Making Thyme to Taste the Lavender

Lavender signifies charm and enchantment, so it’s only fitting that lavender shrubs are nestled aside the beautiful home of Mike and Donna Aldinger near Iowa Falls.  The Aldinger’s colorful landscaping also includes an assortment of succulents, herbs and wildflowers.

“When I grew up, we went  to the park or the ball diamond to play in wide, open spaces,” says Donna, who was raised in the nearby town of Alden.  “But here, all you have to do is just open the door.  This was just the best place to raise our kids.”

Playhouse at the Aldinger farm

Mike and Donna moved to this location right after their wedding and will celebrate their 39th anniversary on July 22.  Their three children have spent countless hours having scavenger hunts, playing in the play house and riding four wheelers.

Today the tradition continues when their grandchildren come to visit.  The Aldinger’s oldest daughter, Stacey, and her husband, Randy, have three daughters:  Lexi, 11; Emma, 9; and Abigail, 6. The Aldinger’s daughter, Jamie, and her husband, Ben, also have three children: Gabrielle, 7; Gavin, 4; and Greta, 8 months.  The Aldinger’s son, Landon, is not yet married and works at Toro as a design engineer in Minneapolis.

The Aldinger’s children all live in the Twin Cities, but they enjoy frequent visits to North Central Iowa.  The whole family spent the Fourth of July weekend on the farm. The adults enjoyed spending time outdoors, watching the children play. The grandchildren also enjoyed helping with chores and “working” in the garden.

Mike and Donna Aldingerfarm.  The adults enjoyed spending time outdoors, watching the children play.  The grandchildren also enjoyed helping with chores and “working” in the garden. 

“Our grandkids had a ball picking radishes and onions over the Fourth of July,” says Donna.  “They would see who could find the biggest radish or the biggest onion.  But as much fun as they had, they’re still looking forward to the fall harvest.  Roast beef with potatoes and carrots is a family favorite.  There’s nothing quite like a home-grown meal!”

Beef cattle, isowean pigs and row crops encompass the Aldinger’s farming operation.  They’re serving as one of the stops on the Latham-WHO Radio 2011 Watch It Grow Crop Tour.

“We broke the 80-bushel barrier last year with Latham’s L2560R,” says Mike, who has been planting Latham® brand soybeans for 38 years.  “The yield monitor popped to 83 and held. We had treated 120 acres with a fungicide and 40 acres we also treated with a foliar fertilizer application.  We got 60 bushels plus where we treated only with the fungicide treatment, which is a good yield, but 83 was unbelievable where we added the foliar fertilizer!”

In addition to farming, Mike operates Precision Farm Management.  He provides recommendations for manure management and provides crop consulting services.  He also sells seed, as well as fertilizers and chemicals.

Work hard, play hard is the Aldinger’s motto.  They look forward to their annual Minnesota vacation with their children and grandchildren when the group of 13 gathers for pontoon rides and campfires.  The adults also enjoy golfing, while kayaking and swimming are a hit for the kids.  This year they might even squeeze in time to try some lavender punch since the Fourth of July weekend passed before they got it done.  Here’s a recipe that Donna is eager to try.

What are your plans to savor summer?


1 c. water
3″ stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
3 tbsp. fresh lavender or 1 tbsp. dried lavender
6 oz. can frozen limeade concentrate
2 c. bottled purple grape juice
1 lime, sliced
Ice cubes
1 liter bottle seltzer or ginger ale
Ribbon-tied bouquet of lavender

In covered 1 quart saucepan, heat water, cinnamon stick and cloves to boiling. Simmer spice mixture over low heat 5 minutes; remove from heat. Add lavender flower. Cover and let stand 10 minutes to steep. Strain into a container or bowl. Discard the particles. Stir in frozen limeade concentrate into the brew until melted and add grape juice; cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving, pour into large pitcher, add lime slices and ice. Tie bouquet of flowers to handle of pitcher if desired. Fill pitcher with seltzer and serve immediately. Makes about 1/2 gallon.