Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: Twelve by Twelve

   Normally I would wait until I finished a book to write a book review, but I find myself so engrossed in this book that I feel the need to share my journey through it. Twelve by Twelve: A one-room cabin off the grid & beyond the American dream*, by William Powers.

   Recently, I posted about my dreams (I am a Dreamer). Now, please understand that I am a compulsive researcher. If I'm stressed about something, I research it. If I feel like something I want is out of reach, I research it. If I'm bored, I research. Unfortunately, this only works when I don't NEED to research (give me a paper to write, and I'll put off any sort of research until the very last minute).

Exterior of 12 x 12 house
   Increasingly my dreams include living in a tiny, self-sustainable home of some kind, whether it's a mobile home or a small permaculture alpaca farm. I've read a few books specifically about green building and living in small homes as a way to minimize our ecological footprint. They just don't seem to fulfill whatever need it is that is driving me to research the subject.

Interior layout of 12 x 12 house
   Then I found this book, about a man who met a woman who lived in a tiny, 12' x 12' cabin and was helping to restore some of the land around her through the use of permaculture.
Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in natural ecologies.
Permaculture is sustainable land use design. This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect and minimise work. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. -Wikipedia
Map of permaculture around the 12 x 12 house
   The book tells of the man's internal journey while living in the 12 x 12 house over a period of time. The reflections about American society and how the 'American Dream' has destroyed not only our own ecosystem, but the ecosystem of the entire planet is incredibly well written and researched. The author gives a great view into his thought processes as he changed his ideals and realized that the change needed to accomplish his life goals needed to begin at home.

Exterior of 12 x 12 house
    Keep in mind that I'm only 90 pages into the 260 page book. If I remember, I'll update again when I've finished it, but I make no promises.

* though I link to the book on, I encourage all readers to order the book from an independent retailer or check it out from their library. Amazon simply provides a good website where you can read reviews and find used books.

note: all images are used without express permission from the media section of

also note: I love my library!


  1. I love the 12x12 exterior pic. It makes it look so immense. Really. I don't know how we could live in a space like that with the 5 of us, but it would be great to try. Okay maybe not that small. That's crazy. We have an unfinished cabin in WI on family land of Chad's. There is little more than 20x20 of space to move around within it because of all the junk his parents put in it. It would be nice to have it finished and a usable space for the impending zombie apocalypse. Love your blog. I'll try to read it more :)

  2. The author actually talks about how the 12 x 12 is a perfect size for one person, but how more people need more space. He mentions a man and his teenage son who lived in 2 12x12's on another piece of land, and it worked great for them.

    Still, I'd love to try with my daughter! thanks for reading!