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.

Blooming business

April 25th, 2015

DSC02607THERE ARE often simple answers to nature’s conundrums. On my way to the Fettery Shoppe to buy my daily Courier, a paper handkerchief flew out of a garden gate and landed on the pavement ahead of me.

There wasn’t a breath of wind so I wasn’t expecting something like this. I wondered briefly if my time had finally come to hand in my dinner pail and wait for them to come and collect me. Imagine my relief when a spuggie, a house sparrow, hopped out from beneath the hankie and flew onto the fence.

I can only think it had ideas of using it for nesting material. It must have changed its mind for the hankie was still on the pavement when I came back, and the spuggie was nowhere to be seen.

I was greeted on my arrival at Wardmill Farm, near Forfar, with a vociferous welcome from Kai, the chocolate Labrador – always a promising start. I’d come to meet farmer’s wife Kelly Orr whose new business is a good example of how farming and nature and wildlife can comfortably coexist.

Blooming Bees grew out of Kelly’s interest in the interaction between bees and flowers on the farm; the bees’ reliance on flowers for sustenance and the flowers’ reliance on bees for pollination.

The bees came first with the purchase of two hives, intended only as a hobby. Kelly told me of the fascination of watching her bees fly back to the hives, their furry bodies covered in different coloured pollen depending on which flowers they had been foraging amongst, and the pollen baskets on their back legs stuffed with pollen.

She began growing garden flowers for the house and to take as gifts for friends which sowed the seed of an idea (her pun, not mine!) that she had the makings of a business. She combined her two interests and grew a range of bee friendly flowers such sunflowers, zinnias, sweet peas, sweet william and cosmos.

The name Blooming Bees evolved naturally and a year ago she started selling her posies and cut flowers and beeswax candles at Angus Farmers’ Market, local craft fairs and through word of mouth recommendations.

I learnt such a lot that morning. Kelly took me to look at her hives and I watched bees flying in with brown, orange and yellow pollen sticking to their bodies. She told me they’d probably come from dandelion, late crocus, cherry and gorse. And the oil seed rape is starting to flower.

Willows, or saughs, grow along the banks of the Lemno Burn which runs through the foot of the farm. Their catkins are one of the earliest sources of nectar and pollen in the bees’ calendar. In the winter months, if the weather is warm enough to tempt them out of their hives, winter flowering ivy blossom provides them with one of their few sources of food.

Kelly looks after the stock on the farm but Blooming Bees is set to be her contribution to their agricultural diversification. I got to know about her because the Doyenne asked her to make up table posies and decorations for our Golden Wedding celebrations last August. You can catch up with her on Facebook and Twitter.

For all their Christmas card appeal robins are territorial birds and can be most aggressive especially over nesting sites and food. I’ve written in the past about one robin killing another to protect a food source in winter.

I was talking with a lady who had watched three robins in a neighbour’s garden parting brass rags, as my father used to say, presumably over nesting territory at this time of year. The following day there had been five which, as she said, were “fairly doing their duster.” I hadn’t heard the expression but I knew fine what she meant.

Neighbours have been complaining about their primula flower heads being nipped off and not knowing what the culprits were. The Doyenne found the answer the other morning – spuggies were tucking into our primroses and we’ve been left with headless stalks. It reminded us of the days of bottled milk and tits pecking through the foil covers to get at the cream at the top of the bottle.

Written on Saturday, April 25th, 2015 at 10:00 pm for Weekly.