I am making my first batch this year as well. So forgive me if this is a large post. New knowledge likes to be shared.
Probably the most comprehensive on the net is Jack Keller's home winemaking page http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/
Another detailed free online winemaking book is http://www.geocities.com/lumeisenman/
Two good books that I have been using are:
Home Winemaking Step by Step - Jon Iverson
From Vines to Wines - Jeff Cox
Half the latter is about growing also.
Between all of these books and resources I too have noticed some discrepancies, probably minor, but there is so much information that it can be overwhelming. I think Iverson's book is the best place to start.
As for your second question, it depends on what you are starting with. If you were starting with must (skins, seeds, etc) then you probably wouldn't be using an airlock since you would be using an open primary fermentation tank. We did this anyway even though we started with pails of fresh juice. After five days in the primary our sp.grav. was 1.01 we transfered to carboys (and airlocks for our secondary). Since the primary is open, there is plenty of oxygen for fermentation to start. The transfer to the carboys adds a little and we noticed continuing fermentation immeditately. We are actually trying to minimize oxygen at this point. (and from what I have read, you want to do the same unless you have a stuck fermentation).
Once your fermentation starts I would just watch the airlocks and the fermentation and take readings. As long as the temperature stays within the range of tolerance for your yeast, there should be enough oxygen in the wine (from pours the juice into the carboys) for the yeast. If the fermentation slows (no foam, bubbling through the airlock), take a reading. If its below 1.00 sp.grav. then it should be ok to start the secondary. If the reading is above 1.00 (really up around 1.03-1.04) then you could have a stuck fermentation and the stirring thing is not a bad idea. The stirring not only will bring in a bit of oxygen, but more importantly stir up some of the yeast cells at the bottom. If this doesn't kick it up you might have to add some yeast nutrient. At this point I must refer you too the books because I haven't experienced a stuck fermentation and really didn't read beyond these few basics.
Have you started yet or just researching? We started last Saturday 10/27 and transfered on 11/1. So far so good. 24 Gallons of Cab and 12 of merlot. Good Luck!