Elder and Sister Watts

Elder and Sister Watts

Hill Cumorah Visitors' Sites Mission Statement

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."
3 Nephi 5:13

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


There is a gravel road on the Smith Family Farm, one of our sites here in Palmyra. Beneath the gravel road, about halfway between the frame home and the log home runs a white PVC culvert. Living in the culvert is a family of foxes, a mama fox and three babies. Yesterday morning, during our walk we were excited to see the babies. They are very playful and we were able to get within 5 feet of them. The mama on the other hand, stays pretty far away, but keeps a watchful eye on her babies. Here are some of the "tons" of pictures we took of them.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Dear Family and Friends,

One of the greatest parts of our mission here in Palmyra is all of the wonderful people we get to meet from all over the world: Brazil, China, Japan, Holland, Belgium, Canada, France, England, Australia, and more. But the most fun is when we meet people that know people we know. Here are some of our friends of friends or old acquaintances:

Elder and Sister Whipple are new site missionaries here. They lived in Michele's ward when she was in high school in Las Vegas, Nevada!

Glenn Fegan from Pennsylvania. He came in the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center to tell us "Hi" for the Jasters - his friends and now ours that we met at the MTC and are now serving a mission in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Jackie Perazzo from Fallon, Nevada. Her son Brandon is married to Calisata (formerly Howes.) She is a daughter of our friends in Sandy, Oregon.

Elder and Sister Shepherd, our neighbors and fellow site missionaries. Their daughter matched up our son-in-law's brother with his wife ( the two women were roommates).

Henrico stopped by when we were working at the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center. He lives in Canada and was baptized by Kuhn Marshall's brother.

Kevin and Janice Casper from California are good friends with Kevin and Nancy Jones, our friends in Oregon.

Vicki and Bruce Tolman from Idaho. Vicki is the niece of Keith Hansen and the cousin of all of our Hansen friends in Oregon.

Mindi Martin is Michele's niece from Arizona working on her doctorate degree at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Elder and Sister Rasmussen serving a mission in the Uttica, New York Mission. They came to Palmyra with a Youth Temple Trip. We originally became friends with them at the MTC in January.

Jerry and Gail Schneider from Rochester, New York. They are in our ward where we go to church each Sunday in Greece, the Rochester 2nd Ward. Gail is the sister of Brad and James and President Anderson, our friends in Oregon.

John and Jacque Hayes from Phoenix, Arizona know our Oregon friends James and Quilla Buhler and Crismon and Vivian Lewis.

Not pictured are:

Gary Hannig, Michele's mother's cousin from Provo, Utah that she hasn't seen for over 35 years.

Andy Beck and his wife and 4 children from Corning, New York, our son Slade's friend from high school.

It seems like we constantly run into an old friend or relative or someone that knows the same people we do . . .hence, "It's a small world after all!" Love, Elder and Sister Watts

Saturday, April 3, 2010


When the Smith Family lived on their 100 acre farm in Palmyra they did many things to generate income. Each spring they tapped maple trees that grew naturally on their property. They tapped approximately twelve to fifteen hundred trees in a single season to produce an average of one thousand pounds of maple sugar and syrup. As missionaries sharing this story with visitors, we are naturally interested in the process of havesting maple sap, so we were excited about the opportunity to visit a local Maple Tree Syrup Farm while the maple sap was running. Here is what we learned: A maple tree typically needs to be 40 years old before it is large enough to tap. A tree should be 10-15” in diameter for one tap. Each additional 5” in diameter allows another tap and tap holes are usually 7/16” diameter x 2-3” deep. In this picture (below) our guide is showing us how much more effective it is to drill the hole with a power drill, rather than a hand drill like it was originally done. The taps don’t hurt the tree as long as there aren’t too many per tree. Each year they make the holes in new areas on the tree.

Once the hole is drilled a spout is inserted into the tree and a metal bucket is hung on the spout. Then a metal cover is placed over the bucket to keep bugs, sticks, etc out.

