Thursday, October 25, 2007

How to Compost: The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part Two

Here is the complete How to Compost series in case you'd like to catch up or review:

Step 1: Make it a Priority
Step 2: Choose a System
Interlude: Nature Tried to Kill My Composter
Step 3: Collect Organic Material
Step 4: Mix the Materials
Step 5: Moisten the Mixture
Step 6: Wait
Interlude: The Lightbulb Change
Interlude: The Yogurt Change
Interlude: The Sponge Change
Interlude: The Leftover Change
Interlude: The Napkin Change
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part One
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part Two
Sun-Mar 200 Compost Update
Sun-Mar 200: Starting All Over Again

Step 7: Use Your Compost
Step 8: Sun Mar 200 Garden Composter Review


For those of you who are looking for the final word on the Sun-Mar 200 Garden Composter, I will warn you right now, I don't have it. But I'll tell you as much as I can.

Note (11/2): If you have used a Sun-Mar composter, please feel free to add your voice to the comments below. There's not much customer feedback on this product right now, so let's create some! :)

So as you know from Part One of this review, I began composting in May and have yet to see compost from my Sun-Mar. Before I get into the exciting customer service drama, let's talk a little bit about how the Sun-Mar appears to work. It's supposed to be continuous compost, which means as opposed to other systems where you have to wait for an entire batch to finish composting, you can add stuff continuously *and* get compost at the same time. Brilliant.

To achieve this feat, there is an outer drum and an inner drum. You put the garbage into the outer drum. Eventually, the compost will make it's way to the inner drum where you simply empty it into your barrel as in the illustration above. Here's a more detailed illustration (you can click on it to make it bigger):



So once a month or so, I would check the inner drum. Inside would be a few pieces of garbage, totally dried out from being in the inner drum, but certainly not compost. And since I had learned that moisture was a necessary part of the mix, I would shove the dried out garbage back into the outer drum (where everything seems to be decomposing quite nicely) and wait some more.

Around August, I started to get a little impatient. I emailed Sun Mar customer service to see if this was normal. No response.

Around September, I tried the customer service email address again. This time throwing out the "I'm writing a review" phrase in hopes that it would get a response. No luck.

At the beginning of October, Reba (visit her organic farm here), who works for the terrific company that sold us the Sun-Mar (and who, as a former union organizer, has a lower threshold for being ignored) called Sun-Mar directly.

After a *long* discussion, here's essentially what the Sun Mar representative said:

  • First, the composter needs to be almost full
  • Then, the garbage will fill up the inner drum
  • Once the inner drum is full, the material inside (aided by the heat from the full outer drum around it) will begin to compost
  • As the material decomposes, it shrinks down, so you can keep adding more garbage as the process continues
Ok. Logically, this makes sense. So my composter (which is currently just over half full) needs to fill up and the inner drum needs to fill up, and *then* I can wait for the compost. So I need to add a lot more garbage before I start to see results.

But let me just say (and please tell me if you disagree) this is *not* what it looks like in either of the diagrams.

Let me also point out that the Sun-Mar representative was incredibly rude and impatient throughout the conversation. Reba told me that at one point he exclaimed something along the lines of:
"If you knew anything about how composting works, you would understand this."
At which point she lost her patience and retorted:
"I am a farmer!"
Now to be fair, the person she talked to was not a customer service representative. He said he was filling in because they were short-staffed and didn't have anyone else to do it.

Still, it is not that difficult to be courteous.

So I'll keep adding garbage to the composter through the winter, and in the Spring, I'm going to expect some serious composting action. I'll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, some advice for Sun-Mar, in case they're reading:
  • Be more clear in your materials
  • Answer your emails
  • Staff your customer service desk
  • Lose the attitude: BE COURTEOUS
I can't emphasize the last point enough, as simple as it may seem. You may have the best product on the planet, but if you are continuously rude, I'm not going to buy anything from you in the future. If you're kind and courteous, patient and helpful, I will not only become a repeat customer, but I will probably tell everyone I know. It's not rocket science.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, thank you, I do see part 2.
I am very curious how well this composter works, and while you've had a slow start, I'm hoping you'll eventually be amazed with sucess because the design looks so logical!
Still, I've been unable to justify half a Grand (when accounting for shipping) for a plastic barrel to make dirt.
$500 will buy a LOT of bags from Home Depot.

