Let's hope she stocked the root cellar and did some canning last year, because First Lady Michelle Obama's "world-famous" White House Kitchen Garden pretty much rotted away during the government shutdown.
Planted as the showcase symbol of the First Lady's "Let's Move!" youth nutrition initiative, the vegetables in the 1,500-square-foot garden suffered greatly while the shutdown either sent the White House gardeners home or greatly limited their allowed duties for 16 days.
"In the eleven days since the shutdown began on Oct. 1, the pounds and pounds of ripe organic bounty have gone to waste," stated the official -- and apparently now disabled -- Obama Foodorama blog on Oct. 11. "The vegetables ... are now rotting away on the vines and in the boxed beds, thanks to the mandate for 'minimal maintenance' placed on the skeletal crew of National Park Service gardeners who remain on duty at 1600 Penn."
According to Obama Foodorama, the "skeletal" crew of federal gardeners was not permitted to harvest the crops and now weeds and mushrooms are now growing wild among the fallen veggies left "mouldering" among un-raked fallen leaves on the ground. It was, indeed the worst of times.
In addition, noted the blog, area wildlife made daily raids on the remains, including a fox, which had nothing to say.
The White House Supervisory Horticulturalist told the blog that the weeds and leaves that took over the garden were not considered "trash," so the White House gardeners were not allowed to remove them. Apparently allowable "minimal maintenance" included only watering and trash removal, but not hoeing, raking or harvesting.
In happier times between government shutdowns, the garden is cared for "with obsessive precision, a masterpiece of living installation art," said the Obama Foodorama blog,
"Before the shutdown, brown and yellow leaves were immediately whisked away," said the blog. "Diseased or bug-infested plants were removed rather than treated."
Last year, an organic gardening specialist was hired by the White House Park Service to ensure the success of the garden's extensive vegetable crop, which includes: artichoke, okra, sweet potatoes, lettuces, squash, tomatoes, peppers, kale, carrots, rutabagas, garlic, cabbage, exotic herbs, Swiss chard, collard and mustard greens, spinach, garlic, turnips, jalapeno and chili peppers.
Extensive as it was, the lost White House Kitchen Garden vegetable crop of 2013 will not qualify for crop insurance reimbursement, subsidies or other benefits of the federal farm safety net.
With the snows of winter coming soon, it will be hard for the White House gardeners, who are now back on the job, to salvage much of this year's crop. But you can bet that by the time the cherry blossoms bloom next spring, the First Lady's prize garden will once again be thriving.