standing around debating what cabin I have clean that they can descend upon and mess up.  Currently they are spread out with projects in 4 cabins.  Projects are our therapy dealing with the current situation and we are happy to have things to work on together.  

Chris Moran is on the right.  He came to visit March 13th and has not left.  His wife Amanda is a grocery store worker in Illinois and is keeping a Kroeger store operating as she helps tell store employees and shoppers to behave themselves.  We applaud you Amanda! and all other essential workers.  My best friend Sue is a pharmacy tech here in Minocqua at Walgreens and hats off to her as well as she begins a 6 day work week that is stressful each day.  These two ladies are just an example of people who are getting the rest of us through this


Meanwhile the rest of us need to help them do their jobs by staying home.  Grant helping us haul leaves in between taking his college classes online at the kitchen counter.  Ben graduates this May and is already looking into come accounting jobs in the central Wisconsin area.  Hoping that works out


Bella part  of our little Black’s Cliff bubble getting a break from her classes and bringing Aunt Jenny and Uncle Troy a cookie while we were raking


Blowing leaves




Lots of clean up ahead.  


The pile of socks that need finishing grows and grows.  Troy and I are making about 3 pair a day late in the afternoon before dinner.  The problem is after dinner I have not been finishing them up as fast as usual because……


The boys have gotten us going on Animal Crossing.  If you need to pass some time on a deserted island that you are in control of that is light and fluffy and virus free may I recommend this game.  Everyone in our family has it including my friend Sue and we have been having island parties exchanging iron ore, ladders and fruit.  The flight over to each others islands is hilarious on DoDo airlines.  Sew up sock toes or…… go walk across a beach looking for clams….  hmmmmmm


When we have time on our hands everyone deals with it different ways.  Steve decided it was time to climb a tree


Back down to collect a chair saw


Up up he goes chainsaw in hand


Vroom Vroom what could go wrong?


Notching the tree just right


Safely back on the ground


Cranking the tree down with a rope


Right where it was supposed to land.  They have developed better aim over the years


Cleaned up and headed to a fire pit 

One day at a time in the Northwoods life goes on


So how is life in the Northwoods you ask?  According to Mack all is well but nobody is here to give him any bacon. He is the most chill member of the family

Minocqua is quiet just take out open for restaurants and the grocery stores are staying stocked of most things.  Walmart gets picked over but they had the car food I needed for my aunt the other day.   I just picked up a coffee curb side from The Great Northern Coffee it is nice to have some normalcy.  Other than that we are working on our projects around the resort just like everyone else staying home and safe and hope everyone else is too


Katie and Bryon stopped by they were biking as couples spaced apart.  Getting outside was healing for everyone


The maple trees are dripping away


We have been filtering off our sap of impurities.  It is clear when it comes off the trees and darkens as you cook it


We did get our outside cooker going over Kaubashine’s fire pit.  We had to dig out the pit.  We were drying off some of the wood around the cooker before adding it in.


When we finish a bath we do it over the stove in the kitchen with a hydrometer


Steve and Chris Moran have been over at Bear Den working away on new windows and paneling  We had all the materials purchased before things happened so they just started building.  


The bear’s ears are perfect for holding paneling for sanding


Bella broke away from her online school class to help Steve pick up stuff outside


Over at Muskie Inn there was another project.  Steve had been eyeing up a door in the Pukall Lumber clearance bin for 6 months.  In February he proudly announced he scored the door for the price he wanted.  So today was door hanging day


Fancy door


Chris Moran giving the door a thumbs way up!


Lots of socks being made.  The shop will be full of lots of new socks this year.  Nice selection of Green Bay Packer Socks


We also take time for fun.  Animal Crossing on Nintendo Switch with our boys is fun.  You set up a virtual island that you live on collecting clams, fishing and making things from wood resources.  The raccoons are in charge of the island and you have to pay them.  Jake in Green Bay is threatening to come to my island from his and chop down my trees to take back to his island.  It is pure escapism and a great way to waste a few stress free hours


Snow is slowly melting


The raft is not covered in snow anymore


One of our good shovels got frozen in the ice.  We tied a rope on it and am waiting to pull it in when the ice melts some more


Shoreline slowly getting darker


Seeing the maple taps in the trees and walking around each day emptying them is my favorite time of day.  This little grove of trees is out by our gate


Stay safe everyone and I will keep the pictures from the Northwoods coming 


Happy to report that we are seeing some open water over where the road meets the lake.  How long till the ducks notice and return?

