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Planting Goodness: our journey so far

Today is the 4-month mark of our journey.

We take this milestone to look back to the beginning of this project. This beautiful, crazy, wonderful project.


It’s the end of the month. The frost has gone and the weather is not that chilly anymore.

We are homebound for a while due to a health issue, so we are at a loss as to what to do with some of our time. After all, there is only so much you can read, draw, paint and play with, right?

So we look for a new activity to take up. Our rooms are full of secret hiding places – of course we will find something interesting to do! Rummaging around, we find an old box full of family photos and we decide to dig in. We come across a note. A beautiful, hand-written note on a yellowing piece of wrapping paper. It’s my grandmother’s – Nonna’s – handwriting. And together with its words of ancient love, there are some seeds.

But seeds of what? Are they still “alive”? Will they grow into something?

Excited about the discovery, we decide to sow these rocky-looking little guys in our garden almost immediately. Since my grandparents were farmers, I am accustomed to soil and have the basics of sowing down. Make a small hole for each seed, distance each one a palm from the other and water every other morning.



The health issue is getting better. After surgery, there is not much I can do other than read and water the green fuzzy heads sticking out of the ground. Although they seem familiar, we still are not sure as to what these seedlings might be.

So we wait.


One morning, after a late month shower, we open our door to the garden.

This time, there is a horde of green and red staring at us from the ground up. And we know there are just a few greens that look that amazing in red.

So we start digging up the bushy guys and pulling them up by their heads, carefully. Our gut feeling is confirmed – they’re BEETS!

By mid-day, we have so many we have no idea what to do with them or where to put them. Over the next few days, we come up with all kinds of recipes. Bread, smoothies, breakfast ideas, whole dinner menus. Enough to fill a cookbook. Enough to distribute to the family and next-door neighbors. And enough to still have too many.

Back in their days, my grandparents always generously provided for everyone in the family and in the neighborhood when harvesting. Bags teeming with vegetables and fruit, jugs of olive oil, bottles of wine and stalks of fresh herbs always came home with them from the field. Nothing ever went to waste because their goodness always made sure every passerby was, in some way, recipient of their harvest.

Happy and privileged to take up their heritage, I decide to do the same.

While the girls are in class one morning, I fill a bag with beets and head off to the school entrance. Parents start flocking together, waiting for their kids to come out. Gathering up courage, I start handing out beets. The first few go with a number of puzzled looks. I briefly explain what I’m doing, why and continue.

By the time the last few beets are left, I feel like Superman. Energized, happy, positive, unstoppable.

It’s the power of giving. Giving without being asked; giving without expecting anything in return.

But it’s also the power of giving what you have grown, with your own hands, in your own time, under your care. And knowing that it will only do good to whoever accepts it.

I go back the following day, and the day after that – and do the same.


During our first seed exchange session at our local farmer’s market, we exchange lavender seeds for zucchini, tomato and cucumber ones. Once home, we sow nearly all of them, knowing we’ll have to wait a couple of months before getting to share our harvest again.

However, we are getting better and better at harvesting our own seeds, both from what we eat as well as from the native flowers and plants in our garden. So, for now, we share those – at school, within the family, at the market.

Around mid-month, someone comes around with a bright idea. Why not start a blog to show what we do? What we sow, what we harvest, how we share and what meals we prepare with our produce?

Not a bad idea, given everything done is documented by pictures, notes in our journals and the girls’ drawings. Plus, I love to write (can you tell?) and still have free time on my hands. Let’s do it!


Ten days in, and it’s already scorchingly hot. Watering and tending to our plants has become harder. In fact, we now meet the first little pests interested in our produce and need to understand how to deal with them in a humane way. And, last but not least, we also quickly learn what to do in the face of unpredictable summer storms.

There is a mini harvest every now and then, but the real deal is still about a month away.

We count the days. And in the meantime, we continue to write, to cook and to learn from the Earth. We share enormous amounts of seeds and seedlings throughout town, and attend nature-centered events and festivals around Italy.

The concept of our project becomes ever clearer. We want to help everyone we can to understand that what we are doing – sowing, harvesting and sharing – can be done by just about anyone and anywhere.

We talk to our friends, go public on social media and publish our blog. Planting Goodness is born.


Today is so full of interaction and synergies created with incredible groups! Both online and in our area, we get to know like-minded people on our same journey. As we do, they believe in planting seeds of goodness and change today for a better tomorrow.

And as we go through our past posts, our recipes and our pictures, we see our growth. A little of it every day. It is clear that there is constant change both in ourselves and in the material we produce. And it is sure that the many experiences we are living now are turning into memories and skills of a lifetime.

From here on, we look forward to the long way ahead of us. Whatever may come, we will laugh and we will cry. We will succeed – and we will fail.

And we’re ready for it, because we have become one with our journey.

It’s not us on this path anymore. It’s the path that is in us.

Planting Goodness

“Plant. Harvest. Share. Repeat.”


Michelle Calcatelli

Michelle Calcatelli

Hi there! My name is Michelle. I'm an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here - with your help - where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.

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