The Apotheker’s Creative Homestead
Words by Mandi Tompkins
Photos by Jenn Bakos & Ashley Herrin
Russ and Shari Apotheker are an inspiring pair. I’ll be honest — when I first heard about their home on the outskirts of Boston, I was a little skeptical. How could they possibly embrace a homesteading lifestyle so close to the city? But, as with many aspects of this issue, I learned an incredible amount just within the first few minutes of talking to Shari and Russ.
Upon pulling up to their home, I knew immediately that I was in for a few surprises. You can see that a lot of love and care went into building this home and the land surrounding it. Unique plants are placed carefully around the property, many of which Shari and Russ brought home with them from adventures around the country. The red chicken coop peeks over the landscape, soft coos and clucks coming from the pen. And as you walk up to the front door, trinkets and small potted plants line the windows, welcoming guests — there is even a dainty little lime tree!
Enthusiasm for living a wholesome yet simple lifestyle exudes from every nook and cranny of the Apotheker home. Their kitchen is filled to the brim with dried herbs, stored away in mason jars and glass bottles. And there is evidence of dabbling and tinkering everywhere you look — bottles half full of their latest fermenting experiment, a serious collection of honeys, and cabinets full of their latest creations.
Tinkering Up A Dream
Experimenting with new recipes and concoctions is not just a part-time hobby for these two artists. These days, it’s Russ and Shari’s livelihood. In 2013, the couple founded Apotheker’s Kitchen, which crafts simple, all-natural products and sweet confections. And although the company is only 2 years young, the concept was dreamed up well before. Russ and Shari have long yearned for a simpler lifestyle; one where they can slow down and really get back to the basics. This desire, paired with the couple’s artistic minds and healthy lifestyle, motivated them to bring this dream to life.
Dabbling and creating is also a longstanding tradition in Russ’ family. He comes from a long line of herbalists and pharmacists dating back to ancient Jerusalem. In fact the name Apotheker, which his ancestors adopted in the 17th century, actually means pharmacist. So it should come as no surprise that it was Russ who initially crafted a batch of Apotheker’s chocolate (a very early iteration). Shari, who had been striving to live a cleaner lifestyle, could not beat her cravings for something sweet. So Russ took on the challenge of concocting something that would both satisfy her sweet tooth, and that she could still feel good about.
Realizing A Self-Sufficient Dream
Sweets are not the only focus in the Apotheker family kitchen. Russ and Shari have recently been on a fermentation kick, and we were lucky enough to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The two have created their own sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, and even fermented soda (recipe on following page). Fermentation is an ancient practice that was originally leveraged as a way to preserve the harvest of summer well into the dark days of winter. Today, homesteaders and DIYers alike look to fermentation for a far more creative reason — it is a true culinary art. Not only can fermentation deliver a practical solution for homesteaders, it can provide a delicious, healthy alternative to the processed foods of today.
Russ and Shari try to use all-natural, clean ingredients wherever they can. And this practice extends to their very own backyard, where they raise four chickens. Vivienne Pickles, Lucille III, Sweet Dee, and Madame Clucks-a-Lot provide as many as 3-4 eggs per day. Raising these chickens means that they can be even more self-sufficient, and they have the added benefit of knowing exactly where their food originated. And nutrition isn’t the only perk of raising chickens; they help to maintain a more sustainable backyard as well. The chickens live on a diet that consists mainly of food scraps and some chicken feed, eliminating a lot of the waste that would ordinarily end up in the trash. And it doesn’t hurt that the ladies are also quite cute and cuddly.
Defining the Homestead
From the early stages of our visit with Russ and Shari, it was obvious that they have a true love for nature, art, and living a simple lifestyle. Their story is truly a valuable one, as they demonstrate how to take the first steps towards realizing a dream and becoming more self-sufficient. The Apothekers have embraced their own version of homesteading, one that fits their personalities and allows them to live the healthy, meaningful life they want. On top of that, they are two of the sweetest, most driven, and authentic people we have come across. If there is one thing we hope our readers take from this story, it’s that leading a self-sufficient lifestyle may not mean what it did 100 years ago, but it’s still very much possible. Embrace your own version of the homestead!
Apotheker’s Kitchen makes a wide variety of treats sweetened with honey, including chocolate, mallows, and even peanut butter cups. To try their delectable products, visit their website, or one of their many New England based retailers (full list on site).
Or you can find Apotheker's at these select few locations:
Allandale Farm – Brookline, MA
Olives & Grace – Boston, MA
Cambridge Naturals – Cambridge, MA
Christina’s Ice Cream and Spice Shop – Cambridge, MA
Pickwick’s Mercantile – Portsmouth, NH
Calef’s Country Store – Barrington, NH
Aurora Provisions – Portland, ME
Sugar – Biddeford, ME