The trail is steep. People have dug many pits along the trail and at the end of each row of corn.
In the rainy season the water runs into these pits instead of washing the trail away.
I'm visiting Guatemala with my mother, hosted by an amazing NGO called Common Hope
Step 1: The Birthplace of Corn
The oldest archeological evidence of maize cultivation, 3000+ years ago, is found here in Guatemala.
Their family has grown it ever since. The corn has already been harvested in this field but the beans are still growing. The vines climb up the cornstalks. The cornstalks were tall, ten feet or more. To harvest the ears of corn they cut the stalk with a machete overhead. That made the top fall over so they could reach the ears.
The corn depletes the nitrates in the soil. The beans put nitrogen back in with the help of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in root nodules. Beans supply the diet with amino acids lacking in the corn. It's a perfect system.
In this photo smoke issues from the summit of active volcano "Fuego". "Acatenango" volcano is to the right of Fuego.
Step 2: Tump Line
He's carrying his corn in a net bag with a "tump line" over his forehead which is their traditional method.
Step 3: Ceramic Griddle
Step 4: The Freshest Guacamole
Step 5: Greasewood Kindling
Step 6: Corn Stalk House
Handfuls of cornstalks are lashed to a crosspiece with wire. The crosspiece is another bundle of cornstalks. They build fences the same way.
Step 7: Corn Cob Tool Handle
My farm relatives in Illinois also use corncobs for tool handles.
A good corncob tool handle can last a long time and be very comfortable in the hand.
Step 8: Ergonomic Clothes Lines
Step 9: Mule Muzzle made from Wire
Step 10: How to Catch a Possum
Step 11: Nixtamalization - Chemical Transformation of Maize
The lady of the house, Maria Luisa Garcia explains how Maize is prepared. The chemistry is pretty interesting.
First mineral lime ("cal" in spanish) , calcium oxide, is steeped in water to make alkaline lime water.
Step 12: Boiling the Corn in an Alkaline Solution
It gives them a nice nutty flavor and adds a lot of calcium to the diet. I didn't see any sign of osteoporosis in anyone there, even old women.
Step 13: Removing the Endocarp
This alkaline reaction process is called "nixtamalization". It's very important to prepare corn this way. Otherwise maize can't be eaten as a staple.
Ugali in Africa is an example of a of maize-based non-nixtamalized staple food. People who subsist on those foods without other good sources of niacin get deficiency diseases such as pellagra and kwashiorkor. In some parts of Africa aflotoxicosis occurs which could be prevented by removing the skins as the Maya do.
Step 14: How to Sharpen Knives
Here, Don Mati demonstrates how she sharpens knives by rubbing them against the basin of a stone fountain. She's using essentially the same trick shown in Knife Sharpening Tricks: Improvised Sharpening Stones, rubbing the knife away from the tip of the blade. It may be ugly, but you can't argue with the results: she's taken a super cheap serrated made-in-China knife, and turned into a quite a sharp and useful implement. She cooks every day, and re-sharpens the knifes about once or twice a week.