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.

Not too late for new life

August 14th, 2010

OUR SQUIRRELS are able to think  out of the box'   I've set up three feeding stations outside the kitchen window and we have endless pleasure watching them hanging upside down and guzzling on the peanuts, or sitting on the top of the poles with their bushy tails curved over their backs like a rusty question mark.

There are four regulars, with Tail End Charlie running between the feeders anxiously waiting for one to come free before they are all empty   Sometimes they chase each other at high speed along the ground until one decides to scamper up one of the old beech trees   They don't run straight up the tree, but round and round the trunk, disappearing and reappearing until we lose sight of them amongst the foliage.

But they are getting a bit creative in their feeding habits   They have learned how to remove the cover from the metal mesh tube containing the nuts   I presume they hope to tip the nuts onto the ground, or maybe even scramble inside the tube   They are even more ingenious than I expected for, having unclipped the cover, they don't just leave it on the ground for me to replace, but carry it off and hide it.

About the only thing I know about teazles is that in the past they were used in the woollen industry to raise a nap on woollen fabric   They are not a plant I come across often when the dogs and I are out walking, but there are plenty in the rough grass alongside the track down to Capo quarry.

They are in flower just now, which I haven't seen before   Large, bristly conical heads change from pale green to thistle purple, starting with a wide band round the middle which broadens out until the whole head has bloomed   Their prickly stalks and leaves are uncomfortable to handle but I cut four stems and took them home   The Doyenne was delighted and put them in a vase.

Look out not to tread on tiny froglets, newly metamorphosed from their tadpole stage, leaving their breeding ponds and making hazardous journeys to unknown new territories   They say only five out of 2000 eggs survive to grow to adult frogs so these tiny, hardy pioneers deserve every chance to make it in their froggy world.

Field mushrooms growing at the roadsides used to provide many a tasty meal   I suppose there's more chemical spraying of the verges than in the past but I don't see them so often now   So when a saucer-sized beauty winked at me at the junction of the Templewood and Brechin roads I didn't hesitate to stop the car and pick it.

Next morning, fried in butter with rashers of bacon, the delicious smell and taste of it all brought back the glory days when free mushrooms were commonplace.

Written on Saturday, August 14th, 2010 at 11:12 am for Weekly.