The maple sap is clear looking like water and is 98% water and 2% sugar. Each tap in a tree yields approximately 10 gallons sap annually. They say it has a slightly sweet taste in its sap stage. The sap runs from the roots to the top of the trees. When the days start getting warm the sap begins to run. In a good year, the days are warm and the nights are cold. The cold nights prevent the sap from running to to top of the tree too quickly and this lengthens out the season. When the sap reaches the top of the trees and the trees start to "bud out", the flavor of the sap becomes bitter and can not be used. This year we had many warm days and nights in a row right during the season, so this farmer only havested about 1/3 of his usual crop.
On this farm the family also uses a tube system for the trees on a slope. This system connects several trees together with tubes that are connected to the taps in each tree. This system uses gravity to help harvest the sap. At the lower end of the hill – or in this case the drumlin – there is a large storage container where the sap is collected from all of the trees connected through the tube system.
A person then collects this sap with a tractor that has a tank on the back. The sap from individual trees is collected this way too.
All of the sap is poured through a strainer, which is just a household sheet, to filter out sticks, bugs, etc.
It is then transported through an underground hose to one of three storage tanks that hold over 5,000 gallons of sap, combined.
Once the sap enters the smokehouse, it passes into a 6’ x 16’ stainless steel wood fired evaporator where it is heated to boiling. As the sap is boiled and becomes more concentrated it turns darker in color. Pure Maple syrup is 1/3 water and 2/3 sugar and it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
We also learned about how maple syrup is graded:
Grade A Light Amber is delicate flavor (far left)
Grade A Medium Amber is mild flavor
Grade A Dark Amber is full flavor
Extra Dark is a heavy flavor (far right)

Light Amber used to be the most popular, but now Extra Dark is becoming more popular.
When we saw how much work goes into making pure maple syrup, we began to understand why it is so costly. There is much work to do year round to prepare for the 4 to 6 week season of harvest. For example, it takes about 100 cords of wood each year to keep the fires going during the harvest season. The wood shed we are standing in was full, along with other stacks of wood used to feed the fire.

We also learned that Northeastern US and Canada are the only places in the world where Sugar Maples grow naturally. New York is the third largest producer of maple syrup. After taking this tour we gained a newer appreciation for the work the Smith Family did each spring while tapping their Sugar Maple Trees and boiling the sap into syrup and sugar.


For over 35 years we have included three activities in our Easter Celebration:

  • A hot dog roast and Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday

  • A celebration of the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ through song and worship at church on Sunday

  • A family Easter Dinner

  • So. . .this Easter in Palmyra was very different for us. While there was no hot dog roast, egg hunt or family Easter Dinner, we were blessed to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ through song and worship at church, and to add a couple of new meaningful activities.

We started the day early, with several other Senior Missionaries at the top of Hill Cumorah, watching the sunrise and singing He Is Risen. We had a prayer together and then shared some donuts and juice.

We were blessed to testify of Jesus Christ while giving tours at the Smith Farm from 9:00 AM until 12:00 noon and then watched the morning session of General Conference at the Palmyra Stake Center. We enjoyed seeing many of the families we had on tour at the meeting. We also watched the afternoon session of General Conference. By now it was 6:00 PM New York Time, so we went for a walk in the Sacred Grove.

Spring is coming to New York and it is fun to watch the changes in the grove and other places.

There remain in the grove some trees over 200 years old. Elder Watts is standing in front of one of them.
We even have flowers in bloom now!

Then, what better way to end the day than a Skype session with family members! The Oregon family gather at Nola's for that Easter Dinner referred to earlier. Then, lucky us - we sort of joined them through Skype.

Needless to say, it was a lovely day, if different from what we are used to. It will live long in our memories. We wish you all a blessed Easter Season and tesitfy of the divinity of Jesus Christ. He lives and loves each of us.

Thank you for your prayers, we think of all of you often.
With love,
Elder and Sister Watts