Off the Grid (119)

The 2,500-Mile Across-USA Expedition of Bernie Harberts and His Mule Polly

333Hi Lloyd,

Last we spoke, I was telling you about the “Lost Sea Expedition.” It was just mule Polly and me traveling across the U.S.A. in our wagon. We were looking for stories behind the Lost Sea, the ancient seabed that once covered the Great Plains.

I filmed the journey without a film crew, support vehicle or sponsor. I charged my camera gear off the solar panel bolted to the wagon roof. Now, that footage has been turned in to the “Lost Sea Expedition” TV series.

First, a bit about the journey:

As I bumped across the U.S.A. in my wagon, I folks what they knew about the Lost Sea. Early on, a Lakota elder told me about “buffalo stones” — fossils from a marine creature called a baculite. From there, the story took off in all directions. I thought I was looking for a vanished sea. Instead, I unearthed an all-American web covering topics as far ranging as the Ogallala Aquifer, creationism, evolutionism, prairie fever, and Depression-era horse breaking.

Who knew that diving in to the origins of a long-vanished sea would turn in to a journey to the heart of America?

2,500-mile wagon route across America

I think I dove so deep in to the fabric of America because I went so small. I traveled in the manner of our ancestors, men in wagons with time and high hopes but not much money. I built the wagon myself. It was so tiny, I could heat it with a few candles and my mule Polly could pull it alone. It was big enough for my film gear, a few clothes and some food … just.

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A visitor checks out the wagon. At just over 30 inches, it soon became clear why my friends referred to it as the MRI machine (or the porta-john). Damn, I could barely roll over in that thing, a task that got tougher and tougher the higher I piled the sleeping bags!

IMG_8712.jpegOut there rolling across the land, I learned that the smaller you travel, the more you expose yourself to the weather, the heat, the cold, the ups and downs and the people you meet along the way. Because my mule needed to eat and drink every day, I was limited in how far I could travel every day. On average, I went 8 to 10 miles before knocking off for the night.

That meant every day, wherever I was a few hours before dark, that’s where I spent the night. That also meant I knocked on a LOT of doors asking my well-prepared line, “Hi I’m Bernie and this is my mule Polly. Do you have a place we could camp for the night?”

And that, that dependence on strangers met along the way, that documenting all weathers, animals and climes, is what gives the “Lost Sea Expedition” such incredible insight in to America.

I made the “Lost Sea Expedition” for all those people who dream of adventuring, running away, or just taking a break from life’s responsibilities. I made this series for all the folks I met on the road who said, “Man, I’d love to do what you’re doing but…” and then they’d give me reasons why they couldn’t break free. Hopefully, it will inspire others to finally break the bonds of what’s keeping them back.

Plenty more about the Lost Sea Expedition at www.lostseaexpedition.com.

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Bernie Harberts' Lost Sea Expedition TV Series

Bernie Harberts was featured in our book Tiny Homes (pp. 188–189). He traveled from Canada to Mexico for 14 months in a 21-square-foot wagon pulled by a mule. Here is a letter we just received from him.

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Howdy Lloyd,

Many mule miles, no letters…

You featured mule Polly and her wagon in your Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter book. That story continues.

What I never really said much about is that I filmed that 14-month voyage across America. That voyage is now the “Lost Sea Expedition” TV series. The site and official trailer are at: www.lostseaexpedition.com.

I’ve attached some photos for you. I’d love to share the story and news with your blog readers.

Hell, I know you’re busy. You write you could use a clone. No worries. I’ll write the content for you. Just tell me what would work for you (short article, picture essay, blog post, etc).

Hope you and the hummers are well. You and I have lived for we know the jubilation of a thawed hummer flying from our hands!

Keep groovin’
–Bernie Harberts
www.lostseaexpedition.com
A Man A Mule America

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Young Woman Builds Beautiful Recycled Tiny House for $19,000



For many, the idea of building a tiny house on wheels is a wonderful pipe dream, however young kiwi furniture maker Annelies Zwaan has turned that dream into reality by building her very own cottage-in-the-woods style tiny home. Despite having gained many skills working with timber as a furniture maker, the learning curve when it came to building her own home was still steep. With the help of YouTube and some instruction videos, she was able to follow each step to completion…

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Cabin in Forest Cost $12 to Build



This cosy forest-den certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but this house which was constructed almost entirely from reclaimed materials and cost only 12 dollars to build has served as a comfortable home for David Gell for over 5 years now. Originally, the home was designed and built by an architecture student, who was studying tent design and wanted to experiment with creating super-affordable housing using reclaimed materials…

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Life in a Magical Vardo-Style Caravan



Gypsy vardo wagons have become something of a symbol of freedom. The home of the traveller, yet home none-the-less. For Frenchy, a young woman from Wellington, New Zealand who works in performance arts and frequently travels, building her own Gypsy vardo–style Caravan was the ideal housing solution…

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Cyrus Sutton's Van Life (Part 1)

I met Cyrus while we were working on our book Tiny Homes on the Move. He is a talented filmmaker, surfer, traveler, van hacker and an all-around awesome person. He is in the midst of a new van build using a dually diesel Dodge Sprinter van and chronicling the journey for Reef.

I first moved into a van 10 years ago. It was a practical decision. I’d been commissioned to make a 16mm surf documentary and failed to negotiate a living wage for myself during the three years it took to make it. This oversight had me surviving on cans of kidney beans and needing a rent-free place to sleep while I traveled between Australia and Los Angeles shooting and editing…

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Low-cost, Off-grid, Low-impact Living in Southwest UK

bimbler

Hi, Lloyd,

I thought you might be interested in a photo story I created from a visit to an amazing off-grid community in southwest UK called Tinkers Bubble. It’s the most inspiring example of low-impact living I’ve seen here (and I’ve visited a lot!). Hope you enjoy.Š

Best wishes,
–The Bimbler

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Jeremy Tuffli's Creations

I met Jeremy a few months ago in Bolinas, meeting young talented builders is probably my favorite part about working with Shelter. Jeremy’s attention to detail is on par with master carpenters twice his age. Here are a few words and builds by Jeremy.

Hi Evan,

Just got your message on Instagram and thought I’d share some photos of my projects with you.

The first two are custom pickup truck campers. I drove one out to Bolinas last year.

The other is a 1961 Winnebago trailer remodel in Colorado.

My latest project is a tiny home on wheels, currently under construction in Sonoma county. The tiny home is still several months away from completion. I will send more photos of that one when it is finished. Hope to have a website up and running by then as well.

Thanks to you guys at Shelter Pub for the inspiration. Builders of the Pacific Coast is one of my favorite books.

–Jeremy


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The House That Worked Out

Cabin-in-Snow_2299

The Building of the Cabin took 41 days. This included preparing the site for a foundation, building the timber framework, cordwooding the walls, and insulating and preparing the roof for earth, but did not include plumbing or electricity. While we built the cabin, we lived in a tent with our sons, then aged seven and five. Our days of building started at dawn and usually didn’t finish until 10 or 11 at night. We had no power or water on site; not only did this impact our building methods (everything mixed by hand, water brought to the site in drums), it also meant cold turkey from electricity for the kids.

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