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.

Flower of Scotland

August 7th, 2010

HAREBELL OR bluebell – which one is the truly representative flower of Scotland?   The thistle of course is our national emblem, the embodiment of our nationhood – what it is to be Scottish   But there's another side to us, what it feels to be Scottish – the imaginative and sensitive side to our Scottishness.

Sir Harry Lauder, embodiment of Scottishness, sang tenderly in praise of Mary, his Scots bluebell, and you might think that the words of such an authority would end the matter   But the waters get muddied when you buy a box of Scottish Bluebell matches (made in Sweden, please note) which has a spray of harebells decorating the lid.

As ever, when beset with floral conundrums, I reach for Mary McMurtie's invaluable book on  €œScottish Wild Flowers € in which both plants are illustrated   She describes them as the Scottish Bluebell or Harebell, and the Wild Hyacinth or English Bluebell.

Nationalistic bias aside, I feel sure the harebell has it   The definitive answer is surely found in her description of their delicate blue bells hanging on threadlike stalks from a wiry stem   Is this not a metaphor for our natural resilience, combined with delicacy and grace?     What set me off down this metaphysical  dreel' was finding clumps of the bonny harebells shivering deliciously in the breeze while I was out walking the dogs in a wood.

The hairst is in full swing and from the fields that are already combined and baled it's clear that every minute is precious to farmers anxious to cut their barley while the good weather holds   We've been busy too, with our own harvest of raspberries, and this week I thought I'd include some words direct from the Doyenne herself on this annual task.

 €œIt's always a thought to start on the jam making but as we are lucky enough to have a plentiful supply of raspberries on our doorstep, and because I can't imagine not making jam, I decided to get going.

The first couple of pickings gave us lovely firm, dry berries and I found that if I got them quickly into the pan, as soon as the sugar had melted and they started to boil, I'd almost reached a setting point   Another five minutes boiling and it was ready to pot, and the jam retained a really good, bright colour.

I believe in making raspberry jam in small quantities. I can pick three and a half pounds of berries in about 40 minutes, and that's an ideal quantity for each boiling   What amazed me was that it was so quick so, of course, we carried on picking and I carried   on making jam.

Added to that,  the man' came home with a special picking of 4 lbs of wild raspberries   They got made into jelly which will be given only to a favoured few because it is so delicious! €

Written on Saturday, August 7th, 2010 at 5:45 pm for Weekly.