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.

All nature’s bounty

March 29th, 2014

WHAT A difference a week makes.

Winter’s faded blonde stubble fields are fast disappearing under the plough. The fresh brown tilth of newly turned earth is ready for drilling with this year’s crop. The land is drying out and farmers are taking advantage of the good weather. I passed one still ploughing at half past nine at night, lights blazing all over his tractor.

Sixty-plus years ago when I was a youngster the familiar tractor names included Fordson Major, David Brown, Massey Harris and of course the little grey Fergie. First produced in 1946, it’s an enduring favourite amongst tractor enthusiasts and collectors.

Today’s tractors are monstrous by comparison and I’m dwarfed when I stand beside their rear tyres. They have to have cabs now. I don’t imagine health and safety, as we know it today, likely crossed the minds of the early tractor manufacturers. They must have been hardy chiels then, sitting on a tractor all day with no protection from the elements.

All very different now – the modern machines have dashboards like Boeing 747’s. They are powerful too – pulling five-furrow reversible ploughs. Take a moment when you’re driving in the country to watch the tractors in the fields pulling combination cultivators and drills which prepare the ground and sow the seed in a one-pass operation. All increased work output with consequent saving in time and cost.

It’s spring bulb time and great blocks of yellow daffodils stipple the countryside. The daffodils which have flowered will be allowed to die back and the bulbs will be harvested for seed bulbs for next season.

The squads of pickers, bent double in the fields, are picking the unopened buds destined for the shops. There seem to be mechanical harvesters for most crops but not one for the flowers.

The pussy willows are bursting with golden-yellow pollen and I snipped off a few branches to take home for the Doyenne to mix in with the roadside daffs that I pick on my travels. It’s all Nature’s bounty.

It’s not too early for queen bumblebees to be emerging from their winter hibernation to feed on the pollen, building up resources to lay their eggs. Despite the cold winds there’s been plenty of heat in the sun which the bumbee’s hairy body can absorb and retain, enabling them to forage in the early spring conditions.

Despite the ready availability of food I haven’t seen a bumbler yet. I hope the experience of recent years and the precarious future of bees generally are not going to be repeated this year.

I hardly hear the geese now but there’s still a pack of several hundred working the fields around Fettercairn. Soon they’ll be gone to their breeding grounds and I’ll miss their distant calls. But they’ll be back when Nature calls them, just as she is calling them north now.

Out with Macbeth and Inka I watched a thick plume of smoke driven across a brae face in the brisk wind. It was muirburn, which is carried out by gamekeepers between October and April as part of a carefully planned and controlled programme to improve feeding habitats for the grouse, whose principal diet is heather.

They burn off old rank growth which encourages young appetising growth which is beneficial for the grouse.

The next time you are driving through heather-clad hills and see a patchwork of old and new heather, you’ll know that the keepers are exercising proper management of the ground and wildlife in their care.

There are reports that blackbirds no longer top the list of our commonest garden birds. No one has told the ones round here. I regularly find myself waking about a quarter to five to a pre-dawn chorus led by the blackies in the garden. There’s usually one that sits on a nearby roof ridge conducting the band.

It’s strange – they quieten down for a while and chime up again about half past six. By then the house sparrows and chaffinches – and there’s a robin somewhere in amongst them – are clearing their throats. Cock pheasants are klokking away in the woods and the rooks are awake and chattering loudly amongst themselves.

The Doyenne and I know it’s time for us to stir our stumps too!

Written on Saturday, March 29th, 2014 at 11:19 am for Weekly.