In 2010, Ron and Karen Burlingame moved back to his family’s land near East Smithfield. They built their home while living in a camper.
Two years later, they acquired six alpacas.
“I gave him six for father’s day,” said Karen. “Two years later we rescued a herd of seven.”
But it didn’t end there. The following year while Ron was away, Karen rescued five more alpacas. Then, about six months later, they got ten more from someone who could no longer care for them. Four more alpacas came after that. In November 2018, they adopted a five-month-old baby alpaca.
All of their alpacas, if they didn’t come with names, were given celestial names such as Luna, Star, Hercules, Aquarius and Leo. Hence, the name of their farm – Under the Moonlite Alpaca & Garlic Ranch.
Why alpacas? Ron is allergic to wool and Karen was cold after spending ten winters in Florida.
“When we retired we could have traveled,” explained Karen. “But we decided to rescue instead.”
Traveling is no longer an option for the Burlingames. They have rescued donkeys, alpacas, dogs and cats. They also have horses, goats and guinea hens.
And it’s not just animals that keep this “retired” couple busy. They also grow garlic – lots and lots of garlic.
“Alpaca poo is how I plant everything,” said Karen, who attended a “Poo Seminar” to learn the value of alpaca poo.
According to Karen, alpaca poo is a neutral fertilizer and she plants directly in it. She also sells her alpaca poo by the bag, along with a spray plant food that she uses outdoors and inside.
Karen explained that plants take in about 90 percent of their nutrients through their leaf fertilization. That’s why she sprays.
As for their garlic, Karen plants it right in the alpaca poo. According to Karen, after three years garlic takes on the properties of the soil it’s planted in. She has planted over 100 pounds of garlic, with 12 different varieties from elephant, which is the mildest, to spicy garlic.
Once a year their alpacas are sheared and the fibers are sent to the co-op they belong to in Massachusetts, where it is turned into yarn, socks, gloves and boot liners. They buy those items back to sell locally.
“I’m a real stickler for made in America things,” said Karen, who also hand knits hats, scarves, slippers, blankets and sweaters including dog sweaters.
“Alpaca is natural wicking so your feet never sweat,” Karen continued. She explained that it is three times warmer than wool without the itch, it’s hypoallergenic and softer than cashmere.
They host class trips, and have had visitors who use their donkeys, horses and goats to lift spirits and help heal.
For more information, call (570) 596-3960 or email email@example.com.
Once a year, on the weekend after Mother’s Day, Ron and Karen Burlingame host a special “Naked Alpaca Party.” This year it will be held on May 18 and 19 from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. The farm is open and all are invited to come and experience shearing and all that goes with it.
“We don’t love to shear,” said Karen. “But we do love to share.”