Posted on Leave a comment

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Quartz Hunt

Quartz Rock Study @handbookofnaturestudyOutdoor Hour Challenge – Quartz Rock Study

From the Archives and found in the Winter Ebook

This was one of my favorite all time nature studies because it took our family in so many different directions after asking questions about the quartz we collected during our Outdoor Hour time. You can read about it here: Quartz Study – Rock Collecting Gone Crazy.

Quartz rock study @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter 2016 More Nature Study

If you are interested in purchasing an Ultimate Naturalist Membership at this time, you will gain access to the custom notebooking pages that go along with each of the challenges in the ebook.

Ultimate Naturalist Library June 2016 @handbookofnaturestudy

Note: You do not need to purchase the ebook to participate but they are handy to have for planning and for the regular and advanced notebook pages included in each one. Click the graphic at above to go over to check out the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.

Spring Plans!

We will be working through a new series of wildflower challenges starting in April using a new ebook that will publish sometime in March. The new wildflower ebook will also be added to the Ultimate Naturalist Library so if you purchase a membership now, you will have the new ebook as soon as it is available. I will posting details about the new ebook soon.


Posted on Leave a comment

Rock Study #6 – Quartz

Quartz is a common rock found in my part of the world. We see it just about everywhere we go whether it is on our walking trail or down by the river. We mostly have milky quartz.

Here is my specimen gathered locally and now sitting in my collection. Okay, I already had lots of quartz in my collection but since my nature study goals were to collect the samples this year, I decided to get another one…you can never have too many rocks. 🙂

According to Wikipedia, milky quartz is the most commonly found type of quartz and can be found almost everywhere. I know we have found it a lot of places we have traveled. Even though it is very common, it is still beautiful and amazing to look at.

Some more interesting facts I learned this time:

  • All granite has quartz and feldspar crystals in it. The crystals in granite are not large and perfect.
  • Amethysts are crystals of quartz colored a beautiful violet by the presence of a tiny amount of manganese.
  • Quartz crystals are six-sided.
Photo courtesy of Rob Lavinsky at

Another interesting aspect of our quartz study was the knowledge that our local gold mines were commonly quartz gold mines. The gold was extracted using a series of stamp mills, mixed with water, and then extracted using mercury. I have seen the stamp mill replica in our town and was told that when it was in operation the noise echoed all over the town. I can only imagine how that would have sounded!

If you are interested in studying more about quartz using the Handbook of Nature Study, don’t miss this challenge from the archives: Quartz Study

To refresh your memory, I am going to try to collect all fifteen rocks discussed in the Rocks, Fossils and Arrowheads (Take-Along Guides).This month we spent lots of time out and about looking at rocks, collecting a few new ones, and enjoying our rock adventures. We did not actually complete any of the fifteen rocks from the book. I can see now that I need to be more purposeful if I am going to achieve this goal in the year 2013.

The affiliate links in this post are to things I own and highly recommend.


Posted on 4 Comments

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Rock Observation Chart

Outdoor Hour Challenge:
This week try to find at least one specific rock to collect and observe. If you need to, pick a rock from your collection and use that as your subject. Use your outdoor time to slow down and really look for rocks or if you have snow on the ground, try to remember where there are rocks in your neighborhood and plan for a future rock hunt when the weather is more agreeable.

You may wish to complete the granite or the quartz challenge that were previously posted here on the Handbook of Nature Study:
Granite Study
Quartz Study

You may pick any rock to study that you have on hand. There are several other rocks listed in the Table of Contents for the Handbook of Nature Study that you may wish to use in your study. 

Printable Activity:

Rock Observation Chart: Use this printable chart to examine several of your rocks carefully. This is a little more advanced activity using vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to you. The activity is meant to be a simplified exercise in learning how to use deductive reasoning to identify your rock sample. 


You may find these links helpful: Identifying Minerals and Mineral Field Tests.

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #7.  We are focusing on rocks this month so you can start your own rock field guide using the directions and notebook page in this challenge. You can record your observations from the printable activity above on your rock field guide card if you wish. 

Blog Logo 1

Posted on 7 Comments

Southern Oregon Beaches – Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

Our recent trip to Oregon let us sample the different kinds of beaches there are along this section of the Pacific Coast. The coast of Southern Oregon has become our summer getaway of choice. We enjoy the break from the hot temperatures at home and we cooled off with the misty foggy days of the Oregon summer.

Would you like to see some of the beaches we visited along with some of the treasures we found to observe and record in our nature journals?

McVay Rock tidepools and rocks (6)

Let’s start off with the most southerly location we visited, a little gem of a beach with lots and lots of agates and pebbles, McVay Rock. This has become one of my favorite rock beaches and it has tidepools too! The boys enjoyed searching for the most colorful or interesting rocks. This was a great location to start our Outdoor Hour Challenge on Rocks. Although we didn’t examine any granite, we took advantage of the time to closely examine some other rocks.

