Finding Gold

I'm in Wisconsin visiting my wife's parents as I write this, watching goldfinches from the front window. Brilliant streaks of yellow, black wings and tail in sharp contrast, I can pick them out flying well down the block.

It seems a little early to see them. My memories are of watching them in August, down in the ditches on the family farm, tearing into ripe thistle heads for seeds and silk for their elegant, woven nests. Canada thistle and bull thistle are endemic on the farm. I sometimes think if it weren't for what my dad called "wild canaries," thistle'd take the place over.

Goldfinches still flock the ditches for thistle seed, but also my mother's bird feeder, where they make a habit of cleaning out the primo black-oil sunflower seeds before deigning to try any lesser food. So when I got a request for a French Butter dish with a sunflower on top, I couldn't resist adding my favorite finch. My well-fed finches are turning up on pitchers, square baking dishes and pie plates.

Panning for gold...