Josephine Cameron said...

Thanks for the note! I'll definitely keep you posted on the progress. And you've certainly got a point about the cost. We got ours for slightly over $200 (for the smaller model which has turned out to be *plenty* big), and figured that over the years it would be worth it. We already bring about half the garbage to the dump that we used to. If a dozen people in our neighborhood did the same, that would start to add up to a lot more space in the landfill.

There are of course many cheaper ways to compost. If you're interested, I've written about them and our decision to go with the Sun-Mar in this previous post.

Have a great day!

Josephine Cameron said...

I received the below email yesterday, and thought it might be interesting to those looking for further information on the Sun-Mar composter. FYI, this is the second person to email me who had the inner drum fall out of the composter. Also, Karen had a good experience with customer service, so that is reassuring. -j

THANK YOU for the review on the Sun Mar composter. After reading your update I called them and told the lady the inner drum of my composter fell out of its anchor on one end and asked what I should do. (maybe I didn't put it in securely enough? I don't know.) She asked when I bought it ( this spring ), asked if the cradle had stretched and when I said yes - said she'd replace the unit. WOW ! Thanks, Sun Mar ! Probably less than a 60 second call, including giving my address. The power of the Internet? I think your page and request for better service WORKED. I'll add that I like the Sun Mar because my main interest is getting rid of wet garbage with the least hassle possible. The unit definitely qualifies. When I eventually get compost, it will be all the better.
Thanks again,
Karen

Fred Horch said...

Hi Josie,

Thanks for sharing your experience with the Sun-Mar 200!

A batch of them had screws in the wrong place that resulted in the inner drum collapsing when the units filled up. We were able to get new units from Sun-Mar for our customers who needed replacements. The failed units we repaired and put into service ourselves to test their performance.

Sun-Mar fixed the design and repositioned the screws to avoid this problem.

I would love to compare notes with you some time.

I'm very sorry to hear about the bad customer service Sun-Mar provided. We field a lot of questions about composting. Even if you didn't buy your unit from us, feel free to give us a call at (207) 729-4050. We sell a full line of composting bins, including the Sun-Mar 200 and 400 and we are happy to answer any questions you may have about them.

Yours in composting,
Fred Horch
F.W. Horch Sustainable Goods & Supplies
www.FWHorch.com

Josephine Cameron said...

Hey, Fred, thanks for the note! Kevin & I were just in your store the other day & asked about how people had been liking the Sun-Mar. I'm personally hoping that the bad customer service was a fluke, and that I'll have better luck in the Spring if we keep plugging away. I *really* like the concept of this composter, so I want it to work. We'll definitely have to compare notes when I see you next. Kevin & I love the new store, by the way!

ACS_Stephen said...

I purchased this composter in July of 2006 and have never successfully achieved anything! I think it was a nice concept that was never really tested. I purchased mine at Gardners.com who has since stopped selling them. I also had ZERO luck with Sun-Mar customer service. I could not get them to talk with me at all. I am now testing Gardeners.com's 100% satisfaction guarantee for a refund. I am sick over the cash I wasted on this thing. It has become difficult to turn and is ready to pop apart when loaded. This is where I am headed: http://www.naturemill.com/products.html

ACS_Stephen said...

FYI - More Reviews:
https://store.altenergystore.com/Composting/Garden-Composters/Sun-Mar-200-50-gal-cap-Garden-Composter/p1618/

ACS_Stephen said...

Good news for me. Gardeners.com has lived up to their reputation and will have FedEx pick up the Sun Mar 200 this week and give me a full refund. That makes me feel good about spending money with them in the future. Good Luck!

Josephine Cameron said...

