One of us grew up in the UP; the other in Switzerland. We met many years ago in California, carved out careers and a successful life and, in the process, were fortunate enough to build a very nice home in a small village on the San Francisco Bay and, over the years, travel to more than 100 countries. One of our dreams was to build a log and stone home; a retreat to get away from it all. We visited the Upper Peninsula scores of times over the years to spend time with family and, ten years ago, rented a beautiful home on Lake Petticoat to spend a two week summer vacation.
One night, we were paddle-boating around the lake when we spotted a tiny, weathered ‘for sale’ sign on what appeared to be hundreds of feet of rugged shoreline with the forest growing right to the water’s edge. To make a long story short; we purchased the land and set about designing our dream home. On a three week cruise through Asia and around Australia we spent every day at sea by the side of the pool with huge drawing pads and reams of paper designing the home and grounds.
Once we’d completed our plans it was time to find a builder; someone capable of bringing our vision to life. After a few fits and starts we found an incredible local builder with impeccable credentials named Greg Paltzer whose rule was to only work on one home at a time and not even talk about the next project until he’d completed the one he was doing. The first time we shook his hand we knew we’d found the real deal; someone who would build a solid home.
In total, more than twenty-eight different contractors, subcontractors, landscapers, arborists and artisans worked on the home and property. We remain friends with them all; they were true crafts people and immensely proud of their work. For ten years we’ve also worked very hard crafting, digging, hauling and moving hundreds of tons of dirt, gravel, rock, stone and mulch. We have loved every moment of the designing, building and living experience. It’s been a decade and it’s time for the next set of stewards to take the reins of Timber Rock Shore. In the following paragraphs we’ve tried to capture and bring alive some of the magic of our place in the north woods on a private lake.
The Central Location
We love the location of Timber Rock Shore. It’s about 45-50 minutes to Marquette and the same length of time to Houghton and Hancock. Both are University cities with vibrant downtowns filled with great restaurants, art galleries, farmer’s markets, great medical facilities and all the great things that come with being University towns. Between Marquette and Houghton– Hancock are many small villages and towns with great shopping for provisions.
Our favorite weekly trip is into Marquette where we stock up on fresh fish from Thill’s, the local fishmonger, breads from the Marquette Baking Company, local produce from the Marquette Co-Op and top it off with a lunch at one of the scores of great ethnic restaurants including; The Rice Paddy for wonderful Thai food, Elizabeth’s Steakhouse for lunch on the deck, Sol Azteca for great Mexican food, and the Steinhaus for great German-American classics and Sunday brunches.
A great way to spend an entire day is by having breakfast here at the Lake, taking guests on a Pictured Rocks Cruise, booking an early dinner at Elizabeth’s and then walking across Mattson Park for a show at the Lake Superior Theater Company which puts on its summer shows in a working Boat House on the harbor and then driving back to the lake, having a nightcap and sitting on the front porch with our guests talking until the middle of the night.
The Fence, the Gate and Stewardship
In The Mending Wall poet Robert Frost tells the story of two neighbors separated by a stone fence who jointly walk it every year to inspect and repair the damage done by weather and people. In the poem, Frost repeatedly asks the question, “Why do we need a wall? You grow apples and I grow pine and my pines will never come over and eat your apples,” to which the other responds, “Because good fences make good neighbors.” We agree.
A fence isn’t only about security (the darn deer don’t even seem to know there is one) as much as a daily reminder that we’ve agreed to be responsible for and take care of the property under our stewardship. The gate and stone pillars do provide security but more importantly provide privacy. When the gates are open (and they often are) neighbors know they’re welcome. When the gate is closed it’s because we’re working, relaxing or enjoying private time with family. The gate also provides peace of mind when we’re away.
Lots of people want a straight shot from the paved road to their lake place. It probably makes snow removal a little easier but we wanted a long, meandering driveway that provides a foretaste of what’s to come. Slowly driving down the driveway you pass pines, ferns, maple, birch and oak and every few feet you’re provided a peek through the trees of what’s to come. “Is that a garden and fireplace on the right,” you wonder but you’re not too sure. “Is that the lake,” but again you’re not too sure. “What a big log home that is,” but, again, you’re not too sure. The driveway is like a slow reveal of a beautiful picture.
See the gorgeous light poles lining the drive? Each was designed to minimze any light pollution while casting a beautiful soft down light on the driveway.
The Front Porch
Who would have guessed that the front porch would become our favorite go to place to relax and spend time? With its antler chandelier, massive log columns, a cast stone floor, rustic wooden furniture (including a rocker of course) all crafted in the Adirondacks the porch faces the huge, lush lawn, is watched over by a towering totem pole that doesn’t miss a trick and has a clear view of the vegetable gardens, outdoor fireplace and the northern bay.
There’s plenty of time during the day to enjoy our lake view but the front porch has become the place for steaming mugs of coffee and the newspaper in the early morning and a sundowner at the end of the day. If the morning or evening is chilly there are two patio heaters and homemade wool knit Afghans to keep you toasty warm.
