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Special Section: Jack London Centennial


Sonoma County was a frequent player in Jack London’s works. During the last years of his life, London reportedly wrote 1,000 words a day to finance his sprawling ranch atop Sonoma Mountain. It’s no surprise that he wrote frequently about the ranch and other Sonoma County locations. Following are excerpts about specific places.

Beauty Ranch:

“Next to my wife, the ranch is the dearest thing in the world to me. Heavens! I sit up nights over that ranch.” — October 7, 1914

“I believe the soil is our greatest asset.”

“A sweet land, Mate Woman, an almighty sweet land you and I have chosen . . . our Valley of the Moon.”

“I am the sailor on horseback! Watch my dust! Oh, I shall make mistakes a-many; but watch my dreams come true...Try to dream with me my dreams of fruitful acres. Do not be a slave to an old conception. Try to realize what I am after.” — quoted by Charmian Kittredge London, 1921

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Hill Ranch (Jack’s first purchase in Sonoma County):

“There are 130 acres in the place, and they are 130 acres of the most beautiful, primitive land to be found in California. There are great redwoods on it, some of them thousands of years old. . . in fact, the redwoods are as fine and magnificent as any to be found anywhere outside the tourists groves. Also there are great firs, tanbark oaks, maples, live-oaks, white-oaks, black-oaks, madrone and manzanita galore. There are canyons, several streams of water, many springs ... I have been riding all over these hills, looking for just such a place, and I must say that I have never seen anything like it.” — 1905

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Kohler and Frohling Ranch:

“I am buying seven hundred acres of land that rounds out and connects my present two ranches, giving me miles of frontage on three creeks, and some magnificent mountain land, to say nothing of the timber — real wild country.” — 1910

“I ride over my beautiful ranch. Between my legs is a beautiful horse. The air is wine. The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame. Across Sonoma Mountain wisps of sea fog are stealing. The afternoon sun smolders in the drowsy sky. I have everything to make me glad I am alive. I am filled with dreams and mysteries. — “John Barleycorn,” 1913

“I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate.”

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Sustainable Farming:

“My neighbors were typified by the man who said: ‘You can’t teach me anything about farming; I’ve worked three farms out (myself)!’ ”

“I had noticed the way the soil was washed down the hillsides by the rains, and I determined to prevent that, which I did by grading the land, making it over into rolling contours and abrupt terraces. ...But the big thing about it is that by these new contours I keep the moisture in the soil.” 1916

“No picayune methods for me, when I go in silence, I want to know that I left behind me a plot of land which, after the pitiful failures of others, I have made productive....”

Special Section: Jack London Centennial

“Can’t you see? Oh, try to see! In the solution of great economic problems of the present age, I see a return to the soil. I go into farming because my philosophy and research have taught me to recognize the fact that a return to the soil is the basis of economics ... I see my farm in terms of the world, and the world in terms of my farm .. Do you realize that I devote two hours a day to writing and ten to farming? — my thought-work, my preparation, at night, and when I am out-of- doors.” — quoted by Charmian Kittredge London, 1921

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Wolf House:

“I have long since decided to buy land in the woods, somewhere, and build. For over a year, I have been planning this home proposition, and now I am just beginning to see my way clear to it. I am really going to throw out an anchor so big and so heavy that all hell could never get it up again. In fact, it’s going to be a prodigious, ponderous sort of anchor.”

“I am ... only just now beginning my first feeble attempts at building a house for myself. That is to say, I am chopping down some redwood trees and leaving them in the woods to season against such a time, two or three years hence, when they will be used in building the house.” — Feb. 3, 1911

“It should be thought of, that house, in relation to Jack, not a mansion, but a big cabin, a lofty lodge, a hospitable teepee, where he...could stretch and beam upon you and me and all the world that gathered by his log fires." — Charmian Kittredge London

“And now to my own house beautiful, which I shall build some seven or ten years from now. I have a few general ideas about it. It must be honest in construction, material, and appearance. If any feature of it, despite my efforts, shall tell lies, I shall remove that feature. Utility and beauty must be indissolubly wedded. Construction and decoration must be one. If the particular details keep true to these general ideas, all will be well.” — July 1906

“And because of the foregoing, one chief aim in the building of my house beautiful will be to have a house that will require the minimum of trouble and work to keep clean and orderly. It will be no spick and span and polished house, with an immaculateness that testifies to the tragedy of drudge. I live in California where the days are warm. I’d prefer that the servants had three hours to go swimming (or hammocking) than be compelled to spend those three hours in keeping the house spick and span. Therefore it devolves upon me to build a house that can be kept clean and orderly without the need of those three hours.” — July 1906

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The Pig Palace:

“Among other things I am starting to build a piggery that will be the delight of all the pig-men in the United States. It will be large and efficient and cheap in relation to the size of it.” — September 21,1914

“I designed those hog houses and pens myself.” — 1916

Susan Nuernberg is a past president of the Jack London Society and a recipient of the Jack London Foundation’s Woman of the Year award. She is currently writing a biography of Charmian Kittredge London with Iris Jamahl Dunkle.