Cascara Bark & Kumi, Our Young Goat Herding Hostess

“One o’clock on Tuesday.  We’ll meet at your place,”  Susan said.

A good hike together was long overdue.   Our trek up the back side of a mountain would be new to her, I hoped.  However, we could both claim a handicap sticker for being directionally challenged.

Susan and I cover a lot of life on our stomps.  We unwind and update as we stop to catch the colors in the view over other islands and  across Georgia Strait to the mountains on the Mainland of BC.  We wallow in the aroma of Cottonwood leaves in Spring and listen to different bird songs.  No creature lives on our island that can harm us.  Even the odd Black Widow or Brown Reclusive Spiders offer no threat to our safe wanderings.  Freedom is supreme in the two track roads and narrow deer trails that crisscross our island home.

Tuesday arrived and we parked in front of a gate at the entrance to the trail.  A home-made sign said no dogs and no vehicles were allowed on the property.  About 300 meters (roughly 900 feet) up the crude road, we discovered a small clearing where a man was using a gigantic saw to cut tree trunks into lumber.   We immediately introduced ourselves and asked if the car was okay by the gate.  No, it wasn’t, he said, but it was okay to leave it there this time.  Islanders appreciate respect.  It goes a long way toward being deemed trustworthy; an honour I want to keep.

He smiled warmly at us, waved us in the right direction and turned back to his labour.

That’s when I noticed an incredibly bright red/orange bark:

Pieces of fluorescent orange bark were scattered on both sides of the trail. This was a first for both of us – and Susan grew up in B.C.  My research suggests this is bark from a Cascara tree.


Each piece had a very mild aromatic scent like a gentle, refreshing rain.

If my research is correct, the bark is from a Cascara tree which is pictured here.  Its properties are both interesting and healing:

  • Fresh bark can cause severe nausea  (Oops, guess we were foolhardy to be sniffing it so readily!)
  • Inner bark is a bright yellow and the sapwood is orange.
  • The bark is aromatic and has an extremely bitter taste.
  • A relative of the Pink Ivory tree in South Africa.  (Some bird completed a transcontinental flight pretty quickly!)
  • Skagit people produced a green dye from the bark  (Green??  Amazing.)
  • Nuu-chah-nulth people used the wood to make chisel handles
  • Coastal people knew it as a tonic and as a laxative
  • Used as a wash for sores and swellings, treating heart and internal strains and lately, as a wash for cold sores.
  • Used to flavour some products and in the production of yellow and green dyes. (Yellow, too??)
  • Produces berries appreciated by birds, bear, and raccoons.

“Let’s pick up some pieces to take home on our way back.”  I put the bark down and brushed my hands on my pant legs.  (My subsequent research claimed that people working with Cascara wood are very careful to not put their hands on their faces in case of severe nausea.)

Further along the trail we came across some animal scat.  “Someone must have been riding horses up here,” one of us said.   However, the texture and shape of the scat was unhorse-like and certainly was not from a deer.    Then we noticed an “old but not aged” pile of fur.  It looked like goat fur to me, but domestic goats don’t roam the hills freely.

Susan and I finished our hike and returned to the pumpkin orange pieces of wood.  Each of us chose a piece which we set on Susan’s car so we could continue some trail investigation further along the gravel road.  When we reached the end of the road, we were in the midst of an enchanting goat farm.  The nannies had been busily birthing their wee kids and we stood in the middle of the hopping, racing, climbing, feeding, and…well, you see for yourself:

Meet our delightful hostess, Kumi. With permission from her mother to show these photos, Kumi will be in charge of this showing.  Sit back and enjoy her very active herd.  First we have the ear washing variety!

Then we have the ones who like to sit on warm, comfy laps until it’s time to play the next trick on the chickens.

Ooops…that’s the little girl. She’s precocious, petulant and defiant. Can you tell?

The nannies blah blahed to their kids continually. Nanny is trying to organize her twins. “Never mind the photographer.  Eat!”  Can you see the twin on her other side?

“Don’t hurt my baby!” says Nanny.  My friend Susan couldn’t resist a little pet. The father (rear of photo) said his son is intolerant to cow’s milk.  They rely on goat’s milk for his good health.  How fortunate they have fresh goat’s milk so readily available.

