Paul, have you established a reliable composting system? I lust after one of those large rotating barrels....but they are so expensive. The trick seems to be providing all the ingrediants they call for in the right amounts....never seem to have enough of one or way to much of the other.
Compost tools. (Larger version)
I heard or read that composting is more of an art than a science. I'm poor at art but continue to try composting.
Composting depends on the right mix of materials containing carbon, materials containing nitrogen, oxygen and water. The ideal quantity of materials is one cubic yard or larger to provide enough mass for heat retention. Given the right mix of materials a compost pile can reach 130 degrees and produce compost in a few weeks.
I have two composting bins. One was a gift from a friend who retired and moved to North Carolina. The second was a freebie found on Craigslist from a family moving to another house. The bins do not rotate to provide aeration so I lift the bottomless bin from the pile, place it beside the pile and shovel the pile into the bin to mix and aerate it.
A garden hose reaches the compost bins which makes it easy to rinse out the compost pail after emptying it into the bin and wet the pile if it appears too dry. The rule of thumb is that it should feel like a sponge that has been rung out. Recently I had a pile at 120 degrees that dropped in temperature and appeared to be too dry. In an effort to push the temperature higher I added more materials, aerated the pile and added some water, a little too much water. The temperature plummeted.
The photo above shows a long stemmed thermometer lying on an off-white compost pail. I sometimes use the thermometer but most of the time I shove a hand into the middle of the pile to determine the temperature and moisture content.
We never, but never, toss anything in the trash that can add nitrogen to the compost bin. Since we try to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables each day we have two pails of material per week. I take a banana and container of fruit (apples, oranges, strawberries, pears, etc) to work each day. I've begun putting the banana peel in the empty container to bring it home to compost.
There have been times, generally in the winter, when I've buried materials from the compost pail in the garden. Two months later I have trouble finding the material. It has become indistinguishable from the soil in which it was buried.
I've considered vermiculture -- worm composting. Julie is interested also which is important. We could place a larger container with red wiggler worms in the utility room and place some of our fruit and vegetable materials in the container rather than the compost bin. Some day I'll try this.
The question was "have you established a reliable composting system?" Remove the adjective "reliable" and the answer is yes. I'm still working on the art and trying to produce compost more quickly.