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Baby Alpaca In The Kitchen: Waiting For Florence On The Farm

Breindel (left) and Sharron Payne take a momentary break from preparations.
Breindel (left) and Sharron Payne take a momentary break from preparations.
Madeline Gray for NPR/Madeline Gray for NPR

As Hurricane Florence hits North Carolina, Amanda McKee's only concern is for her animals at 1870 Farm outside of Chapel Hill. McKee and her husband David Schwartz transformed the nearly 150-year-old farm, and another in Durham, into an agritourism destination that now houses horses, donkeys, a cow, alpacas, goats, sheep, chickens, and a host of other animals, including a baby alpaca named Xanadu that lives with the family full-time.

Before the storm, McKee said she could tell the animals were acting more alert and skittish than usual as they sense the storm in the air. "They just seem much more aware of their surroundings," she says.

Despite numerous offers to take the animals to facilities out of the storm's path, McKee is keeping them on the farm. She says she is determined to keep their routine as normal as possible, especially because most of her animals are rescues. She and her team launched a "monumental" effort to prepare the farm and the animals.

McKee, who was a practicing veterinarian for over 20 years, takes a holistic approach to caring for her animals. "If we put them in the barn, they'd freak out," she explains.

Despite the animals' often traumatic pasts, McKee goes on, "they have become very, very comfortable here and are stressed when they leave." Part of the animals' routine includes having a neighbor come to the farm to feed them twice a day which will happen even during the storm. McKee will head home with Xanadu in tow to wait out the hurricane with her family.

McKee and her staff worked non-stop to ensure the farm is prepared. They microchipped many of the animals, put identification tags in their manes and tails, ordered a two weeks supply of food, have geothermal water troughs that refill automatically, have removed any additional debris from around the farm, and made all of the animals' shelters more secure.

As the storm approached, McKee said she feels a sense of calm. She knows there was nothing more to be done except wait to get back to her animals after Hurricane Florence passes.

As the storm hit, McKee says the animals "did great" on Thursday night. "They are super frisky today."

Madeline Gray is a photographer based in Raleigh, N.C.

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