Bill Powers on Off the Grid Homes and Communities

Cabin plan from “Twelve by Twelve” by author Bill Powers
Cabin plan from “Twelve by Twelve” by author Bill Powers

DAVID: Your adventure in “Twelve by Twelve” is part of a long tradition of restless Americans. In early America, Francis Asbury never even owned a home and traveled throughout his adult life, staying in other people’s homes. John Steinbeck traveled in a pickup truck equipped with a little camper. Thoreau famously lived in a tiny house, too, although his Walden home was 10 by 15. So, tell us about your own American adventure living in this 12 by 12 house.
BILL: I was actually living in it for 40 days, then I spent two to three years going back and forth, visiting with the doctor who owns the home and her neighbors. I’ve been back there several times.

DAVID: When did you actually spend your 40 days there?
BILL: I was there in 2007 right at the end of winter as it was coming into spring so I was living there as spring was blossoming. There were things you could eat right away like the Shitake mushrooms and lettuces and arugula that came up. Some of the herbs were already growing. Some of the berries were growing, too, and then there was honey production down there, as well. Neighbors would share or sell or trade things. The neighbors had chickens, for example, and we could trade back and forth.

DAVID: There is a practical reason for choosing 12 by 12, right? Thoreau’s 10 by 15 wouldn’t meet the same legal restrictions anymore.
BILL: That’s right. There is a pragmatic reason because if the structure is 12 by 12 or smaller, it’s not considered to be a house in a legal sense in that region, so you’re not required to put in plumbing or electricity and also you don’t have to pay property taxes, because it’s invisible to the state. If it’s 12 by 13 then all these other requirements start. [Ed. Codes vary from region to region and many times you can’t live in 12’x12’ structures. See this blog post about Counties with Few or No Building Codes.]

For the full interview, including Part 1, go to Read the

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