Dave Egbert's off-the-grid garden in far Northern California

I follow a lot of gardeners and fellow plant nerds on social media and I'm always excited when I get to meet one of them in person. Yesterday I had the chance to visit the off-the-grid hideaway of Dave Egbert (@beartrapgarden on Instagram). We're at my mother-in-law's place in Mount Shasta for a few days, and Dave lives in Lakehead, less than an hour away.

Here's a Google map that shows Dave's location (red pin). Mount Shasta is 40 miles to the north and Davis 175 miles to the south.

Dave bought his property near Lakehead in 2016 and moved there in 2018. It's at the end of a dirt road, and completely off the grid. In the 1970s, a local developer had ambitious plans to create a subdivision of 2-acre lots with log homes but the project never moved beyond the initial stage of creating the 2-acre parcels. Dave's lot is part way up a mountain and he has a view of the mountains to the west, especially in the winter after the black oaks have dropped their leaves.

The dirt road leading to Dave's property. The black oaks (Quercus kelloggii) are just starting to turn.

Dave is no stranger to rural living, whether it's in Big Sur or South Dakota. Creating a garden is an essential part of the equation for him. In fact, he chose his current location because it had good gardening potential. That may seem perfectly natural to us gardeners, but I doubt it's a high priority for most folks living off the grid.

Plants have always played a big role in Dave's life. Born in Central California, he started working in nurseries from an early age. When he lived in Big Sur in the aughts, he hosted a nationally syndicated TV show called “The Coastal Gardener” (later rebranded as “Dave's Garden Travels”) right from his own garden. He also worked as a volunteer firefighter for the Big Sur fire department and later wrote a series of articles on fire-safe landscaping for Pacific Horticulture.

Gate to Dave's garden

Dave's current garden in Lakehead seems like a logical extension of all his previous experiences. When the Salt Fire came perilously close to his property in late June and early July, Dave chose to stay, ready to defend his home. Fire crews were working very close to his place, even creating a new fire break right above the embankment that marks his property line. In the end, Dave's property was spared, but I saw signs of the fire in many spots.

Burnt trees are visible on the slopes across the ravine

Dave's current setup is a case study in off-the-grid tiny-house living in the early 21st century. His home consists of two Tuff Sheds, one for sleeping (“Shed 1”) and another one for cooking (“Shed 2”), with a shower enclosure in between which also doubles as a greenhouse. Solar panels provide power, rainwater is stored in large tanks, and fresh water is trucked in. Because the property is only a few miles from Interstate 5, Dave is able to able to access the mobile phone grid—not a given in remote locations.

Time to take a closer look.

Part of the fence marking the entrance to the “inner” garden. The planting you see here is the beginning of a new garden area (“Garden of the Great Bear”). It features plants, mostly natives, which need very little hand watering. When I saw the wire cages, I asked Dave what they were for, expecting him to say deer or rabbits. As it turns out, they're to keep out his four small dogs!

Inside the fence, you can see the ramada with solar panels on the roof. The metal art on the fence is by MetalPlex.

Pretty bottle on a small shelf right where you walk into the garden

View of the Long Border through the fence opening

Inside the fence, looking towards the mountain across the ravine. The dirt road to Dave's place is just beyond the second fence you see in the center of the photo.

Dave's location is in zone 9 (both on the USDA Plant Hardiness and Sunset climate zone map) so he can successfully grow citrus, like this potted Meyer lemon

Inside the fence, facing northwest. The large pot contains a Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Sky'.

The Long Border, with the shower structure/greenhouse on the left and the bedroom shed (what Dave calls Shed 1) next to it.

Shed 1 as seen from under the ramada

I loved all the decorative touches, like these potted chrysanthemums

I dare say there aren't very many off-the-grid gardens like these in Northern California, or anywhere else!

The potted palms (Chamaerops humilis var. cerifera on the left and Butia capitata on the right) give Shed 1 a tropical touch

I couldn't get enough of this vignette

Potted Butia capitata and trailing lantana

Butia capitata

Perfect and long-lasting fall decoration: peppers, gourds, and ornamental kale

CUB by Cubic Mini Wood Stoves. Check out these Instagram photos to see how small the stove really is (11 x 12 x 10.5 inches).

Shed 1 and the Long Border. When creating the Long Border, Dave was particularly inspired by the book Bringing the Mediterranean into Your Garden: How to Capture the Natural Beauty of the Garrigue by Olivier Filippi. I love how the gravel path periodically zigs and then zags at right angles, its width remaining the same throughout.