Whaleshead Beach (16)

On the other side of Brookings, Oregon we spent some time exploring Whaleshead Beach. The sun was out and we walked the sand, climbed over rocks, and watched the sea birds flying.

Whaleshead Beach (13)
There were colorful flowers and grasses growing along the rocky cliffs. It hardly seems possible that this dudleya can grow right on the rocks but it does.

Pistol River (8)
This is a close-up of another beach we visited at the Pistol River in Oregon. It was early morning and we had the beach to ourselves. We had to walk over sand dunes and then over a flat area to get to the shore. There were lots and lots of empty shells…the birds must feast here when the time is right.

Pistol River (2)
Here is a view down the beach with the shorebirds in the distance poking their beaks in for a morning meal. We have friends that come here to go clamming but we were just on a refreshing beach walk as we traveled up the coast.

Bullards Beach Sunset Kite
Here is another beach we camped at on our trip, Bullards Beach near Bandon, Oregon. This image is in the evening and if you look closely you can see horses in the distance and a family having a bonfire up sheltered in the pile of driftwood.

Bullards Beach (11)
Here is another section of the beach early in the morning. Look at all that driftwood!

Bullards Beach lighthouse
This is the lighthouse at Bullards Beach and you can see the sandy dunes and grasses that border the actual shore. Behind the lighthouse is the Pistol River outlet which is where all the driftwood comes from during certain parts of the year.

Cape Arago (3)
Farther up the coast, we visited Cape Arago and Simpson Reef. It was a wet day but we braved the rain to observe the sea life down on the rocky islands. I had my binoculars and we were able to see sea lions resting on the rocks and in the water.

Rock and Shell Nature Journal (3)
Rocks and shells are rather difficult to draw in my nature journal. It is an exercise in slowing down and really looking at the object before you put your pencil or pen to the page.

Rock Shell Collection
We had a great time looking for rocks on this trip. Not much granite to look at but we did see many things to capture our interest and to look up in our field guides.

Just looking at these photos makes me want to turn around and go back to Oregon.

You can find other rock related challenges here on the Handbook of Nature Study blog.
Quartz Study
Sand and Soil
Salt Study

If you are interested in more of our Oregon Coast adventures, here are some links.

Oregon Coast Trail

Have you seen the new product over at If you own a Lifetime Membership over on Debra’s website, you can log into your account on and download your set right now. If you aren’t already a member over there, you can purchase the set separately or I would highly recommend a Lifetime Membership so you can access all of the 1000’s of notebooking pages she has to offer. ($4.95 for the set or get started with your membership with $10!)

Marine Invertebrates Notebooking Pages

Please note I am an affiliate for and have used the notebooking pages with my family for years!

Posted on 5 Comments

Quartz Study – Rock Collecting Gone Crazy

Rocky Shore - American River
Our quartz study has stretched on for weeks. We have had numerous rock collecting hikes and each time we come home we develop new questions to be answered. The supply of quartz in our area is seemingly endless. Once your eye starts to look for it…you see it everywhere.

Our family lives in the gold country of California. The gold rush started practically in our backyard. We drive by the American River every day…as the crow flies it is about 3 miles from our house. This area is full of old gold mines and many people still today make a living by mining and panning for gold (or using a sluice box). Where there is gold, there is quartz.

Collection of Rocks - American River
We collected milky quartz for the most part at the river, along with a variety of other “pretty” rocks. I have a special place for pretty rocks in my heart. It may be the hunting for them or the spotting of a particularly nice rock that keeps me coming back for more.

Mr. A shares my love of rocks and we enjoyed an afternoon this week at the river with the Kona dog. Kona likes sticks more than rocks so we occupied her with fetching sticks while we looked for something interesting along the rocky shore.

Sunny Afternoon at the American River
The sound of rushing water always seems to welcome a good thoughtful sit..even on an uncomfortable rock. This day we sat and enjoyed the warmth of the sun after a freezing morning. Our jackets were slipped off on the hike back to the car which was nice.

At home we started off with a magnifying lens, looking carefully at the surface of each rock. This can quite addictive once you get started and there really is a lot to see.

Quartz Study with Pyrite

We noticed a colorful collection of sand on the surface of one rock and we had the bright idea to place it on a slide and look at it under the microscope.

River Rock - American River

We are still not sure if the shiny gold is actually gold or pyrite….probably pyrite flakes.

River Sand on a Microscope Slide
We placed a little sand on a microscope slide…our rocks all had small amounts clinging to the nooks and crannies.

Quartz Study  4
Now this is where the study becomes even more interesting! We spent the next hour or so taking turns finding things on the slides to share with each other. It was like discovering a new dimension.