The Fire Pit
Shortly after construction of the home and running a little over budget we decided we needed a fire pit and opted to do it ourselves. Down by the dock our Excavator/Artisan Extraordinaire Rudy Goupille had moved several huge boulders as big as small cars creating a nifty semicircle and it was in front of the protective wall of rocks that we started digging. A few feet down we hit a solid sheet of rock that would become the bottom of the fire pit. To our good fortune we discovered that underground channels of air created a perfect draft for the fire pit. It lights easy, burns long and burns to ash every time. We can’t begin to count the number of late night fires down by the lake where, accompanied by groups of family and friends, we tell tall tales and stories, catch-up, reminisce and enjoy roasting marshmallows on the ends of sticks.
From the moment we bought Timber Rock Shore we kept looking at a piece of land on the northern bay which sits a few feet lower than the rest of the property and wondered what we could do with it. It also receives all day summer sun from morning until evening. Eventually we cleared the huge rocks, leveled it and built three large raised garden beds out of logs like the house. In order to keep deer out of the gardens each bed was outfitted with a fence that easily rolls back for weeding and harvesting. These garden beds provide a summer’s bounty of strawberries, green beans, lettuce, Swiss chard, onions, cabbage and potatoes. Down in the basement we’ve built a bin to keep our potatoes and onions fresh all winter long.
It’s hard to explain the pleasure of hosting a big Christmas dinner and serving food, including the world’s best mashed potatoes, that you grew yourself. The 2015 potato harvest was great and some of the spuds weighed in at 1.5 pounds; great for baking, mashing or cutting up and steaming with some chopped Swiss chard. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the picnic tables that the state of Michigan had in all the state parks and rest areas. Each weighed hundreds of pounds, was beautifully stained and finished and nobody was going to make off with one of the state’s picnic tables. We asked our contractor Greg if he could build one for us and, as always, he over delivered and exceeded expectations. It’s massive and sits between the garden boxes; a perfect place for a crisp glass of cool white wine and a salad made from ingredients harvested moments before and dipped in a fresh bowl of ice water to rinse off the sand and topped with a balsamic reduction. You will never taste a salad as fresh and delicious as one from the garden.
The Outdoor Fireplace and Oven
Within a couple of years we realized the garden boxes and picnic table were a little lonely by themselves and what they needed was a giant outdoor fireplace and oven for making pizzas and baking bread. We drew a picture of what we wanted, called Greg and asked him if he could build it. Sadly, he explained, he’d recently had major reconstructive knee surgery and probably couldn’t help us out. The eventual workaround was to have him be the foreman and the two of us the workers and over the course of a summer we rented a mini-excavator, dug down four feet to bedrock, framed the base and mixed 16,000 pounds of concrete just to get us to ground. Then we built an eleven foot tall fireplace out of concrete brick, faced it with stone and mortar and had a great local steel fabrication company make the grills, doors and frame. Weighing in at 56,000 pounds not even two dueling moose will ever move this stone. But, then the real test came. How would it burn? We lucked out. Fill the firebox with fallen hardwood from the property, light a match and stand back; the oven fires to 500 degrees in a very short time.
There’s no greater enjoyment than buying fresh Italian Sopresso and Pepperoni from Ralph’s Delicatessen and slicing it thin, sautéing lots of sliced onions finished off with a hit of Balsamic, thinly slicing a few gently baked potatoes, cleaning handfuls of fresh basil, thinly slicing big, juicy Michigan field tomatoes from Spiessel’s Tented Market and putting out a generous bowl of one of Timber Rock Shore’s signature dishes Slop Sauce (a combination of ground beef, pork, garlic, onions, chopped spinach, finely chopped mushrooms simmered for hours in red wine) and giving each guest their own round of pizza dough and letting everyone create their own pizza masterpiece. Pizzas take about five minutes for a crisp crust. During one late night pizza party in the summer of 2014 my brother and sister-in-law, who own a great place on neighboring Beaufort Lake, suggested we should all head to their place for a midnight pontoon ride to witness the Super Moon. And, so with thirty year old classics from the Rolling Stones blasting away, and all of us singing the words, we made our midnight cruise. These are the memories that take place routinely and on the spur of the moment at Timber Rock Shore.
Timber Rock Shore has been blessed with an abundance of wild blueberry plants growing near the shore. To that we’ve added loads of cultivated blueberry plants and this past summer we had a bumper crop again. Image how wonderful it is to be able to wake up in the morning, don a pair of gardening shoes, walk a few feet away and fill up a big bowl with fresh blueberries for your breakfast. This is one that truly blows guests away.
The Wonderful Foods
We cook and bake all the time and the kitchen at Timber Rock Shore is equipped with every top of the line appliance, cutting, trimming, mixing and mincing device known to man. And, four different sets of beautiful dishes make every offering a delight to gaze upon. One of the favorite dishes created here are Whitefish Cakes, born out of necessity when a shipment of crab for Crab Cakes didn’t arrive on time. We call them Confetti White Fish Cakes and they are a showstopper and simple.