Stephen--thanks for your comments and for the links to the reviews at AltEnergyStore. Ugh. It's so disappointing that people have had such a hard time with this composter. I think you may be right...it's a great idea that may not have been tested well enough. I'm glad you were able to get your money back...I love to hear about companies that have great customer service like Gardeners.com. Thanks for stopping by!

ACS_Stephen said...

Josephine,

Gardeners.com came through and provided me a refund. I have since purchased the NatureMill composter and am detailing my experiences with it here: compostingmadeeasy.yuku.com . I will be ordering the "Pyramid" composter from gardeners.com to process my outdoor waste and any excess that I have from the NatureMill unit. While the pyramid composter does not allow turning of the compost, from what I have been reading, that is over-hyped anyways... If you continue to use the SunMar, I hope that you have success. I will keep watching your blog and I will update my reviews to point to your blog once you have concluded your long-term review. -Stephen in TN

Josephine Cameron said...

Thanks so much, Stephen. I'll definitely follow your progress with your composters. We're of course in full-blown winter mode here in Maine, so it will be a few more months before I have any progress, but when I do, I'll definitely post about it. Thanks so much for the link to your site!

Saida said...

Thank you for the website and reviews! I also had no idea that the composter needs to be almost full…

I purchased the composter in September, 2007 and loved the concept but wasn’t getting any results. I wasn’t sure if the composter doesn’t work or I’m doing something wrong. There aren’t many reviews for this product and I was delighted to find a positive one on http://www.sustainlane.com. I contacted the author with some questions and … YES!!!!
“…we always get compost. Have been getting compost for over 2 years… There are several things we do. First you need to make sure you have a balance of wet and dry matter. For example we always place vegetable scraps, fruit scraps and eggshells in the composter (wet matter). We add dry leaves or shredded paper when the compost is getting too wet. We also do not turn more than once a week. We never place cooked food in the Sun Mar…For the dry matter we have a little pile of leaves and grass clippings near our garden which we use for the dry matter.”
Now I just have to get my composter full and balanced. Good luck to all!

Josephine Cameron said...

Thanks Saida. It is a relief to know it's working for *somebody*! I'm really hoping for good results this summer. I'll keep everyone posted here. Please come back & let us all know how it goes for you, too. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

One caveat on the composter producing compost. You will seldom receive peat moss consistently compost like found in the peat moss bags. Some of the compost will be in balls and we break them apart with a shovel. The plants still like them. they just aren't those pretty rich loose compost mulchy compost.

Anonymous said...

Any compost yet? We're looking at buying one too and I'm eagerly awaiting your update :-)

Josephine Cameron said...

Hey anonymous...I posted another update today, but I'll warn you in advance...still no compost. Right now, I would only recommend the Sun-Mar if you are a *very* patient person, interested in the process, and not too concerned about getting actual compost in a timely manner. :) Please let me know how it goes.

Saida said...

Hi Josephine,
you are way ahead of me:-) Is your compost really steaming? Wow! Mine is not looking good at all. It is almost full but with wet, slimy and rotting stuff inside. Is it normal?

How big are your kitchen scraps? I cut them usually up to 1”, is it too big? How often do you turn? And do you make a full turn or only half way around? Or a couple of full turns?

Most likely I will not have any compost this year:-( At least the composter doesn’t smell bad. Unless you open and turn it of course :-)

Josephine Cameron said...

Hi Saida.
I'm no expert, but it sounds to me like you need more "browns" in your compost. We shred our used office paper & add that, but leaves and twigs would do the trick, too.

And I usually turn it once a week. I give it a couple good spins around. 2 or 3. It seems to be doing the trick.

I just spoke to my friend Fred about it & I'll try to do an update this week. He said his works well when he sprays water into the small drum to moisten the garbage that is "finishing". I'm going to try it and see how it goes.

Good luck!
-j

Christy said...

Are you kidding me? One year later and no compost? I am so disappointed. I bought the Sun Mar 200 in May and am having all of the same problems you are...and i have to say that it is discouraging to say the least. i too, have decreased the amount of garbage we are sending to the landfill and feel good about that, but if I have to wait a year to see any dirt what's the point? In addition, what do you do when it gets full just stop using it? This is very frustrating - is there anything that can be done?

