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.

A turn for the better

December 22nd, 2007

THE DOYENNE took one of her turns this week   I blame myself; I saw it coming and should have done more to help, but probably nothing I could have said would have changed things   She decided to clear out and defrost the deep freeze   It's anxious times when she gets these notions because she gets cross about the things she finds that should have been used years ago   A pair of kippers from November 2005, rhubarb from the last century tucked away into a corner at the foot, the frost-burnt lamb chops that fell out of the packet and aren't fit to eat now   And of course there was the mole that I put in a poly-bag to show the grandchildren and forgot all about!
  

But some good came out of it after all   There were strawberries and gooseberries and, thrifty Yorkshire girl that she is, she couldn't bear to put them in the bin   Before you could say  €œGrand Old Duke € she had the jam pan out, and for a couple of evenings the kitchen was filled with the tantalising smell of strawberry jam and gooseberry jelly which smelt the sweeter for being made when it was so cold and frosty outside   On a more practical note for jam makers, La D commented that both had set much more quickly than usual   She wondered if freezing the fruit breaks down the pectin, or if it had anything to do with the fruit being put on to boil while still frozen      
  

The bottle of gin I had my eye on disappeared off the shelf   She had found three bags of sloes and before I could say  €œGay Gordons € she had the lot bottled up for sloe gin   It's a pity she hadn't found them a couple of months earlier and we could have greeted the New Year with our home-made hedgerow cordial   Instead we'll drink the raspberry vodka which must be just about ready for sampling.
  

Out early with the dogs – about half past eight actually, but still so dark it felt early –   I was looking for holly to  €œdeck the halls €, but the growth is very disappointing compared with last year's which was covered in berries. Macbeth's hunting instincts were aroused when a field vole made a dash across the track for the safety of the undergrowth on the other side   They move at a tremendous pace for such a small animal   They like sweet, young grass and there's not much about at this time of year, so they are constantly on the move for food.
  
We disturbed a cock pheasant which flew out of its roost high up in a pine tree with loud klokks of indignation   Before I knew what, all the pheasants in the neighbourhood had chimed in and were expressing their disapproval at the early reveille.

A very Happy Christmas to you all – from the Man, the Doyenne and the Two Dogs