Begin by taking one half of a green, yellow, and red pepper and several chopped green onions and gently pulse until very finely chopped. This is your confetti. Next, remove the skin from two pounds of whitefish filets, cut the filets into small pieces and pulse very gently in the food processor a few times. Remove the pulsed fish, to it add the confetti, one whole egg, one large dollop of mayonnaise, one cup of roughly chopped several-day old bread and mix well. Then, prepare two bowls; one with two beaten eggs and the other with homemade, dried bread crumbs that have been pulsed in the food processor. Form small cakes with your hands, dip in the egg mixture and then dip in the breadcrumbs and place in a large, medium hot frying pan that has about an 1/8th inch of hot oil. Fry until golden brown (about three minutes on each side) and remove to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and kept in a warm oven (175) until you’ve completed all the crab cakes. Create a tartar sauce using homemade or Hellman’s Mayonnaise, lemon juice, some sweet relish and a few red pepper flakes and your guests will be amazed.
There aren’t many nicer pleasures than grabbing the occasional nap and Timber Rock Shore has lots of places to settle down with a fat Sunday newspaper or a great book and read one’s self into a gentle sleep. There’s a towering rock fireplace in the Great Room where you can get a big enough blaze going to warm the entire house and the leather sectional sofa is a great place to read and nap. In designing the huge leather sofa we put the shiny side down (it’s no fun napping and sliding around on cold shiny leather) and put the warm, soft suede side up. The only thing that can make a nap there better is to have a football game you aren’t really interested in in the background for some ambient noise. Upstairs in the loft is another wonderful soft leather sofa that’ll cause you to fall asleep in minutes but the hands down favorite for one of us is the long, padded bench in the gabled window of the upstairs guest room where you can prepare for your nap by watching huge snowflakes gently float to earth; it’s almost hypnotic.
Imagine taking a long winter’s nap in front of a roaring blaze
We’re kayakers, hikers, swimmers, and snowshoers and lovers of wildlife and if you love those things too you won’t find a better place. It takes about an hour to kayak around the lake, there are trails for hiking and four wheeling everywhere, doing the lake on snowshoes is great fun and you will see moose, deer, bear, eagles, bobcats, wolves, foxes and birds of every size, shape and color. Here’s a picture we included on our Christmas Card one year Fallen Wood – For us there’s no greater sense of wellbeing than being self-sufficient and that comes to the wood for the indoor fireplace, fire pit and the garden fireplace/oven. Each year we lose one or two trees of natural causes ( they’re always replaced by younger, heartier trees) and it’s great fun to clean the forest floor of fallen debris, chop up (or have chopped up) the fallen trees and maintain several piles of firewood around the property which we tarp in the wintertime.
Petticoat Lake is a private lake which means that it can only be accessed by its owners; there is no public access. We have an association that governs the lake and almost every homeowner belongs but it isn’t compulsory. The great thing about the association is that nobody has been able to locate a copy of the bylaws for years. Once a year everyone on the lake gets together for a potluck lunch – some of these people can really cook- and following lunch the President calls the business meeting to order. The big discussion every year is about what kind of fish to plant and how much to spend planting them. The great freshwater sunfish; the Crappie, has been wining in recent years and most years a couple thousand are planted. Association members maintain the boat dock on a voluntary basis and each year we generally hold a Rock bass Tournament to see how many of these ugly little fish we can get of the lake. Last year’s tournament was cancelled because we might finally have been successful in our efforts to eradicate them.
The only other rule of the association is that jet skis, water skiing and speed boats are limited to the hours between 11:00 AM and 7:00 PM and everyone complies. The only other activity scheduled by the Association is the annual 4th of July Boat Parade which takes place at 7:00 PM. All the pontoon boats, fishing boats, kayaks and canoes gather in a grand procession that circles the lake two times tooting their horns and waving to any landlocked neighbors or people who chose to watch from shore. It’s also a tradition for owners to set off fireworks on the 4th of July. Get this. Membership in the association is an overwhelming $50 a year although sometimes they request a few extra bucks like when we put in the new dock.
The Michigamme Market
As tempting as it is to never leave Timber Rock Shore the truth is that most days we make a quick trip to the Michigamme Market. They have at least one of almost everything and what greater indulgence could you enjoy on a hot summer day than a dip of Apple Pie ice cream by the famous local Jilbert Dairy. The Market is ten minutes away if you go the long way and five miles less if you take what the locals call, The Summer Road. The Summer Road would be more aptly named the Winter Road because in the summer your car gets dusty and we avoid it. Who wants a dusty garage? It’s a private, peaceful, solid, near perfect home and living experience for someone who lives to be a good steward in all they do, who is quick to laugh and smile, who loves to entertain but also be alone and private. Timber Rock Shore is what dreams are made of.
Timber Rock Shore isn’t a building or a place; it’s remarkable and rewarding living for discerning stewards who get ‘it’.
Timing is everything and you’re in luck. Very motivated sellers who need to take advantage of an amazing international opportunity own it now. It can be yours.