“This isn’t the smallest one yet!  Just wait. I’ll get one!” Off she’d go.

“This isn’t the smallest yet, but look at the white ears!”

The precocious little female always wants to see what Kumi’s up to. “Where you going, Kumi?  Slow down, I’m discovering all these tasty bits that grow out of the dirt!”

“Kumi! I’m too small! I can’t get up there! Come and get me!” cried Little Miss Defiance.  She does not like to be left behind.

“Now look at that human child. Soon all our Kids will be wanting to climb up there, too. Doesn’t she realize it’s time for their dinner?”

“Never mind, darling. When you get just a little bit bigger, you will be able to climb even higher than Kumi. And faster, too!”

“Ha Ha, Kumi. We’re the Kings of the Castle! Hey, where did she go?

“Kumi, if you’re up there, I’m impressed. But I’m even more impressed with this delectable bark I’ve never noticed before!  Hope this branch doesn’t break. Nom nom nom!”

After dozens of shots, Susan and I left the goat farm feeling blessed to be included in such a family affair.  Thank you, Kumi.  Your mother, you and your whole family are beautiful inside and out!  You made us feel a part of your life for a welcome while.

And now my intrepid readers…there’s a reason I mentioned Cascara berries, scat, bear and goats in one post.  However, I’ll have to explain it in the next post.  I have no doubt you’ll share my awe.  See you anon.

45 thoughts on “Cascara Bark & Kumi, Our Young Goat Herding Hostess

    • Bev, I don’t know if you’ve been around goats, but we raised them when I was a child. They are tremendous pets. When I was about 5, one Billie used to like pinning me against the house – not hurting me, but just not letting me go. I’d have to yell until a family member rescued me! So as a child, I had a love/hate relationship with them. There were no billies at this farm so it was very placid.

    • That’s true…they are one animal that looks right at you without any hesitation. The nanny that was “talking to” the little tawny female kid was incredible to watch as she tried to herd in her babies to feed. They wouldn’t listen to her and she was really giving them whatfor as she keep trying to round them up! With a human audience and all our “up” energy, those kids performed. She was probably relieved when we left!

    • Oh oh, June! Pretty soon we’ll be calling your place Embee Ark! If you are going to do some homework, be sure to talk to people who HAD goats. 😀 I always love seeing your pictures, too. Oh man, this is so ridiculous that I can’t just jump in the car and have a good visit with you. I’m trusting that there’s a good reason that Duc and I are going through layers of stuff with his health. I guess I’m to stick closer to home for now. His anal gland would heal much quicker if he could tolerate antibiotics. Sometimes I look at him and wonder if he has decided to be a hypochondriac…except I know he loves hunting too much.

  1. How absolutely delightful! What a beautiful little girl – your photos are magical. I wish there was a place to do the kind of hike you did around here. I’ll try up at the lake later this summer. I’m working on my Master Herbalist certification presently and love to find herbs/roots/bark in the wild that is useful. Hoping to cultivate quite the herbal garden in the future.

    • A Master Herbalist course. That would be so interesting! Once when I did a contract in Northern BC, I asked a First Nations woman who was on our School Board if her Medicine Woman would teach me about various herbs, roots and plants. In her shy manner, she just smiled at me without saying a word. I said, “I’m too white?” She nodded and we laughed. I even tried to get her to tell me how native women practiced birth control. She would only divulge that it was a plant. I think she enjoyed seeing my dire curiosity and enthusiasm as she quietly kept all their secrets safely stowed – because she loved dropping the odd tidbit in my path. She ended up becoming their chief – a very intuitive and bright young woman.

  2. I find the pic and info on the Cascara tree most interesting as I have never heard of it. What a bright spot on the trail! Sounds like a wonderful hike…I’m hoping we’ll be able to hike again soon; I miss it.

    • I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t hike, Suzicate. It holds all that feeds my soul. Even when I do a cursory morning walk, there’s everything around to feed my senses.

    • Yes, Kumi, is a darling indeed. And you should see her mother – gorgeous, healthy, serene… Kumi was so willing to be photographed so I am very grateful that her mom approved my posting the photos.

