Twelve by Twelve
A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid &
Beyond the American Dream – By: William Powers

Could you live in a 12’ by 12’ cabin in the woods with no indoor plumbing and no electricity? William Powers did. He lived in Dr. Jackie Benton’s 12 X 12 home in North Carolina for 40 days.

Dr. Benton’s home is considered a permaculture – a combination of permanent agriculture and permanent culture. It is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come in harmony with nature.

Dr. Benton grows her own food. She uses rainwater, heated by the sun, to shower. She raises bees and grows berries, fruits, vegetables and flowers. She uses a five-gallon composting toilet.

Her ecological footprint is indeed very small and she is happy and at peace with herself and with nature.

This philosophy or way or life is simple in its message. It is not necessary to “have it all” – and I suppose that depends on your definition of “all.” As humans, we require food, water and shelter. Just about everything else is extra. We have an obligation to protect and preserve our planet for our children and our grandchildren. We do not have the right to plunder our planet and take without giving back.

We really don’t “need” all the things we say we need. Mr. Powers states in his book: “None of the factors of genuine well-being are closely linked to material possessions. All material possessions are subject to habitation, a waning interest with repeated uses.”

Another remark made by Mr. Powers particularly resonated with me: “…I remembered that electricity doesn’t come from a socket; tomatoes don’t come from a supermarket, water doesn’t come from a pipe. Everything comes from the earth.”

One of the first lessons Dr. Benton gave Mr. Powers upon his arrival at her home was, “Don’t do, just be.” This is a wonderful philosophy to try to live by, at least for a little while each day. Of course, there are things we all have to “do” during the day – go to work, take care of our families, prepare and eat food. But at the end of the day, we all should try to just “be” – to stop the rollercoaster that has become our life and just relax, let things be done around you. I think “being” without constantly “doing” can bring our life back into focus.

Every chapter in this book is important – filled with lessons big and small. For me to explain it all would mean I would have to re-write the entire book in this review. I suggest, instead, that you pick up a copy and read it. I intend to read it again and again. I thoroughly enjoyed the messages in this book and am considering how I too can live my life as a better human being, more mindful of my environment, my neighbors and my planet.

You can go to for more information about Mr. Powers and his books. You can also visit to buy your copy of this fascinating and enlightening book. Let me know what you think. You can email me at