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.

Cool thinking

February 12th, 2011

NESTING BOXES should be cleaned out if you've not already done so, the old nesting material destroyed, and the interiors scalded with boiling water to kill off any parasites that have survived the winter.

We have four boxes – two incorporated into the roof of the bird table and a tit box and a robin box   Last season only the one outside the kitchen window was occupied, by a pair of blue tits, and we got a lot of pleasure watching the parent birds tirelessly flying in and out with beakfuls of grubs and insects for their nestlings.

The two above the bird table remained empty   Red squirrels visit daily to feed on the peanuts and greater spotted woodpeckers call regularly too   Both will readily eat nestlings if they can get them and I suspect the small songbirds won't consider trying to raise a family so close to such obvious danger.

A previous nesting box had a hole drilled in the roof by a woodpecker and, although it didn't get to the chicks inside, the parent birds deserted them and they died anyway.

After such sustained hard weather over the winter I imagined that the farming cycle would have fallen badly behind   However one Mearns farmer tells me that it was the wet autumn last year, which held back lifting the potato crop and delayed sowing the oil seed rape and winter wheat, that caused problems – at least so far as this part of north Angus and south Kincardine is concerned.

Farmers have been busy since the snow shifted, and driving round the local roads I've seen plenty newly ploughed fields   Because of the delays at the back end of last year, many – perhaps more than usual – will be sown with spring barley which is what goes into whisky production   So there could be a bumper crop of whisky on the horizon. As it takes years for whisky to mature I can only hope I live long enough to share in the bounty of such a beneficial harvest!

A further extension of the winter could create problems for the stock farmers who are suffering from a shortage of fodder   They need open weather to help the grass grow quickly so that they can move their cattle out of the cattle courts, where they have spent the winter, and onto the pastures.

The first of the snowdrops and yellow aconites have made a cautious appearance in the beds round the house, and winter jasmine at the front door is adding another cheery splash of colour   The countryside is looking a bit weary in the aftermath of the snow but it only takes a little sunshine to lift the spirits   Out with the dogs on Thursday morning I felt the welcome heat of the sun on my face   I'm ready for spring.

Written on Saturday, February 12th, 2011 at 3:57 pm for Weekly.