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to read your blog and comments; I was saving to buy a Sun Mar 200 because it looks so logical and I did not want to have to screen the finished result to sort the finished from the unfinished compost.
Does anyone have any recommendations for a small composter the size of the 200 that DOES work well?

Josephine Cameron said...

I'm planning to call Sun Mar again later this week because now our inner drum is falling out, if you can believe it! I'll keep you posted on how it goes. & anonymous--I'm going to check in with our local sustainable goods store to see what they have had good luck with this summer. I'll do a post soon to let you know what I find out.

saida said...

Hi all,
no compost but it's steaming! I can see rich black rotting mass inside after turning :-) The inner drum doesn't have any compost, only dried garbage. Something is definitely going on because every time I think it's completely full, 2 weeks later it's only 3/4 full. May be next year :-) Is it doesn't break :-(

Felton CA said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments. I was very interested in the Sun-Mar but, as usual, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I use chicken wire (wire fencing works too) and a black plastic tarp for composting. Use a garden fork to turn and aerate the pile as needed. Don't let the pile get too wet or too dry and it will take care of itself. Total out-of-pocket cost, around $50.00. (And that's if you get a really expensive garden fork!)

Anonymous said...

I HAVE DIRT! It took nearly 9 months and it didn't happen exactly as the Sun Mar people said it would but it is there! The dirt is on the bottom of the barrel not on the inside drum like it apparently is supposed to be. It smelled like dirt and when I spun it dirt particles kept falling out so finally I put on gloves and reached in and dug around the bottom and found dirt! It was wet and stuck to the bottom so it wasn't falling into the drum?

Anyway, it works, sort of, but it does take time and things like egg shells don't decompose quickly enough (at least i don't think) for this apparatus. I also found that things such as bio bags (biodegradable bags) don't decompose quickly either and might clog up the drum. I have started to just empty those bags into the composter and then throw them into the garbage where they can decompose in the landfill.

genesgirl2 said...

Re: the Sun-Mar 200 Composter - DON'T DO IT!!!
I purchased this 3 years ago-still no compost. I purchased it from Gardeners' Supply, and I finally gave up e-mailing them. They have NEVER offered to replace it (which probably wouldn't make any difference) and all they could suggest was that I didn't understand the principles of composting. My drum constantly falls out of the cradle, and now it is so full of non-composted junk that I can no longer turn it. If it wouldn't cost a fortune to ship, I would ship it back, dried-up eggshells, soggy-smelling leaves, giant mud football and all. I constantly have to listen to my husbands snide remarks about how I got taken. I can't even put it out on the curb, because our community won't take anything left outside of our recycle bins. Unless I move, I will have to look at that piece of junk for the rest my life!

Josephine Cameron said...

Thanks for all your input.

Anonymous, I'm glad it's working for *somebody*.

Genesgirl, I know from experience that if you call Sun-Mar & tell them the drum falls out, they will send you a new one. But then you have both the old one and the new one to deal with. I've got two now. One broken & one in good shape. I figure I'll just keep filling them with garbage until *something* happens.

Benjamin said...

I am about 2 months shy of reaching the 1-year anniversary of when I started using my Sun-Mar composter. Unfortunately, like many of you, I won't reach it, since my inner drum just fell out today, and try as I might, I can't get it back together. The drum is about 75% full and weighs about 100lbs. I have not gotten any compost out, just big dried hard dirt balls made mostly of newspaper shreds, which I typically throw back into the drum. Although I'm happy to have saved the landfills 10-months worth of our kitchen scraps, the whole experience has been definitely disappointing. Out of pride, I'm going to try again (my wife continues to have her laughs at my expense from this), can you tell me the best way to get a replacement from Sun-Mar? And will they replace it even if I didn't buy directly from their site? Thanks.

Josephine Cameron said...

