I haven't done much composting this summer because I use grass clippings for my "greens", and I haven't had to mow the lawn because of a 3 month drought in Northern Illinois. It finally rained three weeks ago, and I had to mow the lawn last week. I started three compost piles that day. I wanted to start an updated journal, but I'm lucky if I get out to turn the pile every other day (9 month old baby)
instead of the every day that is required to process the compost in less than 21 days.
I've found that the ingredients make a big difference in how easy it is to turn the pile. The longer the grass clippings the harder it is to turn a pile using my bulb auger method. I have excellent browns in the form of rabbit litter (All Pet Pine after the rabbits are done with it). I also save my kitchen scraps in 5 gal buckets until they are fermented, stinky and mushy; essentially all broken down. Not pleasant when opening the bucket, but the odor dissipates quickly once mixed with everything else.
Turning the pile every day that first week is very important. There is no way to mix everything up perfectly when you start the batch. Even if you do an inch of green to two inches of brown, you still have layers of grass that will compact and form a solid moisture impervious layer. Mix, mix, mix. You can't let the grass clump up. This is why sawdust (or in my case the rabbit litter) is a great source of brown. It disperses in the pile quicker and easier coating the grass and keeping it from clumping. If you shred/mulch dried leaves or hay, it will produce very small particles that will help break up the grass layers. You can buy a hay bale from most nurseries, especially in the fall, for like $3. It will keep over the winter as a bale, or buy your bale in the spring
. If you're using newspaper, shred it as finely as you can. Use one of those cross-cut paper shredders if you have one.
I also found that you want to keep the pile covered. Don't let that moisture evaporate. Yes you want it to have some exposure for fresh air, but the core (where most of the action is going on) is only going to get air when you turn the pile. There's that daily mixing again. If you look at the wire bin in the journal, I ended up covering the top with an old shower curtain. There were no holes in the plastic that I used to surround the wire. The only down side to the shower curtain, is that I had to keep it in place with a brick that compacted the compost reducing the air that the core had.
I've written a novel, but the real tricks can be summarized very quickly.
1) Get your ingredients as small as you can. Smaller things compost quicker than larger chunks.
2) Get your C:N (brown to green) ratio as close to 30:1 as you can. When you get it right, you don't need to add water unless your pile is over exposed to the air. This takes practice, but it's not too hard to learn.
3) Mix thoroughly once a day every day for at least the first week.