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.

Eaten in their proper season

September 30th, 2006

WILD MUSHROOMS picked, first thing, from the field beside the house, gently fried in butter while the dogs are being fed, and eaten for breakfast with grilled bacon and grilled tomatoes, has got to be one of life's more wanton pleasures.

Field mushrooms have darker gills on the underside than the shop variety, and a more distinct taste. Tossing them into the frying pan with the dew still on them is another of nature's rewards for living in the country. Words aren't enough; you have to hear the sizzle and smell the faintly earthy aroma to truly appreciate the pleasure.

The local, home grown tomatoes which we buy just now from the Trinity (Taranty, locally) Garden Centre, just outside Brechin, taste and look different too. Like my father, I love eating tomatoes. Half a century ago their season was restricted to just a few weeks in the year. Now,  air miles' tomatoes are flown in from all round the world and we can buy them off the supermarket shelves all year. The Taranty tomatoes have a heady, tangy flavour that dominates your taste buds – perhaps being grown, harvested and eaten in their proper season helps.

Half a century ago, and more, during the school holidays I used to cycle across to visit Jim Tindal who leased the walled garden of Usan House, near Ferryden as a market garden. I can remember vividly, in the summer time, being allowed to eat – warm off the vine – the undersized tomatoes which couldn't be sold. Today they call them cherry tomatoes, and market them as something special.

There was also an old fig tree trained along the wall of the glass house. It had been producing sweet, juicy figs for decades and I picked them and ate them straight from the branch. Ripe, warm figs and baby tomatoes – few things can compare with these sun-burst childhood memories.

On Tuesday afternoon a kind neighbour called with a cake which she had baked herself. I suppose she thought I'd been looking rather underfed and in need of nourishing. As I walked her to her car we heard the first geese of the season and watched them flying westwards, miles high in the sky.

The late Peter Gladstone of Fasque, who was a noted ornithologist, used to say he expected the first geese to arrive between the seventeenth and nineteenth of September – so these were ten days late. But could it be another example of climate change affecting traditional and established wildlife habits?

In the way that fungi do, about a dozen shaggy ink-cap mushrooms sprang up overnight on a bank in the garden. They are unmistakable, rather like leprous thumbs erupting from the grass. The book says they are edible when young but, frankly, they look so revolting I don't have the courage to try them.


Apologies for the delay in posting last week’s article – the Doyenne, the dogs and I have moved to a magical new home even deeper in the countryside.

Written on Saturday, September 30th, 2006 at 8:36 am for Weekly.