Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Self sufficiency

February 14th, 2004

FRESH BREAD baked this morning, and this year's home made marmalade – both made by the Doyenne of course – are the ingredients of the dream breakfast. Son Robert and his family gave us a bread making machine for Christmas.

If you had visions of La D. up to her oxters in dough, I have to set the record straight. Everything happens in the baking pan overnight and when the pinger goes in the morning the house fills with the wonderful smell of that day's loaf.

As soon the Seville oranges appeared on the shelves La D. had her Mother's jelly pan on the cooker. She uses a marmalade recipe given her by another Yorkshire girl, Mrs Ann Keddie, so she feels confident about its provenance. The generous shadow that I cast is testimony to how good the bread and marmalade are.

I was roused from my lazy Saturday morning by a tremendous thrumming noise and dashed outside. Three helicopters were flying northeast, in line astern, in an absolutely flawless ice-blue sky. I should have loved to be up there with them for the views must have been endless.

There was a coorse wind last Sunday morning and the dogs and I stood just inside the wood getting what shelter we could from a broad sycamore. The wind chased the snow in squalls across the face of the Catterthuns, the two Iron Age forts which are such good family walks in the summer. Each snow shower passed like pages turning in a book.

We watched each gust starting somewhere about Fordoun and scampering across the brae faces whipped along by the wind. Momentarily the hills were obliterated, and appeared again just as fleetingly before the next dose of snow went flinging past on its way to Kirrie.

I started the car to unfreeze the windscreen and noticed the red squirrel feeding on the peanuts. La D. came out and we chatted noisily to each other and the squirrel carried on feeding. I got to within about six feet of him – or perhaps it was her – before it lost its nerve and reluctantly dropped to the ground and dashed to the tall spruce tree.

It's been most instructive since I started writing these weekly pieces to get so much closer to animals and birds that I saw quite regularly in the past, and just took for granted. I can't ever do that again now.

It's interesting the changes that take place over a year. This time last year there were mallard duck all around. Some evenings the pond across the field had up to two dozen birds chattering away to each other and calling greetings to passing chums. This year the pond has been practically abandoned and it's only now that a small pack of four are dropping into a pool in the burn with any regularity.