Geology in your own Backyard

There is scarcely a time that we go out for a drive, camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, or otherwise into the outdoors, that we don’t look for and collect stones or look at and explorer interesting geological features. This has become a family thing, and besides the great health aspects we receive from such outings, it has become something that the entire family can share in and enjoy.

It gets better, too. Some of those rocks that have been collected from one place or another, have been put through our little rock tumbler, and the results have been totally stunning. Often times, a rock that looks somewhat interesting on the ground, or even rather bland, can have incredible beauty when run through a tumbler. A small tumbler isn’t tremendously expensive, nor is it difficult to use, but it can lead to a wonderful hobby that friends and visitors to your home can greatly appreciate. The possibilities are countless, too, and they don’t require that you have to actually travel further than the area around your home.

Let me explain how this can work.

In the location where we used to live, in a town on the Eastern side of the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, we decided to put in a garden, and flowerbeds. During the digging that had to be done to put the garden and flowerbeds in, many rocks were dug up, including many very plain looking stones about an inch or less in diameter. These appeared even more plain because they were covered with dirt and mud. In large part because of curiosity, since I tend to be a very curious person, I put these stones in a bucket of soapy water, and when the digging was done, I finished washing the stones and without a thought, placed them in the tumbler, which was doing nothing at the time but taking up space.

At every step of the tumbling process, as I rinsed the stones and moved to finer and finer grits, I was more and more astonished by what I had in my tumbler. The final products were nothing less than breathtaking. Several of the stones turned out to be obsidian, or black volcanic glass, and these turned out with a very deep luster that was astonishing. A few more of the stones were petrified wood, and after polishing, the beauty of the mineralized wood grains was remarkable. Yet more of the stones were agates that turned out at nearly gem quality. Yet every one of these rocks originally looked very uninteresting and probably would have been bypassed by most people, perhaps even by myself, had I not been in that certain curious mood.

I now live on the Oregon coast, and while obsidian is a lot more rare, there are huge numbers of agates and other very interesting stones here. The interesting part only comes out after preparation and polishing.

My recommendation to everyone would be to not only try this inexpensive hobby, but to look literally in your back yard, and don’t pass up rocks just because they look plain or bland at first glance. These can end up as some of the most beautiful semi-precious stones you will ever see. And these can even result in a source of income! It can also encourage people to look more deeply into geology, rock forms, and causes of rock formation. Surely, the increased knowledge cannot be a bad thing, and the gorgeous gems certainly are not.