My DH & I live in Southcentral Alaska where the summer temps seldom get above 75 degrees, so it's a challenge to compost. We also have to do it in a short time, since the summer only lasts for about three months.
At a garden friend's suggestion I started my first compost pile several years ago by alternating grass clippings and goat manure. I had no "bin", so I just started the pile. I swear, at first, I had no idea what to expect..I really didn't even know what compost was. I kept adding things, turning it, adding more layers...brown, green, brown, green... and finally it started getting warm in the center.
I was eagerly awaiting this beautiful "compost" that I imagined would be broken down like soil in no time. I fiddled around with that first batch for two years, until one day, another garden buddy said, "Why don't you sift that compost and start another batch?" So I put a framed screen across my wheelbarrow and started sifting. Low & behold...I had beautiful compost! From that point on, I was hooked.
Last year, my husband took an interest in the compost pile, and now we have this two compartment covered bin behind our garage, and we compost every year from first thaw to first hard freeze. Now I have a waste container with a lid for my compostables and started saving veggie scraps, egg shells, & coffee grounds year round. During the winter months, I keep the waste on the porch in covered 5 gallon buckets where it stays frozen until spring when I can begin my compost pile again. Needless to say, by the time the buckets sit around in the spring, they are already beginning to "work".
In the fall, we rake our leaves and put them in huge piles, and in the spring, we use them to alternate layers of kitchen waste. As the lawn grows, we add grass clippings, and by the time the summer is in full swing, we go down to the docks or the cannery and get fish waste to add, as well. We get livestock manure from friend's horses, goats, and rabbits. Each time we add something green or stinky, we add a layer of last fall's leaves or the winter straw mulch from the flower beds. This keep down the odor that might attract bears or pets, and helps to keep it aeriated.
Since our season is short and cool, we try to break everything down a bit before we put it on the compost pile. If I have a pile of weed material from the garden, I run over it with the lawn mower to chop it up a bit. From time to time we add a nitrogen fertilizer or manure to the pile to keep it hot. We stir the pile a bit with a garden fork, and on occasion toss it from one bin to the next to relayer it.
We built a cover over our compost bins because we have so much rain, living outside a coastal town. We water the compost sparingly, but regularly, keeping the compost about the consistency of cake..not the batter, but actual cake. By the season's end, we generally have compost, but we let it sit until next spring, when we toss it into the next bin and start a new batch. My DH put removable bin boards on the fronts of each bin so that we can add or remove boards as needed.
It's a lot harder to compost in Alaska, but it can be done!