Today I decided it was high time to turn the compost pile. Guess what I found when I pulled off the plastic cover from the pile?
I didn't add any soil. That's straight compost! I finally figured out what the secret is, the same secret that all the books and articles mention: carbon, carbon, and more carbon. Probably the best help with this particular pile came from the blog Root Simple. Erik Knutzen had spent some time with Jon Jeavons at the non-profit Ecology Action center on his farm in Willits, California, and posted a very useful video on the blog. (Actually, if you watch it, you might at well watch all the rest of them on several practices they preach at the center. I did, and I learned a lot!) I didn't put the stakes at the corners, like they do, but I did find the information about keeping the pile in a square shape to be very helpful, as well as moving the decomposing stuff in the middle of the pile to the outside of the new pile, and the still-looks-like-broccoli-and-straw-stuff to the inside of the new pile. I also think that I'm getting it done more easily with a free form pile and my manure fork- lots less heavy lifting for this old gal with a bad back, which makes a huge difference in how long I last in the yard. The Geobin is holding some older compost, and I'll let that sit for awhile longer. Eventually, I'll have to move it all to a new location, because I plan on growing heavy feeding cabbages where the piles are all sitting now. I figured that if the were going to leach nutrients into the soil, they may as well leach it where I was going to need it.
As the weather warms up, I should be able to really crank out the compost, now that I finally know what I'm doing. It only took me two years to learn how!