Feathered & Furry Foto Farm
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About Feathered & Furry Foto Farm
A lot of people ask how I got started in wanting to raise animals. I grew up in the town of Peru, IL…NOT on a farm. This surprises most people…thinking I came from a farming family. I can tell you this…from the time I was born I was attracted to animals….and dreaming of not only owning them but breeding them. I remember being quite young and going through horse picture books – pretending that I owned that particular horse and breeding it with the one on the next page. So I guess I was born this way!
I started breeding Arabians just out of high school in 1989 and officially started Vision Arabians. I have sold Arabians all over the world included Kuwait, Canada, Italy and Australia and have produced many halter champions. www.visionarabians.com
My dream was always to produce and show a foal to champion ribbons. I achieved this goal in 2015 with a filly that I produced – Lola VA. She was champion at the Iowa Gold Star Futurity Auction AND winner in the Futurity as well. Then in 2016 a colt – Dixon VA was reserve champion at the same show. To say I have achieved what I was out to do is an understatement when I look at all that my babies have done in the past 28 years! I have owned more than 130 horses (43 of which I produced).
Times change, however, and when the market crashed in horses, the prices dropped so low – it is not very cost effective to continue breeding. I have cut way down on breeding horses. I only currently produce 1-2 foals a year and most of my broodmares are housed in Wisconsin with my halter trainer.
But I still love riding when I get a free moment – but I now ride Clydesdales. YES…I said CLYDESDALES! Gentle giants they are…they are very sweet. I currently have 3 Clydesdales (Chester, Katie and Ribbon) and 1 Clydesdale/Gypsy Vanner mix gelding Norman!
In 2013 - among some other life changes - I started breeding Australian Shepherds.
I am now an American Kennel Club H.E.A.R.T program breeder for Australian Shepherds. I have had 8 litters to date and have many many compliments on my pups. We hand raise all pups here at the farm and concentrate on correct conformation, intelligence and all around great, highly socialized pups! I have quite an extensive reference list and usually have quite a long waiting list for the next litter. www.blackhawkaussies.com
We are also working on breeding English Bulldogs. I had an English Bulldog over 13 years ago - Rosie. I fell in LOVE with that breed way back then. We lost her in a house fire in late 2005. So in 2015 I decided to get another one...along came Ellie and I fell in LOVE with the breed again. Yes..they have their health issues - but it is ALL worth it when you come home to Bulldog Love!!!
Our first purebred litter will be due yet in 2017! I can't wait for little bullies! We are working on our AKC H.E.A.R.T certification - that should come soon!
Rabbits...I had a couple rabbits in High School...but nothing that stuck around - the only thing I can tell you is that I have LOVED rabbits since reading and watching Watership Down as a kid. The movie scared my little brother - but was just completely fascinating to me. The book was and always will be my favorite novel of all time.
I started raising Holland Lops and Lionheads in the summer of 2014 but quickly realized that Lionheads were more work then I had time for so I changed to Netherland Dwarfs.
My "Bunny Barn" has since overflowed to my garage with 64 holes. I found the demand for rabbits as pets is pretty high! Rabbits make amazing house pets and just as smart as dogs and cats - Some say smarter :)
I have many repeat customers as well - they get one and they want another! The Bunny Barn mascot is Hazel (a blue Flemish Giant doe!)
I am going to blame photography on the start of the aviary. I forgot to mention Photography didn't I lol?
I was an art major in High School - all 4 years. I used to draw. Pencil, chalk, etc. I loved drawing - and I bet you can guess what I was drawing...ANIMALS.
Having kids, a family and dogs and horses does not allow for time to draw. Drawing takes up quite a bit of time and I do sometimes with I had time - but I simply do NOT. I have always had a mid range camera and lens that I would "attempt" to take photos of my horses. I was never really good at it but I had the equipment. In the meantime - work assigned me the job of putting content on our work facebook page and it also required me to post photos. So I started bringing my camera to work - then a co-worker showed me how to go off program mode - and BAM...PHOTOGRAPHY is my escape.
I would rather spend 4 hours out sitting in the front yard waiting for that ONE perfect shot of a hummingbird or in 20 below temps waiting for an eagle to come down and snatch up that fish then doing anything else.
Photography has taken me a lot of places...helped me connect with my two boys a lot more on our trips - especially my youngest Ben. Ben started doing photography at age 13 and up until 2016 - we had booths at art fairs selling photography all over Illinois on weekend. I've been to quite a few National Parks, traveled twice to Alaska...and fell in love with Montana! I've had the most amazing experiences photographing wildlife and met some even MORE amazing people along the way! I would love to have you visit my photography website: www.photosbyjacki.com Hopefully after my husbands recovery we will be able to get back to having photography booths again!
For some reason - it popped into my head that I have enough land to host photography events at my farm...so I built a rather large wood bird blind for photographers. Currently I am only running 1 or 2 sessions in the winter a year, but hoping after my husbands stroke recovery that I can get back into having more sessions.
It also occurred to me that I had an obsession with any feathered creature. My favorite subject is the Bald Eagle...but I can't raise those. I went to an outdoor poultry swap once - can't remember why I originally went to the swap - but that is where I found the beauty of peacocks...didn't know you could even own swans...and someone told me that no one really raises call ducks anymore.
I started with call ducks, then added some exotics. I found out that exotic ducks are NOT easy to raise. Right now I am just doing Wood Ducks and Mandarins (regular and white variety)
2015 I added Peafowl to the outdoor aviary and in 2016 we added several colors of peafowl as well. We have over 10 color varieties at the current moment.
The 2017 hatch is going really well after struggling the first couple years to get proper hatch and rearing down. (There seems to be a year or two struggle with any poultry breeding - especially incubation)
I think I covered most of it...I also work a full time job!
I hear from people on a daily basis - HOW do you do it all? To be honest I am really not sure!
My husband used to help me - until his stroke. He had a stroke in March of 2016 at the age of 48. He is recovering, but this process is very, very slow.
You can't predict your health and life is too short. That is what I learned. So I keep plugging along...learned to drive a skid steer - how to repair the lawn mower - how to install a screen door or repair a window screen - how to hire out help for projects I just CAN'T get to - value and respect my husbands caregiver tremendously... (I know I can't do your job justice Andrea! ) and learned that I won't do without a housekeeper now - EVER, EVER, EVER!!! (Thanks Lori).
I've also learned it is OK to be a little on the obsessive side of things....it's OK to be a "dork"...and to let go and have fun in life as much as you can. So if I am not available one day a week or a few hours on the weekend I am either working hard at the farm, spending time with Emery, watching the Walking Dead - FOREVER a Walking Dead fan (even met most of the characters!) - listening to Jani Lane (RIP) or trying to enjoy a little life amidst my chaos!
I get it done...ALL OF IT. I am a very busy person and I am a multi-tasker. No one could get all of this done without being that kind of a person. But please understand that I am a busy person and each and every moment of my time is extremely valuable!
To top it all off I try really hard to spend as much time with my Granddaughter Emery as I can...she is truly one precious little sweetheart!
Texting works best for my life at this moment in time. If I can help you find the right color of peacock, that once in a lifetime puppy you have been looking for - or a precious baby bunny - I am there to help.
Thanks for listening to my very long story!
Jacki & Bradley Musser - June 2017
One of my favorite sayings: “If you only talk and don't listen, you only learn what you already know." J Lane