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.

Choral practise

May 10th, 2008

EIGHT MINUTES past four o'clock in the morning was an unholy hour to be wakened. It was the milkman delivering milk to the “big hoose”. I watched the van lights swing round the walls of the bedroom as he headed off to rouse the next unsuspecting soul who thought he had at least another three hours peaceful slumber.

It seemed I wasn't the only one to be jolted awake by the disturbance. The first glimmers of daytime were lightening up the sky and, first, just a single birdsong greeted the hesitant dawning. The repetition of each phrase identified it as a song thrush. I'd already found one of its spotted sky blue eggs lying, empty, at the side of the drive – dropped far from the nest to draw attention away from its chicks. Next a chaffinch piped up and in no time the “hale unseemly crew” had chimed in and the dawn chorus was echoing from every treetop. I wasn't going to get to sleep again so I toddled down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

At the end of March I wrote about the mistle thrush that nested in a particularly exposed position in the fork of a tree. She raised two chicks that I could see, although they normally lay four eggs. They are fledged now and have left the nest but are not fully independent yet. We see the parent birds tirelessly working over the lawn at the front of the house, hunting for worms and creepy crawlies which are the thrushes' delight.

Everything and everyone in the countryside is busy right now. Fields are full of tattie planting machinery as the farmers get the last of their harvest into the ground. One farmer I spoke to commented that after all the splendid dry weather it was really time we had some rain!

As a wee laddie I went out to Stone of Morphie farm between Montrose and St Cyrus and, sitting in a horse drawn cart, watched the potatoes being planted by hand. The seed potatoes were held in a jute sack tied round the waist and at every step the farm worker dropped a potato into the furrow, and they were then covered, or “furred up”.

When the crop was lifted, by hand again, the potatoes were stored in a straw lined pit called a “tattie clamp”. To protect them from the winter frosts they were covered with more straw and topped over with several inches of earth.

Although they are normally nocturnal animals I found a hedgehog snuffling around in the afternoon sunshine. It paid no attention to me and I was able to get to within about a yard from it without disturbing it. It was a different story when it became aware of Macbeth, and it curled up instantly in its distinctive protective ball.