Hi Benjamin.
What a bummer. Yes, Sun-Mar will send you a replacement even if you didn't buy it directly from them. You'll need to take pictures and send them to compost@sun-mar.com with a description of the problem. You should get a prompt response and a replacement unit.

With my replacement unit, I am going to try to spray water in the inner drum once a week. I've heard that works wonders. We'll see...

Good luck & please keep us all posted!

Andrew said...

The Sun Mar is junk. It won't hold any heat in order to get the composting business done properly. This whole thing complicates the process, which, truthfully, you could do with 5 used pallets (free) and a pitchfork (to turn the pile every weekend)

Layer green material (grass, leftovers from your meals) with brown (leaves, straw, etc) and within two months you'll have FREE compost. NO need to buy this unit.

Seriously people, the sun-mar just complicates things.

Anonymous said...

Gee, and for the last- 2? 3? 4?- years I thought it was just me. Decided I was finally going to devote serious time to getting it to work. I just assumed it was me because I have never been able to make any compost system work for me and this sounded foolproof.

I must say that with enough time, I do get good compost in the big drum, but it never makes it down to the one that's supposed to grind it out. (I also have never gotten anything except some small sticks and dried leaves from that drum, just like the other folks writing in.) Which means that you wait many months, and then it is terribly inconvenient trying to get the compost back out of the drum. I, too, have not heard the end of how I have been taken.

On the other hand, none of the parts ever broke, and it turns easily, even when full. It just doesn't do what it says it does, which, of course, is the only reason I bought it in the first place.

Don't know if I feel better or worse that it's obviously not me.

Josephine Cameron said...

Hi anon.
Thanks for your comment. Just this week, I peeked into my original sun-mar (the one that broke & was replaced), and it looks like everything in the big drum is *almost* compost! So how *do* you get it out of the big drum?

I've never had compost in the inner drum (where it's *supposed* to go).

I started blogging about this specifically because when I was looking for a composter, I couldn't find any consumer feedback at all about the Sun-Mar. It's been interesting to receive everyone's comments throughout the series. There are a select few who've loved the Sun-Mar, but a whole lot more like you and me who have not been able to get it to work the way it is supposed to.

Anonymous said...

After now, four years, I looked in the inner drum, and
there are a few dry leaves, a couple of acorns, and a
few small twigs. The outer drum has several billion fruit flies, and a lot of dry leaves and wet fruit/vegetable peelings. And I have built up some ok bicepts from turning it twice weekly. But I'm afraid before the snow flies, it's going out on the curb.

Gretchen said...

You asked how to get the compost out of the big drum. Well, if the thing still has all its parts and is still turning, you put a tarp underneath it, making sure it extends all the way underneath and then out behind it. You can also use those big disposable aluminum pans that come in packages of ten or more- they're about 2'x1 1/2'. Then you sit on the ground and turn it forward towards you with the sliding door open, and a bunch plops out- some near the front, some in the middle, but most toward the back. So I take that and spread it. Then I close the sliding lid, turn it a couple of times and repeat the process.

In rereading all of the comments, I realized that I have never gotten it absolutely crammed full, so that's what I'm going to try next. Crammed full and really wet.

But the bottom line is that none of us who paid all that money should have to be doing this. I wonder if the reviews here have made it out to the larger world of product reviews- I certainly hope so.

By the way, I'm Gretchen (formerly anonymous just because I didn't know which thing to click.)

James said...

Well, I'm sorry that this unit has turned out to be such a flop for almost everyone. Thank you for this site - it really helped to cement my decision about the Sun Mar.

But I'm still in a pickle. I live in the city (Vancouver) and my current composter, while making fine compost, also is a critter (rats, mice etc.) magnet. That's what sparked my interest in the Sun Mar in the first place. Does anyone have any suggestions for an alternative, effective and critter resistant composter?