The southern end of the Long Border. The edging is Basalite Concrete Wood Grain Pavers.

View beyond the southern end of the Long Border. The black oaks (Quercus kelloggii) are still a few weeks away from peak color.

Dave likes prickly pear cactus (Opuntia sp.) and has several dozen of them, both species and hybrids

Silver-edged horehound (Marrubium rotundifolium) and Yucca 'Color Guard'

To my great delight, Dave has quite a few agaves, including this Agave schidigera

I would have loved to see these plants at their summer peak, but they're beautiful even now

Yucca 'Color Guard', Epilobium canum, and Opuntia 'Sapphire Wave' 

Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba' surrounded by a prostrate desert mallow (Sphaeralcea philippiana)

I've long wanted to have a blue ephedra in our garden, but most species (like Ephedra equisetina) are much too large.

This small Asian species, Ephedra gerardiana, might fit the bill perfectly. Now I only need to find a source!

Chamaerops humilis and Verbascum 'Arctic Summer' 

View north from the far end of the Long Border. Not a great photo (the light was very contrasty), but it still gives you an idea of the lay of the land.

Chamaerops humilis, Opuntia basilaris hybrid

Opuntia macrocentra hybrid

Sideritis cypria, bearded iris, Yucca 'Color Guard', Artemisia versicolor 'Sea Foam', and many other perennials

Artemisia versicolor 'Sea Foam', Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor', and Sideritis cypria

Dave expertly combines perennials so their colors and textures contrast and complement each other masterfully. The results are beautiful year round, but I wish I could have seen his garden at its summer peak when it looked like pages of an Annie's Annuals or High Country Gardens catalog come to life.
Check out the photos on Dave's Instagram channel to see what I mean!

Before I left, I got to meet Dave's four dog ranging in age from 6 to 13 years:

It was pretty obvious who really runs the show here!

Lilly, Buddy, Pecos, and Broncos


Yeah, I like dogs as much as I like plants!

I hope I'll get a chance to visit Dave again next year, maybe in early summer when the perennials in his garden are in their prime.

© Gerhard Bock, 2021. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. I hope you do go in the summer and show us his garden again! It is so beautiful!

    1. Feel free to check out my Instagram! @BeartrapGarden
      - Dave

  2. Really, a travel book based on gardens is in your future. I enjoyed your tour and look forward to seeing the garden again when it's at its peak.

  3. The zig-zagging paver enclosed gravel is something I'd love to do in the rainy garden. What an amazing, high-functioning sanctuary he's made. And I think he could use a couple more dogs! ;)

    1. Lol! There are lots of dogs in need but I have to concentrate on these guys first!! Thanks for loving the edging! -Dave

    2. I love the zig-zagging border. And the edging is killer. Looks like wood but is concrete so it'll last forever.

  4. This garden isn't just beautiful, it's inspirational: off grid, solar panel, tiny home(s)... wonderful. Waking up to this view everyday, surrounded by black oaks, friendly dogs... what a life.

    1. Inspirational is right. Dave's footprint is so much smaller than mine!

    2. Thank you for enjoying my space. Dave

  5. That's an interesting "tiny house" kind of set up. He's done it all very well and it looks neat and tidy, which can be rare out in rural areas. Yes as Kris said, you could be the Rick Steves of garden visits!

    1. Dave is very aware of how messy some rural properties can be. He likes things nice and tidy, and it shows.

    2. Thanks, Hoover! Yes, when people hear off grid they usually think of a worn out trailer and lots of mess. Trust me there is plenty of that but not at my place. I built it all alone as an amateur with a minimum wage job funding everything one piece at a time, literally!

  6. What a fun visit, it was great to see more of Dave's place. He's got quite the garden style. I'd love to see the shower structure/greenhouse are next time, if you're taking requests.

    1. Request received. I'll take more "behind the scenes" photos next time.

  7. I've read all three of Olivier Filippi's books, and they are amazing! These are not your regular, pretty picture books with rehashed garden advice, but full of groundbreaking ideas (and spectacular pictures as well). Well, well worth reading. Nice to see a gardener implementing some of the writer's suggestions. Sue

    1. Thank you for the recommendation. I'll see if I can get Bringing the Mediterranean into Your Garden from our local library.

    2. The Fillipi books are VERY insightful. Pairing the plants with the various challenges of the landscape


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