Heat a large nonstick skillet or frying pan on medium high heat. Season the meat pieces with black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried thyme. Add oil then brown meat.
Once the meat pieces are browned, add to slow cooker along with all the other ingredients except the barley.
Cook on low heat for 7 to 8 hours OR on high heat for 4 to 5 hours.
Uncover lid and stir ingredients to combine. Add the barley. Cover with lid again and cook for an additional hour on high heat. Remove bay leaves, serve and enjoy!