Just like everyone else we are hunkered down and not moving much beyond getting supplies in town.  Our grocery store has been well stocked 

We are just taking things one day at a time and continuing to work around the resort and keep up a regular routine


I have plenty of laundry soap and everything in the resort is getting an extra clean.  Some of our curtains which I usually send out I am putting through my machine and carefully ironing them.  There may be a few extra wrinkles but thats the way they are going to be this year.  Troy and I have spring cleaned Kaubashine, Shamrock, Birchwood, and Bayview.  We just started on Wildflower today.  Having a regular routine has really helped

Ben and Grant are at home doing their online classes for Saint Norbert and give us dirty looks when we want to turn on music while they are listening to an online lecture.  The gripping about our slow internet has also been on their minds


We are cooking down our 2nd batch of syrup.  The trees are getting ready for their crazy time which keeps us boiling.  When our wood stove gets overwelmed we will move the cooking outside this week


I have spent time trying to figure out my 1893 flat bed knitter.  It has been one step forward and 2 back


I have been finishing up a 5 Christmas Stocking order.  Once I am done with this order if you need any let me know


Someone has no cares in the world and is the most relaxed in the house

He has 2 bags of dog food in storage so he is happy


Now time to melt some more snow and warm this country up.

We hope you and your family are staying safe and big bear hugs are going to be in order this summer and many many parties and moments around campfires that nobody will ever take for granted again


We are keeping things as normal as we can in our little bubble of the Northwoods.  The boys are home from Saint Norbert for a few weeks at least.  Until their online classes start up we are putting them to work at the wood shed.  It is nice to keep a work routine going during these crazy times.  

The grocery stores in Minocqua have seen things run out here and there the usual toilet paper… hand sanitizer… frozen pizzas were the latest I saw disappear.  Holes here and there in the grocery aisles but basically staying stocked ok.  I am guessing we might see the restaurants close to dine ins but have not seen that yet

We are just keeping out little corner of the world operating as normal as we can.   We do have 5 cases of toilet paper from out last toilet paper buy back in December.  Shhh don’t tell anyone


We are starting up the spring cleaning along with the wood chopping.  The cabins will be all sparkly clean soon.  Blanket washing is in full steam ahead. 

One change we have made is we are spacing out our rentals in the cabins for March and April.  I will not be booking them back to back with guests.  We are making sure to have as many days as possible between guests using the cabins.  This will keep everyone including us healthier for March and April.  I am doing extra washing of blankets and pillows as well.  We all work together we will get through this.  

We are thankful of our regular guests as we realize how much everyone needs the peace of the Northwoods during these difficult times.  


Meanwhile we are enjoying some extra time with our boys at home just like everyone else



For all the craziness in the world the resort seems like a haven.  We had several cabins of folks escaping the world for the weekend and enjoying some quiet moments at the cabin.  Also picking up toilet paper at Save More which still amazingly has some.  Happily we still have 5 cases of it in the basement from our toilet paper buy back in December.  Plenty to keep everyone happy while here for awhile


Chris Moran out enjoying a walk to the woodshed.

Better than dealing with lines for hand sanitizer at Walmart


We took a drive out to Winter Park.  The road was shall we say interesting….  frozen ruts for 5 miles…


But pretty scenery along the way


Back at home we had the maple sap cooking on the wood stove.  The first run was good and now we are waiting for it to warm up again for the next run


Storage pots waiting to be filled for more cooking


The basement is full of yarn to keep us busy making socks


We got a couple of sets of race horses ready for our horse racing game that we sell in the office

Best therapy for too much news and trips to the grocery store


Eagerly awaiting spring and a warm up that we hope brings better things for our world


What time is it?  It is time to go ice fishing with grandpa!  Nothing beats a day on the ice with grandma and grandpa


Especially when they know where the fish are biting


Crappie are the best!


A very busy and fun day on Lower Kaubashine.  Thanks to the Martin family for sharing their pictures!


And now it is nap time!


Sunset on Lower Kaubashine after the warm day on Sunday


The first moon reflection on water we have seen in awhile

Happy spring!


