Worm wrangler extraordinaire

Trish Popovitch photo
Lynn Dampman scoops up a shovelful of worm-laden compost to check on the health of her slithering wards, which she has living in her basement.
Trish Popovitch
Most people would not choose to have worms living in the basement of their beautiful golf course home. But when John Dampman had told his soon-to-be-wife Lynn that the worms would not be living in his garage when they married, she had to come up with another option.
After all, where is a vermiculture expert, master gardener and seed harvesting entrepreneur supposed to keep her red wigglers while they make compost for the blanket of native plants and shrubs that adorns the Dampman home throughout the growing season? A truly avant-garde gardener, Dampman is one of Glenrock’s foremost growers, with a green thumb that would make the most avid gardener emerald with envy. 
While her plants rest for the winter, Dampman’s focus today is on the seed business she launched late last year. 
Dampman, grew up in Wyoming and works in oil field administration when she isn’t in the garden. She moved from just outside Casper to Glenrock back in 2006, leaving behind a well-established garden grown with love with the help of her father in Vista West.
In her new home, Dampman took on the challenge of a windy hillscape using native plants and xeriscaping (low-water gardening) to make best use of the space, the local plant life and, of course, her worm compost. A member of Natrona County Master Gardeners since 2000, Dampman uses a personally formulated gardening system of trial and error, experimenting and happily embracing every wild plant that the Wyoming wind blows her way to learn about and grow with her native garden.
This is where the worms come in. Dampman first found an interest in vermiculture (worm composting) back in 1982 after reading an article in Organic Gardening Magazine. At the time, Dampman was producing commercial grade compost with her father, who had no interest in experimenting in worm composting. Unable to make traditional compost in Wyoming’s harsh winter months, Dampman branched out and began worm composting in her garage. 
Her philosophy was simple. “Let’s give it a go and see what happens.”
“It’s the winter alternative to composting, and it’s a way to keep food out of the landfill,” Dampman said. “You can start any time and it’s very inexpensive. And if you fail, don’t worry about it, just try again.”
The compost produced through vermiculture is a rich dark matter which enhances any soil, filling it with aerated nitrates and lots of happy healthy worms—a must in any pH, erosion-challenged Wyoming backyard lot. 
Dampman’s balance of bedding, food and worms creates a symbiosis that results in some fantastic compost, she said. As Dampman draws a shovel of worms from the box, she apologizes for disturbing them.
While she waits to renew her gardening until early spring, Dampman devotes her time to sorting the seeds for her newly launched enterprise. Because of the abundance of plants in Dampman’s garden, late fall is a time of seed pods and seed harvest. Like many gardeners, Dampman enjoys weeding more than most garden tasks and views seed harvesting as the winter alternative to cleaning the beds. 
“I don’t know if it keeps me sane, but it keeps me calm, it keeps me grounded,” Dampman smiles. 
With the help of friend Anita Hill, Dampman created the packaging for the seed packets and used her ‘grown in Glenrock’ seeds to fill them. The shelves of another room holds the many jars of seeds collected last year, although in hindsight Dampman realizes she only gathered the tip of the seed iceberg and next year plans on adding a number of additional native species to her collection. She is still working on a website to make online sales, but for now the seeds are available at the Wyoming Plant Company in Casper and from Dampman directly. 
Dampman is excited to share native plant seeds as one way to counteract the never-ending complaints from new gardeners or out-of-state transplant growers regarding the lack of growing options in Wyoming.
“When you try to fight your surroundings, it’s just a never ending battle,” she said. “We here in Wyoming can grow a lot of stuff; a lot of berries, a lot of fruit…we’ve got a lot of options.” 
Between feeding the worms, saving the seeds and poring over spring seed catalogs, Dampman plans and writes gardening articles as part of her work with the Natrona County Master Gardeners. 
Although not the only master gardener in Glenrock, Dampman is always willing to share her plant passion and advise beginning growers on gardening. 
“Don’t be afraid to get advice. There is so much out there,” Dampman said. “Everybody’s experience is different and, if somebody gives you some advice that you tried and it didn’t work, don’t be afraid to get new advice.” 
An avid reader and member of the Glenrock Garden Club, Dampman has planned the garden beds for the new library complex, and she and others hope to donate native species to the learning garden. Funds raised by club plant sales will pay for any additional plantings, as well as signage and labels for the beds. 
Club members will be able to harvest seeds from the plants for exchange at the annual seed swap the library has hosted for the last three years.


Glenrock Independent

Physical Address:506 W. Birch, Glenrock, WY 82637 Mailing Address: PO Box 109, Douglas, WY 82633 Phone: (307) 436-2211

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