The Harvest & Supply of Decorative Stone

Published on August 26, 2022

boulders ready to harvest
Boulders in nature are just waiting to be unearthed.

No stone is exactly the same, and each customer envisions its use differently. That’s what makes my job as a stone harvester and supplier so interesting — knowing where a rock or boulder came from and how it was used to create something beautiful and natural looking for others to enjoy! Hopefully sharing my perspective on excavating and shipping will help designers and contractors more clearly communicate their needs with their stone supplier.

A Rocky Start

My wife’s prize boulder she envisions in the waterfall at her dream home.

No stone is exactly the same, and each customer envisions its use differently. That’s what makes my job as a stone harvester and supplier so interesting — knowing where a rock or boulder came from and how it was used to create something beautiful and natural looking for others to enjoy! Hopefully sharing my perspective on excavating and shipping will help designers and contractors more clearly communicate their needs with their stone supplier.

I grew up on a 5,000-acre cattle ranch in southeast Oklahoma where, from the age of 5, I started operating tractors and picking up rock to build fence posts, create creek crossings and improve pastureland and hayfields. At age 11, I was operating bulldozers building farm ponds under my grandfather’s instruction. I graduated college with a degree in agribusiness but spent several years wrestling steers in professional rodeo.

In 1995, while traveling through Paris, Texas, I noticed a landscape company that had fieldstone for sale and built small water features. The idea was born — we had lots of rocks at home! This company was my first customer. I then added other water garden contractors to my client list in Oklahoma City and North Texas.

PONDTrade Water Artisan of the Year Contest

We harvest the majority of the rock off our ranch, but luckily there is a surplus of landowners willing to let us buy theirs. We pay landowners a royalty per ton and also try to improve their property as we excavate rock. While most of the rock in southeast Oklahoma is similar, they can vary in hardness, density and natural shape literally within a few hundred feet of each other.

Growing up in this region gives me a good idea of what type of boulders will be on a property and where. Also, looking at old stone structures and rock corner posts can tell you what rocks are abundant in that area. I do spend many hours hiking property looking for the best quality boulders. Once I find them, there is the challenge of transporting them to a staging area to palletize and ship them. We live in an area rich in natural gas, so luckily there are lease roads and well locations that can be used.

Today, we excavate a large variety of sandstone boulders in many shapes and sizes. I take pride in my customer service and work one-on-one to make sure customers get what they need to make their vision a reality. We market boulders ranging from hand size, which are used in flowerbeds, streams and fill-in material in waterfalls, up to bigger boulders that act as a focal point or a major structural member in larger projects. No matter the size of boulder excavated from its natural location, which took thousands of years to form, when handled and installed properly, it can a give project that same natural look.

Solid Selections

Our decorative boulders have lichen and moss with lots of character and grooves from years of wear from the environment, which adds natural beauty to a project. The beauty and natural look of moss boulders gives projects a timeless look as if they were created naturally over the years.

lifting boulder
To minimize damage during loading we use lifting straps and a 48k-lb. excavator on large boulders.

We offer all types of stone, but moss boulders remain our specialty. Our moss boulders can be placed so they appear to come straight out of the hillside, making them perfect for recreational pond construction and landscaping projects anywhere. Sometimes they even have small trees and grass still growing from the crevices and covered in moss and lichen, giving it a true, natural look. We have even had contractors come hand pick stone still unearthed. We  carefully excavated, palletized and shipped it directly to their job site.

We like to do dimensional boulders in blocks and beams for stacking in retaining walls and water features. Large, flat boulders work great for steps, natural stairways, grotto slabs and waterfall spill rocks.

We also do a lot of custom orders where contractors give me the dimensions of the boulders they need. Sometimes it’s a computer-aided design. Sometimes it’s a specific list with exact measurements; other times it’s required quantities. Often, it’s a verbal description. The challenge here is that at 130 to 160 pounds per cubic foot, rock is heavy. Sometimes the size they want ends up weighing more than they can manage with unloading and placing. If they require massive height on a project, we look for taller rocks with less depth. If they are stacking, we look for blockier material.

Bo(u)lder Designs

excavating boulder
We excavated this 8,000-lb. weathered boulder and it is just gorgeous.

Correct boulder selection and placement makes a world of difference in how natural everything ties together. I’ve seen designs that used my boulders that flowed so well it made you feel like you had stumbled onto a natural oasis. In other projects, I ended up being embarrassed to say I’d supplied them!

Natural beauty with no maintenance and a onetime purchase provides a lifetime of landscape beauty. Use care in excavating and shipping along with clear communication to know your customer’s needs. This tends to benefit in increased popularity with both old and new customers alike.

Last year, we shipped a 22,000-pound boulder that stood on its side to create a shear face for a waterfall. This was one of the largest boulders we’d ever shipped, and it took an articulated loader for loading and unloading. We’ve excavated stone from different places in Oklahoma to match projects with material native to that area. Recently we started working on a project using large boulders in the 8 to 10,000-pound range range that had to be excavated and loaded with a 48,000-pound machine and set with a crane. In the end, most projects demand a variety of shapes and sizes to give it a true natural look.

A completed water feature using our company’s stone. They were designed and installed by Nature’s Image Aquatic Design in Topeka, Kansas.

Seventh Annual Water Artisans of the Year Contest

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