Sara Beth + Daniel Casburn
words SARA BETH CASBURN
the winter of 2020 was the first “off season” of farming for the me and my husband, Daniel. We took a fun trip to Spain, were planning to move to Maine in the spring, visited family in Nebraska and went on an impromptu stay at a homestead in the Sierras of Mexico, which was cut short by COVID. We moved to Maine because of our intent to farm. After some complications of living in a barn loft we realized we needed to find a more steady path. This was the start of finding our niche at Windsor Chairmakers.
Once we made the decision to move on from the farm, we would go camping to see where we might want to settle. We were staying at Camden Hills that weekend. I really can’t overemphasize how rough we were feeling in appearance and spirits. Daniel had been a woodworker since childhood so we boldly approached shops in the area to ask if they were hiring. After getting multiple no’s, Daniel got an interview with Mike Timchak, owner of Windsor Chairmakers in Lincolnville. The feeling I had when Daniel walked back to the car saying Mike offered him a job was indescribable.
I have heard it described that farming clings to some people and unexpectedly it did cling to me. Farming is physical work. It is work that produces something intimate for people. The collaboration you do with others to get projects done or to sell the produce is unifying. I tried to push away the excitement for the approaching 2021 growing season as I had a position at a small retail shop in Belfast. But I cannot lie: The day Daniel was offered a job I was sitting out by the car imagining one day asking to start a farm there. I was pleasantly surprised a few months later when one of our friends and Daniel’s co-worker was starting Windsor Farmstead.
I only offered to help, not wanting to leave my stable job. It felt like I was holding my breath, anticipating that things would unfold in exciting ways but not rushing into it. Daniel and I interviewed over a dozen farms in the beginning and from what we learned, farming is not something you can just wing and still be happy about it. The situation needs to be right, you have to be relatively prepared if you want the farm to be sustainable not just for the environment, but also for the person.
daniel and I felt so content with his position at Windsor Chairmakers it allowed us to buy a house in the spring. For the fourth time that year we took countless trips with our Nissan Rogue and started an intense two-month stint living in dust and disarray during some big home renovations. Then, the opportunity arose to take over the Windsor Farmstead. Between my other job and our house projects I could only offer one day a week.
In the first month working on the Windsor Farmstead, I spent most of my time clearing brush and digging up roots. We explored no-till for making the beds and I anticipate digging deeper into that practice. To ensure a smoother start next season, I have committed my energy to set up infrastructure like a greenhouse, groundhog-proof fencing and the building that will be the farm stand. We hope to one day share sourdough bread, flowers, homemade knits or home-sewn items, soap, milk or eggs and vegetables, of course.
Daniel and I have been chasing after what we love to do: working with our hands to create beautiful, timeless things—whether that be an heirloom tomato or a Windsor chair. We are ecstatic beyond measure that we passed by Windsor Chairmakers and called them on a whim. Between our up-and-coming homestead and Windsor Farmstead it is so exciting to see all the puzzle pieces coming together. Our belief is that farming and woodworking are arts that must be continued. We are grateful for the opportunity to embrace that at Windsor Chairmakers and Farmstead.
words + photography MIKE TIMCHAK, owner Windsor Chairmakers
for 34 years I’ve been coming from our home in Lincolnville Center to the place I call my second home, Windsor Chairmakers. I’ve seen many changes in the layout and use of the property over that time, from flower gardens with a weavers’ shed, a pasture and cow paddock that was home to several Highland cows, to a small vegetable garden with communal plantings by our crew. Over the last few years, my wife, Jana, and I wanted to start a working produce garden to share with our crew and to sell to the public. Thus, the thoughts for Windsor Farmstead were germinated.
Jana had been maintaining the existing flower gardens on the Windsor property since Ruth Rothrock, our long-time gardener, retired. We kept eyeing the old cow paddock with thoughts of making it more pleasing to look at for our visitors, as well as turning it into a productive piece of land.
Then came March 2020 with the onset of COVID and having to close our showroom for an indeterminate period of time, as well as all the other unknowns that every business owner had to adapt to. We had to scramble to meet new working restrictions, to keep everyone safe and to ensure that we could meet our customers’ expectations in a reasonable time frame, while working within the new mandated parameters.
We threw all sorts of ideas around at the start of COVID, trying to plan for the unknowns. Part of that thinking was making the most out of every foot of space we had available to us. We started thinking seriously about what kinds of things we could add to our business and the garden kept growing in our thoughts.
When COVID restrictions started to ease, we revisited plans for the paddock as an addition to our 18-room farmhouse showrooms and workshop. The thinking being, we might have restrictions on the number of folks that could be allowed in the showroom or shop at any time and to occupy them while waiting to see our furniture and workshop, it would be great to utilize the property in a productive way as well as add to its beauty.
last summer Jana and I discussed plans for moving forward with the paddock improvement, thinking about things we would like to grow and what type of look we wanted to have for the future Windsor Farmstead. We have always had a small garden in the backyard of our 1790 Cape home, so it would be a matter of expanding on the types of things we like to eat out of our kitchen garden and adding flowers that could be cut for Jana’s showroom table vase bouquets and having some things for sale.
The pandemic, as it turns out, was a boon for our business and probably most folks that are makers. The result of this upswing in business was that we needed more help in the shop.
About early September, Sara Beth and Daniel Casburn contacted me about any openings we might have. Daniel came in and we thought he would be a perfect fit for our shop and I offered him a job. We talked to Sara Beth about a position as well, in a part time capacity as she had found a regular position in a Belfast shop.
While we hired Daniel to train in our shop to be a furniture maker, his and Sara Beth’s previous experience in farming was in the back of our minds. The two of them are truly amazing young people. Their work ethic, creativity and inventiveness show in every aspect of their lives together. It’s a pleasure to witness. Daniel has become an outstanding chair maker and has fit into our shop family like he was always here. Sara Beth is a breath of fresh air. With a dedication that is inspiring, she has taken on the bulk of the work transforming the paddock into a working and beautiful garden. Daniel has taken down the old cow shed, repurposing the materials, along with building trellises and other garden structures to move planting along.
Sara Beth, Jana and I have discussed the expansion of the Windsor Farmstead over the next few years with the goal of possibly adding small livestock, but mostly to be a produce-growing concern and a visually pleasing place for our customers to enjoy as part of their visit to Windsor Chairmakers.
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