Su Ba wrote:John, I find that organic material decomposes on my farm very rapidly too. As a result I only bother making traditional hot compost piles when I want to "sterilize" the ingredients, such as with manures, seedy material, grass roots that need killing, material that might be housing noxious insects, etc. In these cases I will make hot piles that heat up rapidly and are usually ready to be opened and cooled within 30 days. I don't leave hot piles sitting around decomposing, for as you found out, they continue to rapidly decompose down to the basics. Almost all my hot piles are opened, cooled, and used 30-45 days after starting. If I'm busy or don't need the material, then a pile might go 60 days.
I also use a lot, lot, lot of cold (actually only slightly warm, not hot) compost piles. These are my pallet grow boxes that hold a cubic yard of material. I also have a few keyhole gardens that I use for demonstration that I fill as cold compost piles. Once filled and put into use, the volume gradually reduces due to decomposition. By 6 months of use the grow boxes are around half full....sometimes more, sometimes less depending upon the material used.
Having my compost "disappear" is good as long as I am utilizing the nutrients. I rely upon the compost decomposing because it is my major source of fertilizer. I am constantly replenishing the compost and other organic material, tilling the compost and old mulch into the soil between crops plus adding mulch to growing crops.
Digging material right into the soil and thus bypassing a compost pile is another method I use, as long as the material doesn't need heat treatment. I grow my taro that way. My taro beds are prepared with a trench on either side of the row of young taro. Then over the course of a few weeks, the trenches are filled in with organic material. It is eventually topped with some grass clippings and an inch of dirt or volcanic cinder. As the material decomposes, it feeds the growing taro.
I prefer to lightly till in my compost, as apposed to leaving it decompose on the soil surface. We get tradewinds here that will literally blow away the fine dust and material the compost eventually decomposes down to. I keep my soil usually covered with a light mulch which also helps protect the decomposing compost. With all the effort to get compost into the soil, I hate to see it blow away. And besides, compost as it decomposes is constantly losing nitrogen, so I have read. By lightly tilling it in, I hope that the ammonia ions get used or otherwise bound up in the soil rather than blowing away in the wind.