  3. Pingback: What’s A Little Bear Breath? « Soul Dipper

    • You know, Poch, all the different uses seem to contradict the warning that this bark can cause severe nausea. In fact a reader from England just commented that she was given Cascara as a child. I’ve asked her to elaborate… Perhaps that explains her seeming good health and robust energy! 😀

  4. Thank you for this delightful virtual trip Amy…such a joy to see all these beautiful pictures and the absolutely angelic little Kumi as a guide…

    God bless…

  5. What a gorgeous little goatherd, with her fine-looking goats! This is a wonderful post, Amy, giving me a flavour of your island and the magical things that you found on your walk. Thank you 🙂

    • You are welcome, Jacqueline! This is one of the aspects of the island I truly love – there’s endless discoveries to be made. Usually the only way to find them is on foot!

  6. Oooo Myyyy, I so much LOVED these photos. That little girl looks like an Angel. I don’t know who is more precious: The little fabulous goat or her. Magical. Thank you making me smile 🙂 xx

  7. Hi Amy .. wonderful photos and what a delightful story – we used to have cascara as kids .. disgusting, but it worked! Then what amazing other properties .. it’s incredible where colours come from .. always surprised me ..

    Cheers Hilary

    • How interesting, Hilary! Why did you take cascara? What did it do…apparently it was bitter. I had never heard of it before…imagine. The trees are familiar, but I had never seen them cut so I just thought they were sort of a renegade tree that had few uses except for oxygen.

  8. Ohhhhh, how very precious those wee ones are … both species :D!!!

    Also good to learn more about the Cascara … I knew of it, but not what it looked like!! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Oh geeze……I hit the photos of that darling gal and the cutest goats on the planet and I forgot all about the tree!

    <– going to research tree now!

    OMGosh that kiddo is just too precious with the baby goats!
    Excellently captured, madam–well done!!

  10. These are fantastic photos! I’ve just received so much of positive energy just by looking though them. Kids and animals are always such a joy to look at!

  11. Grandma Chris ( tried to leave a comment, but WordPress would not allow it to be posted – her blog is on another platform. So she asked me to add her comment for her:

    “As the proud mother of Kate and grandmother of Kumi (and her unphotographed brothers Kai and Kobe) I was thrilled to read such a lovely story and view such magical photos of Kumi and the \’kids\’ in action. Kumi has an innate ability to just step in and be a mother (very much like her mother was as a young girl). She has a calm and resilience about her that actually attracts the animals to her. I hate to admit, I have never seen Kumi ride her horse, but again, a confident natural in the saddle. I am so impressed by what both Kate and her partner Kipp (just a correction, the man in the photo is not the father but a friend) have provided for their children. A spontaneous and proactive \’petting zoo\’ – life in action with all its many complexities and wonders. When I asked my grandchildren what was important to them in life, they unanimously said their home and the forest around them. They are remarkable stewards and love to invest not only time but energy into creating a home for all living creatures. Thank you Amy for capturing the wonder and magic of it all. Chris.”

    • This experience was so much MY PLEASURE! I received your request for copies of the photos…they will sent soon. Thanks for persisting in your attempt to post a comment. Hope this new theme will eliminate the problems that people have been having.

  12. I love Nubian goats, Amy! I raised them on the family farm in my younger years and my daughter enjoyed them so much, it was the first thing she brought to her new country home purchased this spring. They are intelligent and loving and make us laugh a lot. A newborn crying sounds very much like a human baby. Thank you for these pictures this post. The photo of the bark or branch of the tree you posted above, Is beautiful. So colorful and abstract. What gifts nature gives us!

    • My mother decided to raise goats – with a hidden agenda that we 5 kids would look after them. I loved the nannies and the kids, but as a 4 year old who was constantly bunted against the wall by the smelly billy, they lost appeal. None of us wanted to drink the milk so Mom sold them. The success part of the story, however, our nannies saved some mothers’ sanity. Colic-inclined, constantly crying babies could tolerate goat’s milk. It calmed their tummies, the babes would stop crying and finally sleep normally. Moms were able to catch some sleep!

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