The making of compost requires a balance of carbon-rich (called "browns") with nitrogen-rich (called "greens") materials, some water, and air. Food waste and animal manures are nitrogen-rich; leaves and paper and straw are carbon-rich. When we make compost piles at our Be the Change Project urban Homestead we add layers of both browns and greens with a little water. The pile heats up to about 150 degrees in a few days as the microbes get going and after about a week or so we turn the pile to get more air into the mix and re-wet as needed. We do this a few times and after about 6 weeks we have beautiful, useful, humus-y compost for our gardens.