Spring has sprung and everyone seemed to feel it and time to get out and enjoy some sunshine

Mack has been hanging out on the lake with the Cikowski crew.  You know the lake is safe when Mack with no encouragement beyond Fritz and his pocket of sausages heads out to the middle of the lake


Off he goes


Whats happening since I was here 15 minutes ago.  Did you find more sausages?


Fish are not as exciting to Mack as they are to Fritz, Jimmy and Tommy


Loving spring!


Our family this weekend headed off fat air biking with Katie and Bryon at the Zipline.  Ben and Ali were home for the weekend


Ready to head down the trail with Katie.  The LAMBO club keeps the trails at the Zipline in tip top shape.  It is like gliding through the woods with the huge tires.  Very fun and perfect weekend to go.  Andy at Chequamagon Adventure company in Min0cqua rents out the bikes if you ever want to try.  Fat Tire biking can be done year round.  The big tires are great for the woods in the summer as well at the winter


They had a fat tire race with 55 entries and Bryon was reading off the winners


Lots to fun!


In other news it was tree tapping time.  Troy and I tapped 43 trees on Sunday.  They are just starting to run and wake up.  Can’t wait to smell sap cooking on the wood stove.  If you make it up in the next couple of weeks you can check out our taps around the resort and cook a little down if you want to try it on the stove


Not hard to do



First bucket of clear sap ready to head to the woodstove


Tory and Steve informed me they were done helping me clean and have turned in their dusters for sanders and have started their first project.  I believe these boards are headed to Bear Den’s bedrooms along with some new windows.  Red Pine’s new bedroom doors are also in Steve’s workshop getting sanded and varnished


Nope I do not want to make beds today in the cabins.  

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In sock news I had this fun picture sent to me by Leslie Urbaniak of my socks at Antartica.  She says here toes are warm as can be in her Sock Shop socks

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Makes me laugh to think of how wide and far my socks have gone.  I know of a few pair in Europe too and some Christmas stockings in Alaska


In other news from the sock shop, Troy and I took some time to get my 1890’s Lamb Vcam flat bed knitter going.  This machine came to me in April as a rusted hunk of junk that had been headed to scrap heap


It has been quite a project getting this old knitter going.  The gold dial is the counter.  When it moves it is amazing to see the craftsmanship in this old machine


It has found a home in our dinning room.  Not sure exactly what I will make with it but just happy to have the old machine working with new life 

Stay tuned to see what comes off it


Mack is slightly disturbed about what might come off the machine.  A new pink sweater to match the scarf


Late February and early March mean one thing.  Time to go ice fishing!  The snow on the lake has melted down a little and it is easier to get around right now and the slushy layer has frozen up.  Time to get the tip ups out. 


Fritz who I usually photograph sitting on a bucket has upgraded this year to a chair.  He had gone up and added another layer and was perfectly happy with his lake view


Mack has a short list of people he no question about it when they are at the resort he is their buddy.  Fritz is one of those people


Ok where are the Sausages? Hmmmm…… I ran out on this cold lake to say his where are the sausages?


Fritz is the best says Mack.  He ranks with Barb Moore, Ruth Grady, Gloria, Chris Moran, Kelsey, and Barb Ellis to name a few of his buddies


Fritz and Jimmy with their lake house


Catch so far plus a tip up that popped but got away


Tools of the trade


Back up the steps for me.  Stay tuned for more fish pics



Winter is still in the Northwoods


Lots of beautiful frozen fog in the trees



Hillside with frost in the trees


We had a family up enjoying their first time in the snow and ice.  Their first trip out on a frozen lake


Hogwarts came to the resort this weekend.  Kaubashine became platform 9 3/4


Bella’s 10th birthday complete with wands and potions


Floating candles


Witches Brew


Magical trips to the septic system


Beware of visitors in the bathroom


After the birthday we headed off to the Photo Gala for the Wildlife Center


We made a few entries in the gala.  Mack made a splash


Along with Penny for your Thoughts


Katie made this entry with her dog Macy peaking at her through the trees


It was fun knowing many of the entries.  My friend Linda had a picture of her Springer right next to Mack.


It was a fun night with lots of people out and tons of great photographs.  Later in the week we will hear the results.  Mack and Penny are not writing their Oscar speeches.