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The Untold Truth Of Big Timber's Sarah Fleming

When the Canadian, logging-themed reality series "Big Timber" first moved from History (where it debuted in 2020) to Netflix this past summer, it seemed an unlikely hit. Fairly immediately, though, the fascinating occupational show joined the ranks of various genre cousins such as "Deadliest Catch" and "Wicked Tuna," and ended up in Netflix's Top 10. Whether it's the fact that shows such as this derive most of their drama from things that are actually dramatic (e.g., attempting not to capsize on the open ocean, or, in the case of "Big Timber," the dangerous mechanics involved in logging on the side of an enormous mountain), or the notion that audiences are always hungry to learn about experiences and lifestyles that so sharply contradict their own, it's nonetheless impressive that "Big Timber" managed to climb the Netflix trend rankings in short order. Even more so when you consider that the series has to navigate a major social media obstacle — namely, that Big Timber is also a highly Instagrammable destination in Montana. 

With Season 2 set to premiere on History on October 14th (via Instagram), fans of the "little big logging show that could" are still waiting to hear if Netflix will also pick up the show's second season. For now, audiences will have to content themselves with learning more about the charismatic crew and family behind Wenstob Timber Resources on Vancouver Island, including the woman (yes, woman) who keeps the sawmill running, Sarah Fleming. 

Sarah is the unsung hero of Big Timber

In a promotional video for the show on History's Facebook, an employee of the mill explains that he sees Sarah "as like, the real boss ... like the boss-boss." In the same video, however, Fleming says she "wouldn't call (herself) the Master of the Mill," even though (she admits) that's technically the role she fulfills. As the general manager, Fleming handles the sawmill's day-to-day operations — client orders, invoices, schedules, equipment repairs and orders, task mastering the team, and approximately a billion other logistical and financial elements — while her partner in business and in life, Kevin Wenstob, manages the equally backbreaking task of retrieving the actual product from the mill's claim on Vancouver Island's Klitsa Mountain. As Kevin puts it in Episode 10, the pair know "where they work best ... (Sarah) looks after the lumber, I look after the forest, we meet in the middle." 

This dynamic is evidenced repeatedly throughout the series, but there's one scene in particular that brings it into stunning relief. "Do you want to run the machine?" Kevin asks her of one of the mill's saws — "Nope," she says, "I just want to see what comes out." It's an exchange that pretty much sums up their divvying up of duties at Wenstob Timber.

Sarah had a successful career well-before joining the Wenstob Timber team

Long before becoming the backbone of the sawmill, Sarah Fleming worked for twenty years as an operating room nurse. In a dangerous industry like logging, it's probably not a bad thing to have someone with medical experience on-hand, but the former nurse's position at the mill bears little resemblance to her previous career. In fact, as Fleming told Hollywood North Magazine about the massive occupation change she made roughly fifteen years ago, "I took on an entirely new career and (started) working in the office and built on that. It was a huge contrast but I did a lot of reading and a lot of research on my own to teach myself about the logging industry as well as educating myself on computers, because they were relatively new back then." 

Anyone who's ever transitioned from one career to another can empathize with the amount of work that Fleming put in to become the savvy administrator and manager she is today. "I remember thinking that I should take a course," she told the outlet, "but then everyone said –- there's no course, you just learn it." Fleming may not strike viewers as the "fake it 'til you make it" type, but that's thanks to hefty amount of time and effort the autodidact put into getting herself there.

Fleming also has a firm grasp on PR and marketing. In their interview with HNM, Kevin explains the mechanics of what Wenstob Timber does, while Sarah describes it with a little more panache. When asked about "the business of collecting trees," Fleming gives an explanation packed with juicy buzzwords: "We're a niche industry in the sense that we're a small company who can go from initial harvesting, right down to the finished product." 

Sarah Fleming is a huge animal lover

When not holding down the fort at WTR, Sarah Fleming is most likely on the back of a horse. "Sarah's happiest when she's out riding her horse," explains "Big Timber" star Coleman Willner. Fleming verifies this sentiment by sharing that "all of (her) off time is spent doing horse things" (via Facebook). Based on her Instagram, horses aren't the only animal for whom Fleming has an abundance of affection. Even a cursory glance at Fleming's posts reveal she's a huge dog and cat lover, as well. The vast majority of her IG posts feature various animals — which, let's be honest, is really the way Instagram should be — including a prominently featured "downstairs cat" who goes by Abigail, and a formidable in-training German Shepard aptly named "Biggie" (Biggie may have been just seven months old as of this past summer, but he's already more than lived up to his name).

In addition to a plentiful and adorable menagerie of barn cats, dogs of all sizes, and various horses, Fleming's Instagram also reveals she's become a force to be reckoned with in the gym. In a full body pain-inducing video from February, the animal lover and sawmill manager and owner can be seen pulling off a barbell back squat with admirable grace. "Graduated to the big weights," she writes in the caption —"135 lbs and Minus 4 in the gym this Friday night brrr" (via Instagram).

So, to be clear, not only did Fleming go from saving lives as an operating room nurse to managing a business with a hit series on Netflix, she's also a self-taught and tech savvy administrator who rides horses, trains dogs, and can bench press more than you. Is there anything at all that scares Sarah Fleming? 

Sarah Fleming understands the risks more than most

Although Sarah Fleming comes off as essentially fearless, that doesn't mean she isn't all-too-aware of the dangers of the industry she and Kevin are in. In one of the more intimate moments of "Big Timber," she explains that every morning when Wenstob leaves for work (at 3:00 AM, no less) she tells him "drive safely, don't roll over, don't get squished." While it's a comedically efficient warning, it does reveal the immense degree of respect that the rock of Wenstob Timber Resources has for the fearsome power of nature. Moreover, the immediate and often unpredictable physical dangers of the mountain notwithstanding, there's also a great deal of financial risk involved for sawmill.

As "one of the last independent sawmills on Vancouver Island," (as the series' intro explains), Wenstob Timber has to work three times as hard as its competitors to stay in the game. In fact, the team's claim on Klitsa Mountain was itself a major gamble. When Hollywood North Magazine's Darren Weisner refers to the pair "buying the sawmill using only (Kevin's) pick-up and chainsaw for collateral," Wenstob explains that the pair can't simply "stop because (we're) afraid," and that they have to continually "'face the challenge' and have accomplishments that everyone can benefit from, which is the most important thing." 

In managing the sawmill's operations, Fleming is at the heart of ensuring everyone can benefit from its accomplishments. Despite the risks, as she explained to Vancouver News, "We like to control our destiny." Fleming punctuated the sentiment with characteristic humility, saying that the pair has "always been independent for the past 25 years," and "occasionally" has "to deal with small issues." Nevertheless, she added, "it's our world. We're addicted."