We now have a larger collection of quartz and pretty rocks, a growing understanding of what “sand” is after looking at it under the microscope, and an appreciation that we don’t know everything about everything. 🙂

Quartz Study  3
Amazing world down there…who would have thought?

Quartz Study  2
It is not too late to do your own study of quartz using the Outdoor Hour Challenge. You may be as amazed as we were.

More Nature Study #2 button

Posted on 2 Comments

OHC More Nature Study Book 2 – Quartz Study

Quartz samples

 “Quartz is the least destructible and is one of the most abundant materials in the crust of the earth as we know it. It is made up of two elements chemically united—the solid silicon and the gas oxygen.” Handbook of Nature Study  

More Nature Study Book #2
Rock Study – Quartz Crystals
Inside Preparation Work: 

  1. Read pages 754-755 in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 213). This short lesson is packed with information and the lesson suggestions will give you some careful observation ideas.
  2. If you can locate some quartz samples to have on hand, do some close up observations of quartz. Even little ones can describe with words their quartz sample. Compare quartz with some other rocks in your collection.
  3. If you do not have samples, make sure to view the images of quartz with the additional links provided below.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  1. If the weather allows, take your outdoor time in a place that has rocks to pick up and handle. Be on the lookout for quartz crystals. Do not be discouraged if you can’t find quartz in your neighborhood but take the opportunity to observe and describe any rocks you see.
  2. Collect a few rocks to bring home and either start or add to your rock collection.

Rock observation 
Follow-Up Activity:

  1. After your Outdoor Hour time, take a few minutes to follow-up your outdoor time. Bring out your quartz samples and compare them to other rocks you may have collected. Set up a rock observation spot on your nature table. See the image above for ideas.
  2. Give time for a nature journal entry or ebook users can complete the quartz notebooking page and/or the coloring page to follow up this study.
  3. Advanced study: Research more about quartz on Use a printable Mineral Chart for additional information and identification. Learn the identifying marks of quartz. Record your information in your nature journal or a notebook page.

Additional Links: 

You can see how our family completed this challenge here in this post: 
Quartz Study – Rock Collecting Gone Crazy.

More Nature Study Winter Wonder

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

Posted on 5 Comments

Our Nature Study Week – The Familiar and the Surprising

Want to know what I love about walking a familiar trail? I love knowing where things grow, the landmarks to notice, the way you can tell that something is different. Usually this is the changing of the season, seeing the plants grow, blossom, and then die down in the fall. Sometimes it is a man-made change and it is shocking!

Walking Trail Renovation-No More Thistles

This is where our star thistles, Queen Anne’s lace, and sweet peas grow in mass every spring and summer. We haven’t been on this section of the trail in a few months and were were surprised to see that they had cleared it off, inserted a culvert and pipe, and then recovered it with this material. We are wondering what they reseeded it with. I can guarantee it is not star thistle, Queen Anne’s Lace, and sweet peas.

I dug up a photo from a previous season.

Field of Queen Anne's Lace

Our family used this spot as a landmark. I could say to the boys as they ran on ahead, “Stop at the thistle spot.” Now we shall have to see what grows and make a new landmark. I know I will miss my Queen Anne’s lace.

Anna's Hummingbird in the feeder

Another change we see is in our bird feeder attendees. This year we are seeing Anna’s hummingbirds everyday in our feeder. They are coming and going all day long. Several of you have noted the hummingbirds on my monthly bird list. This species (Calypte anna) is an iridescent green and gray below…the male has an iridescent red head and throat. If you catch a glimpse of them in the sunshine, you are amazed at their dazzling color. They stay all winter even in the sub-freezing temperatures. I go out to check their feeder each day to make sure it isn’t frozen.

Moonshadow Yarrow

We took a walk around our yard last week as part of the Preparation for Winter-Plants challenge. This challenge had us looking for ways that plants get ready to survive the cold winter temperatures. We noticed that several of our plants are putting out a new bloom. This Moonshine yarrow is very pretty..especially up close.

Roses in December

One plant that is surprising us is our yellow rose. It is still blooming…not the prettiest of blooms but still treating us to some rose-goodness for the kitchen table. For all you Redwall readers out there, we have named this the Winter of the Rose.

Quart and Magnifying Glass

As part of my research and preparation for the new More Nature Study #2 ebook, we are having fun studying rocks up close with our magnifying lens. I set up a spot on our nature table with some interesting rocks and I noticed that just about everyone has stopped by to take a peek. (Quartz will be a topic in the new ebook.)We have lots of examples of quartz in our rock collection so pulling them out and putting them in one place has brought them back out of the shoeboxes and into the spotlight.

We are headed into another week of dry sunny days so we will be outdoors walking quite a bit. I know at some point the rain and snow will come but for now we are breathing deep the warm (50’s) afternoons together. Hope you get the chance to be outdoors this week.

