Nine Little Piggies

Four weeks old now, and the piglets at Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour are larger and leaner.

I choose a couple to draw that seem to be settled but soon another piglet nuzzles in to sleep beside them, then another squeezes in between them.

The piglet’s concave snout fits comfortably into the concave contours of its sleeping partner.

Another sign that the piglets are maturing: today, when the sow finishes feeding and disappears into the shelter, the piglets are grunting, rather than squeaking, as they did when they were younger.

Lakes Break PDF

I’ve just completed my first short eBook and uploaded it as a PDF:

Lakes Break PDF

Having tried out the process, I’m looking forward to improving my skills and uploading something a bit more substantial.

Bedding Plants

The borders are looking more colourful as we’ve just put in an osteospermum and a dianthus, otherwise known as Livingston daisy and carnation. The osteospermum is cinnamon orange, the dianthus two shades of pink and they’re surrounded by three punnets of pansies, twenty-seven plants in total, in saffron, deep purple, pale lilac and lemon. It reminds me of Kaffe Facett’s philosophy when knitting Fair Isle jumpers: when in doubt, add another colour.

The Tang of Tarragon

The herbs that we’ve also just planted have already added a spot of colour to our lunch; Barbara roughly chopped a sprig of tarragon, which added a bit of oomph to our lunchtime tortilla, along with a few chives and some fried-up tomatoes and potatoes.

Plants, Plastic and the Planet

It’s great to get that instant effect but I felt guilty consigning the plastic pots and plant trays to the domestic waste bin, as they can’t currently go in with the regular recycling, although we’re assured that there is some further sorting for recycling before the waste goes to incineration.

When we did a lot of growing from seed, I’d save every pot and tray that came our way, but, after the long and sometimes dreary winter, we like to get off on short breaks as often as we can in the spring.

The Buzzard’s Stratagem

As I typed this, there was a commotion from the pair of crows that seem to be regulars at this end of the wood.”Karr! Karr! Karr!”, one of them croaked, as they began to repeatedly fly up, then dive down on a buzzard that was flying away from the wood. On one dive, one of the crows appeared to make contact with the buzzard’s wing.The buzzard’s strategy seemed to be to find a thermal and gradually spiral up over the meadow, using up far less energy than the irate crows, which gave up the chase after a few minutes.

iPad Pond Photography

I’ve typed this post on my iPad Pro, out in our back garden, and hoped to finish with a photograph of common blue damselflies in tandem, touching down together to lay eggs individually in the pond, but that was beyond my skills and patience as an iPad photographer, so I settled for an easier subject: a frog amongst the duckweed.

Right, time to continue my Battle of the Bean Bed against the chicory that is making such efforts to take it over.


Back gardenThe female blackbird from the nest in a hawthorn at the end of the garden has found a way to feed her hungry brood; she perched on a rock in the pond and plucked a newt from the water and immediately flew off into the hedge.

As I write this, on location in our back garden, her mate is checking out a more conventional foraging habitat; you can just see him in my photograph, immediately to the left of the narrower set of alkathene hoops, behind the polygonum flower-spikes, on my mini-meadow area, which I strimmed this morning.

After a number of attempts to get a meadow going here over the last twenty years, I’ve decided on a change this year. My problem is that I unwisely introduced chicory, which thrives in the rich soil and spreading, as it does, by underground rhizomes, it can pop up in any odd space and it easily out-competes the meadow flowers such as birds-foot trefoil that I’d prefer to get established.

I spent this afternoon removing chicory from the veg bed nearest the meadow, which we’re about to sow borlotti beans in.

The only way that I’m going to prevent chicory dominating my meadow area is by cultivating it as I would any other part of the garden. It will be interesting to try something new here.


Petra is a working cocker spaniel (although she doesn’t actually work), from Berkshire but I drew her recently in the Lake District, where she was taking a break with friends, as her owners were moving house. She’s a dog who doesn’t like being on her own but she’ll happily set off in the company of other people.

We were at Sykes Farm Tearooms, Buttermere, where the resident border collie was keeping watchful eye on comings and goings, sitting on the grassy knoll opposite the farm gate, checking out a passing 4×4 with gimlet gaze.

Frank as a puppy.

In the interests of balance, I should explain that other spaniels are available, including my brother’s English springer, Frank.

Serifs at a Stroke

Following the advice of Quentin Crisp and A.F. Stuart, I’m getting bolder; here’s another version of my heading after I’d spent an afternoon hand-lettering the captions for my article.

In Versal Letters, as Stuart & Crisp point out in Lettering for Brush & Pen, the serifs are drawn with a single stroke, which I think works well for a sketchbook heading.

I’ve read that serifs should appear to grow naturally from rest of the letter, rather than looking like something stuck on later but my tendency to draw them with the same care that I’d take in drawing the thorns on a rose or a hawthorn can make them look fussy.

I think the single-stroke serif works just fine.

Outline Lettering

In the first version, I filled in each letter as I went along; I think that I can build up a better rhythm if I stick to outlines only first.

I’m trying to get more of a rhythm going by drawing the outline of my lettering first, then going back to fill the gaps. I noticed when I took a close look at a Georgian print recently that hand-lettered headings don’t have to be drawn with pixel-perfect precision.

As A.F. Stuart and Quentin Crisp wrote in Lettering for Brush & Pen (Frederick Warne, 1939):

“The outlining should be done boldly, and not in a painstaking manner, a certain amount of irregularity being permissible owing to the individual effect of the style.”

They were talking about medieval Versal Letters, but the same thing applies to the sketchbook headings that I’m drawing for my July Dalesman article. Hopefully the more lettering that I do, the bolder I’ll get.