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you thank you for all the comments. They have been most helpful. My search for an easy to turn composter will continue and in the meantime I will continue to use the old black composter.
Something I have always wondered was why there does not seem to be an easy way to chop the compost into smaller pieces in the garden - sort of like a hand-turned grinder/coarse blender kind of gaget that does not require electricity. I get very cranky when I have to spend time chopping my compost into smaller pieces at the end of a busy day feeding lots of vegetarians. Surely something with blades, hand turned, would be a good seller and then the 'black composters' would also work better. Chopping things small and just burying the contents in shallow ditches in the garden (if you have the space) would be good too. I have an old blender I purchased from the trift store for that but it is even more work since I have to plug it in in the house and then rinse it, etc. Thanks for all the good comments fellow composters!!

Anonymous said...

Mike Cornwell said......
The matter of the drum falling out of the frame is in my view a serious fault.The unit is levelled in but this still happened to me when it was being routinely rotated and could easily have fallen on my leg or foot.It required two people to get it back in the frame.It seems to me that the end caps need to be designed in a way that they stop the
frame from moving outwards

Josephine Cameron said...

Mike: It was a *serious* fault. You should definitely contact Sun-Mar and they will replace your unit. (See my letter here: http://www.pleasecomeflying.com/2008/09/how-to-compost-sun-mar-200-update.html)

Also, you could try screwing the inner drum to the outer drum. My husband and I put in about 3 screws and that seems to have done the trick. At least for now.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments about the Sun Mar! I had been considering buying one but after reading your comments, I am not interested any more. Does anyone have a recommendation for an outdoor composter that does work for small quantities and is rodest proof?

Sandie Anne Greene said...

I bought the Sun Mar last June 2010 and got a batch of compost in October. I unloaded the inner cone several times between August and October with SMALL amounts that I put into my garden. My mix was too wet--not enough browns so I added leaves and peat moss and it got much better.

My composter was never full only half full. When I finally got out the compost (it never all came into the cone probably because it was only half full) I had to do it by putting my hand in and pulling it out. Though it was nice compost. Next time I will try what another reader said about leaving the door open when you spin it.

I am working on my second batch and hope to fill it up totally to see if it comes out through the inner cone.

It turns very nicely and that sure beats turning a pile by hand.

I still haven't decided if it works great or not. I am waiting to see how my second batch works out. Sandie Anne
www.gardeningwormcomposting.com

Sandie Anne Greene said...

Here is a review from Amazon with great instructions on using the Sun Mar:

http://www.amazon.com/Sun-Mar-200-50-Gallon-Rotating-Compost/product-reviews/B001CFJ50I/ref=cm_cr_pr_hist_5?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addFiveStar

Sandie Anne

www.gardeningwormcomposting.com

Sandie Anne Greene said...

I left a comment yesterday saying that I was reserving judgement of the Sun Mar 200 until our second batch was completed. Actually we were looking at a bucket of compost that we created with the Sun Mar 200 today. And it looks very good. It is a rich black crumbly compost that we are very pleased with. I think it took longer than normal because we didn't have a good mix of greens and browns in the beginning. So anyway we are very pleased with the Sun Mar. We just got it in 2010 so we haven't had the problem of it breaking so I guess they fixed it!
Sandie Anne

www.gardeningwormcomposting.com

Josephine Cameron said...

Sandie, thanks so much for sharing your experiences here. I'm glad to hear someone's had good luck with the Sun-Mar!

James Bay said...

I've had my Sunmar 400 unit for almost 2 years. We got it late summer and only pulled a bit of compost out the following spring, despite being full. But in the past year since it has continued producing small amounts.

We inoculated it with the bacteria liquid that came with it, plus added worms from the garden. They survived the winter and seem to really help the composting.

We add browns. Should add more water because the compost is dry balls that can be easily broken up.
Still get some flies, but no stink. Not amazing, but works well enough with minimal effort.

Ours has the crank arm which I find easy to turn, but when heavy you have to be careful the weight settles on the bottom, or the crank will flip back with a lot of force.

Only problem: the plastic handle piece just broke. I've contacted the seller so we'll see what happens.

Anonymous said...

