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.

Nature, the great provider

December 2nd, 2006

I CAN'T remember how the conversation got round to Nature's more off-beat liberality, but when I mentioned that my mother used to cook me and my father rook pie, it was clear from the raised eyebrows and faint looks of distaste that this was not a subject for the breakfast table. Mother used only the breasts from juvenile birds, before they had learnt to fly. At that age their diet is mainly seeds and grain and other vegetable matter, and the meat is tender.

In the past it was a way for folk to add protein to what, for some, could be pretty indifferent daily fare. It was taking a harvest from what was available, like rabbits and hares, or squabs which are fledgling pigeons.

I was told recently about a girl who drives north on the A9 to visit her Caithness aunty. She rarely returns home empty handed, picking up various birds and animals which have met an untimely end with the traffic on that busy road. She puts them to good use, and I can't think of better examples of Scottish thrift than her aptly-named  A9 soup' and  A9 stew'.

I readily admit to bringing home  roadkill' myself. A dead pheasant isn't going to grace the countryside any more, so what more fitting end for it than gracing my supper plate. I just got to it before the crows did.

Ducks would seem to be as great opportunists as us humans. I joined a farmer friend to walk round a part of his farm which has a couple of wee ponds. He told me that, in the spring, mallard come to the ponds to feed on frogspawn. To give all the wannabee frogs some chance of a future he lays chicken wire over the spawn to ward off the predators.

I remember in the 1950s a gamekeeper near Ullapool telling my father and me that mallard are carnivorous. When he gutted rabbits which he had trapped, he threw the paunch into a stream. The duck were greatly attracted to this carrion treat.

As I left my farmer friend he gave me a handful of home-grown chillis. He suggested that the Doyenne might use a few to make chilli sherry. Like pink gin, this sounds as though it might be a throwback to the glory days of officers' messes in the Indian Army.

Add four chillis to a bottle of good fino sherry – and leave for up to a month. Couldn't be simpler. Used sparingly it will add zing and pizzaz to soups, and the Doyenne thought it would go well thrown into stir fry.

But mark the bottle clearly. It has a kick like a drink-maddened mule and is definitely not something to be taken by the glassful. Thinking about it, a drop or two might pep up rookie pie!

Written on Saturday, December 2nd, 2006 at 12:30 am for Weekly.