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.

Mountain of gold

September 28th, 2013

DROPPING BY to have a word with Jim Brown, manager of agricultural merchants WN Lindsay’s North Esk Granary at Stracathro, I was confronted with a mountain of golden barley – like so much gold dust – half the height of the Garvock Hill, outside his office window.

What I was looking at was destined for the malting whisky trade. It was a sight that would have near brought tears to my old father’s eyes. He saw it as a patriotic duty to support his national drink and could scarcely be persuaded to drink anything else.

I remember him causing mayhem at our wedding reception held at my parents-in-law’s Bradford home, scandalising the Doyenne’s Yorkshire mother by refusing to drink the sherry and wine offered him and demanding whisky. My newly-acquired brother-in-law was sent post-haste, muttering ungracious things under his breath about Scotsmen in kilts, to the nearest shop to buy some.

But that’s a wee historical digression. Jim told me it has been the driest harvest in his memory – not the most bountiful, but farmers have been able to harvest everything in good time and in good condition.

The reason for so much barley was the prolonged wet weather last winter which affected the amount of wheat farmers were able to plant. Instead they put in winter barley and I was looking at the results. With the maltster’s magic, the distiller’s cunning and the blender’s imagination it will be transformed into liquid gold.

This time of year at Lindsay’s it’s like Aberdeen’s Union Street on a busy Saturday afternoon. A constant line of monstrous wagons filled with grain from the Lothians to Strathspey discharge their loads, make way for the next one, and head back to be refilled.

Jim told me he takes in 2000 tons of barley a day. It’s part of a global trade with countries like Ukraine, Russia, USA, Brazil and it all impacts on the Howe of the Mearns.

Gold dust to liquid gold – what a responsibility rests on that man’s shoulders!

Last Sunday, you’ll recall, was like midsummer. The sun beat down and a warm breeze shivered the grain in the fields waiting to be combined. Just the sort of weather that Macbeth can’t abide.

I’m afraid he’s letting his age – he’s about twelve years old – get to him. We heard Sir David Attenborough say on the radio the other morning that old age isn’t for sissies. Macbeth is unimpressed. Sir David doesn’t have to wear a long hair sark.

The reality is that the wee dog can’t take too much heat, so we waited until early evening to take the dogs on the familiar walk through the woods to the loch at the back of the house.

It was still shirt sleeve warm and woodpigeons, gorged with spilt grain, were crooning dozily to each other. Surrounded on three sides by trees and hidden from the nearest roads the loch is peaceful and private.

We watched mallard and tufted duck, and a family of dabchicks which hatched at the lochan and has stayed on throughout the summer. A grey heron cruised in and landed in the shallows at the far end.

On our way back to the car we passed a field of ripe oats. Maybe that’s destined for Hamlyn’s mill at Boyndie, near Banff, and the next time I see them will be as packets of porridge oats on a shelf in the Fettery Shoppe in Fettercairn.

The first cut of the combine harvester had been straight down the length of the field. The modern juggernauts cut and thresh the corn in one process and the waste straw, spewed out behind like a plump sausage, is baled for feed or bedding for livestock.

Changed days from my childhood when the harvesting was done with a tractor-drawn binder, a mechanical reaper which cut the corn onto a canvas platform where it was bound into sheaves for building into stooks, which allowed the corn to dry naturally in the sun and wind for subsequent threshing.

Reaper binders were as much a sensation in their day as the introduction of the combine harvester was in its. In half a century mechanisation changed farming from labour intensive to a near solitary occupation.

Written on Saturday, September 28th, 2013 at 9:45 am for Weekly.