I've been using a Sun Mar 200 for about two years and it seems to work well. I bought it for the field office at the park where I work to reduce the amount of waste going away in a truck. The staff numbers about 25 people. I collect the usual food scraps and coffee grounds and add them about once a week. At the start, a coworker donated a dozen or so of her special "composting worms" - there are now numerous worms in the tumbler. When I need more browns I add oak leaves from the forest nearby the tumbler. The compost seems to happen slower in the winter so I have to divert some coffee grounds into the garbage or it's "grounds in, grounds out".

Every couple of weeks I remove the end cap and place a 5 gallon bucket under the center drum, reach in and pull out the compost. Anything that isn't ready, I throw back into the sliding door. I also pick out the worms and put them back into the door. I usually keep it about 2/3 full so it can aerate by tumbling, which I do by rotating 3 or 4 rotations about twice a week. It gets sun about half of the day.

Once, the door fell off at the bottom of the rotation, dumping the load on the ground, however I think this was operator error. Other than that, I've had no mechanical problems or critter problems or odor problems.

I'd buy one for home but I can't justify the $400. So instead I use one of the black plastic vertical box type units which works great as a rat food dispenser even though I sewed half inch hardware cloth on the bottom with baling wire......they still get in. I call it the "ratterie". Then my neighbor puts out rat poison, which is another story.........

El Lobo said...

I have my 200 in direct sun for heating but have to add water more often this way. I am on the pacific coast of Mexico just inside the tropics and it doesn't get cold like in the states so I have better luck all year round than those NOB.I friend who has a little more money than sense sometimes brought it down several years ago but never put in enough effort. You do have to be dedicated and consistent with your tumbling and wetting and maintain a good balance of brown and green material. Anyway my buddy pawned the thing off on me because I have a sort of noteriety in the communities I have lived in down here (for 11 years now) for making super compost. I try to tell people at the little organic farmer's market that goes down throughout the fall and winter at a local park that I don't really make anything I just throw all of my kitchen scraps in and then balance it out with dry leaves , grass and mulchy stuff from the yard . I have got a fine silky dirt falling out the bottom of the tumbler when I rotate it every three to four days.I started up in late April 2012 . I have never used anything that I had to pay for to compost in the past but since my buddy just kinda left it with me I figured what the hay. I've learned over the years that you can compost in just about any sort of container so long as you have plenty of air openings,a method to turn your batch and some type of lid or covering that promotes heating and humidity. Your blend,mixing and wetting are the crucial steps to making a good fertilizer. When you first start up in whatever container you use you want to start with a pretty good sized load of greens and browns so that your batch is heavy so when wetted and left to sit it will press together in between tumblings. You want to layer your materials brown,green water brown,green,water etc. in the begining and it does help if the scraps are chopped or at least broken up some. On fruit peels and veggie skins any where the tissue is bruised or broken is where they decay is going to start first. If you have access to a wooded area with trees that shed their leaves every season and are left to rot naturally like in the forest there you will find a good natural starter helper . If you dig down into the leaf mulch you will find near the bottom a layer of leaves that are just about to become dirt . That spongy semi moist layer is mother nature's compost-active and in it's last stage of decomp. Mixing that in as a good portion of your brown material will speed up the process because you are using material that is so actively dacaying that it will help kick off the dacaying process in your new natch. As many of the commenters said already earth worms are a must. Worm castings are the best fertilizer known to man.If your have access to worms at a bait shop -buy some - or go out and dig some up is even better FREE Once you get some worms going you want to be throwing in some coffee grounds every so often because that is a favored food of the night crawler.Getting that decaying rot started is the tricky part but once you do then you just have to be patientand dedicated . I can usually start seeing results in 90-120 days from start up on a new batch but then if maintained properly you will get constant compost for as long as you continue to add material. It takes some practice but once you see it working keepm repeating the process that got you to that point. I add scraps and yard stuff almost everyday. I tumble every 3-4 days and add water as I do. Because I just open the thing throw in the material shut it and spin when it's time. Not everyone can be a super composter like me but I hope my advice can be of some help to a few of you out there.Good Luck and Good composting.