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EARTHWORMS, A FEW SQUIRMS

The extension uses composting and rain barrels as an eco-friendly outreach.

Throw in some shredded newspaper, egg shells, watermelon rinds, coffee grounds and summer squash that's past its prime. Add a few drops of water, toss in a bit of mulch for grit and you've got the makings of an earthworm salad bar.

Doesn't sound all that appetizing, especially to kids like Alexandra Sessa and Dalanie Hodock, both 8, who get a shiver up the spine at the very sight of a wiggly worm - never mind touching one.

But there's an upside. If you toss all the ingredients in a ventilated container and give the creepy crawlers a little time, they'll digest all that garbage. Then you'll be rewarded with the best kind of fertilizer ever.

Gardeners call it "black gold" or compost, the result of the age-old practice of recycling food scraps (sans meat and dairy products) that might otherwise be tossed in the garbage bin.

The Pasco Cooperative Extension in Dade City is passing the skill on to a new crop of young gardeners through "Digging in the Dirt," one of the kids workshops being offered this summer.

Typically, the Pasco Cooperative Extension, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state land-grant universities (University of Florida and Florida A&M), offers a bevy of programs at three different sites throughout the year. There are Saturday Seminars, Rain Barrel Workshops and plant sales. There are courses in Family and Consumer Sciences, a sewing club, cooking contests and a popular Master Gardener program.

Now there's a summer camp of sorts.

"Every Tuesday is kids day," said county extension director and horticulture agent B.J. Jarvis.

And Saturdays, too.

"We've got a lot of different things going on here: a sewing camp, one on water and the aquifer where the kids will be making their own rain barrels," Jarvis said. "The kids have been cooking, too. Making bread and cupcakes from scratch. It's great."

The goal of the programs, said Jarvis, "is to get the kids out there doing instead of just sitting around during their summer break. Hopefully that will spur them to keep an interest in the things they've learned here."

Maybe they'll grow up to cook for themselves or sew their own outfits. Maybe they'll become avid gardeners or simply conquer a fear of things that wiggle in the earth.

"It tickled," Dalanie said, after cupping one small worm in her hand for a mere second or two. "That wasn't so bad."

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In the Garden

The Pasco Cooperative Extension is holding several workshops and events this summer. The following events are at the extension office at 36702 State Road 52, Dade City, unless otherwise noted.

- GPS/Geocaching, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday,for ages 10 to 18. There will be hand-held units to work with. $5. Bring lunch.

- Sew-N-Go Saturday Summer Youth Day Camp, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 10 at Clayton Hall on the Pasco County Fairgrounds. Ages 8 to 15. $5. Must preregister, bring lunch.

- Kid Kamp - Water, Water Everywhere, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 13, for ages 10 to 15. Bring a lunch and a towel. $5. Must register byTuesday.

- Make It, Take It Tuesday - Eco Art Day I, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 20, in the Women's Building on the Pasco County Fairgrounds. $5. Must preregister and bring a lunch.

- Sew-N-Go Saturday Denim Day, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 24, in Clayton Hall on the Pasco County Fairgrounds, for ages 8 to 15. $5. Must preregister, bring a lunch and an old pair of jeans to cut up.

- Make It, Take It Tuesday - Eco Art Day II, Summer Youth Day Camp, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 27 in the Women's Building on the Pasco County Fairgrounds. $5. Must pre-register and bring lunch.

All ages

- Bonsai Basics, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hudson Library, 8012 Library Road.

- Making Your Own Compost and Worm Composting, 9 to 11 a.m. July 10 at the Land O'Lakes Community Center, 5401 Land O'Lakes Blvd., Land O'Lakes. All ages.

- Sustainable Florida Gardens Seminar, 8 to 11 a.m. Aug. 7. Author Ginny Stiboldt will talk about how to have a beautiful landscape that is also environmentally friendly. The author's new book will be available for signing and purchase. Free.

For information or to register for these events go to pasco.ifas.ufl.edu and click on "Events Calendar," or call (352) 521-4288, (727) 847-2411, ext. 4288 or (813) 996-2411, ext. 4288.

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