Last night, a flash of insight hit me like a ton of fertilizer. An analogy. Compost is a lot like stuffing.
You know, stuffing - like at Thanksgiving. (Yes, yes, for some of you, unless it's actually in the bird, it's properly called "dressing". In my household, even when its in a separate pan, we still call it "stuffing." Deal.)
Now, bear with me a minute.
The fruit and vegetables in the stuffing (apples, celery, onions, whathaveyou) are like the greens in the compost pile.
The bread is the browns.
The broth (or whatever you use to moisten your stuffing) is the water.
You need a bit of air in each as well.
Making stuffing, like making compost, isn't all that complicated. Just a few considerations:
-If you have just fruits & vegetables (greens), you end up with a lovely side dish, but it's not really stuffing.
-If you have just bread (browns), you can have a different lovely side dish, and it's technically stuffing, but not very interesting.
-If you don't have enough water, nothing much happens, and it doesn't make for very good stuffing.
-If you have too much water, you end up with more of a bread pudding, which is fine and all, but it's not really stuffing.
-If you pack it all down too tightly (or have too much water), it all compacts and doesn't really make for very good stuffing either.
-If you just pile the fruit & vegetables on top of the bread (or vice versa) and don't stir it and the liquid through, the stuffing probably won't be all that interesting.
As long as you have the basics accounted for, here's a fair bit of flexibility in making a good stuffing, as there is in making a good compost pile. Lots of leeway, and lots of room for a beginner to still get good compost.
(Mr. Trashmaster, bless his heart, asked "How do the worms and bacteria and other bugs factor into your Compost Stuffing model?"
I told him to get stuffed.)