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Research center open house is gut check for some visitors

September 10, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

KEEDYSVILLE - On Saturday, someone could stick a hand into a live cow's stomach - no kidding - then learn how to properly wash that hand.

Many attractions at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center open house near Keedysville focused on the ways of nature, whether animal, vegetable or mineral.

The center is a home to Maryland Cooperative Extension, part of the University of Maryland's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Visitors got the chance to find out about ethanol fuel, vineyards, golf course management and backyard forestry.

Since extension programs delve into other areas in and around the home, too, there were booths on topics such as money management and hygiene.

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At the Neighborhood Grime Watch table, extension agents Mary Concannon from Baltimore County and Sandy Corridon from Frederick County explained the proper way to keep hands clean after a sneeze or a trip to the bathroom.

Corridon sprayed fluorescent GlitterBug Potion on a visitor's hands. Under a black light in a dark tent, the hands glowed, symbolizing dirt.

Concannon guided the visitor through a hand-washing.

First, get the hands wet. Apply soap. Rub the hands together, with friction, long enough to sing the ABCs once or "Happy Birthday to You" twice.

A follow-up visit to the black light reveals glowing spots that need to be scrubbed better.

Corridon said "cursory washing, run under water, dry on a towel and go," which most people do, is not enough.

Especially when your hand (wearing a protective glove) has been inside a rumen, the largest chamber of a cow's stomach.

Two cows at the open house, Lucy and Ethel, had openings, or fistulas, surgically cut into their sides.

Lindsay Callahan, the manager of the university's College Park farm, said fistulas give researchers easy access to digestive samples. A plug covers a hole most of the time.

"It was hot in there," Faye Stauch of Hagerstown said after pulling her arm out. "You could feel the contractions of her stomach."

Rachel Weibley, 9, of Needmore, Pa., described what she felt as "gooey."

Her father, Elmer, a manager for the Washington County Soil Conservation District, got a kick out of the experience.

"I always deal with what comes out the other end during my job," he joked.

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