Collecting four leaf clovers is a hobby that children and adults can take up as a pastime, and to prevent nature deficit disorder.
White clover, trifolium repens, attracts butterflies and honeybees and it used to be more prevalent and treasured than it is today. When I was a child I remember it was in every lawn from the school to home. My father who collected stamps suggested that I too needed a hobby to keep me from getting bored. He suggested that I might want to collect something. We went over ideas of different things I could collect, and when the idea of four leaf clovers came up I was excited about it because I loved the idea of collecting good luck! What could be more useful? And so I started searching for those special four leaf clovers and became quite good at finding them. I found enough to fill almost every page of my Romona the Brave book. I even found a new friend who liked to catch bees in a jar out in the clover fields. If I didn't have all that luck stored up from my childhood hobby, who knows where I would be!
Clover is an edible wild herb, supposedly eaten by the Irish in times of famine. Clover is a popular forage for turkey, rabbit, deer, woodchuck, and many other mammals. Many poems have been written to honor the clover, and there are many practical reasons to treasure clover as well. Walking barefoot through the clover is a memory shared by many, a memory made all the more clear by the sting of a honeybee.
How to find four-leaf clovers
More four-leaf clovers seem to come up in the spring. You could say that spring is the luckiest time to search for them. And if you find one four-leaf clover keep looking around in that area and you are likely to find more. the genetic code that produces four-leaf clovers is located in the rhizome and since many stems come from the same root four leaf clovers tend to appear more than one at a time and may come up in the same place in the following years.
O.k. So it's spring and you are going out to find your first four-leaf clover. Estimates are that there is about 1 four leaf clover per every 10,000 three leaf clovers, which sounds bad till you add this: there are about 10,000 clovers per 3'x4' area of clover patch! I learned this from Jim Frost's statistic blog, http://blog.minitab.com/blog/adventures-in-statistics/adventures-in-statistics-v1. The best thing to do is sweep your eyes over such a patch, keep them moving and don't fixate on any one spot until one of those clovers stands out as being different from the rest. Brush your foot or hand over the tops of the clover to see what is underneath, but don't look at the clovers one by one. You want to scan the whole patch for that one that has a different pattern than the rest. You will develop the skill of a trained visual inspector. Plant your lawn with clover and mark the spots where you have found four-leafers and you will also build a knowledge base of locations where you are likely to find them again. Before you know it you will be the luckiest person you know.
What to do with your four-leaf clovers
Lucky people usually want to share their luck, and four-leaf clovers can be saved and shared by pressing them like flowers between the pages of a book. Once pressed there are all sorts crafty directions you can go in to make four-leaf clover gifts. A pressed clover can decorate a bookmark, become part of a home made card, it can be framed, perhaps combined with a poem. When I was young I used to find a nice smooth rock and with Elmer's glue I'd stick the clover to the rock and paint the glue as a "varnish" over the surface of the clover and the rock. More mature artists can epoxy clovers into works of art, pieces of jewelry, or whatever strikes their fancy. Using a button maker, clovers can be incorporated onto pin-on type buttons. They can be framed in glass for a window decoration, or simply ironed between wax paper. These are just a few ideas for sharing four leaf clovers as gifts, after all, "your luck is how you treat people".
Aside from finding four-leaf clovers there are many reasons you might want to grow white clover
White clover is a member of the pea, or fabaceae, family. the Latin name for white clover, Trifolium repens, translates into: creeping three leafed plant. It's a low growing perennial good for use as a ground cover or lawn substitute. The high nectar flowers that honeybees and Beekeepers love pop like white balls to the top of low growing clover matts, each one a globular cluster of 40-100 pea shaped flowerlets. Clover reproduces by seed and also from the creeping stems which root at the nodes.
If having a low maintenance lawn that can be mowed as little as once or twice a year, and providing forage for honeybees and other pollinators, as well as other wild life including birds and mammals isn't reason enough to plant clover, just wait there's more. White clover can be used as a living mulch, giving benefits above and below ground while it grows between the rows in your vegetable garden, orchard, or vineyard. Above ground white clover prevents most other weeds and grasses from crowding your plants, just like normal mulches, clover helps retain moisture in the soil. White clover can withstand foot traffic, and all the while attracts pollinators. Below ground the clover is fixing nitrogen in the soil and improving soil tilth and friability almost immediately with its root system. The clover can also be used as a cover crop and tilled in later. To learn more about low maintenance natural farming and the idea of planting crops along with white clover read The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, and let white clover become a part of your polyculture.
White clover also helps prevent erosion that's one of the main reasons we planted it on our land after clearing the trees where we are planning to build a house. Of course we are Beekeepers so we also did it to help our bees bring in more honey. Finding four leaf clovers at the corners of where our house will someday be also helps us feel lucky and optimistic about our project here on the land. We bought a few pounds of white clover from Northeast Organic Framers Association during their yearly bulk order sale. Territorial Seed Company also sells it. Walking all along our new gravel driveway and along any bare slopes created by the excavator we spread the clover seed with a shoulder seeder/spreader, and we did it again the following year. It is good if you can get the timing right to "frost plant" the seed by broadcasting the seed at the end of winter when it is still cold and snowy. As the temperature of the earth changes and frost heaves the seeds will fall into tiny cracks created by these changes and will germinate in those moist crevices.
Possible culinary and medicinal uses
Besides being an excellent forage crop for livestock, clover can also be a survival food for humans. White clover is high in protein and I have eaten it in salads in small amounts, and it tastes fine, but I have not been able to find a reliable source of information on culinary and medicinal uses of white clover. The leaves may have been used by Native Americans in tea for coughs, colds, and fevers. but other sources say it is non-native... The medicinal and culinary uses of white clover remain vague and an area ripe for discovery today!
The story of why four-leaf clovers are lucky
In the spring when the clover first returns all bright and fresh, that’s when beginner’s luck is at it’s best. When the young chickens lay their first little eggs in unexpected places around the yard, that’s the best time to find anomalies like the four-leaf clover at your feet. At first you may find a few small tattered ones left over from winter, then more and more beautiful fresh grown four-leaf clovers seem to float to the top in clouds of clover.
We have four leaf clovers thanks to Eve who had the quick thought to snatch a four-leaf clover on her way out of paradise, after mankind's Fall. Overcoming her hard luck in exile she has planted the rhizomes of that remembered paradise in the post-Eden world. As the old saying goes: One leaf for fame, one leaf for wealth, one leaf for a faithful lover, and one leaf to bring glorious health! Such are the boons the four leaf clover is said to bestow.
You may find clovers with even more than four leaves. When I was young I found clovers with five, six, and even seven leaves. These are even luckier and you can decide what kind of luck the extra leaves are for. They are like wild cards or aces you can use them how ever you need to at the time.
Find a good book and stash the clovers between the pages. Think of this as your good luck savings account. You may need it as you grow older, there are many challenges in life. It is helpful if you have learned to find that remembered piece of paradise from your childhood, four-leaf clovers represent this. Wherever you are, once you have the eye, you will see a bit a Eden shining through.
I found this tattered five leaf clover in our yard.