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 fickle nature

August 16th, 2008

THE PAST four or five months seem to have scooted by. Being very busy anyway has probably contributed to things, but it seems no time since the dogs and I were walking under bare trees waiting for that magic moment when the branches took on the whisper of green which heralded spring's early leaves.

Now it's harvest time again, but the prospects aren't good for farmers round here. There's been too much rain when they needed settled weather. I spoke to farmer Alex Sanger at Hillside, outside Montrose, who confirmed that some of the winter barley that was looking buttery ripe some three weeks ago is looking grey now because of repeated soakings. Oil seed rape which has been cut won't dry for the same reason. Even if it can be saved the quality and yield will be well down and barley that was destined for whisky malting will go for animal feed instead.

The sometimes torrential rain in recent weeks caused the river levels to rise and fall very rapidly, almost like flash floods. I spoke to a fisherman on the bank of the River North Esk who told me the river had fallen more than two feet in the time he and his companions had been on the water. (It's a quaint expression, when you think about it. Fishermen are only in the water if they fall in, otherwise they are on it, which may indicate an arrangement with higher authority denied to the rest of us!)

I was keeping my eye on two gooseberry bushes which have established themselves in a hedgerow, and waiting for the right moment to pick the fruit. Nature was a step ahead of me. In just twenty four hours the leaves were stripped bare by caterpillars and the birds, probably thrushes and blackbirds, had gobbled up all but the smallest, sourest berries. The geans (wild cherries) have ripened but are mostly too high for easy picking, so I've surrendered them to the birds as well.

Amongst the beech trees I've been finding chanterelle mushrooms which I gather first thing in the morning and bring home to fry up with streaky bacon. Kind friends who are away have invited us to invade their garden and use some of the vegetables which would otherwise go to waste. We are appreciating their tomatoes fresh off the vine, and broad beans which are also quite delicious with crispy fried bacon mixed through them and smothered in a white parsley sauce. Somehow this seems the ideal way to garden.

The wet conditions have produced a terrific harvest of other multi-coloured and misshapen mushrooms and toadstools. We had the four youngest grandchildren visiting last weekend and I was quite anxious about small hands picking up something very nasty. Thankfully they all seem to understand that pretty and colourful doesn't necessarily mean safe.