If you read my previous landscape gardening business diary entry then you’ll know that I spent all of my first week back to work bored, repointing a patio! There is lots to do still but luckily I did get the opportunity to do some other work in the same garden which allowed me to break up the week a bit.

Having some extra jobs to do really made the week go by faster (not that I’m complaining) but then that might have something to do with the fact that I arrived late on Monday and had to take Tuesday off to work on the van! I’ll get into this more below, but honestly, you won’t believe me when I tell you what was wrong with the van and the fact that I had to lose a full day’s money for it!

Monday was a bad day to start the week…

The above picture is of my project car, that’s rarely driven except from the yearly trip to the MOT station but here it is, having taken me to work late Monday Morning. Each wheel arch is either primered and prepared for a respray or still in the filler stages. Half of the interior is missing since I have also been working on the inside of the car and up until that Morning, it had no window wipers or battery. So why had it just taken me the 15 mile journey to work?

Well, I got up and ready on time. Had my breakfast on time. Even loaded the necessary tools in the van on time. Everything was going well until I put the key in the ignition, turned it and instead of the engine turning over, all I got was a clicking noise. A flat battery! Or so I thought. Well after searching for the jump leads for 15 minutes and then moving my wife’s car into position it quickly became apparent that it was not the battery that was the problem!

Getting to work was at the top of my priority list and since my wife needs her car for the school runs, I had 2 remaining vehicles to choose from (I’m a bit of a car hoarder). My finished project car with no MOT or my unfinished project car with an MOT. Now I had just one option. I quickly jump in my wife’s car, drove to the local vehicle parts store and purchased a battery and window wipers needed to get to work and stuck the van’s battery on charge just to make sure it wasn’t flat or faulty.

By the time I got to work on the Monday I decided to carry on with the repointing of the patio since this would be the easiest and quickest option to get started on. I had other jobs to do such as replacing broken paving slabs and replacing some old sleepers with some granite setts on some steps but I thought it too late to set the cement mixer up etc.. 

I spent Tuesday at home fixing the van!

OK so here comes the bit where I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! If you don’t know what van I have, it’s a Peugeot Partner (we have another van but my business partner is using this one at the moment). Only being a 1.6, up until now, I always found working on the engine very easy with lots on room to work with so I thought nothing of it to purchase a new starter motor for £80, jack the van up and get started. At this point, I thought I’d still manage to get half a day’s work in.

Well, let me start by saying that the starter motor on this van is far from easy to change. It’s right at the back of the engine and if access wasn’t hard enough, it had a driveshaft right in the way! This was just to access the bottom bolts, I hadn’t even worked out yet how I was going to get to the upper bolts.

Luckily I had all of the right tools to get the lower 2 bolts out and had started to remove the air intake and battery tray etc to gain access to the remaining top bolt. The problem was that it was already midday at this point so I had already written off the rest of the day. Before I had a chance to carry on with my mission of removing the old starter motor I had a call from my father…

He asked why I thought it was the starter motor that was faulty so I explained that the battery was fine, the van would start on a bump start and that I could hear a click when attempting to turn the van over. He then asked the million dollar question – Was it the starter motor clicking or the relay?

He explained that if it was the relay then the problem could be something as simple as the starter motor fuse. A quick Google search of a Peugeot Partner fuse diagram showed me exactly where it was. A 25 amp fuse in the fuse box in the engine bay. I pulled out the fuse for the starter motor and there it was. Blown. I couldn’t believe it!

I put everything back together, put a new fuse in and the van started right up! I had spent £40 on a 1 day car insurance policy for the day before and lost £160 for a days work, luckily I was able to take the new starter motor back for an £80 refund. But thats still a £200 loss for nothing short of a fuse! Note to self – Always check the fuses before anything else when trying to diagnose the fault on a vehicle!

I started laying the new granite setts on Wednesday

Annoyingly, I didn’t take any before pictures of these steps which previously had old and rotten sleepers instead of the granite setts you see now. The owner of the property asked me at the end of last week if I could complete this job this week so now that my van was back on the road and I was at work at a good time, I jumped at the opportunity to start removing the old sleepers.

I was a little worried that they had been bolted to the beams on either side but luckily and to my surprise they were just cut to size and cemented in place. All I needed was a prybar and hammer to knock the sleepers out of place. In fact, one of the sleepers were so rotten it more or less just fell apart!

Once the sleepers were out of the way, I filled the area with concrete, up to the level of the steps, to create a base where I was to lay the granite setts. I had the steps prepared and ready to start laying the granite setts at about midday but decided to let the base set for the rest of the day whilst I carried on repointing the large patio area.

The next Morning (Thursday) I arrived nice and early to set the cement mixer up once again and start laying the granite setts onto the steps. Since these setts were tumbled, it made laying them very easy as all I needed to do was make sure that they were layed to the correct height of the steps. By the end of the day I had layed all of the granite setts and even finished pointing them with white cement. Incase your wondering, the original paved steps which surround the new granite setts are also pointed with white cement, not that you can tell as they are in need of a jet wash!

I finished off the week replacing broken slabs

As you can probably tell, I’m sick of repointing the patio area and I’d imagine that there is still a week or 2 left until I’m finished so to keep my sanity, I decided to walk around on my final day (Friday) and replace any broken slabs I could find.

This gave me a nice and easy day to finish off the week with. The old mortar holding the broken slabs in place was soft enough to easily break with a hammer and chisel and I didn’t need to take any measurements when cutting the paving slabs since I just used the old broken slabs as a template.

Week 2 into my landscape gardening business diary and apart from laying some granite setts, all I’ve done is spent my days repointing a patio and replacing some broken slabs with the addition of losing a days work thanks to a faulty fuse in the van! On the plus side, the landscape gardening business diary is doing just as I hoped it would – To show the ups and downs of having a career as a landscape gardener!