This article explores how The Hidden Farm uses ¼” minus Trail Mix Gravel to create cement-like paths and flooring for weddings and then easily transitions it into a horse arena footing in the winter. The sections “The Secret Ingredient: Trail Mix Gravel” and “Megan’s Gravel Recipe for Paddocks” contain specific information about how gravel products are used. Don’t forget to watch our video about The Hidden Farm located at the end of the article. We hope you enjoy the beautiful story of The Hidden Farm.
Just beyond the shorelines of Lake Tapps, The Hidden Farm sits on a hill surrounded by acres of pastureland. The valley below is dotted with grazing horses and cattle, and in the distance are the snow-frosted foothills of Mt. Rainier.
The viewpoint at the rim of the hill is bordered by a granite rockery. Behind the rockery stretches a smooth, green lawn, flanked on one side by horse stables and on the other side, a horse arena and a classic red barn.
Every spring, Megan Pollock transforms her farm into a wedding venue. Washington Rock’s Trail Mix gravel is an important part of that transformation.
A New Beginning
Megan (pronounced Mee-gan) first came to the farm as a single mother with her two teenage daughters. She was looking for something that had “a life way before us.”
The farm was the perfect fit. Megan and her girls were only the third family to live on the farm in over 100 years. The original milk shed and a charming 1913 farmhouse were still standing.
Friends and family members helped bring the farm back to working condition. The girls’ wishes came true when Megan brought animals to the farm and eventually started boarding horses. Megan worked a nine-to-five job while developing the farm.
Years later, she met Phil Erikson, whose willingness to work on the farm helped win her over. Over the years, many of their friends and family members asked about using the farm as a wedding venue. After retiring, Megan decided, “Why not?”
Transforming a Horse Farm into an Event Venue
Transforming a working horse farm into an event venue takes some planning. For a friend’s birthday celebration, the horses are transferred to the pastures down the hill.
The doors of the arena are rolled open, and the steel frame of entrance is framed by sheer white curtains. Tables are spaced around a dance floor, and oak barrels are fitted with bar tops. Crystal chandeliers light the ceiling. On the back wall, curtains and string lights extend from the top of the roof to the floor, framing the background for many exchanged vows: a handsome wall of barn wood.
Gravel also plays a big role in the transformation. The interiors of the stables and red barn and the paths around the lawn get a gravel facelift.
The arena floor is coated with a compacted layer of Trail Mix gravel, which guests can easily walk on. Like the transition from winter to spring, the gravel seems to transform. The color of the stone matches the blue-gray mountains and stands out against the green lawn.
At the end of the event season, horses will return to the arena, and their hooves will churn the gravel and make it sand-like once again.
The Secret Ingredient: Trail Mix Gravel
Initially, Megan and Phil tested Washington Rock’s Trail Mix gravel (also known as ¼” minus or quarter-inch minus) as a base for their sand paddocks and loved it. When they decided to turn The Hidden Farm into an event venue, their love for the stone’s blue-gray color led them to use Trail Mix in the arena. The gravel was surprisingly versatile as both a wedding venue material and a riding arena footing material.
“You can walk across it like it’s cement,” Megan explains. “And then when fall comes, we flip the arena. We put up all the horse fencing, we bring in the horses, and within a day, they’ve turned it into sand.”
Our video below shows how the Trail Mix gravel is used at The Hidden Farm.
Trail Mix gravel has the benefit of being supportive while also being pliable. As an added bonus, Trail Mix gravel is good for the horses’ hooves. The Hidden Farm horses wear front shoes and no shoes on their back hooves. The ¼” minus material smooths out their back hooves.
“It’s just abrasive enough [that] it doesn’t bother their frogs—that’s the soft part of the inside of the hoof,” Megan says.
In Megan’s opinion, a larger gravel like 5/8-inch minus (also known as 5/8” minus or five-eighths minus)* is not an option for footing material.
“We’ve got to have the quarter-inch minus,” Megan explains. “And the only alternative would be, bring in sand in the winter, shovel it out, bring in a compacted-right-down-to-the-dirt base, shovel that out, bring the sand back—it would be a horrible rotation.”
While even the Trail Mix gravel method requires some work, it’s much less labor intensive.
“You have one product, multiple uses,” Megan says. “You’ve got to put a little bit of work into it, but at the end of the day, it’s one hundred percent worth it, and it looks beautiful when you finish.”
Megan’s Gravel Recipe for Paddocks
Megan uses Washington Rock’s gravel in the paddocks as well. Megan’s experience in the rainy Pacific Northwest has led her to develop her own recipe for paddock footing material.
For paddocks, “you want to make a sandwich,” she explains. Workers scrape down to the hardpan, then put a geotextile over the surface. They add 5/8” minus, then a little bit of ¼” minus on top. The gravel is compacted, then pea gravel is added to the surface.
The smaller material on the surface makes paddocks easier to pick (clean). The pea gravel pieces will sift through the forks while manure stays on top.
Pea gravel “doesn’t get quicksand-ish like sand does,” Megan adds.
A Hopeful Future
After wildfires last year devastated the local bee population, Megan and Phil decided to bring bees to the farm. The bees are just one part of Megan’s hopes for making The Hidden Farm an agritourist destination.
Guests could tour the property and learn about farm life.
“They’d learn about the bees, horses, sheep and goats, and about farming—how to take care of fields and why it’s important, especially with so much growth in Washington,” Megan says.
With so much development in the area, Megan fears “becoming an island.”
The Hidden Farm is a rural paradise that deserves to be protected.
To plan a wedding at The Hidden Farm, check out their pages on The Knot or The Wedding Wire or submit an inquiry on The Hidden Farm website at TheHiddenFarmWA.com. For horse boarding, check out the The Hidden Farm Facebook page for details.
View more photos of this project on The Hidden Farm project page.
For more information about Trail Mix gravel, visit our Trail Mix product page. If you’re looking for a similar product outside the Seattle-Tacoma area, look for a coarse crusher dust. Decomposed granite may also work as a substitute.
*Note that 5/8” minus is similar to ¾” minus in other areas.