HARRISON – Farming keeps David Daniels connected to the earth while music connects him with a more spiritual dimension. Both endeavors are deeply satisfying and lend balance to his life, he said.

He and his wife, Jodee Davidson, grow plants at Birdsong Farm for food and medicine for their own use, for friends and for barter. Their gardens feed them for a good part of the year, he said.

His former teacher, herbalist Corinne Martin, recently took her students to see his gardens in all their pre-harvest abundance. Daniels said he had grown vegetables and a few basic culinary herbs for many years before taking Martin’s class in 1992. Now, he and his wife grow a variety of culinary and medicinal herbs.

Lush basil and parsley grow over a foot high. Healthy hops and horseradish, garlic, Echinacea, Elecampane, catnip, comfrey and calendula are others. He also harvests wild medicinal plants from his woods and fields, including dandelion, yellow dock and burdock roots, St. Johns Wort, yarrow and goldthread.

Herbs in Daniels’ garden aren’t separated into neat rows, though. They’re part of an integrated organic garden, a luxuriant, late-summer intermingling of herbs, flowers and vegetables grown in soil made rich and productive with plant waste composted with chicken manure. They’ve been working 15 years to improve their garden soil, he said.

The garden, in turn, is part of a larger integrated lifestyle which includes chickens and laying hens for eggs and meat. They roam freely outside the fenced garden, feasting on a variety of insects and seeds during the day, and roost in their henhouse at night.

Ten of their flock of 25 were recently killed by marauding dogs while the family was away for a few hours.

Daniels and Davidson have two teenagers, James and Kelly, siblings whom they adopted 10 years ago.

When the couple first moved to Harrison in 1985, sheep and goats were part of the farm, useful groundskeepers, he called them, because “they eradicated all the poison ivy on the property.”

Daniels said they had planned to earn their living growing and marketing organic produce. “After three years of making very little money, though, we decided to put our income-making abilities into music-making and music-teaching.” He said music has been an important part of his life since the age of 16.

Though trained as an engineer, he said, “It never felt like a calling, only a moneymaker. Music was just the opposite.” Though he knew music would never make them rich, it felt like a real calling, he said.

Guitar, bass (guitar), mandolin and banjo are the instruments he plays and teaches. His first paying job in Maine was with a contra dance band, Daniels said. In addition to occasional gigs with contra dance bands, he plays at weddings, parties and other functions. Sometimes Jodee shares the stage with him.

Daniels teaches private lessons on the instruments and classes in theory and harmony at Waynflete and the Tony Boffa School of Comtemporary Music, both in Portland.

He described music as a language with its own grammar structure, containing elements of history, math and science. He believes it’s unfortunate that schools don’t have music requirements.

“I love it,” Daniels said of teaching. “I’m dedicated to the belief that anyone who speaks can sing and anyone who walks can dance.”


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