Q: I've been stuck in my house all winter, but now I'm thinking it's time to get outside and join a cleanup, tree planting or something. Any tips?
A: Spring has sprung, the grass has... OK, the grass hasn't risen yet, but that shouldn't keep you from breaking free of your domestic cocoon and skipping through the streets spouting nonsensical children's limericks. After all, it's that time of year when, if you stare at a tree branch hard enough, you can almost see the little buds trying their damnedest to come out, and that alone should fuel the hop in your step.
But before everything gets growing, you're right, a good cleanup is definitely in order, especially now that all that white stuff has thawed, revealing the oh-so-generous gifts litterers have left behind. Roll up your sleeves and head out next Saturday, April 16, for the annual Spring Fling cleanup at Todmorden Mills (see box for details), where all your hard work will be rewarded with a tasty BBQ and guided walk through the Don. Humber Valley Arboretum has its own cleanup April 23 (205 Humber College Boulevard, 416-675-5009), and for you east-enders, Glen Stewart Ravine (Kingston Road and Glen Manor) is getting spruced up April 24 at 10 am. And don't forget to drop everything at 2 pm Friday, April 22, and, wherever the hell you are - work, school, whatever - get your friends and colleagues to step outside and tidy up your 'hood during T.O.'s 20 Minute Makeover.
And what better way to see more green than to plant more greenery. If you can't trek all the way out to Downsview Park for the Earth Day tree-planting festivities (April 24, see box) gear up for the first-ever city-wide tree-planting event instead (May 1) - Trees Across Toronto (call 416-392-5323 for locations and times).
Once all the work is done (oh, but does it every really end?), strap on some hiking boots and explore the city's hidden green gems. If your walks tend to consist of taking the dog to the park or booting it up to the subway, you might be looking for some fresh treading ideas. The people at Lost River Walks will guide you through wonderful wetlands, watersheds and restoration sites (www. lostrivers.ca or 416-593-2656).
Want a little more drama in your step? Join the Humber River Park Theatre Hike for an evening stroll, sushi dinner and night at the theatre all in one ($16, April 30), 905-881-3863). Or spark your own drama with the Stroll in the Park Walking and Adventure Club High Park hike for single nature lovers ($20, Saturday, May 7, 416-484-9255).
If you're more of a bird person than a people person, grab your binoculars and head down to Tommy Thompson Park on May 15 to enjoy a different kind of show as all kinds of feathered friends return to their breeding grounds in time for spring (see box for details). Or check out the BirdHouse Festival at the Fairlawn Neighbourhood Centre May 29 for all things, you know, birdy.
What better time to dream green than the season of renewal? Grassroots on Danforth is hosting a visioning session on building a radical rural eco community, led by the people from Kimbercote Farm (a social and enviro justice retreat centre, $10, April 14). If you're not into running away with an eco commune just yet, Grassroots is also holding workshops on smaller-scale projects like harvesting your rain for a fabulous urban garden (May 16), as well as a workshop on medicinal herb gardening (May 19).
Day trippers looking for a more hands-on way to enjoy country life should head out to the beautiful 50-acre grounds of the Everdale Environmental Learning Centre (www. everdale.org, 519-855-4859) in Hillsburgh, an hour from Toronto, to learn all you need to know about starting your own organic garden ($55, May 7) or how to build an earthen oven ($85, May 29). Or check out their Seedy Saturday shindig (April 30) for music,workshops on bio-intensive gardening and hard-to-find heritage seeds to trade, buy and sell .
The forested hills, valleys and meadows of the Ecology Retreat Centre in Hockley Valley is a great place to just meander for an afternoon or pull out a pitchfork and sit in on their straw bale construction workshops (April 29 to May 1). But if you're having trouble shaking that urban vibe and need help communiung with Mother Nature, sign up for the Centre's meditation retreat (May 20-27, 519-941-4560) and Om your way into spring.
As the earth readies itself for the first blossoms and bliss, nature lovers mark their calendars for some people-to-planet cooperation and appreciation. Here's how to honour the spirit of Gaia this season.
Sunday, April 10
Lost River Walk See restoration sites in the Don Valley near the Beechwood Wetland. 11 am to 1 pm. Follow Beechwood from O'Connor TTC stop, go under DVP, turn left, meet at large boulder. 416-593-2656.
Saturday, April 16
Clean up the Don walk Plus BBQ. Todmorden Mills, Pottery Road just west of Broadview. 10 am to noon. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, April 17
Water in the City Walk Follow the path rain takes through urban neighbourhoods as it heads into the lower Don. 10 am. Chester subway station. 416-868-1983.
Saturday, April 23
Mayor Miller's Community Cleanup Pick any public space, gather your neighbours and clean. Register your location at 416-392-7899.
Sunday, April 24
Earth Day Planting Festival Noon to 4 pm. Downsview Park, Sheppard and Keele. 416-954-0544.
Saturday, May 1
Paddle the Don BYO canoe or kayak or join accompanying walk. 9 am to noon. Register at 416-661-6600 ext 5397.
Saturday, May 14
Annual Don River Eco Walk 2 to 4 pm. Meet at Broadview subway for tour of lower Don. 416-392-0401.
Tree planting at Park Vista Drive Just north of Taylor Massey Creek, west off Dawes Road. 10 am to noon. email@example.com.
Sunday, May 15
Native plant sale Hosted by High Park Volunteer Stewardship Program. Noon to 4:30 pm. Location tba. 416-392-1748.
Sunday, May 15
Burke Brook-Don river connection Meet at main entrance to Sherwood Park, Sherwood Avenue east of Mt. Pleasant. 2 to 4 pm. 416-392-0401.
BIRD WATCH Watch the bird migration at its peak. Tommy Thompson Park, foot of Leslie. 9 am to 11 pm. 416-661-6600 ext 5660.
Sunday, May 29
Songbird and waterfowl hike In the Highland Creek Watershed. 9 am to 11 pm. Colonel Danforth Park, south end of Highland Creek Drive, south of Kingston Road. 416-661-6600 ext 5660.
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