More Nature Study #2 button
Scheduled Publish Date: 12/28/11

By popular demand, here is the link to the SE Folding Magnifier, Glass Lens 2 1/2″ Dia., Power 5X
we have in the photo above.

Posted on 3 Comments

Gold Country: Some Random Things to Share

Our part of the world is best known for being the place that gold was discovered in California back in 1848. We live very close to the South Fork of the American River and in fact, we spend much of our outdoor time in or around the water of this river. My parents live even closer to the actual gold discovery spot and have remains of an old town where the Chinese workers came to work in the mines and along the river.

The river was used for hydraulic mining which destroyed much of the habitat and you can still see remains of ditches dug for diverting water and piles of river rock where the soil was washed away looking for gold. The scars remain even today.

So much history left behind for us to explore and experience today.

This is an abandoned mine that we discovered on our regular hiking trail. This was taken a month or so ago and we were just there yesterday and it looks very different. The water level has dropped inside the mine and you can step inside a little to check it out. The water is not raining down inside as heavily either. The plants around the opening are getting green and somewhat covering up the entrance.

We took a hike to a different part of the river two weeks ago and it had lots of rocks that looked like this with the quartz encased in the other rocks.

This short video gives you an idea of what the rock and the river is like where we are. In the beginning of the video you will hear my husband’s narrative….please know he was trying to be silly. Don’t miss me almost falling into the river at one point… the rocks are hard to walk on especially when you are taking a video.

We had packed along our gold pans and the boys tried their hand at finding some gold. No luck this day.

The water was really cold and they decided there is a definite skill to panning. We wondered about the gold miners back in the 1800’s and how they must have remained motivated by either their success or the success of others around them. It is back breaking work.

On another hike, we saw this guy alongside the river on the North Fork getting ready to start using his sluice box for gold mining. Here is an easy explanation of how a sluice box works. My husband has used one before and he says it just is an easier way to sift through the gravel looking for flakes of gold. He took a geology class where they actually did gold dredging in this river and he was surprised that there still is quite a bit of gold if you take the time to look for it.

I bet you don’t see this very often. We have one place that we like to hike to along the river because it has a perfect spot for skipping rocks when the water is low. We went there the other day and for the first time we saw these signs posted everywhere. I have to do some research because as far as I know, this place is on Bureau of Land Management land which seems like an unlikely place for someone to post a mining claim. Anyone know how that works?
Edit: Here is a link to answer my questions: BLM FAQ

Well, I hope you enjoyed my little glimpse into the gold country around our house. It is something that interests my boys so we might just need to tackle a geology course and use mining as the basis for our study. We already have a ton of rocks that we have collected over the years to study and identify. I should look at it as a project.

Quartz samples

Posted on 7 Comments

Beavers, Fur, and Rocks: Our Family’s Outdoor Hour Challenge

This week we took time to review a little bit about beavers since we regularly visit an area where we see evidence of them. If you read my blog regularly, you have seen photos of the beaver lodges and the trees gnawed on by beavers.

My son really enjoyed watching the YouTube videos on beavers and we read the section in the Handbook on muskrats.

Our outdoor time this week was spent exploring an area off the trail we normally take. It led us to what we are now calling Fern Gully. This area is found by following what we think is a deer trail down off the main trail and into a steep little gully. We have heard water running in this area before and we presume that when it rains hard enough there is water running down the rocks. We will test our theory the next chance we get.

Here is another photo looking the other way down the gully.

There are lots of blackberry vines. We are interested to see how this area looks in the summertime. We imagine it being a cool place to sit in the shade. It should be interesting to see how the area changes as the seasons change.

We found more fur on the side of the trail…a lot this time.

We still are puzzled by the fur mystery. I looked at it very closely and it is really fluffy and very soft. It is white…with a slight yellowish color to it. There is no blood or tracks or other signs of struggle. I have no idea where it came from but this is the third spot on the mile and a half trail that we have seen this fur. Last week we began to wonder if it was a dog’s fur but it just doesn’t feel like any dog fur that I have felt before. Someone suggested in a comment that it could be sheep’s wool but it is no way the texture of wool and there are definitely no sheep in this area. Hmmmm…still wondering.

We came across an area that has these wonderful quartz rocks. Really, really pretty.

Here is the backside.

I am so interested in studying rocks but I am nervous about being overwhelmed with trying to identify them. Any suggestions?

Well, that wraps up this post for our Outdoor Hour Challenge this week. We had some adventures and some good questions this week. Last night we had two inches of snow so we were able to complete our Winter Wednesday snow activities from a few weeks ago. I was glad that we had planned ahead of time and had the experiments in our mind as it began to snow. I will post those results soon.


Quartz samples